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

Biden Is Out

Citing his grief over the death of his son in May, Vice President Joe Biden announced that he is not running for president next year. He also (realistically) said that the window had closed. In effect, he was admitting that his indecision had caused him to lose the invisible primary (lining up donors, staff, etc.). There simply wasn't enough time left to mount a campaign against two very solid performers, Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), both of whom have $30 million or so in the bank right now and large ground operations. Biden didn't mention that the most recent poll put Clinton at 45%, Sanders at 29%, and himself at 18%. Politicians, especially ones as experienced as he is, pay attention to polls. Making a a third run for the presidency and losing is not a pretty legacy.

You might think that a vice president running for the presidency directly after his term as vice president would have it easy. It's not. Of the 17 vice presidents who gave it a shot, 12 lost and only 5 won. Biden might not be aware of the statistics, but he is surely aware of recent history. In the past 50 years, only George H. W. Bush managed to get his old boss' third term.

FiveThirtyEight's Harry Enten has a nice piece entitled "Joe Biden Made the Right Call." Enten gives five reasons Biden got it right in the end.

  1. It's late ... really late (nobody who declared this late has won in at least 40 years)
  2. Biden would have had to run as an outsider (because all the insiders are already in the Clinton camp)
  3. Biden is trapped ideologically (because he's actually to Clinton's right and the energy is to her left)
  4. Biden's polling is bad where it matters (Iowa and New Hampshire)
  5. Biden's polling is good where it doesn't matter yet (general election polls)

By bowing out, the accolades will flow in great streams now. DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schulz almost instantly issued a statement containing sentences like: "There are few people in Washington over the last four decades who have been a greater champion for middle class Americans than Joe Biden." There wil be many more to come—from Democrats. RNC chair Reince Priebus said: "The Vice President's decision not to enter the 2016 race is a major blow for Democrats, who now will almost certainly be saddled with their unpopular and scandal plagued front-runner Hillary Clinton." (English translation: "Shit!"). Priebus is just doing his job, which is to elect Republicans, but he knows very well that while Clinton will still have to fight Sanders in Iowa and New Hampshire, once the battle turns to more diverse states, the pressure will be off her and she may start attacking the Republicans as early as March—probably while they are still busy fighting each other and have little time to go after her.

That said, there are two arguments that could be made for Biden strengthening the Democrats. First is that debating Biden would be good practice for Clinton, although now that it is clear that Sanders is an excellent debater with a solid grasp of the issues, she already has a sparring partner and doesn't need another one. Second, unless Sanders manages to get more support among minorities quickly, the Democratic race will be effectively over on March 2 and the media will lose interest, so the next time the Republicans invent some "scandal" involving Clinton, that will be big news. She would be better off with horse-race news.

This decision doesn't mean Biden's career is over. Surely both he and Hillary Clinton realize that he would make a fine secretary of state in a Clinton administration. He may or may not have brought the subject up with her recently, although it would be a bit crass for him to go to her and say: "Tell you what, Hill, if you promise to appoint me to run the State Dept., I won't run for President." But even without his asking directly, she is undoubtedly thinking about who would be in her cabinet should she be elected President. (V)

Ryan Marching Toward Speakership

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) set a number of conditions necessary for him to run for Speaker of the House. Foremost among them is that he requires the endorsement of all three major caucuses within the GOP Conference: the Tuesday Group (moderates), the Republican Study Committee (conservatives), and the Freedom Caucus (ultra-conservatives). The former two are in the bag; the question has been whether or not the Freedom Caucus will get on board. On Wednesday, Ryan got his answer: sort of.

The vote, taken after Ryan spent the week meeting with Freedom Caucusers—both individually and collectively—was 70% in favor. That is a clear majority, but is also short of a formal endorsement, which requires a minimum of 80%. The ambiguity gives Ryan some wriggle room—Ryan can claim 70% is "close enough" and press forward, or he can say his terms have not been met and drop out. He would certainly have the 218 votes he needs (TG + RSC + 70% of FC equals about 230 votes), and he's currently signaling that he will indeed declare his candidacy. He could think better of that after sleeping on it, but the odds are fairly high that he will be the next Speaker.

Ironically, in the long term, one of the biggest effects of a Ryan speakership could be something that is barely on the radar now: work-family balance. One of Ryan's conditions for taking the job is that it not interfere with his family time. And it is clear he means it. A few weeks ago, House Republican Conference chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the #4 Republican in the House, expressed interest in becoming Speaker but also insisted on having time for her family. She was politely, but firmly, told the job was a 24/7 undertaking, so thanks, but no thanks. Traditionally, when women choose their families over their jobs, they are seen as unsuitable for powerful positions. Now that the soon-to-be second most powerful person in the country has basically said "my family comes first," women can point to Ryan as a role model. While Ryan's refusal to work on weekends has a downside (less fundraising for the party) it also has an upside: The party of "family values" can say its leader practices what he preaches. (Z & V)

Clinton to Testify Before Benghazi Committee Today

Benghazi Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy's (R-SC) moment in the sun comes today, as he finally gets to grill Hillary Clinton. Based on the Committee's questioning of former Clinton Chief of Staff Cheryl Mills, Gowdy is likely to go on the offensive, with something of a three-pronged strategy: trying to trip Clinton up on details, focusing on whether Clinton prioritized her media response over more substantive concerns, and the email server.

