Tentative Primary and Caucus Schedule
  March 1 (Super Tues)
  March 2-14
L blue   March 15-31
Delegates needed for nomination:
GOP: 1236,   Dem: 2242
Map explained
New polls:  
Dem pickups:  
GOP pickups:  

News from the Votemaster

Clinton and Sanders Tied in New Hampshire

A Suffolk University poll taken after the Democratic debate this week shows a dead heat between Hillary Clinton at 37% and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who is at 35%. With the 4.4% margin of error, this is a statistical tie. The respondents were also asked who won the debate; 54% said Clinton to only 24% for Sanders. Unlike the instant online polls—all of which showed Sanders as the winner—this was a normal random-sample poll of 500 likely Democratic voters.

New Hampshire is absolutely critical for Sanders. He has to win both Iowa and New Hampshire to be viable going forward, because the next two states, Nevada and South Carolina, are heavy with minorities, most of whom strongly favor Clinton. If Sanders wins Iowa and New Hampshire and Clinton wins Nevada and South Carolina, the score will be 2-2 going into Super Tuesday on March 1. If Clinton wins either or both of the first two states, she is in a far stronger position for Super Tuesday. (V)

Clinton Won the Debate

We are starting to get the results of more-or-less scientific polls on who won the Democratic debate. The fact that Bernie Sanders won all the instant polls after the debate is undoubtedly due to the fervor of his supporters. They would all walk a mile barefoot in the snow for Bernie and would certainly go to the trouble of voting in an online poll. Clinton's supporters are less enthusiastic, but in the end, a vote is a vote, with or without enthusiasm.

Three new, methodologically more rigorous national polls all have Clinton as the debate winner, with score ranging from 56% to 62%. In contrast, Sanders was between 33% and 22%. Two were Internet polls, but done carefully, making sure each demographic group was properly weighted. The third was a robocall poll of landlines. The close agreement of all three lends weight to the conclusion that many more people think Clinton won the debate than Sanders. Here are the results. (V)

Sponsor/Pollster Poll type Clinton Sanders
NBC/SurveyMonkey Internet 56% 33%
HuffPost/YouGov Internet 55% 22%
OANN/Gravis Robocall 62% 30%

CNBC Caves to Trump on Debate Rules

Donald Trump (and Ben Carson) threatened to boycott the next Republican debate if they didn't get their way. CNBC saluted and said: "Yes, sir!" and gave Trump everything he wanted. In particular, he wanted the debate to be limited to 2 hours, including the commercial breaks of 8-16 minutes, depending on how many ads CNBC can sell. He also wanted to make an opening statement and got that as well. In case you had any doubt who's the boss around here, it is Donald Trump. Now that Trump has gotten his way with CNBC, who's next? The RNC? (V)

California Expands Voter Base, Kansas Contracts Voter Base

One of the big stories of the 2016 election season is going to be who is allowed (or not allowed) to vote. California, a very blue state, just followed the lead of even bluer Oregon in adopting a bill that will register voters automatically when they apply for a drivers' license. Meanwhile, very red Kansas (like very red Alabama, Arizona, and Georgia) decided to require proof of citizenship from newly-registered voters. The state has now begun purging those individuals who failed to provide acceptable documentation within 90 days. This has led to a federal lawsuit.

Each party has an explanation for its position. Democrats argue that their approach is a matter of fairness, and of encouraging participation in the democratic process. This may be the way they really feel, and certainly there is no way to prove otherwise. Republicans argue that their approach is about preventing fraud—keeping people from voting twice, or keeping non-citizens or other ineligibles from voting. This is demonstrably not true. Perhaps 140 million people will vote in 2016, and history suggests that amongst those will be fewer than 500 fraudulent votes. That is 0.0004%, and is roughly equivalent to the number of people who will die falling out of bed next year, or the number who will be struck by lightning, or the number who will win a state lottery.

The real explanation for the Republicans (and for some or many Democrats) is cold, hard political math. First, looking broadly, the Democrats are the larger party than the Republicans. The more people who vote in an election, generally speaking, the more likely the Democrats are to win. The fewer people who vote, the more likely the Republicans are to win.

Looking more narrowly, rules that require proof of citizenship or photo identification or the like tend to burden the following groups most heavily:

  • Women. Mrs. Jane Smith may be rejected because her birth certificate is for Miss Jane Johnson.

  • College students. They tend to move a lot (home-school-home-school), and they may be far away from the government offices in their hometown where they can get copies of things like birth certificates.

  • Black voters. Since prison populations tend to be disproportionately black, black voters are more likely to be falsely identified as ineligible-to-vote felons.

