Clinton 1730
Sanders 1053
 Needed   2383
Trump 736
Cruz 463
Rubio 171
Kasich 143
Needed 1237

News from the Votemaster

TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  The Great White Whale of Politics May Show Up This Year
      •  North Dakota Doesn't Vote Today
      •  Republican Pollster: Trump Would Be a Disaster
      •  Trump Flips on Abortion, Again
      •  Five Reasons the Ted Cruz Sex Scandal Story Won't Vanish
      •  The Economy Added 215,000 Jobs in March
      •  Clinton, Sanders, and Fossil Fuels

The Great White Whale of Politics May Show Up This Year

Time and time again political junkies dimly sight the great white whale of politics—the contested convention—on the far horizon, only to have it vanish beneath the waves again. This time it may be for real. In the best analysis so far of how many delegates Donald Trump is likely to assemble by convention time, Larry Sabato's best estimate put it at 1,239, just two more than needed for a first-ballot nomination. However, Sabato's analysis assumed that Trump would win 30 of Wisconsin's 42 delegates, with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Gov. John Kasich (R-OH) each taking six delegates. Recent polls have shown that Cruz is leading the state by 10 points. If that is true, Trump might get 10 or so delegates instead of 30, changing the projection to 1,219, which is 18 delegates short of a majority. If the rest of the prediction is true, Trump will fall short and the great white whale will leap out of the water and announce itself.

If Trump fails to win on the first ballot, chaos will result. As we have pointed out repeatedly, the candidates (largely) don't choose the delegates; the delegates choose the candidates. The New York Times has a story about the process. It is very wonky, but if the convention goes beyond the first ballot, the devil will be in the details.

It is important to realize that in most states, the primary and caucus voters choose delegate slots, not actual delegates. The delegates themselves are generally chosen by a separate process, one that is different in every state. So, for example, under South Carolina Republican Party rules, the voters effectively decided to have all 50 delegates pledged to Donald Trump. But the voters have no say in who those delegates are or whom they actually support. As long as they vote for Trump on the first ballot, they have done their job. After that, chaos rules.

Here are some of the methods the state parties use for choosing the actual delegates, with example states in parentheses:

  • Candidates can pick their own slates from anyone (e.g., California)
  • Candidates can pick their own slates from an approved list (e.g., Wisconsin)
  • Voters elect the delegates, with each delegate stating his preference with candidate approval (e.g., Maryland)
  • Voters elect the delegates, with each delegate simply stating his preference (e.g., Alabama)
  • Voters elect the delegates, who do not state who they support (e.g., Pennsylvania)
  • Party members choose the delegates at a a state convention (e.g., Georgia)
  • Party members choose the delegates at a state convention but only from prior attendees (e.g., South Carolina)
  • Party members confirm the delegates chosen by party committees (e.g., Kentucky)
  • Party leaders choose the delegates with candidate input (e.g., Tennessee)
  • Party leaders choose the delegates without candidate input (e.g., Kansas)

About 73% of the delegates are chosen independent of the candidate, so once they are freed, they can vote for anyone. The delegates chosen by the candidate are very unlikely to jump to a different candidate even on the second or third ballot, as long as their candidate is still in the running. The other group may or may not continue to support the candidate they were supposed to support on the first ballot once they are freed. In many states, the delegates are unbound as early as the second ballot. In almost all states, they are unbound on the third ballot. In a small number, they must continue to vote for their candidate—even Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)—even if he has long left the race. Only if the candidate formally releases them do they become free agents. On top of this, three party leaders from each state are automatically delegates. States have different rules about how long they are bound to the candidate. Furthermore, the Rules Committee can write any rules it wants to, overriding state party rules.

