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

Trump and Carson Still Lead in Iowa

A new CNN/ORC poll of Iowa shows Donald Trump and Ben Carson essentially tied and together pulling in half the vote. Perhaps more importantly, it shows Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) at 13%, up from 5% in the August poll. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), now at 11%, is also up since August, when he was at 8%. Many people are now thinking that these two Cuban-American senators are the ones who will gain strongly when the outside candidates collapse. Here are the numbers.

Rank Candidate Pct
1 Donald Trump 25%
2 Ben Carson 23%
3 Marco Rubio 13%
4 Ted Cruz 11%
5 Jeb Bush 5%
6 Carly Fiorina 4%
6 Bobby Jindal 4%
8 Chris Christie 3%
9 Lindsey Graham 2%
9 John Kasich 2%
9 Mike Huckabee 2%
9 Rand Paul 2%
  George Pataki <1%
  Rick Santorum <1%
  Jim Gilmore <1%

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton at 55% is way ahead of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) at 37%. Former Maryland governor Martin O'Malley has tripled his support since August and is now at 3%. In the Republican Party, that would mark him as a serious candidate, but not so much in the Democratic Party. (V)

Does Carson Speak in Parables?

Ben Carson continues to insist that he is being unfairly targeted by the media, asserting that it is happening because he is a threat to the "secular progressive movement." Taking notice of the polls that say he is the candidate most likely to beat Hillary Clinton, the doctor asserts his belief that the scrutiny being directed in his direction represents an attempt to protect the Democratic frontrunner.

Carson is at least 95% (and maybe 100%) wrong about this. Regardless of what the polls might say, Hillary Clinton and the Democrats would love to face him in the general election. They don't want him torn down, at least not yet. Further, the primary media outlets that have targeted him this week are CNN and the Wall Street Journal, which are hardly progressive mouthpieces (the former is centrist and the latter is center-right). These stories are running because (1) Carson is a frontrunner or near frontrunner, and (2) salaciousness sells. Donald Trump and Jeb Bush have both published books in the last week; if those books were full of strange or seemingly-invented stories, the media would be all over them. The same is true if Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders published a book. Even at the height of the campaign season, a "gotcha!" story sells newspapers, and attracts eyeballs and clicks. And at this point in the process—when an outlet can only run so many stories about the latest Iowa poll, or how many people will be on stage at the next GOP debate—gotcha! stories are absolute gold.

In any event, as we begin to know more about Ben Carson and about the stories he tells, we begin to get a sense of what has happened. Anytime a person is telling their tale, there will be holes, weaknesses, and distortions. The Independent Journal Review (which isn't actually "independent," having been started by a pair of GOP operatives), reminds us of some of the problematic passages in Barack Obama's autobiography. For most or all of the items on the list, the President (or the candidate, at that point) did not lie, as such. He erred on details of family history, he blended people and events together for sake of a clearer narrative, he placed long ago events in the wrong order, and so forth. Any historian who studies autobiography knows that these things are part and parcel of the form.

With Ben Carson, however, this is only a partial explanation. Mother Jones (which is definitely secular progressive) has looked into the story about Carson being recognized for his honesty. They seem to have gotten to the heart of the matter, turning up a satirical Yale Daily News article from Carson's time at Yale that imagines a situation very much like the one in Carson's narrative. In other words, the doctor inserted himself into an event that did not actually happen, and then used that story to make a point about the importance of honesty (and about his own honesty). Meanwhile, NBC News was granted access to Carson's home, and took photos of some of the more interesting things there, including a picture showing Carson with Jesus, and a Biblical verse carved into a wall in which the source of the quotation (the Book of Proverbs) is misspelled as "Poverbs." These images suggest that literal truth (or literal spelling) is not terribly important to Carson, as long as a larger truth can be discerned. Jesus himself often spoke in parables, where the literal truth of the story was not important, only the lesson was. It might be instructive to think of Carson's stories as "the parable of the stabbing" or "the parable of the honest student." Not true, but not exactly lies, at least not to Ben Carson.

In terms of Carson's supporters, and their willingness to accept inaccurate or invented stories as factual, they are presumably comfortable with the "truth" of parables as well. Beyond that, however, the Washington Post's Janell Ross makes a very salient point. Noting that most of his support comes from conservative, white evangelicals (and not black voters), she observes that Carson represents the ultimate vindication of their thinking about race, religion, and small government. The key passage:

Carson's up-from-nothing, saved-by-Jesus-and-personal-effort-only story works, primarily with white Republican voters. It works because for some it affirms the conscious or unconscious connections (stereotypes) they draw between blackness, poverty and violence. For others, it demonstrates that Jesus saves. And for others still, it is a narrative that says other, potentially costly social solutions to poverty and violence are not necessary. It says that small government can work.

