Tentative Primary and Caucus Schedule
  March 1 (Super Tues)
  March 2-14
L blue   March 15-31
Delegates needed for nomination:
GOP: 1236,   Dem: 2242
Map explained
New polls:  
Dem pickups:  
GOP pickups:  

News from the Votemaster

And the Winners Are...

Voters have gone to the polls and reminded us that nonpresidential-year elections tend to favor the GOP. Republican candidates and socially-conservative causes carried the day across much of America, while progressives suffered a number of embarrassing defeats. An update on the contests we previewed yesterday:

  • Kentucky Governor: Polls showed a close race, and Kentucky tends to be very blue at the state level. Nonetheless, tea partier Matt Bevin—despite a campaign full of missteps—won an easy victory, taking 53 percent of the vote to Democrat Jack Conway's 44 percent. He will become only the second Republican governor of Kentucky since the 1970s. Perhaps rumors of the tea party's demise were greatly exaggerated.

  • Virginia State Senate: The votes will not be completely counted for a few days, and a few contests were very close, but the GOP is almost certain to keep control of both houses of the Virginia legislature. This is a huge blow for Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D-VA), who campaigned up and down the state in hopes of flipping the upper chamber.

  • Pennsylvania Supreme Court: In one of the few bits of good news for the Democrats on Tuesday, the party won all three open seats on the court. This gives two of the three branches of the state's government to the Democrats, strengthening Gov. Tom Wolf's (D-PA) position relative to the Republican-controlled assembly. As the Pennsylvania Supreme Court plays a role in the drawing of districts, the Democrats could be set up for the so-called trifecta-plus (governor, both halves of the legislature, court system) after the next census.

  • Ohio Issue 1: Ohio's plan to combat gerrymandering easily sailed to victory, with 71 percent of voters giving the thumbs up. Of course, it won't have any impact until after the next census is complete in 2021 or 2022.

  • Ohio Issue 3: To borrow a joke made by roughly half of all headline writers in the country, Ohio will not become O-high-o, at least not yet. Anti-drug voters joined with pot advocates who could not abide by the plan to create a 10-producer marijuana oligarchy to defeat the measure soundly, 64 percent to 36 percent. Expect another attempt, one without the state-sanctioned producers, in 2016.

  • Maine Question 1: Maine's a big state, and a lot of conservative-leaning rural votes have not been collected and counted yet, but it looks like this effort to expose the "hidden money" in elections is going to pass, with a margin something like 52 to 48.

  • Texas Proposition 6: Texans love to hunt, fish, and harvest wildlife, and 82 percent of them just voted to add their hobbies to the state constitution. Many other red states are likely to follow suit—such initiatives, though largely symbolic, are an excellent way to get gun owners to the polls.

  • Houston HERO Referendum: In a shock to pollsters and pundits, the referendum—which would have banned many forms of discrimination, most notably against LGBT individuals—was utterly crushed at the polls, losing by a 2-to-1 margin. Pollsters expected that the initiative would increase Democratic turnout, and their models were built upon that assumption. Turnout did double compared to the last mayoral election in the city, but it appears to have been primarily social conservatives who flocked to the polls. Such are the perils of polling in the digital age.

  • San Francisco Proposition F: Airbnb bought itself a nice victory for its $8 million, maintaining the privilege to do business in the city—virtually without restriction—55 percent to 45 percent. The "rent your residence" service was undoubtedly thinking big-picture; if anti-Airbnb forces can't secure a victory in the most liberal city in America, it's going to give opponents in other cities pause.

Of course, next year is a presidential year and—if form holds—the Democrats should have the down-ballot advantage. It is not a coincidence, for example, that only one pot legalization measure went before voters this year, while a dozen or more may be on the ballot next year. Still, Republicans will go to bed Tuesday night feeling better about their 2016 odds than they did Monday night. (Z)

Another Headache for Pollsters

Speaking of inaccurate polling, another worrisome dynamic (for the pollsters) has already been in evidence this season: Polls conducted by telephone are generating substantially different results than those conducted over the Internet. More specifically, Donald Trump tends to come out ahead in online polls of Republican voters, while Ben Carson tends to come out ahead in polls that use live calls.

