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

What Do the 2015 Election Results Mean for 2016?

Short answer: nothing. Republicans did very well again in 2015, just as they did in 2014, and for the same reason: Democrats don't seem to be aware that the U.S. also holds elections in years not divisible by 4. In a number of the high-profile races, such as the race in Kentucky to succeed the term-limited Gov. Steve Beshear (D-KY), a tea party Republican won and plans to eliminate the state insurance exchange Beshear set up. It wasn't a totally bleak night for Beshear, however, as his son, Andy Beshear, was elected Kentucky Attorney General. Republicans did well in Virginia but Democrats did well in Pennsylvania. Still, on the whole, Republicans were cheering on Wednesday and Democrats were not. Referendums were a mixed bag, but almost none of this will have any bearing on 2016 as the issues, candidates, and electorates are completely different. (V)

Obama Was Not Rebuked on Tuesday

Many media outlets did a postmortem yesterday, of course. NPR had a piece declaring "Conservatives across the country issued a stinging rebuke to President Obama and the Democratic Party on Tuesday night."

First of all, if we assume that conservatives vote Republican under nearly all circumstances, they cannot rebuke Barack Obama any more than liberals can rebuke George W. Bush. They already voted against him. All they can do is vote more loudly. The only ones who can deliver a rebuke are voters who previously voted Democratic, and then flipped to Republican. Are we to imagine that there are a lot of voters out there who voted Democratic in 2012 or 2014, but went to the polls yesterday and said, "I'm going to show that Obama that I don't like him any more—I'll vote against legal pot in Ohio, or against a Democratic state senator in Virginia. Then he'll know."? Or is it considerably more likely that Tuesday's results are more a reflection of state and local concerns, and of the different composition of an off-year electorate, and have nothing to do with Barack Obama (and relatively little to do with the Democrats' performance)?

An analysis by the Washington Post shows that the red states got redder and the blue states got bluer. In other words, the partisan divide got even deeper. For 2016, if the status quo holds, the 18 states plus D.C. with 242 electoral votes that have voted Democratic in the last six presidential elections will probably do so again in 2016. This means the Democrats need to win only 28 electoral votes in the swing states (Florida has 29, Ohio + Virginia have 31, and there are more combinations adding to at least 28). If the Democrat starts at 242, the Republican candidate has to win almost all the swing states. (Z & V)

Blue States May Determine the Republican Nominee

The media are so fixated on the national polls plus the early-state polls that almost everyone has forgotten what the Republican nomination is all about. It is about getting at least 1237 delegates to the Republican National Convention. The state that sends the most delegates to the convention is not Texas; it is California. And if you think California is going to vote en masse for Ben Carson, I have a bridge I want to sell you—and it is not the Golden Gate.

Delegate allocation is byzantine, but there are some basic rules. Before March 15, all Republican primaries must award delegates in proportion to the votes the candidates got. Starting March 15, states may elect to use a winner-take-all system, as Florida, Ohio, Arizona, and others have done. In some states, voting is by congressional district, with each district getting three delegates. About one third of all delegates are elected this way. As David Wasserman has pointed out this rule creates a rotten borough effect. For example, NY-15, in the Bronx, is heavily Latino and cast only 5,315 votes for Romney in 2012, but gets to pick three Republican delegates. AL-06, which covers Birmingham's whitest suburbs and which gave Romney 233,803 votes, also gets to send three delegates. That means that a Bronx Republican has 44 times more influence than an Birmingham Republican. And since blue-state Republicans are much more moderate than red-state Republicans, the more moderate candidates may ultimately collect far more delegates than the national polls suggest they will.

This method of allocating delegates is not accidental. The RNC does not want someone like Donald Trump, Ben Carson, or Ted Cruz to be the nominee. It wants a center-right nominee who can win the general election. In effect, the rules have been set up to let the Republicans in California, Texas, Florida, and New York choose (or at least heavily influence the choice of) the nominee and not those in Alabama, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Idaho. As a consequence, the reports of the deaths of the moderate Republican candidates may have been greatly exaggerated.

This same issue came up in 2008 in reverse. Barack Obama understood that many of the low-population red states in the Midwest and West held Democratic caucuses that hardly anyone went to. He realized that if he could get 3,000 supporters to show up in states like Idaho, North Dakota, and Alaska, he could pick up most of the delegates, and that's exactly what happened. Hillary Clinton didn't understand the rules and was completely blindsided. She will not be making the same mistake again, of course. (V)

Story of Rubio's Finances Continues

As Marco Rubio surges in the polls, the long-forgotten story of his personal finances is coming back with a vengeance and it is not going to go away. To some extent, Rubio's problems with his financial dealings are like Hillary Clinton's problems with her emails: The other side is going to keep the story going as long as possible. Just as Clinton's opponents are trying to use the emails to paint her as "untrustworthy," Rubio's opponents (in both parties) are trying to label him as "irresponsible." Yesterday, the story was starting to get to him and he agreed to release more of his credit card records. That won't silence his critics, though, since other parts of the story include a brush with foreclosure on a second home, a recent liquidation of a retirement account that resulted in huge penalties, and that $80,000 boat he bought when deep in debt. In contrast, Jeb Bush has released thousands of pages of records about his finances and he has no intention of letting up on this opportunity to take Rubio down. Rubio's finances could ultimately be his Achilles heel.