There are several possible outcomes of the questioning, it would seem (listed roughly in order of least to most likely):

  • The testimony devolves into a shouting match, and everyone ends up embarrassing themselves.
  • Clinton damages herself with one or more ill-advised answers or statements; the GOP walks away a winner.
  • Gowdy affirms the "witch hunt" narrative with their questions and/or behavior; Clinton walks away a winner.
  • Everyone follows the script, nothing of much interest happens, and Benghazi continues to wither on the vine.

An indication that the media is losing interest in this story is the fairly scant coverage being given to Clinton's testimony. As of 1:00 A.M. EDT this morning, by which time most outlets had set their Thursday coverage, here is where the story appears:

Left-leaning media:
  • New York Times: Opinion page, fourth story
  • Washington Post: Politics page, ninth story
  • Boston Globe: Opinion page, first story
  • CNN.com: Front page, fourth story
  • HuffPost: Nothing
  • Salon: Front page, ninth story
Right-leaning media:
  • Wall Street Journal: Politics page, fifth story
  • New York Post: Front page, third story
  • Dallas Morning News: Nothing
  • Foxnews.com: Front page, 24th story
  • Breitbart: Nothing
  • WorldNewsDaily: Front page, seventh story

In short, media on both sides of the aisle are mostly treating the testimony as a bit of an afterthought, and none have given the story the 1A or 1B slot that generally means "big news." Something shocking, outrageous, or embarrassing could certainly push Benghazi back into the headlines, but it seems much more likely that Hillary Clinton plays it as safe as possible, and then lets nature take its course. (Z)

National Review Senior Editor Ramesh Ponnuru Says Clinton Will Win White House

The National Review has been something of an institution in conservative circles ever since it was founded by William F. Buckley 60 years ago. Its pages and Website have always appealed to intellectual conservatives rather than to bomb throwers. Almost every story is about why something the Republicans are doing is good or why something the Democrats are doing is bad. So it is rather surprising that Ramesh Ponnuru, the magazine's senior editor, just wrote a story entitled: "Why Hillary Will Likely Win the White House." It first goes over all the reasons she won't: her email scandal, her lies about it, her falling favorability ratings, the third-term curse, and the fact that a majority of Americans find her untrustworthy. Throw in nine New Hampshire polls in a row starting in August where she is trailing Bernie Sanders, and she's clearly toast.

Except maybe not. The Democrats have won the popular vote in five of the six most recent presidential elections and have a lock on 242 of the 270 electoral votes needed to win. Then throw in all the free stuff she is offering various voting blocs: an increased minimum wage, expanded child-care subsidies, universal preschool, mandatory paid leave, and legislation making it easier for employees to sue for sex discrimination. Amazingly, this leads Ponnuru to the realization that she is at least offering middle-class voters things they want, whereas the Republican Party is out of touch with most people's concerns. All in all, a fairly startling admission from one of the country's leading conservative intellectuals. (V)

Sanders Was Right

When Bernie Sanders yelled that America was sick and tired of hearing about Hillary Clinton's emails, he was actually on target. A new Monmouth University poll confirms what Sanders said. The poll found that 59% of Americans have had enough of her emails and only 32% want the media to continue covering it. The poll also found that a slight majority (52%) thinks Clinton used her private email server just for convenience while 33% think she is hiding something, with the vast majority of people who think she is hiding something being Republicans. To cap it off, 52% think the Benghazi committee, which will hear her testimony today, just wants to damage her while 32% think it wants to learn the facts.

If Clinton conducts herself well at the hearing today, given these numbers, it is doubtful that the Republicans will be able to milk this issue much longer. (V)

Democrats Value Honesty, Republicans Want Intelligence

A recent study shows that while all voters like candidates to be honest, intelligent, and trustworthy, they place different priorities on these traits. For example, Democrats and independents put honesty first (but still seem likely to nominate Hillary Clinton, whose honesty is hotly disputed). In contrast, Republicans value intelligence most in their candidates, so they favor ... Donald Trump and Ben Carson? It seems that when presented with the various concepts in the abstract, they come up with one list but when actual candidates show up, all the preferences go out the window. Here are the lists the study found. (V)