This result may seem unsurprising to observers who know that Carson draws his support from evangelicals and older Republicans (less likely to be on the Internet) and Trump draws his support from blue collar workers and younger Republicans (more likely). However, the pollsters know these things, and they adjust their models accordingly. For example, online pollster YouGov knows they will get fewer responses than they should from 85-year-old conservative black lesbian Baptist gun-owning college professors, so they overweight the responses they do get. Even with these corrections, the polls are not aligning.

This news calls to mind the so-called Bradley effect, which got its name after the California gubernatorial election of 1982, when polls incorrectly predicted a comfortable victory for black Los Angeles mayor Tom Bradley. The post-hoc explanation given for the mistake was that white respondents did not want to admit to pollsters that they planned to vote for a white candidate over a black candidate (this is called "social desirability bias"). The problem is that a great many analysts reject this explanation. And even if it is correct, it seems unlikely to be in play here, since it would posit that Ben Carson is a much more "socially acceptable" candidate than Donald Trump. Surely, that is a stretch.

That said, there is no particularly compelling explanation for the phone-Internet discrepancy, and no good indicator as to which results are more correct. It may well be the case that the pollsters will only know for certain once the ballots are counted next year. (Z)

Trump Goes After Rubio

In an ominous sign for the Republican Party, Donald Trump went after Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) yesterday. The problem here is that if Rubio ultimately becomes the Republican nominee, the Democrats will run ads featuring Trump dissing Rubio. Assuming Trump still has some supporters, his words could have a negative effect on Rubio's credibility.

Trump said: "He has a very bad record of finances, with his houses, he certainly lives above his means, there is no question about that." Rubio's track record on managing his own money, buying an expensive boat when he was deep in debt, mixing up campaign and personal expenses, selling his house at a loss, and more are going to be major themes during the primaries and, if he makes it that far, in the general election. From Rubio's point of view, having Trump leading off with the attacks means that a response blaming the Democrats won't work. Once the floodgates are open, Jeb Bush, who made tens of millions of dollars as a banker after his two terms as governor of Florida, may decide this is the time to contrast his financial acumen with Rubio's. It could be painful for Rubio if his primary opponents decide that he is now the front runner so it is time to gang up on him.

His opponents aren't the only ones causing trouble for Rubio. The Tampa Bay Times is now on the story and is digging deeper into his finances. New revelations reveal that the Republican Party gave him a credit card while he was speaker of the Florida house. It was intended for paying for party business, such as traveling to party fundraisers. Instead he charged personal expenses to it, from a $10.50 movie ticket to a $10,000 family reunion. He has said that all told he charged $160,000 to the card. Rubio would dearly like the issue to go away, but with his rivals and at least one newspaper on top of it, the issue of his personal finances is not going to vanish any time soon. If he becomes the Republican nominee, The Democrats are going to milk it for all it is worth.

On the plus side for Rubio, who has had very few endorsements, he got his second Senate endorsement yesterday, from Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT). Earlier he had one from Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO). Jeb Bush is by far the leader in endorsements from leading Republican politicians, so Rubio is playing catch-up. (V)

Sanders Is Losing Ground Among Daily Kos Readers

Sometimes completely unscientific polls have actual information in them. In particular, longitudinal studies of the same group, no matter how biased the group is, can show actual changes. Specifically, Daily Kos runs a poll of its readers about the Democratic primary every 2 weeks. Up until now, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has led Hillary Clinton by huge margins, up to +33 at the end of September. This margin says nothing about his chances in the primary because the Daily Kos readership is far left of the center of the Democratic Party. However, the latest iteration of the poll shows Sanders' lead at +12, a drop of 21 points in a month. Here are the numbers.

