Tentative Primary and Caucus Schedule
  March 1 (Super Tues)
  March 2-14
L blue   March 15-31
Delegates needed for nomination:
GOP: 1237,   Dem: 2242
Map explained
New polls:  
Dem pickups:  
GOP pickups:  

News from the Votemaster

TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Nikki Haley Running for Veep on Rubio's Ticket
      •  Cruz Leads Trump Nationally in New Poll
      •  Sanders Catches Clinton in Nevada
      •  Clinton's Fate May Be Determined in Red States
      •  AFL-CIO to Stay Out of Primaries
      •  Rubio Holds Town Halls But Refuses to Answer Any Questions
      •  Bush Breaks Twitter
      •  Nine Ways to Replace Scalia
      •  Time to Invest Heavily in Mud Futures

Nikki Haley Running for Veep on Rubio's Ticket

Just three days before the crucial South Carolina Republican primary, Gov. Nikki Haley (R-SC) endorsed Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) for President. If he wins the nomination, he is going to love her to death for this, which gives her an excellent shot of being his running mate. Two young minorities, including a woman, is certainly different from the more usual GOP ticket of two old white men.

The big question, of course, is will Haley's endorsement matter? She has a few things going for her. First, she has an 81% approval rating among South Carolina Republicans. Second, this endorsement will dominate the news until Saturday. Third, undecided voters tend to be influenced by momentum, and all the news for the rest of the week will look like momentum for Rubio.

Nevertheless, we are talking about the battle for second place. Nobody expects Donald Trump to lose. The question is whether Rubio, Jeb Bush, or Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) comes in second. It's hardly a done deal, endorsement or no endorsement. Bush has called in the big guns, especially his brother, who is popular in the state. Cruz has a substantial ground operation in place. It is even possible the endorsement works against Rubio. If he can't come in second with her endorsement, Rubio is going to look very weak indeed. (V)

Cruz Leads Trump Nationally in New Poll

Donald Trump has been leading in national polls for months, so it is very surprising that a new national NBC/WSJ poll has Cruz (barely) in first place. The poll was taken after the New Hampshire primary and Saturday's Republican debate. Here are the numbers.

Rank Candidate Pct
1 Ted Cruz 28%
2 Donald Trump 26%
3 Marco Rubio 17%
4 John Kasich 11%
5 Ben Carson 10%
6 Jeb Bush 4%

The poll seems so different from earlier ones that it could be an outlier. Ben Carson way ahead of Jeb Bush? Strange. The poll was conducted by Republican Bill McIntuff and Democrat Peter Hart, both highly respected pros. Nevertheless, it would be wise to wait for a couple more polls before believing that Trump has been dethroned. (V)

Sanders Catches Clinton in Nevada

A new CNN/ORC poll of Nevada shows Hillary Clinton at 48% and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) at 47%, well within the margin of error. In the previous CNN/ORC poll of Nevada, in October, Clinton had a 16-point lead. Sanders has now erased that completely. The top issue, by far, is the economy, and that is where Sanders does best. Next come health care and terrorism, where Clinton does better. Nevada polling has been pretty thin this year, but even one poll showing it is a tie is good news for Sanders.

However, caucus states are notoriously hard to predict. In 2008 a similar CNN/ORC poll on the Republican side right before the caucuses showed John McCain with a 10-point lead over Mitt Romney. When the votes were counted, Romney beat McCain by 38 points. With caucuses, the three most important factors are turnout, turnout, and turnout. If young people turn out in droves, Sanders could win. If Latinos and blacks show up in big numbers, it will be Clinton on top. Unlike Iowa, where a blizzard hit the state just hours after the caucuses, current weather predictions show no blizzards likely in Nevada on Saturday.