Rank Democrats Independents Republicans
1 Honesty Honesty Intelligence
2 Leadership Leadership Honesty
3 Intelligence Intelligence Leadership
4 Trust and integrity Wisdom Trustworthy
5 Trustworthy Trustworthy Confidence
6 Charisma Trust and integrity Trust and integrity
7 Confidence Confidence Wisdom
8 Wisdom Charisma Charisma
9 Learns quickly Fair Speaks plainly
10 Open to all opinions Cares about what people want Strong instincts

Trump Speaks at a Fourth-Grade Level

Thanks to Wesleyan University professor of government Elvin T. Lim, the assertion that Donald Trump and Ben Carson are not exactly elevating the level of political discourse is not just an opinion. Using the Flesch-Kincaid readability test to analyze the candidates' speeches, Lim has put the matter on a scientific basis. His conclusion: Donald Trump speaks at the level of a fourth-grade student, while Ben Carson is at a sixth-grade level. These are two of the three lowest numbers in the field; the other is Gov. John Kasich (R-OH), who is at a fifth-grade level. On the other end of the spectrum are a pair of Republicans, Jim Gilmore and Mike Huckabee, and the Democratic Socialist Bernie Sanders, all of whom speak at roughly a 10th-grade level. By way of comparison, George Washington's "Farewell Address" is at the level of a graduate student (18th grade) while Lincoln's Gettysburg Address is written at an 11th-grade level.

Lim is careful to caution that this is not necessarily a reflection of the candidates' intellectual abilities, and may simply be a matter of smart politics. Attention spans are short, and the use of simple verbiage may be a wise adaptation to a world with Twitter and Facebook, as well as a shrewd strategy for reaching the largest possible audience. Still, the incongruity noted in the previous item remains: Republican voters say they want an intelligent candidate, but then a large percentage line up behind men who speak like anything but. (Z)

Email a link to a friend or share:

---The Votemaster
Oct21 Hill Bets on Hill
Oct21 Supreme Court Gets Another Sensitive Election Case
Oct21 Ryan or Bust for Main Street Republicans?
Oct21 Rubio's Turn to Beat the (Tin) Drum
Oct21 Is Biden Going to Run to Clinton's Right?
Oct21 Webb Drops Out of Democratic Race But May Run as an Independent
Oct20 Post-Debate Poll: Clinton Still Way Ahead of Sanders
Oct20 Jeb Bush No Longer Mr. Inevitable
Oct20 Trump's Secret: Blue-Collar Voters
Oct20 Bill Clinton Hits the Campaign Trail for Hillary
Oct20 Democrats Are in Deep Trouble and Are Not Even Aware of It
Oct20 Deeper Trouble, or Possibly a Silver Lining
Oct20 Canada Has a New Prime Minister
Oct20 Congressman Will Try to Impeach Clinton on Day 1
Oct20 A Congressional Coalition?
Oct19 Suppose Biden Continues To Keep Mum
Oct19 It's Election Day, Eh
Oct19 Fiorina Slumping Again
Oct19 Could Ending the Gerrymander Fix the House?
Oct19 Ryan May Be Open To Running for Speaker
Oct19 Cruz Wins Conservative Caucus Vote in New Hampshire
Oct19 Mothers Condemn Benghazi Ad
Oct18 Clinton Spending Vast Sums on Infrastructure
Oct18 Republican Pretenders Must Soon Face Reality
Oct18 Rubio and Bush Begin To Go After Each Other
Oct18 The Decline and Fall of the Republican Party?
Oct18 Stumped by Trump
Oct18 Why Has Paid Family Leave Become a Big Campaign Issue?
Oct18 Some Campaign Donors Will Get Refunds
Oct18 Clinton Spending Vast Sums on Infrastructure
Oct18 Republican Pretenders Must Soon Face Reality
Oct18 Rubio and Bush Begin To Go After Each Other
Oct18 The Decline and Fall of the Republican Party?
Oct18 Stumped by Trump
Oct18 Why Has Paid Family Leave Become a Big Campaign Issue?
Oct18 Some Campaign Donors Will Get Refunds
Oct17 Clinton and Sanders Tied in New Hampshire
Oct17 Clinton Won the Debate
Oct17 CNBC Caves to Trump on Debate Rules
Oct17 California Expands Voter Base, Kansas Contracts Voter Base
Oct17 Sanders Kept Meeting to Himself
Oct17 Karl Rove Goes after Bernie Sanders
Oct16 Candidates Announce Third Quarter Fundraising Totals
Oct16 Trump and Carson Protest Another Long Debate
Oct16 Republicans Beginning to Agree on a Plan to Replace the ACA
Oct16 Sanders Rejects Donation from Price Gouging CEO
Oct16 Castro Officially Endorses Clinton
Oct16 Getting Right with Israel
Oct15 Was the GOP the Real Loser on Tuesday Night?
Oct15 The Other Three Democrats Had a Bad Wednesday