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

If Trump is the Hare, Cruz is the Tortoise

Donald Trump is making a lot of noise and getting a lot of publicity, which is helping him in the polls. But quietly in the background, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) is plodding along methodically. His strategy is to wait until Trump, Ben Carson, and Carly Fiorina implode, and then pick up the pieces. While the possibility of a wealthy businessman as President is remote at best (the only one so far, Herbert Hoover, was not a great success), several Presidents, including the current one, have been elected from the Senate. So what Cruz hopes for is that when the dust settles, there will be one establishment candidate and one far-right candidate left, and he intends to be that far-right candidate.

Cruz's systematic approach includes raising $50 million, largely in small donations. But he also has a couple of big donors lined up. In particular, computer programmer Bob Mercer, who devised algorithms that beat Wall Street traders and parlayed this into becoming a multimillionaire hedge-fund manager, likes Cruz. Mercer is a reclusive odd duck and was once sued by his household staff in a dispute involving, among other things, half-filled shampoo bottles. But he is not Howard Hughes, who used to walk around his house naked except for tissue boxes on his feet. Although Mercer does not like public appearances, he does them occasionally. Still, he lets his checkbook do the talking most of the time. He gives regularly to conservative causes, including $3 million so far to Cruz.

Cruz is using Mercer's money and that of the small donors to build an enormous ground game under the radar. His goal isn't to get publicity. It is to line up delegates. He already has a county chairman in every single county in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada, and they are setting up field offices, recruiting volunteers, and doing the other stuff successful campaigns have to do. Cruz is also setting up shop in the seven Southern states that vote on March 1. In addition, using Mercer's technology, he is creating a database to microtarget potential voters in all the states he is pursuing.

The bottom line is that assuming Trump, Carson, and Fiorina all collapse in due course, Cruz will be sitting pretty with a full-blown ground game running smoothly in all the states that vote in February and early March. Everyone who has come in contact with him, or personally knows people who have [including (V)], can attest that he has enormous ambition and a razor-sharp mind. Just because he is laying low now, he should not be counted out. (V)

Gallup Pulls the Plug

The Gallup Organization, whose founder, George Gallup, began the public opinion polling industry in 1935 and which had been the gold standard until 2011, has announced that it will not do any polling of the primaries and maybe not even of the general election. This decision was prompted by its apparent inability to wipe off its face all the egg it acquired in November 2012. Just prior to the 2012 presidential election, Gallup confidently declared that Mitt Romney would win by 1 point. When the final results came in, it was Barack Obama by 4 points, an error of 5 points, not to mention picking the wrong horse. It was a bit embarrassing for the oldest and most trusted name in polling. Now Gallup is going to focus on other kinds of surveys—ones that can't be tested by an election result—such as: "Do you have a positive or negative opinion of X?" While there is some correlation between having a favorable opinion of a candidate and voting for the candidate, there have been innumerable examples of people holding their proverbial noses and picking the lesser of 16 or 17 evils.

What is a bit surprising about Gallup's 2012 fiasco is that Gallup did a lot of things right. For example, Gallup used live human interviewers and called both landlines and cell phones. Gallup said it would study the results of its 2012 calls and try to learn from them. There has been no announcement about what it did wrong, though. Most likely it had to do with either "likely voters" or modeling. A minority of adults actually vote. Some people are not registered and some are too busy and some think voting doesn't matter. The problem a pollster has is figuring out how to get a sample of voters. Whiners don't count. The second issue is that no poll will have the correct number of wealthy, black, lesbian, Republican vegetarians with a Ph.D. So all pollsters correct for undersampling or oversampling many demographic groups. But to do this, you need to have a model of how many people fit each category. It is very possible that Gallup's model of the electorate had too many Republicans in it. (V)

Democratic Focus Groups: We Love You Joe, but Don't Run

BloombergPolitics has run focus groups in Iowa and New Hampshire asking Democrats what they think about Vice President Joe Biden entering the fray. On the whole, people like Joe and say he is "personable" and "experienced." But they worry about his tendency to make gaffes (i.e., tell inconvenient truths). Some people were worried that they don't see the fire in the belly that the other candidates have. On the whole, they were not enthusiastic about his jumping in.

On the other hand, Hillary Clinton was not universally loved despite people saying she was "experienced," "knowledgeable," "impressive," and "probably will win." Many people feel she has not put forward enough policy proposals. Her personality also rubs some people the wrong way. The moderators did not ask much about Bernie Sanders, since their focus was on Biden . (V)

Export-Import Bank Causes Problems for Republicans

The Export-Import Bank, a little-known government agency, is about to cause big problems for some of the Republican presidential candidates. The Bank provides loans to foreign buyers of American products like Boeing airplanes and John Deere tractors. Its charter is about to expire and big business is unanimous about wanting to have it renewed, pointing out that it creates profits for the companies whose products are being financed and jobs for the workers who make the products. Conservatives are against the Bank, calling it corporate welfare. To make the conservatives happy and prevent a painful vote in which Republicans in Congress would be forced to choose between their conservative constituents and their big business donors, the House leadership doesn't want to even schedule a vote on the bill to renew Ex-Im.

But now the Democrats, who largely support renewing the Bank due to the jobs issue, have joined with business-oriented Republicans to throw a monkey wrench into the Republican leadership's plans. They have filed a "discharge petition" to force the bill onto the floor for a straight up-or-down vote, very much against the wishes of Financial Services Committee Chairman Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), who is strongly against the bill and wants to keep it bottled up in his committee. Potential Speaker Kevin McCarthy used to be for the Bank, but to prove his conservative cred to the House Freedom Caucus, he is now against it.

If supporters of the Bank can muster 218 signatures, they can force a vote. Then it will go over to the Senate, where Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL), Rand Paul (R-KY), Ted Cruz (R-TX), and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) will be forced to vote on it. If they vote yes, many conservative voters will be furious. If they vote no, big business will be angry and candidates not in the Senate may accuse them of destroying jobs. (V)

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---The Votemaster
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