In other words, supporting Carson is about more than a candidate, it's about an entire political philosophy. Assuming Ross is correct, it means Carson could hang around for a long time, since his supporters will not be quick to abandon such excellent "proof of concept". But it also illustrates why he is extremely unlikely to win the presidency, because this is about all that he represents, and there simply aren't enough voters who think in this way (particularly outside the South) to carry a presidential election. (Z)

Rubio Was Often Late Paying His Credit Card Bill

When Marco Rubio released his credit card statements Saturday and said that he had paid American Express directly for personal expenses he charged to his Republican Party credit card, it took off some of the pressure. Nevertheless, as reporters start looking more closely at the statements, other issues arise, even if Rubio ultimately paid for all his personal expenses himself.

One of these issues is that he was nearly always late paying his bills. In one period of nine consecutive months, he was late paying every single month. In one month alone, he was hit with a $388 delinquency fee. The fact that he was late so often brings up more questions. Didn't he have enough money or was he just sloppy? If he didn't have enough money, why not? If he was sloppy, didn't all those penalties every month make an impression on him? While the credit card story is not as important as it could have been, it still feeds into the narrative of his not being good handling money. This is not good for a candidate in the party of fiscal responsibility. (V)

Lessons from Kentucky

The National Journal has an interesting piece about the election of Kentucky's new governor, the tea partier Matt Bevin, and why his victory "should scare Democrats everywhere." Author Josh Kraushaar reaches four conclusions:

  1. You can't trust the polls anymore
  2. The GOP's outreach to African-American voters is consequential—even if it isn't providing immediate dividends
  3. Obamacare is the gift that keeps on giving—for Republicans
  4. Rand Paul can breathe easier

The first and fourth points are solid, though there is really no reason they should "scare" Democrats. Polls affect everyone, and Paul's seat has consistently been regarded as safe. The second is interesting, but Kraushaar hedges his bets, acknowledging that there isn't yet any real evidence that the Democrats are losing black voters. It is really the third point that Democratic operatives should be worrying about. The Kentucky Obamacare exchange, called Kynect, has been—by all indications—a success story, dramatically reducing the numbers of uninsured people in the state. If anti-Obamacare rhetoric works in Kentucky, it suggests that even the people who benefited from Obamacare are unhappy with the Democrats over the program. What are Hillary Clinton et al., to do, particularly in states where Obamacare has been less successful?

With that said, this particular story is still unfolding. Bevin will take office in early January and, as Kraushaar observes, "Republicans know that it's a lot easier to campaign against the president's health care law than to actually roll back benefits that people have already received." If the new governor does not follow through on his rhetoric, it could allow Democrats to claim that anti-Obamacare talk is just that, talk, and even the GOP secretly likes the program. If Bevin starts to roll back Kynect, there could be a backlash, giving Republican candidates in other states pause. In short, the brand-new political neophyte governor of a mid-size state could have a rather large impact on the strategy and rhetoric of the 2016 campaign. (Z)

League of Conservation Voters Endorses Clinton

The League of Conservation Voters is going to endorse Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primaries today. This announcement is a blow to the campaign of Bernie Sanders, since he has been working hard to convince Democrats that he is the strongest voice on climate change. His voting record in Congress earned him a 95% rating from the group, compared to 82% from Clinton. Although Sanders has been a strong environmentalist his entire career and Clinton is late to the game, she has done things like working to phase out polluting cookstoves in developing countries and has released an energy plan in which the United States will get a third of its total energy needs from renewable sources by 2027. Slowly but surely, with this endorsement and those by Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and New York Mayor Bill De Blasio (D) and numerous unions, Clinton is demonstrating that she is the preferred candidate of the left wing of the Democratic Party, not just the center. (V)

Trumpism Explained

The emergence of Donald Trump as a candidate who polls well has stumped just about all political observers. A new study just published by the National Academy of Sciences also showed that early death through suicide, drug abuse, and alcoholism is rising among middle-aged white working-class men. An article in the Christian Science Monitor today puts all these pieces in perspective. In the red states running from Appalachia to the deep South and the red states in the Interior West, there is a lack of well-paying jobs, health and obesity problems are the greatest, divorce rates are the highest, and dependence on disability and Medicare payments are the most pronounced.