On the Republican side, Trump has a massive 26-point lead over second-place Marco Rubio, but the Republican caucus isn't until next Tuesday, after South Carolina has voted, so everything could change by then. (V)

Clinton's Fate May Be Determined in Red States

In 2008, Hillary Clinton's guru, Mark Penn, was so sure Clinton would win the nomination on super Tuesday that he forgot to plan for what came next. She won a lot of votes on that day, but due to the Democratic Party's proportionality rules, she didn't win enough delegates to wipe Obama from the map. Obama understood that was going to happen and worked hard in advance to set up victories in the red caucus states that followed. Could something like that happen again this year?

Probably not. While Iowa and Nevada are the first two caucus states, there are another dozen to come and together they represent 488 pledged delegates, more than California. And they are in peculiar places for Democrats to be campaigning, such as Idaho, North Dakota, Alaska, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands. Ultimately, it is about delegates, so both Sanders and Clinton are going to have to think about how to deal with these places. What makes it even more critical is that many of the Democratic caucuses in these states are very poorly attended. If a campaign can get 10 people to show up in some precinct in Idaho, that might be worth one delegate.

Knowing the rules helps a lot because each state makes its own and they are very arcane in some places. In Kansas, for example, delegates are awarded by congressional district, but caucuses are organized by state senate district—except in the 8 cases where the senate district lies in two congressional districts, in which cases there are two caucus locations. A superior ground operation can matter a lot here. In some of these mostly rural states, a voter may have to drive 100 miles to get to the caucus location and then hang around for a couple of hours talking politics. The side with the most knowlegeable and motivated voters has a big advantage. (V)

AFL-CIO to Stay Out of Primaries

The AFL-CIO is one of the nation's largest and oldest federation of unions, with more than 12 million members. Last October, the union's leadership had suggested they might not make an endorsement in primary season. On Wednesday, they made that decision official.

It's been a less-than-stellar month for Hillary Clinton, and this is another piece of unhappy news. She has the endorsements of a number of other prominent unions, but the AFL-CIO is arguably the biggest piece of the organized labor puzzle. If they're getting skittish about her chances, it could be a sign of serious vulnerability, or at very least a portent of a long, difficult, bruising primary process. If Nevada turns out in the manner that the newest polls suggest, then Clinton is really, really going to need a good showing in South Carolina and the Super Tuesday primaries. (Z)

Rubio Holds Town Halls But Refuses to Answer Any Questions

The traditional meaning of a "town hall" event is where a candidate gets up on stage and answers questions from the audience for an hour. But Marco Rubio has given the idea a new twist: he shows up but refuses to take any questions from anyone.

The advantage here is that although Rubio is quite good at delivering talking points he has memorized, he is not good at all when faced with a question he doesn't expect. The questions from professional journalists at a televised debate are somewhat predictable, but questions from voters can throw candidates for a loop.

Probably the most famous example of a candidate being flustered was in the second televised presidential debate in 1992, where audience members asked the questions—essentially a televised town hall. One woman asked George H.W. Bush how the national debt affected him personally. He didn't have a clue. Part of the problem is that the question was poorly formulated. The woman probably meant the federal deficit, not the national debt, but Bush didn't know what to say. A journalist would never ask such a sloppy question.

Rubio has held four of these question-free town halls in South Carolina on Tuesday and Wednesday. Basically, he shows up and people can take selfies with him. Republicans who are happy about Haley's endorsement and Rubio's chances ought to be thinking ahead to the Fall debates, especially if Rubio has to go up against Hillary Clinton, an extremely knowledgeable candidate and skilled debater. Shouldn't Rubio try to get as much practice as he can? (V)

Bush Breaks Twitter

On Tuesday, Jeb Bush issued forth with one of the oddest Tweets in recent memory, political or not. It was a picture of a gun, engraved with his name, and accompanied by the single word: "America." Poetry? Performance art? Keyboard not working properly? Didn't realize you get 140 characters on Twitter? Who knows.