The timing of this story is probably not accidental. Florida newspapers have known about it since Rubio's 2010 Senate campaign. But just as Rubio is starting to emerge as the real front runner and the billionaires are taking a closer look at him, this comes up. The whiff of scandal (e.g., using a Republican Party credit card for to pay his own bills) might just be enough to keep the money from flowing to Rubio, which is precisely want Bush wants, of course. Rubio is fighting back, saying that he is sloppy, not crooked, but it will be interesting to see where this story goes and what else comes out. (V)

Christie May Not Make the Main Debate Next Time

Fox Business News, which along with the Wall Street Journal, is sponsoring the next Republican debate next Wednesday in Milwaukee, has said that candidates who score at least 2.5% in the four most recent national polls will be invited onto the main stage. Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ), who made the main stage in the first three debates, is currently averaging 2.25% in the four most recent national surveys. In the most recent poll he is at 2%. If Christie doesn't even make the main stage, his chances of a breakthrough are pretty close to zero. His only hope is that another poll putting him at 3-4% is released today. (V)

"Jeb Can Fix It" May Not Be the Ideal Slogan

Jeb Bush and his advisers probably reached the correct conclusion when they decided it was time for a rebranding and relaunch. However, the deployment of the new slogan "Jeb Can Fix It" is looking to be ill-conceived. Consider:

  • As Daily Kos and other sites have pointed out, "Jeb Can Fix It" is strikingly similar to the name of popular British television program Jim'll Fix It, which ran on the BBC from 1975 to 1994. The problem here is that the titular Jim—program host Jimmy Savile—was outed as a serial child molester and sexual predator shortly after his death in 2011. Not exactly the image a politician in a family values party wants to conjure up.

  • The slogan is also ripe for mockery on Twitter, where the hashtag #JebCanFixIt is being paired with (among others) photos of Jeb and his brother on Election Day 2000, or of dogs being neutered, or a Lehman Brothers sign being taken down and replaced with a Barclays sign (Jeb was a banker with Lehman before they went out of business).

  • It did not occur to anyone with the Bush campaign to secure jebcanfixit.com, and so an aspiring Texas politician has grabbed the domain and used it to poke fun at Bush.

Meanwhile, the evidence continues to mount that Jeb, in fact, can't fix it. Bobby Jindal, who can't even get on the main stage at the Republican debates, finished ahead of Bush in the latest PPP poll of Iowa. Further, a prominent Republican operative in Florida has observed that one of Jeb Bush's biggest problems is that he rode into office due to the support of older voters who liked his stands on Social Security and Medicare and who remembered his father fondly. The problem is that in the intervening 15 years since he was first elected, a lot of those voters have died. (V & Z)

Do Democrats Suppress the Vote?

In looking at Tuesday's election results, we—like many others—pointed out that off-year elections tend to favor Republican candidates and causes. Not so, says Yale political scientist Eitan Hersh, who authored an essay for Fivethirtyeight in which he argued that it is actually Democrats who want off-year elections. He also asserts that the party's unwillingness to align elections with the federal calendar is a form of voter suppression, one even worse than GOP-sponsored ID laws and voter-roll purges.

The essay simply does not stand up to careful scrutiny. To start, the entire case is built upon the thinnest slice of evidence imaginable—an examination of votes in state legislatures when "consolidation bills" (which move state/local elections to the same day as federal elections) were under consideration. Observing that Republicans in these states tended to vote in favor of such bills, and the Democrats tended to vote against, Hersh concludes that Democrats regularly engage in systematic efforts to reduce voter turnout. Their ostensible goal is to make it easier for a motivated interest groups—say, teachers' unions or environmental activists—to game elections by showing up in large numbers while the apathetic silent majority stays at home.

Even more problematic is Hersh's argument that a failure to make elections more convenient is equally as suppressive—in fact, more suppressive—than actively working to block citizens from voting. This is an exceedingly provocative assertion and demands both comment and careful explication. Hersh offers none, treating the notion as self-evident and not requiring any defense whatsoever.

This piece is also a reminder that Fivethirtyeight, at least in its current iteration, is likely not long for the world. Since it launched as a "politics + other stuff" site, it has gotten poor reviews and middling traffic, and is presumed to be losing money. The tentpole that was holding the site up was Bill Simmons' Grantland.com, but Simmons has departed ESPN and Grantland.com was shut down last week. Several of fivethirtyeight's key staffers (i.e. Mona Chalabi) have already exited, and the other shoe could drop tomorrow, next week, or next month. They may make it through the rest of the 2016 cycle, but the odds of being here for 2018 are slim. (Z)

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---The Votemaster
Nov04 And the Winners Are...
Nov04 Another Headache for Pollsters
Nov04 Trump Goes After Rubio
Nov04 Sanders Is Losing Ground Among Daily Kos Readers
Nov04 Will the Candidates' Attempt to Control the Debates Be Counterproductive?
Nov04 Bush Apologizes to France
Nov04 Obamacare Repeal Giving McConnell Headaches
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