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

Tonight's Debate is Number Three for the GOP

The Republican candidates will have another shot at it tonight, this one entitled "Your Money, Your Vote" by host CNBC. The site is Boulder, Colorado's 11,000-seat Coors Events Center, though—for reasons that CNBC will not disclose—only 1,000 tickets will be distributed. It is generally assumed that the purpose of this policy is to keep too many of Boulder's liberal residents (the city is 70% Democratic) from getting into the event and making trouble. Why they picked Boulder as a venue is a mystery. Colorado is a swing state but Colorado Springs is a far more friendly city for the Republicans.

The main debate will begin at 8:00 Eastern, and will feature the same 10 candidates as the last main debate. Donald Trump and Ben Carson will be at the center podiums. CNBC announced, without irony, that Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Jeb Bush, Mike Huckabee and Gov. John Kasich (R-OH) will be to Trump's right, while Carly Fiorina, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-FL), Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) will be to Carson's left. At the insistence of Trump, Carson, and others, the main debate will be limited to two hours sharp, including commercial breaks. Before the main event, at 5:00 p.m. EST, Rick Santorum, Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA), George Pataki, and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) will square off at the kiddie table.

Donald Trump tends to take control of the debates, and in each of the past two he's chosen a specific target or two to focus upon—"low energy" George Bush, "what is he doing here?" Rand Paul, "ugly" Carly Fiorina. Given recent polling, it should be Ben Carson's turn this time. Carson has previously been calm, low-energy, and unwilling to spar—it will be interesting to see if he shows a little more emotion this time. In any event, it is likely that Carson and Trump's names will feature prominently in post-debate headlines.

Most of the other candidates are in desperate straits. Jeb Bush still has a fair amount of cash on hand ($10.3 million), and his family's political network, but he's flailing right now and needs to right the ship. Carly Fiorina bounced up after the previous debate, but then learned that what goes up must come down. She will look to regain some momentum. For four other candidates on the main stage—John Kasich ($2.6 million on hand), Rand Paul ($2.1 million), Chris Christie ($1.4 million), and Mike Huckabee ($760,000)—the money is running out. The financial picture is even more grim in the early debate, where Lindsey Graham's somewhat paltry $1.7 million on hand is still more than Bobby Jindal ($260,000), Rick Santorum ($240,000), and George Pataki ($13,000) combined.

In short, a lot of the candidates are going to try to get some attention, either because it's their nature (Trump) or because they need a shot in the arm (most of the rest). The only two potential exceptions are Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, who have some financial breathing room, and who may be content to sit back and let the other candidates batter each other. Cruz's game is to wait until all the other true believers are gone and pick up the pieces, while Rubio's somewhat stuck in neutral while his fellow Floridian Bush is still in the race. When and if Bush exits, he can pile up the Sunshine State dollars while selling himself as the only serious candidate who can get votes from both the center and the right.

The fourth Republican date is only two weeks away, on November 10. That one is going to be on Fox News, which has already announced that they will keep the main debate/undercard format going. With the 10th so close, and a juicy opportunity to reach into the living rooms of the base, it may be that the field does not shrink much after Wednesday's contest (except, perhaps, for Pataki). After that, however, it's five weeks, CNN, and the probable end of the undercard, so Veterans' Day could prove to be judgment day for about half the field. (Z)

Carson Passes Trump Nationally

As the late Yogi Berra might have said: "It's deja vu all over again." In the Fall of 2011, the Republicans had a series of quirky and unelectable front runners, each using up his or her 15 minutes of fame and then some. These included Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, and Rick Santorum. This year we started out with Donald Trump, an unlikely nominee if ever there was one. Now former neurosurgeon, Ben Carson, is in first place nationally among Republican primary voters. Think of him as the second coming of Herman Cain. Carson makes Trump look good. Trump has run an organization, made decisions on hiring and firing people, made long range plans, dealt with friends and foes alike, and produced budgets. Carson has done none of that. Hillary Clinton probably doesn't even dare dream of running against him. It is hard to imagine anyone else in public life who would be an easier opponent. Sarah Palin? Hugh Hefner? Kim Kardashian? O.J. Simpson? Bill Cosby? Needless to say, Carson is not going to be on the Republicans' national ticket. For the sake of completeness, here are the results of the CBS/NYT poll.

