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 Tied in South Carolina

It's getting to be time to winnow the field and it looks like South Carolina has made up its mind. In its view, there are five serious candidates and a bunch of also-rans. The serious candidates are Ben Carson, Donald Trump, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and Jeb Bush, although one might still put quotation marks around "serious" with respect to Carson and Trump. In any event, it seems unlikely now that any of the others will suddenly become contenders. Here are the numbers from a Monmouth University poll of the Palmetto state.

South Carolina
Rank Candidate Pct
1 Ben Carson 28%
2 Donald Trump 27%
3 Marco Rubio 11%
4 Ted Cruz 9%
5 Jeb Bush 7%
6 Carly Fiorina 2%
6 Mike Huckabee 2%
8 Chris Christie 1%
8 Lindsey Graham 1%
8 John Kasich 1%
8 Rand Paul 1%
  Rick Santorum <1%
  Bobby Jindal <1%
  Jim Gilmore <1%
  George Pataki <1%

One thing to note is that Lindsey Graham, who is a not-very-favorite son, is polling at 1%, despite the fact that he has been elected to the Senate from the state three times. Maybe the people of South Carolina think he is doing a fantastic job and don't want to lose him as their senator. Monmouth didn't poll the Democratic race. (V)

One For the Money, Two for the Show, Three to Get Ready...

The GOP's candidates will meet for the fourth time tonight, this time in Milwaukee, with the contest broadcast on the Fox Business Channel and online at foxbusiness.com. For several in the field, to paraphrase the old nursery rhyme, it appears to be four and go.

Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) and Mike Huckabee have already been relegated to the 7:00 EST "happy hour" debate (as it is being called), where they will be joined by Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA) and Rick Santorum. Sen Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and George Pataki weren't even that lucky, having been sent to the bench with Jim Gilmore. Of course, a brilliant debate performance won't do much when nobody is watching. No debate performance at all is even worse, though maybe only marginally so. And really, at this point, the debates no longer represent a meaningful lifeline for these men—none of them is going to be elevated (or re-elevated) to the main debate, and even if they were to be so fortunate, none has shown any ability to use that platform effectively. Their only real hope, and it's a slim one, is that a top three finish in either Iowa or New Hampshire gives them enough momentum to survive the narrowing of the field. Jindal's currently seventh in the Iowa polls, Christie holds the same slot in New Hampshire. They still have a shot of sorts, though thinking so requires Pollyanna-level optimism. The rest should pack up their marbles and go home; presumably some will in the next week or so.

The main debate, which starts at 9:00 EST and lasts for two hours, will be slightly different in format from the previous match-ups. There will be no opening statements, but a more generous 90 seconds allowed for responses to questions (rebuttals will be given the same 30 seconds as in previous debates). Donald Trump and Ben Carson, as the top two candidates in the polls, will be at center, flanked by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Jeb Bush, and Gov. John Kasich (D-OH) to Trump's right, and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Carly Fiorina, and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) to Carson's left. The "theme" of the debate is going to be "jobs, taxes, the 'general health of the economy,' and international issues." The debate's moderators—Maria Bartiromo, Neil Cavuto, and Gerard Baker—have said they want to be the "anti-CNBC" and they want to "stay out of the action." Cavuto asserts that, "My goal is to make myself invisible. That I'm not the issue, [that] the answers to what we're raising become the issue." This sounds a lot like, "We're going to ask softball questions." We shall see.

If the moderators are not going to ask "gotcha!" questions of Ben Carson in response to the last week's headlines, then that duty will fall to Donald Trump. Trump has already given some sense of his plan of attack, making reference to Carson's "pathological disease" in four different interviews on Sunday. Since the phrase comes directly from Carson's book, it allows the Donald to say, rather passive-aggressively, "Hey, his words, not mine." In any event, a few fireworks of that sort seem likely.

