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

Unemployment Falls Dramatically

A new jobs report released yesterday showed that the U.S. economy added 271,000 jobs in October, bringing the unemployment rate down to 5%, which is half of what it was after the 2008 financial crisis. To make it even sweeter, hourly wages went up 2.5%, the best gain since 2009. In addition, the number of people forced to work part time when they want to work full time is down to 6 million from the 9 million it was at the peak of the crisis. Below on the left is a graph of the unemployment rate during the past 10 years. As you can see, within 6 months of the stimulus act being signed by President Obama (ObamaStim?), unemployment started to drop and has continued down ever since.


The other broad index of the economy is the S & P 500 stock index, shown in the graph above on the right, also for the past 10 years. Not only has the S & P 500 fully recovered from the 2008 crash, but it has gone on to an all-time high.

All in all, this is very good news for the Democrats. If unemployment is below 5% in the Summer and Fall of 2016, the Democrats will claim the credit and the Republicans will have a tough time saying: "They screwed up the economy so let us run it." The election is a year away and the economy could tank between now and then, but for the moment, the economy looks good for the Democrats. (V)

Carson's Biography is Unraveling

For years Ben Carson has been saying that he was accepted by West Point and turned down a full scholarship to the prestigious school. The claim is even included in his (first) autobiography:

"Later I was offered a full scholarship to West Point. I didn't refuse the scholarship outright, but I let them know that a military career wasn't where I saw myself going. As overjoyed as I felt to be offered such a scholarship, I wasn't really tempted. The scholarship would have obligated me to spend four years in military service after I finished college..."

Now, a West Point spokesman has explained that Carson never even began the application process, thus undercutting Carson's oft-told tale. It really should have been obvious that this was the case, since West Point does not offer scholarships. For all cadets, all expenses are paid, and so the only thing that is offered is admission. In any event, Carson fired back late Friday, saying he was told he would be an excellent candidate for West Point, and that he did not mean that he was actually offered anything.

This follows on the heels of another biography-related issue that has come up wherein Carson said that he was a violent youth and pulled a knife on a classmate when he was in school. Then he talked himself into being calm. CNN has tracked down nine of his classmates and none of them remember anything about a knife, something people are likely to remember. All in all Carson's biography and how much of it is true is becoming a big news story.

With that said, there may be a new revelation about Carson every day, or a new outlandish statement. And there may be a new column every day about how his campaign can't possibly hold up under the weight of so many questions and so much scrutiny and derision. But thus far, he has proven absolutely impervious to criticism. Indeed, the response to the Politico piece suggests that such coverage—instead of hurting him—actually helps, by feeding into a an "evil liberal media out to get conservatives" narrative. Breitbart, for example, posted an item late Friday in which it describes the media as "biased attack machines for the left." It also reports that "Politico has rewritten the headline, lede, and several portions of the text of an article accusing Ben Carson of 'fabricating' part of his personal biography involving the Military Academy at West Point." While this is technically true, it implies that Politico has dishonestly tried to cover its tracks, and obfuscates the fact that the site also added an explainer before the lede that explains the original claim and asserts that it stands by the story. Meanwhile, Rush Limbaugh has also gotten his hands on the story, characterizing it as "a lie" and "political assassination."

It should not surprise us that voters who are willing to believe in conspiracy theories about the pyramids and the theory of evolution would be willing to indulge in the same when it comes to media coverage of Ben Carson. Perhaps, before the next piece is written about how the Carson campaign cannot survive so many odd, or dishonest, or outright false statements, the commentariat should wait until actual evidence that his support is waning.

The rise of Ben Carson is beginning to follow what has become the usual pattern: an obscure candidate rises out of nowhere (think: Herman Cain in 2012) and the media start digging into the candidate's past. Some negative information is discovered and all of a sudden the candidate's star is not burning so brightly any more. It hasn't happened yet with Carson, but most likely it will. This is why people with long track records generally get the nominations: They have already been well vetted and most of their skeletons are long out of the closet. (V & Z)

Bush Probably Should Not Have Attacked Marco Rubio

Jeb Bush attracted a lot of headlines with his attack on Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) during the last GOP debate, and not the good kind. He's not a mudslinger any more than Donald Trump is a policy wonk, and it showed—his attack was tentative and ill-conceived, and he was absolutely crushed by Rubio's response. Bush even had to apologize for the joke he made about the "French work week" as part of the slam, when it was made clear that French people work just as much as Americans do.