Rank Candidate Pct
1 Ben Carson 26%
2 Donald Trump 22%
3 Marco Rubio 8%
4 Jeb Bush 7%
4 Carly Fiorina 7%
6 Ted Cruz 4%
6 Mike Huckabee 4%
6 John Kasich 4%
6 Rand Paul 4%
10 Lindsey Graham 2%
11 Chris Christie 1%
11 Rick Santorum 1%
  Bobby Jindal <1%
  George Pataki <1%
  Jim Gilmore <1%

Probably more significant than whether Carson is above or below Trump is how the "serious" candidates are doing. Sen. Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, Sen. Ted Cruz, and Gov. John Kasich together get 23%, barely above Trump and behind Carson. It's not a pretty picture for the Republicans. (V)

Trump Plays the Faith Card

Over the weekend, Donald Trump cast aspersions on Ben Carson's Seventh-day Adventist religion, proudly pointing out that he is a Presbyterian but not mentioning that he rarely, if ever, goes to church. Perhaps Trump was relying on the fact that only 0.5% of the U.S. population are members of the Seventh-day Adventist church, whereas 21.2% are mainline Protestants (including historically black denominations). Statistically this is a win, but politically it may not be as many religious people don't like it at all when nonreligious people go around bashing other people's religion. For people of faith, religion/no religion is a bigger divide than between specific denominations. In fact, when former senator Joe Lieberman ran for Vice President in 2000, he received a tremendous amount of support from Christians because although Lieberman is an orthodox Jew, there is no question at all that he is very religious. In fact, he is so religious that reporters asked him whether, if he became President and the Russians started a nuclear war on a Saturday, he would be willing to "push the button" on the sabbath to shoot back. He was.

Quite a few of the other candidates talk about religion often, but many have a complicated history. Jeb Bush was a mainline Protestant until he converted to Catholicism after he married a Roman Catholic Mexican American. Marco Rubio currently identifies as a Catholic, although he used to be a Mormon and regularly attends a Southern Baptist church. Gov. John Kasich (R-OH) was a Catholic altar boy in his youth but is now an Anglican. Bobby Jindal was raised as a Hindu but switched to Christianity in high school and joined the Catholic Church in college. Rand Paul was baptized as an Episcopalian but now attends a Presbyterian church.

Not all the candidates have a multireligious background, of course. Ted Cruz has always been a Southern Baptist, not entirely surprising since his father is a Southern Baptist minister and director of the Purifying Fire Ministries. Mike Huckabee is an ordained Southern Baptist minister and has based his whole campaign on winning evangelicals. Rick Santorum and Chris Christie have always been Catholics. Carly Fiorina and George Pataki have never exhibited much interest in religion and are not going after the evangelical vote.

The role of faith in American politics is a complicated one, for both parties. To go deeper into this matter, one of us, (Z), has written a feature story on faith in politics. It is not nearly as one-sided (Republicans for, Democrats against) as you might think. If you are interested in the material, take a look. (Z & V)

On Taxes, Republicans Go for Puppies and Rainbows

Most of the Republicans have now presented some kind of tax plan, which NYT writer John Barro calls "puppies and rainbows." The Republicans' plans all call for cutting taxes. No Republican could survive a primary with a plan to increase taxes, even if 100% of the increase went to national defense. The reason for tax cutting being a priority is not that the Republican primary voters see this as their top concern, but the wealthy donors who support the Republican candidates most certainly do.

