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

New FEC Ruling Makes Raising Money for Super PACs Even Easier

A recent FEC ruling makes it even easier than it already was for candidates to solicit money for their super PACs—which theoretically they have no connection to. Federal candidates may not ask an individual donor to give more than $5,000 to their super PAC, but they can ask at a meeting. Now the FEC has said that the "meeting" can consist of the candidate, the donor, and someone from the super PAC. The idea of only allowing solicitation at meetings was to prevent corruption. If a candidate is addressing a group of 50 donors, he is not likely to make specific promises to anyone that could be seen as quid pro quo. In a three-person "meeting," all bets are off.

Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21 said, "All the FEC has done in 2015 is further pervert and undermine the campaign finance laws." The FEC is a bipartisan commission and is deeply divided along party lines. As a result, it virtually never enforces any campaign laws. It is a completely toothless tiger. (V)

Are the Rules of the Game Changing?

There was a time when televised political ads really mattered. And maybe they still do, in some cases—ads about ballot initiatives, or a particularly well-crafted ad either for or against a specific candidate. But, as the super PACs are learning, television spots generally aren't giving much bang for the buck any more. Oversaturation, the proliferation of cable television and other media, and the shrinking number of voters who actually "shop" for a candidate are all undoubtedly part of this change. In any case, super PACs are now searching somewhat desperately for more effective ways to invest their money, and many are starting to assume some of the functions that would otherwise be taken on by the campaigns themselves: data collection, building email lists, knocking on doors, voter registration, and oppo research. These are all useful, undoubtedly, but they would seem to get closer and closer to the line between independent action (which is legal) and coordinating with the candidate (which is not). Perhaps the super PAC's chairman, the candidate, and a random voter can have a "meeting," and avoid breaking the rules in that way. We will have to check with the FEC.

Meanwhile, in the area of campaign management—as in so many others—Donald Trump seems to be rewriting the rules. He's not running TV ads (at least not yet), he doesn't appear to employ any pollsters, he doesn't have an oppo research team, and he has virtually no ground game. The latter choice is going to hurt him in Iowa, Nevada, and the other caucus states, where a good ground game matters a great deal. Outside of those states, Trump's approach is obviously working for him, and may continue to do so all the way to the nomination. If it does, expect the professionals to take a long, hard look at his playbook for future elections.

The future playbook may look like this:

Step 1. Find a universally known candidate with outrageous ideas, the skin of a rhino and the mindset of a RINO
Step 2. Let him loose

However, this is easier said than done as such candidates are scarce on the ground. Also, they may say things that come back to haunt them in the general election. (Z & V)

Cruz to Visit 36 Iowa Counties in January

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) is planning to spend Jan. 4-9 traveling around Iowa by bus. He intends to visit 36 of the Hawkeye's state's 99 counties on that trip. Currently, Cruz is leading in Iowa and he clearly intends to keep it that way with this trip. Top evangelical leaders in Iowa have endorsed him and he has an excellent shot at winning the caucuses there. In contrast, he is putting hardly any effort into New Hampshire, because it is full of curmudgeonly Yankees rather than evangelicals.

Cruz' tour of Iowa is prompted, in part, by the rise of a strong anti-Cruz movement in the state, funded primarily by backers of Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Mike Huckabee. "Ted Cruz has been parading around Iowa trying to hoodwink conservatives," says Nick Ryan, who is leading the efforts. "[H]e's willing to say anything to get elected. Fact is, he's wrong on the issues and values that Iowa conservatives really care about." Whether or not the anti-Cruz forces can move the needle remains to be seen, although the Senator from Texas has been very careful about dotting his i's and crossing his t's while building his network in the Hawkeye State, so it may be too late to stop him. (V & Z)

New Kentucky Governor Rolls Back Voting Rights for Felons

Former Kentucky governor Steve Beshear (D) issued an executive order just before he left office restoring the right to vote to nonviolent felons who had served their time. The first thing the newly installed (tea party) governor of Kentucky, Matt Bevin (R), did was overturn Beshear's order. Felons can still get their voting rights restored in principle, but they have to individually appeal to the governor, who makes a decision on a case-by-case basis instead of it being automatic.

