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)
      •  Democrats to Debate Amongst Budding Civil War
      •  Conservatives Going after Rubio on Immigration
      •  Rubio Misses Key Senate Vote
      •  There Are No More Swing Voters
      •  McConnell Tells Republican Voters to Shun Tea Party Candidates
      •  Adelson Has Money and Passion but Not Much Competence
      •  Voters Want to Bomb Disney Land

Democrats to Debate Amongst Budding Civil War

The third Democratic debate will be held in New Hampshire tonight. It is scheduled for 8:00 P.M. EST on ABC and will be moderated by Josh McElveen, David Muir, and Martha Raddatz.

The debate was shaping up to be something of an afterthought—buried on a weekend night, right before Christmas. Indeed, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has suggested more than once that the schedule proves that the DNC and its chair, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), are in the bag for Hillary Clinton—deliberately setting up the debates to limit viewership, so as to reduce both the frontrunner's chance of hurting herself, and also her opponents' chance of making some headway. As one Sanders staffer said contemptuously of Saturday's less-than-prime debate slot, "I guess Christmas Eve was booked." Whether there is a conspiracy or not, it is certainly true that the Democratic debates are not drawing nearly the audience that the Republican debates are. The Democrats have averaged 11.25 million viewers across two debates, for a total of 22.5 million. The Republicans have averaged 22.6 million viewers across five debates, for a total of 112.8 million.

In any event, things got much more interesting in the last 48 hours. The DNC maintains and hosts a database of voters that it rents to campaigns, but each campaign adds its own data to the database. The system is set up so each campaign can see only the party data plus the data it added itself. But, for a few hours, due to a buggy patch the database vendor made, Sanders' people could see and download Clinton's data. Once the breach was discovered, the DNC decided to freeze out Sanders until the campaign can show that all of Clinton's data has been removed from its files.

While all this may sound esoteric to some readers, it is most certainly not. Data is the lifeblood of all campaigns nowadays. In a state like Iowa, where campaigns attempt to talk to every voter personally multiple times, data is crucial. If a Clinton campaign worker has visited a voter and recorded that the voter is a Democrat but still on the fence, that is enormously valuable information to Sanders. Similarly, knowledge that a voter is a confirmed Republican is also valuable, since that database entry will prevent Democratic campaign workers from wasting time talking to the person. Third-party data the campaigns have collected are also valuable. Even if nobody has talked to a voter, but knows he is a 45-year-old white man who is a member of the American Legion and National Rifle Association, has a subscription to The Weekly Standard, and donated $100 to the Family Research Council, campaigns can probably make a pretty good guess which party he identifies with. As a consequence of the data breach, Hillary Clinton is legitimately angry and has demanded an independent review to verify that the Sanders campaign no longer has data to which it is not entitled.

From Sanders' perspective, the DNC's reaction is a gross overreach, and even more proof that the party is already in the bag for Clinton. He argues, quite correctly, that an independent review could take days or weeks, during which Sanders campaign workers in the early states won't be able to do their work effectively. This would be crippling to the Senator's chances in Iowa and New Hampshire, both of which are crucial for him. As such, the Sanders campaign filed suit against the DNC on Friday. If Wasserman Schultz is in fact denying Sanders access to his own data to help Clinton, it is a stupid, short-sighted move. She knows very well that Clinton doesn't need extra help to secure the nomination, but she ought to know this move is sure to anger Sanders' supporters and some of them may stay angry through next November. They may then think of themselves as PUMA (Party Unity My Ass) voters and vote for the Green Party candidate or write in Ralph Nader or not vote. Clinton will need these people next November, so there it is foolish to antagonize them now, especially since the culprits were almost certainly low-level staffers who did this on their own and didn't even tell the top.

This, then, is the backdrop against which the Democratic debate will take place. ABC has given no indication as to the format or subjects for Saturday, but the moderators will undoubtedly try to keep the focus on the Middle East, climate change, the economy, and other political issues. By all evidences, however, the candidates have their own ideas. Clinton is already planning to hit Sanders hard over the data theft. Sanders will proclaim loudly that he is being targeted and victimized by the establishment, and he may take off the kid gloves and indulge in a few some personal attacks as well. This is something that he has previously been unwilling to do, but his circumstances are getting desperate. Martin O'Malley will be there as well, but he will likely spend most of his time looking like a spectator at a tennis match. The bottom line: Have your popcorn ready, because there are going to be some fireworks. (V & Z)

Conservatives Going after Rubio on Immigration

Back hundreds of years ago, in 2013, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) cosponsored an immigration bill with a bipartisan group of senators. One feature of the bill is that it gave the 11 million undocumented immigrants already in the country a complicated path—but a path nevertheless—to citizenship in the distant future. Conservative media figures are now going after Rubio full throttle. Typical of the comments is this one from Rush Limbaugh: "Marco Rubio was part of the Gang of Eight trying to secure amnesty and wishes he wasn't." Even conservative senators are attacking Rubio now. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) said: "I think Senator Rubio has to answer for things that were in that bill."