On paper, tax cuts have two purposes. First, they give ordinary families more money to spend, which potentially can translate into more votes. This is something everyone can understand. It is the "puppies" part of the appeal. The "rainbows" part is the story that tax cuts lead to more economic growth, making everyone richer. The problem with this idea—and the reason Barro labels it a "rainbow"—is that it flies in the face of a huge amount of evidence that tax rates don't affect economic growth much one way or another. During the 1950s, the economy boomed despite a marginal tax rate of 91% until John F. Kennedy, a Democrat, got Congress to lower it to 70%. When Bill Clinton became President in 1993, one of his first acts was to convince Congress to raise the top rate from the then-prevailing 36% to 39.6% and the economy flowered. When George W. Bush took over in 2000, he signed legislation bringing the top rate down to 36%. The economy tanked. With so little data available on different tax rates and their effect on the economy, however, one shouldn't jump to the conclusion that high tax rates are good for the economy and low ones are bad (for example, the markets like it when the government can pay its bills). But there is not a whit of evidence that low tax rates are good for the economy, hence the "rainbows" label.

As Barro points out, the problem with all these plans is that none of the candidates have given a credible outline for cutting spending to match the tax cuts, thus increasing the deficit, something all Republicans are against. The tax cuts all rip a huge hole in the budget, which means that major cuts are needed in big-ticket government programs, like defense, Social Security, and Medicare. Congress is scared to touch these items because Republicans would scream at cuts to the defense budgets and any member of Congress voting to slash Social Security or Medicare would likely hear from a fair number of AARP's 37 million members. So the math never adds up. (V)

Mark Kirk Is the Most Endangered Republican in the Country

Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) rode the Republican wave in 2010 and is now probably the most endangered incumbent senator, although Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) might yet challenge him for the honor. Illinois is a very blue state so the 2016 electorate will be far less friendly to him than the 2010 electorate was. He also has the distinction of the only Republican senator to receive an "F" rating from the National Rifle Association, which doesn't generate a lot of enthusiasm among Illinois' few Republicans.

In 2012, he suffered a massive stroke, which took him offline for a year as he tried valiantly to recover. Unfortunately for him, a campaign based on "I'm a real fighter and I came from behind and beat the stroke" (like former South Dakota senator Tim Johnson did in his 2008 reelection campaign after suffering a stroke in 2006) is unlikely to help much if the Democratic nominee is Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), who became a double amputee after her helicopter was shot down in Iraq. "My injury is worse than your injury" is not a winning slogan and if he tries it, she could reply, "I can't walk easily but my mind is in perfect shape." Not a good place to go.

Kirk's only real prayer is that Duckworth is not the nominee. It could happen, as Duckworth is being challenged in the Democratic primary by Andrea Zopp, former CEO of the Chicago Urban League. However, the DSCC is firmly behind Duckworth and will help her with funding, so Zopp is definitely an underdog. (V)

Could Hillary Clinton Really Be Beating Bernie Sanders by 41 Points in Iowa?

A new Monmouth University poll of Iowa shows Hillary Clinton at 65% and Bernie Sanders at 24%. What's wrong with this picture? Short answer: It might be true, but only if they polled Democratic and Democratic-leaning unicorns. That poll is so far off from every other poll of Iowa that something is clearly in error and it might be instructive to consider what Monmouth got wrong. Jon Green has examined the poll and concluded that the problem is probably Monmouth's likely voter screen. Unless you are J. Ann Selzer, the polling guru whose office is in Des Moines, polling the Iowa caucuses is hard to get right. Here's the problem. In 2008, 39.6% of registered Democrats showed up at the caucus. In 2004, it was even worse: only 23.3% of Democrats caucused. So to get an accurate sample, a pollster has to figure out who is likely to caucus and who is not. Monmouth counted only registered Democrats who voted in at least one of the state's two most recent caucuses.

This means that voters who were too young to vote in 2008 were screened out. In fact, only 7% of Monmouth's sample was younger than 35. That is undoubtedly way, way off and the younger voters who are missing are very likely to be strongly skewed toward Sanders. Additionally, only registered voters were polled. But Sanders' campaign is striving mightily to get more people registered, especially young people, so this is another whole group the poll missed. Now it is possible that Clinton is ahead in Iowa—she is campaigning very hard in the state—but her margin is nothing like 41 points. So probably we have to wait until Selzer releases a poll. Then we'll have a real idea of what might happen on Feb. 1. (V)

Could It Be Cuban vs. Cuban in the End?

