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
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Dem pickups:  
GOP pickups:  

News from the Votemaster

TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Democratic Debate Postmortem
      •  New Polls Put Cruz and Trump on Top
      •  Trump Ground Game in Iowa Is Behind Schedule
      •  Sanders Knows How to Apologize
      •  Do Republican Donors Want Bush to Try a Kamikaze Mission Against Trump?
      •  Rubio Lands Another Big Donor

Democratic Debate Postmortem

Here's what the commentariat is saying about Hillary Clinton, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and Martin O'Malley in the third Democratic debate:

Left-leaning media
FiveThirtyEight: Winners: Clinton, Sanders. Loser: O'Malley. "There were no amazing one-line put downs. None of the candidates made an egregious statement likely to offend a big group of voters. No one made some misstatement of fact that was so bad as to expose them as not knowing what they were talking about. [It was] not a tremendous debate 'win' for Clinton, but she doesn't need to win these debates by a wide margin."
WaPo: Winners: Clinton, Donald Trump, Martha Raddatz. Losers: O'Malley, Sanders, the DNC. "Clinton's performance proved, yet again, how gifted she is as a debater. And, it made me wonder, yet again, why her campaign seems to want to limit debates in this primary. She shines in them—and did so again tonight."
Slate: Winner: Clinton. Loser: None. "Since Hillary Clinton came in with more supporters, and was able to parry off attacks on her vulnerabilities well enough, the tie goes to her."
The Daily Beast: Winners: Clinton, Sanders. Loser: O'Malley. "The catfight that wasn't still provided plenty of surreal moments. Martin O'Malley was there too."
The New Yorker: Winner: Nobody. Loser: Nobody. "Excluding, for a moment, Martin O'Malley, [the debate] reaffirmed the choice facing Democratic voters: experience, moderate reformism, and vigorous engagement abroad (Hillary Clinton) versus passion, an assault on privilege, and an abiding skepticism about overseas military engagements (Bernie Sanders)."
Right-leaning media
Fortune: Winner: Clinton. Loser: None. "The effect, on the whole, was of a trio of competitors arguing over the proper pressure to apply in a hug with the others on the stage."
RedState.com: Winner: The Republicans, Saturday Night Live. Loser: The American People. "When the highlight of the evening is Hillary coming back late from a commercial break because she was still doing pee pee, then you've got problems."
Fox News: Winner: Clinton. Loser: None. "Hillary Clinton came into Saturday night with a big lead and she leaves with a big lead. Neither Sanders nor O'Malley hurt themselves, but her dominance was clear and it explains why she has her eyes focused on the prize: beating the Republicans come next November."
Breitbart: Winner: Nobody. Loser: Barack Obama. "When they held their Dec. 19 presidential debate, the three Democrats seemed as if they were gearing up for a revolution—as if they had forget [sic] their party has held the White House for the past seven years."
National Review: Winner: None. Loser: None. "The audience in the auditorium seemed to practice the soft bigotry of low expectations."
Foreign media
The Telegraph (UK): Winner: Clinton. Loser: O'Malley. "Clinton was the clear winner of tonight's debate. Far from coasting on her high polls numbers, she got down in the dirt and sparred with rivals Bernie Sanders and Martin O'Malley, counter-punching each time they called her record into question."
BBC: Winner: Clinton. Loser: None. "In truth, all three candidates put in a strong performance. But Hillary Clinton did everything she needed to do to stay ahead."
The Economist: Winner: Clinton. Loser: None. "Neither Mr. O'Malley's frantic interjections, nor Mr. Sanders's passion, are likely to avail them much in their seemingly forlorn contest with Mrs. Clinton."

Across the thirteen outlets, if we exclude people who are not actually running for the Democratic nomination, the tally ends up like this:

Clinton: 9 wins, 0 losses
Sanders: 2 wins, 1 loss
O'Malley: 0 wins, 4 losses

Somewhat noticeable—if not terribly surprising—is the extent to which the right-leaning media bend over backwards to avoid giving a "win" to Hillary Clinton, even when she clearly had a good night. For the Republican debate this week, there was certainly a difference between left-leaning media's "winners" (mostly Trump and the more centrist candidates) and right-leaning media's "winners" (mostly Cruz and Rubio), but the left-leaning media was certainly willing to engage with the GOP debate. By contrast, the right-leaning media's "analysis" of the Democratic debate is largely an exercise in who can show the most disdain for Clinton, et. al. The Fox piece may seem to be the exception, and it is, but that is primarily because they hired a Democratic pollster to do their debate commentary.