The significance of all this will become crystal clear if Ted Cruz wins Wisconsin. That greatly increases the odds of a contested convention, with a chaotic second ballot, in which many delegates are free. Cruz, in particular, is completely aware of the procedure, and has been working very hard to get his supporters elected as delegates with the aim of winning on the second or third ballot. However, the party leadership dislikes Cruz almost as much as it dislikes Trump, so it wants delegates whose primary loyalty is to chairman Reince Priebus and who will do whatever he commands them to do, most likely support Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI). It is very easy to envision a three-way battle on the second and subsequent ballots between Trump, Ryan, and Cruz. Trump would never accept the second slot, but if Cruz is convinced he can't win, he might settle for a Ryan/Cruz ticket on the third or fourth ballot. But all this is guesswork at this point. (V)

North Dakota Doesn't Vote Today

Elections are always news but sometimes the lack of an election is also news, a la Sherlock Holmes and the dog that didn't bark. This weekend North Dakota will choose its 25 delegates to the Republican National Convention. The process illustrates the point made above clearly—it matters who the actual delegates are. Here is how the North Dakota delegates are selected:

Any North Dakota registered Republican who swears allegiance to the Party's nominees can apply to be a delegate. Each applicant fills out a form describing his or her previous political activities. A delegate-selection committee weighs all the applicants and assigns a score to each one based on the following criteria:

  • 40% for service to the state Republican Party in the past
  • 25% for a history of financial contributions to the state party
  • 10% for being a federal or statewide candidate
  • 10% for being a candidate for the state legislature
  • 10% for being a newbie to the political process
  • 5% for other meaningful contributions

Once every application is graded, the committee draws up a slate for the full convention to vote upon. It is possible for a candidate to be replaced on the floor, but that requires a vote of the full convention.

This year, 105 people applied to be delegates. About half are party insiders and half are newbies. The list chosen by the committee (all of whom are insiders) is expected to be 100% party officials and long-time activists. These are extremely valuable delegates because they are unbound and can vote for anyone they want to on the critical first ballot. It is here where Cruz's superior ground operation matters. For readers who weren't paying a lot of attention in 6th grade geography class during the hour North Dakota was discussed, the state doesn't have a lot of big industrial factories that have been closed and moved to China, so there aren't a lot of Trumpeters (Trumpians? Trumpites?) in the state. Applicants for delegate are not required to state a candidate preference on their application, but in the small world of North Dakota Republican politics, the selection committee probably informally knows who supports whom. The big question is how many of the delegates are loyal to Cruz and how many are loyal to the state party chairman, who, in turn, is loyal to RNC chairman Reince Priebus?

Evidence that Cruz considers the North Dakota State convention a big deal is the fact that he will personally address the convention today. Trump is not coming, although he's sending his new-found supporter, Ben Carson. Cruz understands that the goal is to get as many delegates as possible. Carson doesn't have a clue how the game is played. Trump, apparently, doesn't either. (V)

Republican Pollster: Trump Would Be a Disaster

Whit Ayres, a long-time Republican pollster (who worked for Marco Rubio), said that Republicans who think Trump can win the White House are, in his words: "Whistling past the graveyard." Ayres said that to win, a Republican has to get either 65% of the white vote or 30% of the nonwhite vote, the latter a level not seen since Ronald Reagan's smashing win in 1984. Trump doesn't stand a chance to hit either benchmark.

Here are some of the numbers. Among nonwhites, Trump's favorable/unfavorable ratio is 16%/81% and of these, 72% stated it was strongly unfavorable. Among Latinos, the largest and fastest growing minority group, it is 14%/85%. That's not a formula for getting 30%. It is a recipe for Latinos to vote Democratic for a generation.