Kentucky is one of only five states that does not automatically restore voting rights to nonviolent offenders after their release. Many people active in the criminal justice system believe that restoring voting rights allows the felon to feel that his criminal behavior is now past and he can move on. When the felon cannot vote, he is more likely to feel that he is still a criminal and go out and commit more crimes. (V)

Huckabee Will Drop Out Unless He Finishes in the Top Three in Iowa

Bowing to reality, Mike Huckabee said yesterday that unless he finishes first, second, or third in Iowa, he will drop out of the race. He hasn't been anywhere near third place in Iowa in months. Unless he can pull off a miracle, he won't be in the top three and will drop out. Probably a number of other candidates will also drop out after Iowa. The caucuses are on Feb. 1. (V)

No Christmas Truces in Politics

In America's various wars, at least since the 1890s, it has been customary to suspend fighting on Christmas so that soldiers can commemorate the holiday. Politicians used to adhere to a similar tradition, making December 25th a day when partisanship was put aside. Not any more.

President Obama—who, as you may have heard, is not terribly popular with Republicans—is spending Christmas in Hawaii. This is customary—presidents usually return to their home state for the holidays. Obama—having two to choose from—decided that Hawaii might just have more amenable weather in December than Illinois. But while he may have escaped the White House, and the crummy weather in Washington, D.C., there is no escaping withering fire from the GOP, even on Christmas. WorldNetDaily, for example, has been meticulously tracking the costs of Obama's trip and the "Hawaiian Palace" in which the president is staying. They declare that the President is "oblivious to the burden he is placing on Americans." Meanwhile, on his way out of town, Obama wished the White House press corps a merry Christmas with the Hawaiian "Mele Kalikimaka." Karl Rove has taken note of what he deems an "odd" choice, suggesting that it is further proof that Obama is un-American and soft on terrorism. Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), who is up for reelection, has also gotten in on the Christmas fun. On Thursday, he posted an updated version of "A Visit from St. Nicholas" critical of the President's transfer of prisoners from Guantanamo Bay. Sample verse:

Twas the night before Christmas
When all through the White House
The President was transferring terrorists as quiet as a mouse
The terrorists were nestled all snug in their well-guarded beds,
While visions of returning to al-Queda or ISIS danced in their heads

Clement Clarke Moore must be rolling over in his grave. (Z)

Homeland Security Planning Deportation Raids

2015 has seen a dramatic increase in the number of undocumented families who entered the United States via its southern border. Many of the 100,000 newly-arrived families are fleeing rising violence in Central America, particularly El Salvador. Now, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is planning raids intended to round these individuals up and return them to their home countries.

The plans were a secret until being reported by the Washington Post's Jerry Markon and David Nakamura. Apparently, the operation is very controversial within the Obama administration, with DHS secretary Jeh Johnson and others declaring that the laws must be enforced, while their opponents believe the raids are either inhumane and/or highly impolitic. Final approval has not been given by the President and, given the latter consideration—politics—it is hard to imagine that such approval is forthcoming. Would Obama really risk the blowback that not only he would receive, but also that other Democrats—including the presidential candidates—would receive? If he does give the go-ahead, though, this could be a very big deal in 2016. (Z)

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---The Votemaster
Dec24 Two New National Polls Show Trump Way Ahead
Dec24 Susana Martinez Might Have Been Drunk at Party When Police Arrived
Dec24 Clinton Seizes on Trump's Remarks to Galvanize Women
Dec24 Cruz Learning About Life in the Spotlight
Dec24 Will Mexican-American Voters Support Cuban-American Candidates?
Dec24 There is Method to Trump's Madness
Dec24 Carson's Madness, However? Maybe Not So Much
Dec24 Franklin Graham Is Resigning from the Republican Party
Dec23 Cruz Catching Up Nationally
Dec23 50% Embarrassed By President Trump
Dec23 Hillary Clinton is Not Like Your Abuela
Dec23 The Next GOP Debate Will Be Less Crowded
Dec23 Hillary Clinton Loves Her Husband
Dec23 Sanders Blasts Trump
Dec23 Ten Factors That Will Determine the Next President
Dec23 Whither the Republican Party?
Dec23 Obamacare Enrollments Are Up Compared to 2014
Dec22 Christian Conservatives Starting to Coalesce around Ted Cruz
Dec22 Should Democrats Be More Like Ted Cruz?
Dec22 Trump Still Angry About Democratic Debate
Dec22 Trump Has Been Planning to Make America Great for Years
Dec22 Lindsey Graham Quits
Dec22 Who Will be the Next Republican to Go?
Dec22 Obama, GOP Locking Horns Over Environment
Dec22 Latinos Could Turn Red States Blue in the Future
Dec22 Hillary Clinton Expecting Her Second Grandchild Next Summer
Dec21 Democratic Debate Postmortem
Dec21 New Polls Put Cruz and Trump on Top
Dec21 Trump Ground Game in Iowa Is Behind Schedule
Dec21 Sanders Knows How to Apologize
Dec21 Do Republican Donors Want Bush to Try a Kamikaze Mission Against Trump?
Dec21 Rubio Lands Another Big Donor
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