Daily Kos poll

What you can conclude is that Sanders is losing his iron grip on the left wing of the Democratic Party, where all his support was concentrated. This result is comparable to a Republican losing ground in a poll of Fox News viewers. Of course, this poll may be a fluke due to Clinton's good performances in the debate and before the Benghazi committee, so we will have to wait until the next Daily Kos poll to see if the change is permanent.

In another indication that there is movement in the Democratic primary, a new Monmouth University Poll in New Hampshire puts Clinton a hair ahead of Sanders, 48% to 45% (well within the 5% margin of error). Still, earlier polls have put Sanders ahead and being from adjacent Vermont, he has the home field advantage. The director of the poll said that Clinton is improving her standing with women and the elderly. New Hampshire is a must-win state for Sanders because it is followed by Nevada and South Carolina, where Clinton has commanding leads.

Yesterday Clinton campaigned in Iowa where she was greeted by sunshine, 65 degree weather, and a new NBC/WSJ poll giving her a 62% to 31% lead over Sanders in the Hawkeye State. It is starting to appear that all the Democratic voters who were holding out for Vice President Joe Biden have jumped on the Clinton bandwagon. (V)

Will the Candidates' Attempt to Control the Debates Be Counterproductive?

The Republican candidates are trying to change the rules of future debates. As it turns out, the only things they agree on are small-ball items, like having opening statements and keeping the auditorium at 67 degrees. And even with these very minor items in their request, some of the candidates do not agree with the letter and probably won't sign it. The whole exercise makes the party look weak and disorganized.

Chris Weigant pointed out that this whole skirmish may also backfire against the eventual nominee in the general election. Among other things, he notes:

  • Whining about minor rules doesn't look presidential or even like the "Daddy party"
  • If the candidates can't handle debates, how is one of them going to manage a press conference as President?
  • Can a candidate who is afraid of journalists stand up to Vladimir Putin or Xi Jinping?
  • If only softball questions are allowed from now on, what kind of preparation is that for debating Hillary Clinton?

The most serious of these points is the last one. Clinton is getting practice debating Bernie Sanders, who is a forceful debater and disagrees with her on many issues. She also sat before the Benghazi committee and answered hostile questions for 11 hours and came out as the winner. If Republicans think the underprepared Becky Quick of CNBC was belligerent, what's going to happen if CNN's very-well-prepared Anderson Cooper or Wolf Blitzer points out their flip-flops in a general election debate? (V)

Bush Apologizes to France

During the last debate, Jeb Bush made a joke about Marco Rubio missing so many votes in the Senate. He said: "I mean, literally, the Senate - what is it, like a French workweek?" Then the fact checkers took a look and lo and behold, the average "lazy" French worker works 39.6 hours/week, compared to 39.2 hours/week for those industrious, hardworking Germans. Yesterday Bush apologized to France. Misstatements and retractions are not a great way to begin Bush's new "Jeb can fix it" and are not likely to reassure nervous donors that Jeb 2.0 is all that much better than Jeb 1.0. (V)

Obamacare Repeal Giving McConnell Headaches

Presidential politics and senatorial politics sometimes intersect but pull in different directions, as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is learning the hard way. Conservative Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Marco Rubio are leading a small band of rebels who want the Senate to pass a bill to repeal the entire Affordable Care Act, which Republicans call "Obamacare." If McConnell gives in to Cruz and Rubio and tries to shepherd such a bill through the Senate, he will make them happy and enhance their bona fides with conservatives. McConnell would be overjoyed to have one of his senators become President, of course, and it would usher in a period of excellent relations between the White House and the Senate.