The pivot towards attacking Rubio continues to generate fallout, with several Bush supporters expressing concern about the tactic, and one key fundraiser—Tallahassee lobbyist Brian Ballard—defecting from the Bush campaign to the Rubio campaign. Now, Ballard may just be using the attack as a pretext for abandoning what he sees as a sinking ship. Still, there can be no doubt that Jeb Bush's attempts to reinvent himself and his campaign have done more harm than good thus far.

It seems evident that Jeb Bush's heart isn't in this campaign any more, if it ever was. Further, his biggest assets are his endorsements (which have slowed, and may begin to abandon him), and his Super PAC money (which may not be that useful; see below). There has been no suggestion that anyone is thinking in this way, but one wonders if Bush might not be open to a deal similar to the one California governor Earl Warren made with Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1952. Ike had a meeting with the governor during the campaign season, and helpfully pointed out that Warren might make a go of it, but he probably wouldn't win the nomination and the process would be exhausting to both candidates and damaging to the party. Consequently, the general wondered if Warren might not like to be given the post of Solicitor General and then an eventual appointment to the Supreme Court in exchange for dropping out. Warren made the deal, and ended up appointed to the Chief Justiceship when Fred Vinson died suddenly in 1953. Anyhow, maybe Jeb might like the sound of "Secretary of the Treasury Jeb Bush" or "Associate Justice Jeb Bush" or "Ambassador to the Court of St. James John E. Bush" (the Brits are a trifle more formal than the Yanks). Rubio could make a similar deal. That would allow Jeb to avoid this nasty campaign business, while also giving the GOP establishment a clear candidate to coalesce behind. If Rubio's people are not considering such an arrangement, they probably should be. (Z)

Clinton Emails Did Not Contain Classified Information

Politico is reporting that the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, has determined that the two emails Hillary Clinton received on her home server and which were thought to contain classified information did not contain any classified information. The initial determination that there was classified information, which led the FBI to begin an investigation, was flawed. If this story is true, it will exonerate Clinton and make it hard for the Republicans to keep hounding her on her emails. Actually, they will continue, but fewer people will believe them and their hounding will look very partisan. (V)

Clinton Has Raised More Money in California Than in New York

Although Hillary Clinton once represented Wall Street in the Senate and in 2008 raised more money from New York state sources than from any other state, this time the gold is in California (whose motto is "Eureka," after all). So far she has raised $33 million from California donors and only $14 million from New York donors. Part of the reason is her support for the Dodd-Frank law, which Wall Street hates, and part of it is that San Francisco and Silicon Valley tech millionaires tend to be Democrats. One complication for her is that spending part of a day campaigning in New Hampshire and the rest of the day begging for money in New York is easy, but the New Hampshire-to-California run takes longer.

If Wall Street continues to leave Clinton out in the cold, it could have policy ramifications if she is elected President. If she feels no special obligation to protect the big banks, she could suddenly decide they need to be broken up. (V)

Clinton Campaign Hitting Its Stride

Bill Clinton's role in Hillary's campaign is changing. In 2008, Bill was deployed in ways that proved to be ineffective and even counterproductive, particularly when he made some impolitic and highly critical remarks about voters in South Carolina. This time around, he's lingering in the background, helping with occasional advice, moral support, and big picture thinking, while being careful not to upstage his wife. One of the key reasons for this change is that Hillary is now a far better candidate than she was in 2008. It is fair to characterize her in 2008 as "Bill's wife." This time around she is as strong a candidate as anyone running in either party. Even if she weren't married to a former President, her grasp of the issues and stage presence under fire makes her formidable, something she certainly wasn't in 2008.

Meanwhile, the Arkansas Travelers—or the "Clinton Super-Fans," as they are sometimes called, in a reference to a popular Saturday Night Live skit of the 1980s and 1990s—are reuniting and once again taking the show on the road. The Travelers are a group of longtime friends of the Clintons who go around the country meeting with voters and talking about Hillary and Bill on a personal level. They are, by all evidence, very effective campaigners.

At the moment, Hillary Clinton and her team seem to be hitting on all cylinders, and between the errors from 2008 that have been corrected, her successful debate performance, the piles of money in the bank, Benghazi/email losing steam, and the dysfunction on the other side of the aisle, they have to feel very good about where they sit right now. That said, they are surely not forgetting that the election is exactly one year away as of Sunday, and in politics that is many, many lifetimes. (Z)

Why Are They Running?

Being President of the United States is the second toughest job in the world. The toughest job is running for President of the United States. Once you get the job you get a nice office, a big house to live in with your own personal chef, a fancy airplane, and a salary of $400,000 per year. Running for the job you get nothing but grief. Why would anyone run for the job, then? It's hard to tell why people do it, especially since they generally lie about their real motivations. Based on our observations, here is why we think people are running.