Similarly, Jeb Bush is trying to reinvent himself as a tough guy, having helpfully advised the Huffington Post that yes, if given the chance, he would travel back in time and kill the infant Adolf Hitler. Killing the infant Hitler in his crib is a no brainer. But suppose he had been asked "If Hitler's mother had asked for an abortion, would you have done it?" A "yes" there would have no doubt upset the no-abortions-under-any-conditions crowd. It would actually make a great debate question, but don't expect to hear it tonight. Bush has also decided, probably correctly, that Rubio is his main rival, so Bush is likely to take another run at the senator. Hopefully, for his sake, it works out better than the last time. Rubio, for his part, will be looking to weather the storm—he'll be ready for attacks about his personal finances and his tax plan, so Bush or any other would-be critic better find something that takes the senator off-script. Rubio will be happy if he can just maintain the status quo and to stick to his talking points, as will Cruz.

The three main debate candidates in the worst shape are Fiorina, Kasich, and Paul. Their polling numbers are stagnant (and in Paul's case, close to nonexistent), their money is drying up, and none of the three seem to have any real chance of doing well in the early primaries. Their circumstances may not be quite as dire as the seven who did not make the main debate, but they're not far off. Certainly the trio knows this and will be looking to take advantage of having more speaking time in order to get some traction. The problem is: How? Bluster has been an effective tool in this campaign, but that's Trump's game—none of the three bottom-dwellers has shown a particular affinity for going on the offensive, nor any ability to do so. The viewers have already heard their pitches—Fiorina would negate Hillary Clinton's "woman" advantage, Kasich knows how to govern, Paul wants to keep the government small and the nation's foreign policy dovish. So what is left? Perhaps we shall learn tonight, though the odds are these three will deliver more of the same, and will continue to languish in the polls. Indeed, if their performance tonight night does not move the needle, it would not be shocking to see one of the main debate participants (Rand Paul?) throw in the towel before any of the happy hour folks do so. In any event, it should be interesting. (Z)

Bernie Sanders Is Trying to Win Latinos

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) knows very well that if he can't win a substantial fraction of Latinos, Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee. So he is trying very hard to do so. At a rally on a soccer field in heavily Latino North Las Vegas Sunday, he gave it his best shot, with a 10-piece mariachi band doing the warm-up and a Latino college student talking about how her parents were the original dreamers. But when Sanders took the stage, he saw, to his dismay, that the large crowd was primarily white. And this despite his airing ads on Spanish-language radio stations and hiring prominent Latinos to advise his campaign in Nevada.

In contrast, Hillary Clinton is doing just fine in this heavily Latino state. The Clintons' courtship of the Latino community goes back decades and she won the Nevada caucuses in 2008. It is entirely possible that Clinton's first choice for running mate is a Latino: Julian Castro, the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. If the Republicans nominate either Rubio or Cruz or even the Spanish-speaking Bush, she will be under some pressure to put a Latino on the ticket. The Hill has a story today about possible Veep picks to balance Clinton. Besides Castro, none of the others, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, or even Vice President Joe Biden make much sense. Of course, Clinton could pull a Palin and pick somebody nobody's ever heard of, but taking big risks is definitely not her style. For her, Castro, the former mayor of San Antonio, is a much safer choice. (V)

Media Attacks Have Helped Carson Raise $3.5 Million

The media have been jumping all over Ben Carson for a week, citing his views on the origin and function of the Egyptian pyramids, his admission or lack thereof to West Point, the time he might or might not have stabbed someone, and more. The fact finders keep saying he is either lying or very forgetful. What has his response been? He blames the liberal media for picking on him. How have his supporters reacted? They reach for their credit cards. In the past week he raised $3.5 million. Carson undoubtedly hopes the media continues going after him since many, if not most, of his supporters think the media are in the tank for the Democrats and the more he gets attacked, the more they contribute. Whether he is telling the truth or not simply does not matter with them.