This strategy runs into two problems, however. First, to prevent the Democrats from filibustering the bill, McConnell has to use the Senate budget reconciliation process to get to a straight up-or-down vote. However, only budget-related items can use the reconciliation procedure. The arbiter of what is "budget-related" is the Senate parliamentarian, whose full-time job is understanding all of the Senate's many arcane rules in order to advise senators about them. Since 2012, the Senate parliamentarian has been Elizabeth MacDonough, 45, the first woman to hold the job. A single mother who knows everyone associated with the Senate, including all the janitors, she is regarded as being fair and impartial. Her loyalty to the institution of the Senate rather than to the current Majority Leader (her official boss) could be a stumbling block for McConnell as she is likely to rule that parts of the ACA are not budget related and cannot use the reconciliation process. Some examples are the clause stating that young people up to age 26 may remain on their parents' policies and the clause prohibiting insurance companies from rejecting customers based on preexisting conditions. For Cruz and Rubio, a partial repeal is unacceptable.

McConnell's second problem is that about half a dozen Republican senators up for reelection in 2016 come from blue states and if they vote for repeal of the ACA, they are likely to be ex-senators in 2017 and McConnell will become Minority Leader. So McConnell is between a rock and a hard place. Does he do his best for the two senators most likely to become President or does he side with the blue-state senators who desperately want to avoid a vote on a repeal bill? (V)

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---The Votemaster
Nov03 Carson Leads in National Poll
Nov03 Election Day 2015 Is Upon Us
Nov03 Republican Candidates Demand Control over the Debates
Nov03 Jeb 2.0 Relaunched Yesterday
Nov03 How Super PACs and Campaigns Coordinate
Nov03 Harvard Professor is a Drop-out
Nov03 Carson Leads in National Poll
Nov03 Election Day 2015 Is Upon Us
Nov03 Republican Candidates Demand Control over the Debates
Nov03 Jeb 2.0 Relaunched Yesterday
Nov03 How Super PACS and Campaigns Coordinate
Nov03 Harvard Professor is a Drop-out
Nov02 November Ranking of the Republican Candidates
Nov02 Rubio and Cruz: the Finalists?
Nov02 Bernie Sanders Runs His First Ad
Nov02 Trump's Supporters Feel America Has Lost Its Greatness
Nov02 How Mysterious Is the Carson Mystery?
Nov02 Obama Will Leave $20 Trillion in Debt Behind
Nov02 Is Glenn Beckoning?
Nov01 Obama Sends Soldiers to Syria
Nov01 Bernie Sanders is in Trouble
Nov01 Gun Control Likely to Be a Talking Point in 2016
Nov01 Can the GOP Debates Be Fixed?
Nov01 The Jeb! Action Plan
Nov01 Rubio Gets Big Endorsement
Nov01 Rand Paul's Halloween Party
Oct31 Bill de Blasio Endorses Hillary Clinton
Oct31 Candidates Plan to Talk About Future Debates But without the RNC
Oct31 Priebus Tries to Reassert Control of Debates
Oct31 Marco Rubio's Background is Not What He Makes It Out To Be
Oct31 Carson's Past Support of Gay Rights May Hurt Him Now
Oct31 Sanchez May Need GOP Help in Senate Primary
Oct31 Sen. Vitter Trails Democrat by Double Digits in Gubernatorial Race
Oct30 Bush Supporters Struggling to Pick Up the Pieces
Oct30 CNBC Was the Biggest Loser Wednesday
Oct30 Truth Was Another Loser at GOP Debate
Oct30 Bush and Rubio Are Now on a Collision Course
Oct30 For All His Strengths, Rubio also Has Serious Weaknesses
Oct30 Reid Calls on Rubio to Resign from the Senate
Oct30 Rubio and Cruz Each Raise A Million Dollars Since Debate
Oct29 Rubio and Cruz Shine at Chaotic Debate
Oct29 Could Bush Come Back Like McCain Did in 2008?
Oct29 Rafael Cruz is Too Busy To Campaign in Iowa So He Sent Rafael Cruz There
Oct29 Could a Cruz Nomination End the Gridlock?
Oct29 Florida Newspaper to Rubio: Resign
Oct28 Tonight's Debate is Number Three for the GOP
Oct28 Carson Passes Trump Nationally
Oct28 Trump Plays the Faith Card
Oct28 On Taxes, Republicans Go for Puppies and Rainbows
Oct28 Mark Kirk Is the Most Endangered Republican in the Country