Tentative Primary and Caucus Schedule
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News from the Votemaster

NOTE: The long run-down of the Senate that was posted on Aug. 27 is still available and will be updated as more information becomes available. Just click on the word "Senate" in the blue bar above the map.

New Map Shows Dates of Primaries and Caucuses

The new map above shows the tentative dates of the primaries and caucuses starting next February. Some states have not finalized the dates yet. The color coding is for the Republican events, although in most states the Democrats and Republicans have the same kind of event (primary or caucus) and on the same day, but not always. After the long drawn out primary campaign in 2012, RNC (Republican National Committee) chairman Reince Priebus wanted to get it over quickly this year, so the rules were changed to encourage a rapid selection of the nominee. There are basically four main rules:

  1. No primaries or caucuses in January
  2. Only Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada may choose delegates in February
  3. Primaries and caucuses before March 15 must divide delegates proportionally to the vote
  4. On or after March 15, states may choose proportional representation or winner-take-all as they prefer

States that violate the rules lose most of their delegates.

For this reason, the early March states are colored differently than the late March states. Super Tuesday (March 1) is so important it rates its own designation.

Many of these dates are tentative and could change. In reality, the system is more complicated than it looks. Some states have a caucus and a primary, often with one of them nonbinding. There are also county, congressional district, and state conventions. If it is close in either party, these details could matter. The Green Papers are a good source on the dates and events.

One extremely unforeseen consequence of this system is that if Donald Trump is still on top in March, even if he has only 25% of the vote, he will be collecting all the delegates in the winner-take-all states. The goal was to get a nominee quickly, but the GOP leadership was thinking of Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, or Marco Rubio, not Trump. This means if Trump is still leading the polls when Iowa rolls around on Feb. 1, they don't have a lot of time to stop him.

The one date that might derail Trump is Super Tuesday, March 1, when a dozen states vote, more than half in the South. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) is betting the farm on Super Tuesday and campaigning vigorously in the March 1 Southern states. If he does well and the main contenders starting March 2 are Trump and Cruz, the new party slogan will be: "Houston, we have a problem."

It is slowly becoming clear why Trump continues to draw support. Republican operators, from Lee Atwater to Karl Rove to Roger Stone, have for years used a strategy of telling the base that bedrock principles of the Republican Party were stopping abortions and gay marriages, and related social issues, when they knew very well the leadership said that only to attract votes from low-information base voters. As soon as they got elected, what Republicans have done is fight hard for lower taxes for the rich and less regulation for business. The suckers never knew what hit them. The Trump phenomenon suggests that some of the base voters have finally awakened to the con game and have lost faith in the Republican establishment, so they have jumped on Trump's bandwagon. Getting them off may be tricky, and the winner-take-all primaries mean that unless he can be derailed by March 15, things may get a bit dicey. While the public doesn't understand this, you can be sure that Reince Priebus, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Rep. John Boehner (R-OH), the Republican leaders, understand it extremely well.

Clinton May Have 20% of the Needed Delegates Already

Despite the media pushing hard for a Joe Biden candidacy, the real name of the game is getting delegates to the Democratic National Convention. Many of the delegates are so-called "superdelegates," mostly elected and party officials. Of the 4483 delegates to the DNC, 1200 are party leaders and elected officials (PLEOs). To get the nomination, a candidate needs 2242 delegates. The PLEOs overwhelmingly support Hillary Clinton and one report says she has already locked down 440 (20%) of the delegates needed for the nomination. This development may make it even harder for Joe Biden or Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) to wrest the nomination from her.

It is important to understand why there are so many "Biden is running" stories floating around. First, the headline "Hillary still ahead" is not nearly as exciting as "Biden now a serious threat to Hillary." Thus media outlets strongly prefer the latter to the former, especially since nobody knows where things really stand. Second, the media really dislike Clinton and vice versa. If a reporter asks Bernie Sanders for an interview, the response is: "What time?" With Clinton it is more like: "I'm busy." Not surprisingly then, they tend to run a lot of negative stories about her email server, never mentioning that Republican Colin Powell also had a private email server when he was Secretary of State.