Meanwhile, the fact checkers have had time to do their usual fisking—including The New York Times, FactCheck, and Politifact, and they haven't come up with too terribly much. The statement from Saturday night that has gotten the most scrutiny is Hillary Clinton's assertion that ISIS is using clips of Donald Trump in recruitment videos. Experts say that this is probably true, and, in any case, Clinton may have been speaking sarcastically. Nonetheless, it came out as an assertion of fact, and it is one that cannot currently be verified. Trump, for his part, responded angrily, declaring that Clinton "lies like crazy."

Naturally, Bernie Sanders "won" the social media aspect of the debate, dominating Facebook and Twitter, as he always does. His followers also made certain to propel the Senator to victory in online polls; on Slate, for example, 86% of respondents have him winning compared to 10% for Clinton. Those that feel the Bern even found time to check in at right-leaning Drudge Report, where 61% of pollees give the nod to Sanders, compared to 31% for O'Malley, and just 8% for Clinton.

There has also been an explanation for—and some controversy surrounding—Clinton's brief absence from the stage on Saturday night. She was, as presumed, using the restroom. ABC put the women's restroom further from the stage than the men's room, despite being warned that was problematic. Clinton had just 3:30 to get to the restroom, use it, and get back. When she arrived, however, she found is was occupied by a Martin O'Malley staffer. Though the bathroom had multiple stalls, Clinton preferred to wait so that she might have privacy, and as such she did not get back on stage in time. Some of the conservative media is spinning this as evidence that she is snobbish and too good to share a bathroom, but this is extremely unfair. At risk of being indelicate, there are certainly reasons that a person might wish to use the bathroom without an audience in the next stall. Clinton should not have been put in this position, nor does she have any obligation to explain herself.

Of course, not too many people actually saw Hillary's absence as the debate—though it was televised on a broadcast network—drew weaker ratings than the Republican debate. The scheduling is becoming a major talking point, even among Republicans. The next Democratic debate is scheduled for Sunday—January 17—which is actually a night with fairly high television viewership. Still, it's not impossible that the DNC decides to make a change. (Z)

New Polls Put Cruz and Trump on Top

New CBS/YouGov polls released yesterday show that Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) is maintaining his lead in Iowa, but Donald Trump is also holding his lead in new Hampshire and South Carolina. Here are the numbers.

Rank Candidate Pct
1 Ted Cruz 40%
2 Donald Trump 31%
3 Marco Rubio 12%
4 Ben Carson 6%
5 Jeb Bush 2%
5 Rand Paul 2%
5 Carly Fiorina 2%
5 Mike Huckabee 2%
9 John Kasich 1%
9 Chris Christie 1%
9 Rick Santorum 1%
12 George Pataki 0%
12 Jim Gilmore 0%
12 Lindsey Graham 0%
New Hampshire
Rank Candidate Pct
1 Donald Trump 32%
2 Ted Cruz 14%
3 Marco Rubio 13%
4 Chris Christie 11%
5 John Kasich 8%
6 Jeb Bush 6%
7 Rand Paul 5%
7 Ben Carson 5%
9 Carly Fiorina 4%
10 Mike Huckabee 0%
10 Lindsey Graham 0%
10 George Pataki 0%
10 Rick Santorum 0%
10 Jim Gilmore 0%
South Carolina
Rank Candidate Pct
1 Donald Trump 38%
2 Ted Cruz 23%
3 Marco Rubio 12%
4 Ben Carson 9%
5 Jeb Bush 5%
6 Rand Paul 4%
7 John Kasich 2%
8 Lindsey Graham 1%
8 Mike Huckabee 1%
8 Chris Christie 1%
8 Carly Fiorina 1%
12 Rick Santorum 0%
12 Jim Gilmore 0%
12 George Pataki 0%

We have had 5 or 6 polls now showing Cruz leading in Iowa. It is most likely true. Although Trump is ahead in New Hampshire and South Carolina, that could change rapidly if Cruz actually wins Iowa, which will give him massive publicity and momentum. Worth noting is that Trump, Cruz, and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) are the top three in all three states. They could very well be the finalists. (V)

Trump Ground Game in Iowa Is Behind Schedule

Winning the Iowa caucuses is crucial to Donald Trump's campaign plan. If he loses there, all of a sudden he is a "loser" and is vulnerable in New Hampshire and the other early states. Motivating voters to turn out is crucial in Iowa due to the complicated nature of a caucus. In a primary, you go into the voting booth, fill out the ballot, deposit it in the box, and go home. In a caucus, you hang around all evening arguing with your neighbors. Typically, only 15-20% of registered Republicans show up for the Republican caucus, so a get-out-the-vote operation is crucial to make sure your voters are the ones who show up.

Trump had a plan to have a precinct captain in all of Iowa's 1,681 precincts by Thanksgiving. Instead, at the first training session (last weekend), he drew only 80 participants, with another 50 watching online. Other candidates have much stronger ground games, especially Ted Cruz, who is working through churches and using their pastors as organizers. He has pastors in all of Iowa's 99 counties lined up, and each one has to help find about 17 precinct captains in his county. That is probably doable.