  • Young people. Many rules apply only to first-time registrants, who tend to be young.

  • Poor people. Many poor people lack a drivers' license. Although many states issue free voter ID cards, getting one usually requires showing a birth certificate, which is nowhere free. In New York, for example, if you take time off from work and go to a state office, a birth certificate costs $30. If want to order online, you need a major credit card, which not all poor people have, and the fee is then $45. For someone making the minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, $45 is close to a day's pay.

  • Immigrants. Generally speaking, it is often harder for immigrants to get various forms of documentation, either due to language barriers, fees, or time pressures.

  • Soldiers. They also move a lot, they also may be far away from their hometowns, and they also tend to be young.

Outside of soldiers, these groups all skew Democratic, some of them very heavily so. And quite often, exceptions or special accommodations will be provided to soldiers, to make sure they are not affected (or are less affected) by restrictive voting laws. For example, Kansas (in addition to proof of citizenship) also requires photo ID from voters. The state will allow military ID to be used for this purpose, regardless of where it was issued. Student ID, by contrast, can only be used if it was issued in Kansas.

The primary reason this issue will be big in 2016, as compared to previous elections, is the Supreme Court's 2012 decision in Shelby County v. Holder, which struck down portions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. As with 2010's Citizens United, Shelby may trigger a backlash, which the Court may or may not care about.

A good overview of the voting rules in various states can be found here (Z).

Sanders Kept Meeting to Himself

The Huffington Post reports that Bernie Sanders met with the mother of Sandra Bland, the civil rights activist whose routine traffic stop culminated in arrest and ultimately suicide in her jail cell. The senator talked for a short while with Geneva Reed-Veal, posed for a photograph at her request, made a promise to mention Bland during the Democratic debates (which he fulfilled) and then kept the whole matter to himself. By all evidences, the story only became widely known because Reed-Veal went public.

This report—particularly when coupled with Sanders' defense of Hillary Clinton at the Democratic debate—is certainly helping to affirm the perception that the senator is a genuinely nice guy, and is not governed solely by political expediency or his own self-interest. It is hard to avoid a contrast with Joe Biden, who tried to keep secret the fact that he himself leaked the story that his son's last wish was a Biden presidential run. It certainly made it look as if Biden was willing to use his dead son in a cynical attempt to advance his political career.

Now, it is possible that Sanders is pulling the strings here, and just doing so more skillfully than Biden. Or perhaps the senator does many things like this, in hopes that one or more will eventually "leak." However, it is also entirely possible that this is really who Bernie Sanders is, and that the public perception of him is not far removed from reality. Whichever of these three cases it may be, it certainly suggests that he is a better challenger for Hillary Clinton than Joe Biden would be. (Z)

Karl Rove Goes after Bernie Sanders

Karl Rove, who didn't have the best year in 2012 (or 2008, for that matter) is working to remind us all that he is the GOP's answer to James Carville. Writing for the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday, he came up with what he considers to be quite the bon mot at the expense of Bernie Sanders, deriding the Vermont senator as, "An Elderly Dyspeptic Bilbo Baggins."

The quip immediately raises a pair of questions:

  1. Who exactly is Karl Rove thinking about when he envisions the people who (a) read the Wall Street Journal, (b) understand who Bilbo Baggins is, and (c) know what "dyspeptic" means?

  2. What exactly does this mean? Yes, Sanders sometimes looks a bit grumpy, so the "dyspeptic" kind of works. And he's 74, so that's within shooting distance of "elderly." But in what way is Bernie Sanders like a Hobbit? He eats six meals a day? He has a magic ring? He has big feet? He lives in a burrow? Presumably it's a short joke, but Bernie Sanders is 5'8", average for an American male. It's also one inch taller than the 5'7" Rove.

Undoubtedly, Karl Rove is aware that the Millennial generation is now larger than the Baby Boom generation. He probably thinks he needs to connect with the kids by "speaking their language," not unlike Richard Nixon trying to get "cool" points by palling around with Elvis Presley in the White House. The problem is that the overweight, jump suit wearing, Vegas-lounge-singing Elvis of 1972 was not all that cool any more. Hollywood blockbusters notwithstanding, the same is true of clumsy J.R.R. Tolkien references in 2015. (Z)

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---The Votemaster
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Oct13 Democratic Debate Preview
Oct13 Clinton Donors Worry about Biden
Oct13 O'Malley Is Fourth in His Home State
Oct13 Fringe Candidates Sometimes Pop and Sometimes Fizzle
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Oct10 Biden Is Also Between a Rock and a Hard Place
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Oct10 The Resurrection of Chris Christie?
Oct09 McCarthy Out of the Speaker's Race...Probably
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