At least one writer, Michael Brendan at The Week thinks the evangelicals supporting Carson are being conned. Carson may be the most godly candidate running, but he has no chance of getting the nomination and even less than no chance of being elected President. All their money and votes are being wasted. If they were to support a candidate who has some chance of actually being elected President, such as Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), they would be getting a bigger bang for the buck. What is most likely to happen is that Carson fails to get the nomination and all of a sudden evangelicals have no influence at all in the election. (V)

Tea Party Not Going After Senate Incumbents in 2016

In 2014 tea party candidates went after a number of incumbent Senate Republicans, including Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS), and Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS). Those races became very ugly very fast. This year no prominent tea party candidates are going after incumbent Republicans, which makes the incumbents' lives a lot simpler. Instead, this year the tea party groups are focusing on open seats, something they did with much greater success in 2014, winning seats in Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, South Dakota, and Nebraska.

Part of the reason is that they have concluded that in a number of states they have little chance of doing better than what they already have. For example, Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) is not perfect from their point of view, but if he gets knocked off in a primary, it is virtually certain that a Democrat will win the general election. That's too big a risk. (V)

TPP Will Play a Big Role in Determining Control of the Senate

Tea party groups may not target incumbent Republicans in 2016, but Democratic groups that oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) certainly will. The proposed TPP deal could end up unseating three incumbent Republican senators. In Ohio, hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs have vanished in recent years and many people blame NAFTA. As a consequence, blue-collar workers in the state may be extremely skeptical of another trade deal. As it turns out, Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) not only voted for NAFTA when he was in the House, but he was U.S. Trade Representative from 2005 to 2006. He is clearly pro-trade-agreement and has no way of backing out of it. Unfortunately for him, his Democratic opponent is former congressman (and Ohio governor) Ted Strickland, who voted against NAFTA when he was in the House. Strickland is going to make TPP and its potential to send even more jobs abroad his main campaign issue.

Pennsylvania they say is Philadelphia and Pittsburgh with Alabama in between, but both cities are blue-collar towns and what holds for Ohio also holds for Pennsylvania, albeit not as sharply defined. Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) voted to give President Obama fast-track authority to negotiate a trade deal and the unions in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh are going to fight him tooth and nail. Two Democrats, Katie McGinty and Joe Sestak are slugging it out in the Democratic primary, but both oppose trade deals. Since Pennsylvania is a blue state to start with, TPP may just be the final nail in Toomey's coffin.

The third rust-belt state where TPP will play a role is Wisconsin, where Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) is already fighting an uphill battle for reelection against former senator Russ Feingold, who made a career out of opposing trade deals.

When Obama proposed and fought for TPP, he probably wasn't thinking of it as a tool for recapturing the Senate, but it could be, since both Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton oppose the deal and will keep it in the news. If TPP hands the Democrats all three of the above states, they need to pick up only two more (or one if the Vice President is a Democrat) to control the Senate. (V)

Will Software Ruin the Campaigns?

With more and more people dropping television in favor of the Internet, campaigns for offices from the presidency on down are turning to online ads. That should get everyone's attention, right? Actually, no. It is estimated that 45 million Internet users in the U.S. run ad-blocking software and don't see the ads.

A complication of the ad-blocking software is figuring out how to charge advertisers. On some Websites, there is a charge per 1000 times the ad appears. But what if the ad is shipped out to the user but the user's software blocks the ad? Does that count? And how does the Website running the ad even know if the ad was displayed?

With so much at stake, some advertisers are trying to find ways around the ad blockers, so the companies making the ad blockers are trying to get smarter. It is a classic cat-and-mouse game, with a lot at stake. (V)

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---The Votemaster
Nov09 Trump and Carson Still Lead in Iowa
Nov09 Does Carson Speak in Parables?
Nov09 Rubio Was Often Late Paying His Credit Card Bill
Nov09 Lessons from Kentucky
Nov09 League of Conservation Voters Endorses Clinton
Nov09 Trumpism Explained
Nov09 GOP Moderates Working on New Hampshire
Nov09 statehood for Puerto Rico? Not Likely
Nov09 Statehood for Puerto Rico? Not Likely
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