The connection of all these items with Trumpism is that many people in these regions have long given up on the Democratic Party, feeling that it is too focused on the problems of poor people and blacks. But now they feel the Republican Party, with its fetish on cutting taxes for millionaires and billionaires, has also deserted them. As a result, Trump's rejection of business as usual and his background as someone who has actually created jobs looks appealing. In short, they feel that Democrats care only about the poor and minorities and Republicans care only about millionaires and billionaires and nobody cares about them, so give Trump a chance. (V)

GOP Moderates Working on New Hampshire

The three Republican candidates who can make some kind of claim to being relatively moderate, Jeb Bush, Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ), and Gov. John Kasich (R-OH), are all making a last-ditch effort to save their candidacies by putting everything they've got into their campaigns in New Hampshire. They see Iowa as a lost cause and hope that a win in New Hampshire will at least put them on the map. Since August, Christie and Kasich have spent 20 days each in New Hampshire and Bush has been there 18 days. In contrast, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz have spent 8 and 7 days, respectively. Both of them are counting on doing well in conservative Iowa and need New Hampshire much less.

Like Iowa, New Hampshire is a state where retail politicking is key. The voters expect to actually meet the candidates and hear what they have to say personally. The deadline to file for the New Hampshire primary is Nov. 20. Candidates often turn their formal filing into a big event, drawing crowds of curious voters and lots of attention. (V)

Statehood for Puerto Rico? Not Likely

Ben Carson traveled to Puerto Rico on Sunday to deliver an address in the capital, San Juan. In his speech, Carson endorsed statehood for the territory, telling the crowd that, "you have already paid your dues." He joined Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush on the list of 2016 candidates who have called for Puerto Rico's admission into the Union.

It is not surprising to see candidates cozying up to Puerto Ricans at the point in the election season. The territory sends 23 delegates to the GOP convention (and 55 to the Democratic convention), about as many as New Hampshire, New Mexico, Maine, or Connecticut. Further, like cars in Detroit or coal in Kentucky, Puerto Rican voters tend to care mostly about one issue on the federal level: Statehood. So a candidate who takes a quick trip to the island and gives a pro-statehood speech can pick up as much support as if he spent a week traipsing around New Mexico or Maine.

But actual statehood? As Carson pointed out in his address, Puerto Rico certainly qualifies based on the guidelines that have been used to admit other states (which were essentially established by the Northwest Ordinance, a 230-year-old law that predates the Constitution). However, ultimate authority for admitting new states lies with Congress, and that body is not bound by past precedent. There are three major impediments to Puerto Rican admission, particularly as long as Congress is controlled by the GOP. The first of these is that once the primary season is over, Puerto Rico no longer has any influence over the process. Citizens there do not get to vote for president (unless they have residency in one of the 50 states), and the territory has no electoral votes. As such, candidates are likely to forget they ever said anything about Puerto Rico once the general election rolls around.

The second problem is that Puerto Rico is presently $72 billion in debt—debt that the federal government might have to absorb upon admission. This would not please fiscal conservatives. The third impediment, and the biggest, is that Puerto Rico appears to skew fairly heavily toward the Democrats. It is hard to be certain, because the island has its own parties that do not align precisely with the mainland parties. However, Puerto Rico does elect one nonvoting delegate to Congress. Since 1945 eight of the 11, and five of the last six, have been Democrats. The GOP would be none-too-happy about the prospect of adding two more Democratic senators, along with four or five members of the House, and four or five electoral votes in the blue column. In short: Puerto Ricans can enjoy their day (or month) in the sun, but there is no need to hold off on buying a new U.S. flag, because it is not likely a 51st star will be added anytime soon. (Z)

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---The Votemaster
Nov08 Rubio Credit Card Issue Fading
Nov08 Another Day, Another Question About Ben Carson's Past
Nov08 Trump's Saturday Night Was Lively, But Not Too Lively
Nov08 Who Should Be on the Debate Stage Has Become Contentious
Nov08 DSCC To Support Conner Eldridge in Arkansas Senate Race
Nov08 New House Committee Has a Majority of Women
Nov07 Unemployment Falls Dramatically
Nov07 Carson's Biography is Unraveling
Nov07 Bush Probably Should Not Have Attacked Marco Rubio
Nov07 Clinton Emails Did Not Contain Classified Information
Nov07 Clinton Has Raised More Money in California Than in New York
Nov07 Clinton Campaign Hitting Its Stride
Nov07 Why Are They Running?
Nov07 Super PACs Not So Super?
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?