Obama 332
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Romney 206
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Dem 46
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GOP 54
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  • Strongly Dem (191)
  • Likely Dem (72)
  • Barely Dem (69)
  • Exactly tied (0)
  • Barely GOP (15)
  • Likely GOP (16)
  • Strongly GOP (175)
270 Electoral votes needed to win Map algorithm explained
New polls: (None)
Dem pickups: (None)
GOP pickups: IN NC

News from the Votemaster

NOTE: The rundown of all 17 Republican presidential candidates given here earlier this week is still present. To find it, click on "Data galore" to the left of the map above. It will be updated as circumstances change.

Bernie vs. Donald

Can you imagine a general election with Bernie Sanders running against Donald Trump? You can? Then please pinch yourself in order to wake up. It's not going to happen. Insurgencies have happened before, but it is unusual to have a serious one in both parties at the same time. At first glance you might think the two are polar opposites. After all, one is a billionaire-hating socialist and the other is a socialist-hating billionaire. Nevertheless, they are quite similar in more ways than one, as shown below.

Item Sanders Trump
Draws big crowds
Good poll numbers
Supporters are very intense
Angry with the state of the union
Opposes immigration
Doesn't like China
Opposes the Trans-Pacific Partnership
Opposes the North American Free Trade Agreement
Pulling his party away from the center
Regarded as a joke by Serious People
Mostly talking to white people
Not all that popular with Latinos
Disliked by his party's pooh-bahs
Says what he thinks is the unvarnished truth
Can't be bribed by party donors
Not a big fan of Megyn Kelly
Born in New York City
Son of an immigrant parent
Avoided serving in Vietnam
Been married multiple times
No chance at becoming President
Doesn't care if he doesn't become President
Would refuse an offer to be the other one's Veep

Of course, they are also very different in many ways. Sanders is running because he deeply believes everything he is saying and wants very much to influence his party and the election. Trump is running because he loves being the center of attention. Even on the issues they agree on, it is often for different reasons. Sanders opposes immigration because he is pro-union and unions believe that a flood of immigrants will just supply the Koch brothers and their friends with cheap labor to exploit. Trump opposes immigration because he is a racist.

Trump Is Actually Building an Organization in Iowa

Although Donald Trump is constantly in the news for his outrageous remarks, under the radar he is actually building a campaign organization in Iowa, just like the other candidates. His state director is Chuck Laudner, an experienced Republican operative with close ties to Rep. Steve King (R-IA), a local powerhouse. Trump has 10 paid staff in the state (vs. 12 for Jeb Bush) and Trump's staff is growing rapidly. The staff is showing up at all the events that candidates are supposed to show up at, passing out yard signs, T-shirts, and other swag. He has chartered a large bus, painted his name on it in huge letters, and has a staffer drive it all over the state attracting attention and handing out goodies. In Iowa, at least, Trump is operating a very conventional, well-financed campaign, run by people who know how Iowa campaigns work. While Trump himself is a rank amateur, he is apparently smart enough to hire top professional talent to actually run his ground operation, and it shows.

Politico has a story today headlined "Insiders: Trump can't win early states." But when you look at the poll itself, indeed 60% said he can't but an amazing 40% said he can. That's a lot. If he continues to hire top-level talent in the early states and gives them an adequate budget, it is not impossible Trump could win in Iowa and New Hampshire, both nearly all white states, and maybe even in South Carolina, where the Republican primary electorate is all white. This is assuming, however, that he doesn't choke to death the next time he inserts his foot in his mouth.

March 1 Is Do or Die Day for Ted Cruz

For conservatives, 2016 could be deja vu all over again (thank you, Yogi Berra). In both 2008 and 2012, they were badly splintered over multiple candidates, allowing the "RINO" to get the nomination. With more than a dozen conservatives in the race this year, well, it could happen again. Or maybe not. While the media are glued to every utterance and spreadsheet from the people who read tea leaves in Iowa and New Hampshire, the date to keep in mind is not Feb. 1 (Iowa), Feb. 9 (New Hampshire), or even Feb. 20 (South Carolina) or Feb. 23 (Nevada). It is March 1. That is when we will get some real clarity. While the pundits will undoubtedly declare the winners of Iowa and New Hampshire as the only ones who have a shot at the nomination (especially if the same person wins both), the real name of the game is collecting delegates and none of those states have a lot of them.

On March 1, the game suddenly changes. On that date, 12 states hold nominating events, and of those, seven are in the South. These are Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia. Oklahoma also votes that day and even though it is not "South," politically it is a lot more like Texas than like Minnesota, which holds caucuses that day as well. The other states voting then are Colorado, Massachusetts, and Vermont.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)) is well aware of the calendar. While he shows up in the four early states from time to time, his real focus is on the Southern states that vote on March 1. Even if he loses badly in the first four states, if he brings in hundreds of actual delegates to the Republican National Convention on March 1, he's suddenly the guy to beat, even if the pundits have long written him off. His campaign is extensively organized in the South. While he probably didn't have biscuits and gravy for breakfast much when he attended Princeton and Harvard and more likely than not his wife Heidi (Harvard Business School, 2000), a top executive at Goldman Sachs, doesn't feature them prominently at breakfast much nowadays, while campaigning in the South, he's just a good ol' boy and gobbles them down along with fried chicken and other regional delicacies.

The bottom line here is don't pay a lot of attention to the pundits claiming so-and-so has a lock on the nomination after the four early states. If Cruz' strategy of betting the farm on the South pays off with a big haul of delegates on March 1, suddenly everything changes.

While the above applies to the Republican nomination, the Democrats are also holding nominating events in most of these states. It is entirely possible that Bernie Sanders could win Iowa and New Hampshire, small states with nearly all white populations and where retail campaigning is critical. But come March 1, Sanders will have to contend with large states where a substantial percentage of the population is black and where money for television ads becomes a huge factor. If Sanders wins Iowa and New Hampshire but is crushed on March 1, he may continue campaigning but his chances of winning the nomination will be pretty close to zero. On the other hand, if he can actually win in the South, he might become a serious contender.

We had this "identity politics" situation before. In 1960, to everyone's surprise, John Kennedy, a Catholic, won the West Virginia primary, despite the state's massive anti-Catholic bigotry. Once that hurdle was taken, there was no stopping him.

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---The Votemaster