Among whites, Trump is doing better. It is only 29%/68%. Among white women, 55% have a strongly unfavorable view of him. How is he going to get to 65% when two-thirds of the women dislike him, a majority of those strongly? Ratings like this for a major party nominee are unprecedented. What about turnout? Trump would undoubtedly increase turnout among blue-collar white men. But the easiest job in politics would have to be the Democratic operative in charge of doubling the Latino turnout. That could even put states like Arizona and Georgia in play. Ayres concludes his piece thusly: "A Trump nomination would put a Democrat in the White House, seriously threaten Republican majorities in Congress and leave the Republican Party in shambles." (V)

Trump Flips on Abortion, Again

Donald Trump sat for an interview Friday with Face the Nation. By that point, it had been more than 24 hours since he had explained his deeply-held views on abortion rights, so it was time for him to switch positions again. Thus, The Donald explained to moderator John Dickerson that while he believes abortion constitutes murder, "the laws are now set." It would be difficult—impossible, perhaps—to craft a worse position on this issue, at least from a political perspective. In one fell swoop, the GOP frontrunner managed to alienate pro-choice folks by calling them murderers while at the exact same time alienating pro-life advocates by telling them "tough luck."

After the inevitable blowback that came once excerpts of the interview were published, Trump got a head start on his Saturday flip-flop, and switched to abortion position #5 late Friday, declaring that he would "change the law through judicial appointments." Now, he's got the whole weekend to shift gears to position #6, whatever it may be. While you wait, you can take this quiz and see how well you recall his flip-flops on other issues. (Z)

Five Reasons the Ted Cruz Sex Scandal Story Won't Vanish

A week ago, David Pecker's National Enquirer reported that Ted Cruz has had affairs with five women. Roll Call reports that the story is unlikely to disappear quickly for five reasons:

  • Cruz addressed it immediately, making it legitimate news for any outlet to report on
  • It helps Cruz if he can convince social conservatives that he is the victim of a tabloid smear
  • Anything goes this year: the size of Trump's hands, Megyn Kelly's menstrual cycle, and more
  • The Enquirer was right about John Edwards, Gary Hart, and others
  • Cruz is a man of mystery, making a salacious story at least plausible

Of course, if no new news appears within a few weeks, the story will eventually die off. (V)

The Economy Added 215,000 Jobs in March

For many voters, the economy is the top issue. If jobs are being created and inflation is low, there is no reason to "throw the bums out." So, the Labor Department's report of another 215,000 jobs added in March is good news for the Democrats. The unemployment rate increased, however, from 4.9% to 5.0%, simply because the good economy has encouraged more people who were sitting on the sidelines to look for work. The private sector has added 14.4 million jobs in the past 6 years, the longest streak of month-to-month job growth in history. If this continues until November, it will definitely help the Democrats up and down the ticket. (V)

Clinton, Sanders, and Fossil Fuels

On Thursday, Hillary Clinton had a well-publicized dustup with a supporter of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), in which she declared that she was "sick of the Sanders campaign lying about me." Friday, Sanders fired back, declaring:

Secretary Clinton owes us an apology. We were not lying. We were telling the truth...The truth is that Secretary Clinton has relied heavily on funds from lobbyists working for the oil, gas and coal industry. According to an analysis done by Greenpeace, Hillary Clinton's campaign and her super PAC have received more than $4.5 million from the fossil fuel industry.

Clinton, of course, has no intention of apologizing, as her campaign spokesman made clear on Friday afternoon.

So, who is in the right here? Politifact has looked at the issue, and says it is considerably more complicated than it seems. If we consider only people who work for oil and gas interests, Clinton's campaign has received $307,561, while Sanders' campaign has collected $53,760. The difference is a relative drop in the bucket, representing 0.2% of Clinton's and 0.04% of Sanders' overall hauls. It would be ridiculous to argue that $53,000 (0.04%) is completely ok, but $300,000 (0.2%) is "bought and paid for."

This being the case, the central basis of Sanders' charge is not individual contributions, nor corporate contributions directly to the campaigns (which are illegal), but instead two other repositories of money. The first of these is "bundlers"—fundraisers who collect money from individuals and then turn the money over the the campaign in a lump sum. If we include this money, which seems fair, then Clinton's total jumps to $1.8 million, still just 0.9% of her total. The second of these is SuperPACs. The $4.5 million figure that Sanders cites—which comes from a Greenpeace position paper—includes SuperPAC contributions. In contrast to the bundlers, including this money is a bit disingenuous, as the relationship between candidates and their SuperPACs is, by law, indirect. And even if we do include it, we also have to consider Clinton's overall SuperPAC total, with the result being that fossil fuel contributions still check in at less than 2% of her overall haul.