Many political observers expect the outside candidates and the fringe candidates (yes Bobby Jindal and George Pataki, we're looking at you, among others) to fold their tents and slump off long before the voting starts. Typically two or three serious candidates are left to battle it out in the end. Albert Hunt at Bloomberg makes a case that the last two men standing (sorry, Carly, but it will be two men) could be two Cuban-Americans, with Marco Rubio representing Team Establishment and Ted Cruz representing Team Insurgent. Hunt notes that they seem like first cousins. Both are 44-year-old freshman senators who beat an establishment candidate in the Republican primary. Both are sons of Cuban immigrants who fled the corrupt right-wing Batista regime. Both worship Saint Ronald, and both have billionaire backers who could keep them afloat until the end. Nevertheless, they are not clones. Rubio is smooth where Cruz is confrontational. Rubio has worked with Democrats in the past; Cruz sees that as treason. On taxes, Cruz is more radical but on foreign policy, Rubio takes the harder line. Can you imagine a Rubio/Cruz or Cruz/Rubio ticket? If that doesn't get Latinos interested in the Republican Party, what might it take? (V)

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---The Votemaster
Oct27 Boehner Negotiates Stealth Budget Deal
Oct27 Carson Has Double-digit Lead in Iowa
Oct27 Republicans Are In Denial about Hillary Clinton's Chances
Oct27 Cruz Working on Texas
Oct27 Jeb Loads the Last Bullet into the Chamber
Oct27 Sharron Angle Might Run for the Senate Again in Nevada
Oct27 Hispanic Voters Don't Like Republicans
Oct27 Marco Rubio Doesn't Like the Senate
Oct26 Republican Voters See Trump as Strongest General Election Candidate
Oct26 Clinton Would Love to Face Trump
Oct26 Rubio Attacks Trump's Immigration Plan
Oct26 Carson Against Abortion Under All Circumstances
Oct26 Ross Douthat Meekly Predicts Rubio Will be the Republican Nominee
Oct26 Sanders Drawing Sharp Contrasts with Clinton
Oct26 No Smooth Sailing for Obamacare Repeal
Oct26 Fundraising Looks to Be No Problem for Ryan
Oct26 Republicans Facing a Tech Gap?
Oct25 Trump Attacks Carson's Religion
Oct25 Bushes Not Made for These Times?
Oct25 GOP Establishment Trying to Figure Out How To Attack Trump
Oct25 The Clinton and Clinton Show Hits Iowa
Oct25 Vitter Survives to Fight Another Day, Barely
Oct25 New Congressional Investigation: Planned Parenthood
Oct24 Jeb Bush Shakes Up His Campaign
Oct24 People Aren't Betting on Bush Any More
Oct24 What Does the House Freedom Caucus Want?
Oct24 A Week is a Long Time in Politics
Oct24 Overturning Citizens United May Not Be a Panacea After All
Oct24 Lincoln Chafee Quits
Oct24 Time for the Death Penalty to Die?
Oct23 Hillary Clinton Came, She Saw, and ... She Conquered?
Oct23 Political Market Did Not React to Biden's Decision
Oct23 Massive Ad Campaign Doesn't Help Bush in New Hampshire
Oct23 Why Is Clinton Targeting the Middle Class?
Oct23 Carson Suspends His Campaign
Oct23 Two More Black Eyes for Trump
Oct23 Biden Announces He Will Run for President
Oct22 Biden Is Out
Oct22 Ryan Marching Toward Speakership
Oct22 Clinton to Testify Before Benghazi Committee Today
Oct22 National Review Senior Editor Ramesh Ponnuru Says Clinton Will Win White House
Oct22 Sanders Was Right
Oct22 Democrats Value Honesty, Republicans Want Intelligence
Oct22 Trump Speaks at a Fourth-Grade Level
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