Trump has some strengths, though. In particular, he has a large database of the email addresses of the people who have attended his rallies. Whether he can turn that into the 48,000 caucus goers he is aiming at remains to be seen. It is easy for someone to tell a pollster: "I'm caucusing for Trump" but it is a whole different story getting them into their car to actually do it, especially if the weather is inclement. As a consequence, in Iowa, even more so than in primary states, turnout is everything. (V)

Sanders Knows How to Apologize

Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) both stumbled over artifacts of the digital era, she over emails and he over databases, but they handled it very differently. Clinton initially denied that anything was wrong with using her home email server for work-related email, then, under pressure, slowly began admitting that maybe it looked bad even though nothing was wrong. It took her 6 months to even say she was sorry. As a consequence, the story has dragged on for nearly a year. Contrast that with Sanders, whose campaign accessed and saved some of Clinton's data. When moderator David Muir asked Sanders at the debate Saturday: "Does Secretary Clinton deserve an apology tonight?" Sanders said: "Yes, I apologize." End of story. The media is going to drop this now and by February 1 it will be ancient history. As we have known since Watergate, the coverup is generally worse than the crime, but politicians have a lot of trouble understanding this. They always think if they deny everything the story will just fade away. It rarely does. (V)

Do Republican Donors Want Bush to Try a Kamikaze Mission Against Trump?

Jeb Bush's moment has probably come and gone despite the tens of millions of dollars left in his super PAC's bank account. He did all right in the Republican debate last week, but "all right" probably is not good enough. Nevertheless, at least one Republican pundit, Ed Morrissey, thinks Bush can still save Team Red. What he has to do is undertake a kamikaze mission to take down Trump, even if he is fatally damaged in the process. Republican donors would welcome this and could then hitch a ride on one of the other candidates when the right moment emerged. (V)

Rubio Lands Another Big Donor

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) has landed another heavyweight donor, this time Devon Energy chairman Larry Nichols. Devon has made major contributions to Republican candidates in the past. He studied the Republican field and has decided to back Rubio, although he didn't give any dollar amount when he announced his endorsement of Rubio. This is not the first heavy hitter to back the Florida Senator. Hedge fund managers Ken Griffin and Paul Singer and North Carolina businessman Art Pope have already signed up for Team Rubio. (V)

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---The Votemaster
Dec20 Democrats Largely Favor Substance Over Drama
Dec20 Sanders vs. the DNC: The Sequel
Dec20 Big Brother is Watching
Dec20 How Cruz Will Try to Destroy Rubio
Dec20 A New Era at Fox News?
Dec20 Kasich Launches Trump-Putin 2016 Website
Dec19 Democrats to Debate Amongst Budding Civil War
Dec19 Conservatives Going after Rubio on Immigration
Dec19 Rubio Misses Key Senate Vote
Dec19 There Are No More Swing Voters
Dec19 McConnell Tells Republican Voters to Shun Tea Party Candidates
Dec19 Adelson Has Money and Passion but Not Much Competence
Dec19 Voters Want to Bomb Disney Land
Dec18 New Hampshire Independents Could Throw a Monkey Wrench in the Works
Dec18 Sanders' Thursday Started Well but Hit a Snag Later
Dec18 Vladimir Putin Endorses Donald Trump
Dec18 An Independent run by Trump Would Doom Republicans in Iowa
Dec18 Cruz Unequivocally Opposes Legalization of Undocumented Immigrants
Dec18 Huckabee All-In on Iowa
Dec18 The Force Probably Isn't With the 2016 Candidates
Dec17 GOP Debate Number Five Postmortem
Dec17 When Republicans Attack
Dec17 Are the GOP Candidates Too Hawkish?
Dec17 Trump Rallies With America's Sheriff
Dec17 Fed Increases the Interest Rate
Dec17 Adelson Has a New Toy
Dec17 Sanders Lands a Big Endorsement
Dec16 Fireworks at the GOP Debate
Dec16 Trump Meets With Sheldon Adelson
Dec16 Government Will Not Shut Down
Dec16 Clinton Announces Plan to Combat ISIS
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?
Dec15 Could Trump Run as an Independent?
Dec15 Billionaires Are Having Trouble Buying the Election
Dec15 When Politicians' Lips Are Moving, Part II
Dec15 Donald Trump Has Found The Donald Trump of Doctors
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?
Dec15 Could Trump Run as an Independent?
Dec15 Billionaires Are Having Trouble Buying the Election
Dec15 When Politicians' Lips Are Moving, Part II
Dec15 Donald Trump Has Found the Donald Trump of Doctors