If the story about the superdelegates is true it shows that Clinton is capable of learning from mistakes, an important characteristic in a candidate and in the President. In 2008, she blew the nomination fundamentally because she (and her guru, Mark Penn) didn't actually understand the rules of the game. All Democratic primaries then were proportional and were often divided into congressional districts. So if a state had, say, 10 districts, each with two delegates, and she won 60% of the vote in each one, she would get 2.4 delegates to Obama's 1.6 delegates. Unfortunately, delegates are real people who can't be sliced into tenths, so this lopsided victory would give her two delegates per district and Obama also two. In a state with 10 districts, they would each get 20 delegates, despite the huge victory. Clinton was expecting to clean up big time on Super Tuesday and didn't think much about what was going to happen afterwards. Due to the proportionality rule, she didn't nail down the nomination on Super Tuesday and wasn't at all prepared for the caucuses in the small red states that followed. In many cases Obama was able to get a few thousand caucus goers to show up in small red states and collect delegates here and there. Eventually his lead was insurmountable.

If Clinton is now working to get all the superdelegates signed up, it shows that she understands the rules now. The goal is not to make Rush Limbaugh love her or score high in national polls or win Iowa. It is about getting 2242 delegates, and if that is best done quietly behind the scenes, that is the way to go.

Republicans Silent on Ashley Madison

Although many of the Republican candidates are quick to point out legal abortion as a sign of America's moral decay (which only their ascension to the presidency can repair), none have used the Ashley Madison dump as a sign of much bigger problems.

Abortion is not mentioned in either the Old Testament or the New Testament, although the practice was well known in Biblical times. If this were one of God's pet peeves, surely He would have at least mentioned it. In contrast, adultery is explicitly condemned in multiple places in the Bible. In Deuteronomy 5:21, God gives a list of his top 10 commandments. In the King James version of the Bible, one of them reads: "Neither shalt thou desire thy neighbour's wife, neither shalt thou covet thy neighbour's house, his field, or his manservant, or his maidservant, his ox, or his ass, or any thing that is thy neighbour's." Some Biblical scholars think that the ban on coveting thy neighbor's ass is a condemnation of homosexuality, while others thinks it is a condemnation of bestiality.

But the part about not desiring thy neighbour's wife is unambiguous. One might think this would be sufficient grounds to condemn Ashley Madison as a company and also its 30 million customers, but we have heard hardly a peep from the candidates. Perhaps they were thinking that since Ashley Madison operates internationally, it is OK if you hook up with someone who is not your neighbor's wife. But how far away does she have to live to disqualify her as your neighbor? Is 10,000 cubits enough? 50,000 cubits? Different ZIP code? It does seem odd to go on and on about something not actually mentioned in the Bible and ignore something else that is explicitly condemned not only in the Old Testament multiple times, but also in Matthew 19:9, Luke 16:18, John 8:4-11, and more. Could it be that while few of the voters they want to attract have ever partaken in an abortion, many were Ashley Madison customers? Railing against your opponent's sins is well and good, but when you start going after sins that your supporters may have committed (and may still be committing), it may not be politically so wise.

Trump May Sign Pledge Not to Run as an Independent

If Donald Trump wants to be on the primary ballot in South Carolina, he must file a form with the state Republican Party before Sept. 30. That form includes a provision not to run as an independent that he must agree to in order to be placed on the South Carolina ballot. Virginia and North Carolina are considering adding similar language. The courts have ruled over and over that political parties are private organizations and can demand whatever they want from their members so there is no way for Trump to get South Carolina to scrap this clause.

That said, what if Trump loses the Republican nomination and runs as an independent anyway? Could the Republicans do anything about it? The answer is no. Reneging on a promise to a private group does not violate federal law and the courts are likely to find that by signing some agreement with a private group he does not lose his fundamental constitutional right to run for public office. However, making an independent run, even if it is legal, isn't easy. Some states have a "sore loser" law that prevents candidates who have lost a partisan primary from running as an independent. In others, getting on the ballot is a difficult and expensive process, although Trump could easily afford it if he decides he wants to do it. The main downside for Trump breaking a promise to South Carolina is the spate of negative ads he will get from the Republicans calling him deceitful, untrustworthy, and a lot more. But his supporters may see this as a badge of honor.

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---The Votemaster