Regardless of which parsing of the numbers that one favors, it is inarguable that (1) Hillary Clinton has taken more fossil fuel contributions than Bernie Sanders has, (2) Sanders' contributions are not zero, however, and (3) for both candidates, this money represents a small fraction of their overall take. A staggering 97% of the petroleum money in this election has gone to Republican candidates, which is part of the reason why Time declares:

But no matter how you define a fossil fuel donation, either Democratic presidential candidate would be the most ardent supporter of addressing climate change ever to be nominated as a candidate for president from a major political party.

Presumably, the time will soon come that Democrats of all stripes recognize that whichever candidate is nominated, he or she is vastly more supportive of a liberal agenda than any of the GOP candidates. (Z)

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---The Votemaster
Apr01 Five Ways the Republican Race Could End
Apr01 50 Trump Delegates Could be in Jeopardy
Apr01 A First Look at the Electoral College
Apr01 What's Going on in Wisconsin?
Apr01 GOP's Information Campaign Is Underway
Apr01 Fundraising Picture More Complicated Than it Seems
Apr01 Corporations Are Getting Nervous about Being Associated with the GOP Convention
Apr01 Race for Top GOP Job Heats Up
Mar31 Sanders Opens Up Lead over Clinton in Wisconsin
Mar31 Cruz Leads Trump in Wisconsin
Mar31 Trump Calls for Punishing Women Who Have Abortions
Mar31 GOP Rules Committee Members Want to Scrap Rule That Helps Trump
Mar31 It's Almost Vice President Hunting Season
Mar31 Wisconsin's Voter ID Law is a Sham
Mar31 Conservative Talk Radio Hosts Are in a Tight Spot
Mar31 Democrats Are Beginning to Dare to Dream of a House Majority
Mar31 Frank Not Enthralled with Sanders
Mar31 Sanders Ballot Controversy Much Ado about Nothing
Mar30 Clinton Supporters More Enthusiastic than Sanders Supporters
Mar30 Another Schism Threatens the Republican Party
Mar30 Rubio Not Releasing His Delegates
Mar30 The Truth About Trump's Lies
Mar30 Democrats Go After Trump's Campaign Manager
Mar30 Trump's Path To the White House Runs Through the Rust Belt
Mar30 More Trouble in Paradise
Mar30 Five Myths Trump Is Exploding
Mar30 Union Non-Loss Helps the Democrats
Mar29 Sanders Has Raised Millions Since Saturday
Mar29 Sanders Is Trying to Pilfer Clinton's Superdelegates
Mar29 Trump Threatens to Sue over Louisiana Delegation
Mar29 Supreme Court Vacancy Not Currently a Top Issue for Many Voters
Mar29 Former Trump Strategist Confirms What Everyone Suspected
Mar29 Trump Could Hurt Republicans for a Generation
Mar29 Why Not Al Franken?
Mar29 How Much Does a Poll Cost?
Mar29 No Guns at the Republican National Convention
Mar29 No Apple vs. the FBI in Court
Mar29 Rubio Removes Himself from the California Ballot
Mar28 Sanders Wins Three States, but Not So Many Delegates
Mar28 White People Love Sanders
Mar28 The Fight for South Carolina Is Starting All Over
Mar28 Obama's Approval Rating Is Now 53%
Mar28 When Was America Great?
Mar28 Grave Criticism for Trump
Mar28 How the Republicans Created Donald Trump
Mar28 Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery, but Talking about It Is Fine
Mar28 Trump Wins Blue States and Sanders Wins Red States
Mar27 Pacific States Feel the Bern
Mar27 Could Trump's Sexism Trump His Racism?
Mar27 Come to Cleveland, Bring Your Guns