Many users expressed support or disdain for the obvious pro-gun message. However, considerably more took it as an opportunity to make Bush the butt of jokes. The initial responses took the form of anti-suicide pleas: "Don't do it, Jeb!" and "Life is worth living!" However, it quickly morphed into an Internet meme, wherein users paired a photograph with a place name. For example:

Meanwhile, the New York Daily News, displaying its usual knack for rhyme, gave its front page over to the story, accompanied by the headline "Dolt .45".

Whenever Jeb Bush seems to be getting on track, he does something like this that reminds us that he has really terrible political instincts. He's pretending to be something that he is not, and voters see right through that. Indeed, some are already calling it his "Dukakis-in-a-tank" moment, recalling the devastating 1988 photo of 5'5" Democratic nominee Michael Dukakis wearing an ill-fitting helmet while seated inside an oversized tank in an effort to appear pro-military. Maybe this is correct, maybe not, though certainly there is at least one difference between the two candidates: Dukakis actually won some primaries. (Z)

Nine Ways to Replace Scalia

The story of Justice Antonin Scalia's replacement is probably going to stay in the news for weeks, except when there is a debate or an actual election. It is that important. Will Saletan at Slate offers nine strategies from which Obama can choose to find the right nominee. Here they are.

  • Most qualified. In a sane world, this would be the way to go.
  • Least partisan. Pick someone the Republicans might hate to see go by the wayside.
  • Lobby the Senate. Would Judiciary Comm. chairman Grassley treat Jane Kelly, who he really likes, badly?
  • Most potent minority. Pick someone whose rejection will anger the most people, like a Mexican-American.
  • Most neglected minority. No one talks about Asian-Americans, so try Calif. Justice Goodwin Liu.
  • Immigrant. Having the senate reject an immigrant would hurt the Republicans badly. Lots to choose from.
  • Most liberal. Dangerous, since it would mobilize the Republican base.
  • Youngest. A young justice would serve a long time but not if he or she isn't confirmed.
  • Wait and see. Saletan is betting on Srinivasan. He checks every box and rejecting him would look bad.

Advice will continue to stream in from all sides, but the main thing Obama has to decide is does he want a nominee who has a chance to be confirmed or has he written that off as impossible, and should then look for the nominee whose rejection hurts the Republicans the most?

If anyone had any doubts about how partisan the whole issue is, a Morning Consult poll dispels them. When asked whether Obama or the next President should make the nomination, 68% of Democrats want Obama and 66% of Republicans want the next President to do the nominating.

Not all Republicans are in favor of delaying the nomination though. Retired Reagan Supreme Court appointee Sandra Day O'Connor chimed in yesterday on Fox saying she didn't agree with the Republicans and Obama should make an apointment now and the Senate should evaluate the nominee seriously. Marco Rubio almost immediately responded to O'Connor saying, no, Obama should not make an appointment now. This political football is going to be thrown back and forth across the field for quite a while without anyone scoring.

Dana Milbank in the Washington Post has an interesting take on the so-called "Thurmond rule." which says Presidents can't make appointments in their last year. He says doesn't that "rule" also mean senators must refrain from voting in the last year of their term? If so, 24 Republican senators and 10 Democratic senators would be prevented from voting. A point Milbank didn't raise but someone should is what would happen if North Korea were to take advantage of the presidential transition on Jan. 20, 2017 and launch an attack on the U.S. at 8 A.M. that day. Would the outgoing President be handcuffed in responding, saying, let the new President first appoint a secretary of defense, have him be confirmed by the Senate, and then respond? (V)

Time to Invest Heavily in Mud Futures

Joseph Cummins is an expert in dirty politics (though he got his expertise through academic study; not in the way that Lee Atwater or Karl Rove did). And in his expert opinion, this year's election is already the dirtiest since 1972. Writing for Politico, he says:

It's all pretty awful, a bare-knuckled, brawling, adolescent, old school primary campaign, the likes of which we haven't seen in decades. But years of studying dirty tricks in presidential races made me realize that this was bound to happen. Climactic conditions point to a perfect storm. Not only are the two parties running for an empty chair, but each party is riven with internal divisions; the electorate is fed-up with politics as usual and is making some surprising choices; the world seems in an especially fragile state (encouraging xenophobia, always a potent political force); and Scalia's death ramps up the furor even further. The 2016 election is going to keep on getting dirtier.