If these attacks continue and take hold, the consequences could be very significant. The establishment first settled on Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ), but he got stuck in traffic on a bridge somewhere. Next was the $100 million-dollar man, Jeb Bush. While the donors loved him, the voters didn't. Now the establishment favorite is Rubio, but if all the attacks from conservatives, including his rival, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), take him down, there aren't a lot of choices left for the establishment. Gov. John Kasich (R-OH) is still available, but he is polling at about 2%. If these attacks sink Rubio, the GOP leadership may be facing a choice between Cruz and Trump; it is not a pleasant prospect. (V)

Rubio Misses Key Senate Vote

Marco Rubio has been under attack this year for missing many Senate votes. On Friday he missed another one, and it was a very important one. The bill to fund the federal government for 2016 includes $1.1 trillion in spending and $622 billion in taxes. Many conservatives are wildly against it. By not going to Washington and voting against it, Rubio is going to lose more credibility with them. Senators Cruz and Paul were present and voted 'nay.' The only other senator to miss the vote was Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), who is retiring. (V)

There Are No More Swing Voters

It used to be that many people said: "I vote for the best person for the job, whether that person is a Democrat or a Republican." That is simply not true any more. Only 5% of voters actually swing between the parties now. The rest are solidly committed to one or the other.

That simple fact explains a lot about the primaries. Neither party wants to waste effort on chasing mythical swing voters, so they are both free to try to please their own partisans. Thus Republicans move farther to the right with plans to deport undocumented immigrants, carpet bomb Syria, and cut taxes for the rich. Similarly, Democrats are free to offer things like doubling the minimum wage, making college free, and soaking the rich. In the past, the parties generally pivoted in the general election and headed back to center to try to please the swing voters, but since there are so few of them left, that may not happen in 2016. Instead the parties may focus on getting their own bases out. (V)

McConnell Tells Republican Voters to Shun Tea Party Candidates

Senate Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) asked Republican voters yesterday to please nominate someone who can win. In case they missed his point, he specifically named a number of tea party candidates who lost winnable elections in recent years, including Christine O'Donnell, Sharron Angle, Richard Mourdock, and Todd Akin. McConnell's real fear is that an unelectable candidate at the top of the ticket like Ted Cruz or Donald Trump will allow the Democrats to take back the Senate and cost him his job as Majority Leader. (V)

Adelson Has Money and Passion but Not Much Competence

Sheldon Adelson is undoubtedly a brilliant businessman—there is no way to build a $30 billion fortune by luck, or by accident. But as a political operator, well, he leaves a little something to be desired. In response to the mogul's purchase of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Steve Friess—who has watched the Adelson show from up close—has written a scathing assessment of the billionaire's political activities.

Friess' critiques are numerous and varied. For example, he notes that the Review-Journal was already very conservative, and was largely in lockstep with Adelson anyhow. As such, he's not getting much value for his $140 million if his goal is to make the newspaper a mouthpiece. The central point, however, is that Adelson's political activities are not carefully considered, with the result that he almost always supports losing candidates and causes (for example, Newt Gingrich). As such, he may have the money that the Kochs do, but he has nowhere near the impact. (Z)

Voters Want to Bomb Disney Land

Public Policy Polling (PPP), known for its occasional offbeat questions, has come up with a real winner this time. In a poll released on Friday, they revealed that 19% of Democrats, 30% of Republicans, and 45% of Donald Trump supporters would support the bombing of Agrabah. If you do not recognize that location, your ignorance is understandable. It certainly sounds Middle Eastern, but it is not a country or a city in that part of the world, and it is most certainly not home to any members of ISIS. In fact, Agrabah is where the Disney movie Aladdin takes place.

The question may seem silly, but it actually serves well the larger point of PPP's poll, which is to illustrate the extent to which voters are responding to fear and to the presidential candidates' demagoguery. The results also showed that 36% of Republicans believe that thousands of Muslims in New Jersey cheered the 9/11 attacks (wonder where they got that idea?), and 54% would favor banning Muslims from entering the United States. Here is hoping that these sentiments start to fade at the same time as the candidates who encourage them. And if the U.S. military does start (magic) carpet bombing Disney-owned imaginary worlds, then maybe they can go for Never Never Land next. That Captain Hook is definitely up to no good. (Z)

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---The Votemaster
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Dec16 Democrats Asked to Bring Muslims to State of the Union Address
Dec16 Republican, Democratic Voters Agree Substantially on Climate Change
Dec16 Fiorina Makes a Strange Video
Dec15 Republicans Debate in Las Vegas Tonight
Dec15 Trump Passes the 40% Mark Nationally
Dec15 Clinton Increases Her Lead over Sanders in Iowa
Dec15 Did Rubio Violate Senate Ethics Rules with His Book?
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Dec15 When Politicians' Lips Are Moving, Part II
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Dec15 Clinton Increases Her Lead over Sanders in Iowa
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Dec15 Could Trump Run as an Independent?
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Dec15 When Politicians' Lips Are Moving, Part II
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Dec14 Yet Another Poll Released Showing Cruz Leading Iowa
Dec14 Cruz Closing the Gap Nationally
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Dec14 Rubio Doesn't Have a Debt Problem, He Has a Spending Problem
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