    Hillary Clinton really wants to be President, in part to break the last glass ceiling
    Bernie Sanders doesn't expect to be President, but he wants to give progressive Democrats a voice and hope
    Martin O'Malley doesn't expect to be President either, but he would gratefully accept being Hillary's running mate
    Jim Webb thinks the Democratic Party has moved too far to the left and needs to move back to the center
    Lincoln Chafee has been at this "running" thing only a short while so he is entitled to a mulligan


    Marco Rubio hates the Senate and wants more power to get things done plus four years @ $400,000 is $1,600,000
    Ted Cruz really does want to be President in order to carry out the tea party program
    Donald Trump is trying to build his brand for future business ventures and he has a big ego as well
    John Kasich wants to rescue the Republican Party from a lot of crazy people and govern sensibly
    Jeb Bush doesn't really want to be President but he is the smart Bush and being President is a family tradition
    Carly Fiorina would like a nice job in the cabinet—say, Secretary of Commerce
    Chris Christie thinks NJ is too small for him and he could never be a senator since you have to be nice to people
    Ben Carson is trying to sell books and get a show on Fox News but somehow he caught on by accident
    Rand Paul thinks there is still a libertarian wing to the Republican Party and wants to show it could win
    Mike Huckabee needs to be in the news for a while so he can get his Fox News show back
    Bobby Jindal is term limited and about to be unemployed, so why not give it a shot?
    Rick Santorum knows that the Republican way is the guy who finished second last time is the nominee this time
    Lindsey Graham is a retired Air Force colonel and knows more about foreign policy than any other Republican
    George Pataki thinks NY governors are expected to run for President (see Van Buren, Cleveland, both Roosevelts)
    Jim Gilmore once had Reince Priebus' job and figured if he could do that, he could do anything
    Rick Perry is a Texan and Texans think big so having the Big Job seemed perfectly reasonable
    Scott Walker thought his resume as an anti-union Midwestern governor would make him a shoo-in

In short, many of the candidates aren't really running for President and of those who are, most don't expect to win. (V)

Super PACs Not So Super?

The Citizens United decision allowed for people and corporations, most famously wealthy billionaires, to donate unlimited amounts of money to political action committees (aka Super PACs) that exist in support of presidential campaigns, as long as the committee and the campaign are not coordinating their activities, and as long as the committee is not paying campaign expenses. Many people feel that the decision has allowed the wealthy and well-connected among us to do an end run around campaign finance laws, donating millions of dollars to candidates (and purchasing millions of dollars worth of influence) while John Q. Public is limited to $2,700 (and virtually no influence).

It's possible the problem has been overstated, observes MSNBC. While Barack Obama and Mitt Romney both benefited enormously from Super PACs in 2012, this year's candidates—outside of Marco Rubio, perhaps—are not really reaping the benefits of Super PAC dollars. The first problem is that the committees primarily spend their money on television commercials, and television commercials are not having much impact this year. Perhaps this is due to the fact that we are still early in the campaign, perhaps it is due to fatigue (roughly half of all commercials in Iowa right now are political), perhaps it is due to media changes like cord-cutting. The second problem is that campaigns get steep discounts on advertising, while Super PACs do not. Typically a Super PAC has to pay four times as much for a commercial as a campaign would. The upshot is that Super PACs are, at very least, economically inefficient. And in 2016, they may even be close to worthless. (Z)

Email a link to a friend or share:

---The Votemaster
Nov06 Carson's Comments on the Egyptian Pyramids Probably Won't Hurt Him
Nov06 Of Course, It's Not Just the Pyramids
Nov06 Another Nail in the Coffin Becomes Official
Nov06 Bernie Will Fix It?
Nov06 Trump's Turn to be Live From New, York!
Nov06 Conservative Talk Radio Is Forcing Republicans to the Right
Nov06 Dardenne Endorses Edwards in Louisiana Runoff
Nov06 Trans-Pacific Partnership Goes Public
Nov05 What Do the 2015 Election Results Mean for 2016?
Nov05 Obama Was Not Rebuked on Tuesday
Nov05 Blue States May Determine the Republican Nominee
Nov05 Story of Rubio's Finances Continues
Nov05 Christie May Not Make the Main Debate Next Time
Nov05 Jeb Can Fix It May Not Be the Ideal Slogan
Nov05 Do Democrats Suppress the Vote?
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