1972, as older readers may recall, gave us one vice-presidential candidate who had to step down because of revelations he'd received electroshock therapy, and another who ultimately had to resign because he didn't pay his taxes. It also featured a little incident at a hotel in Washington that brought down a president and sent 25 White House staffers to prison. If Cummins is right, and he may very well be, it should be interesting to see what Madame Clinton and Messrs. Trump, Cruz, Rubio, Sanders, et al. will come up with as they try to outdo Tricky Dick. (Z)

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---The Votemaster
Feb17 Trump and Clinton Continue to Lead in South Carolina
Feb17 Sanders Working Very Hard to Court Black Voters
Feb17 Democratic Turnout is Down; Republican Turnout is Up
Feb17 However, Latino Turnout was Up, at Least in Iowa
Feb17 Boomers Still Dominate Millennials in Voting
Feb17 Tax Policy Center Not Enamored of Cruz's Plan
Feb17 Politicians' Words Come Back to Haunt Them
Feb17 How To Get the Republicans To Consider Obama's SCOTUS Appointee
Feb17 Nevada is Likely to Be a Big Surprise
Feb16 Republicans All Agree to Block Scalia's Replacement
Feb16 Supreme Court Nominations Weren't Always Like This
Feb16 The Scalia Vacancy Summarized in Seven Bullets
Feb16 Should Cruz Recuse Himself From the Process of Picking Scalia's Replacement?
Feb16 Trump Threatens to Sue Cruz; Cruz Strikes Back
Feb16 It's Morning...in Canada?
Feb16 Understanding the Delegate Selection Rules
Feb16 Why Is U.S. Politics So Crazy?
Feb15 Everyone is Strategizing about Scalia's Replacement
Feb15 Looking at Some Supreme Court Appointment Hypotheticals
Feb15 South Carolina Poll: Trump and Clinton Still Leading
Feb15 Betting Markets Say It Will be Clinton vs. Trump
Feb15 Republican Debate Postmortem
Feb14 Antonin Scalia Is Dead
Feb14 Could Scalia's Replacement Really Be Held Up until 2017?
Feb14 Could Obama Make a Recess Appointment to Replace Scalia?
Feb14 Lawsuit Filed in Voter ID Case
Feb14 Trump Way Ahead in South Carolina
Feb14 Republicans Get Nasty in South Carolina
Feb13 Democratic Debate Postmortem
Feb13 GOP Candidates Going to Debate Tonight in South Carolina
Feb13 Who Will Young Black Voters Support?
Feb13 Biggest Newspaper in Florida Endorses Clinton
Feb13 Bush Finally Pulls Out All Stops against Trump
Feb13 Republican Insiders Still Don't Think It Will Be Trump
Feb13 The Sleaze Is Already Here
Feb13 Clinton Gets More Corporate Support
Feb13 Wasserman Schultz Defends Having Superdelegates
Feb13 We Won't Have Jim Gilmore to Kick Around Any More
Feb12 Clinton and Sanders Spar in Old Milwaukee
Feb12 Republican Leadership Has No Idea How to Stop Trump in South Carolina
Feb12 South Carolina Has the Dirtiest Politics in the Country
Feb12 Hillary Clinton is Hoping Black Pastors Will Save Her
Feb12 Both Democrats Enlist Celebrities to Help Them
Feb12 Some Advice for Hillary Clinton
Feb12 Winning Delegates in Nevada Requires Understanding the Rules
Feb12 Democrats Testing General Election Theme
Feb11 New Hampshire Was The GOP's Worst Nightmare
Feb11 Trump Had Broad and Deep Support in New Hampshire
Feb11 The Democrats' Moaning is Maybe a Tad Premature
Feb11 Sanders a Good Thing for Hillary?