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

GOP Debate Postmortem

With eight candidates on stage, it is fairly difficult for any individual to gain (or lose) much ground. Since the debates are a "competition" of sorts, there is an instinctive desire to declare a "winner" and a "loser." We choose Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) in the former category and Jeb Bush in the latter, but the relatively small spread between first and eighth place is evidenced by the fact that the commentariat's choices were all over the map:

Left-leaning media

    Slate: Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) won, nobody lost
    Salon: Paul won; nobody lost
    WaPo: Rubio, Cruz, Carly Fiorina, Ben Carson, and Paul won; Donald Trump and John Kasich lost
    NBC News: Rubio, Cruz, Paul, Bush, and Fiorina won; Trump, Carson, and Kasich lost

Right-leaning media

    Fox News: Rubio and Cruz won; Kasich lost
    Glenn Beck: Rubio and Cruz won; Bush and Kasich lost
    RedState.com: Cruz, Fiorina, and Rubio won; Kasich, Paul, and Bush lost
    Breitbart: Carson, Trump, and Cruz won; Kasich lost
    The Hill: Rubio, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), and Paul won; Gov. John Kasich (R-OH) lost
    Washington Times: Rubio, Cruz, and Carson won; Fiorina, Kasich, and Bush lost

Foreign media

    The Week: Paul won; nobody lost
    The Guardian: Bush and Paul won; Carson and Trump lost
    BBC: No clear winner or loser
    The Toronto Star: Paul and Rubio won; Bush lost
    24 Hours (Canada): No clear winner or loser

That's fifteen different media outlets from across the spectrum. Including our picks, the tally ends up like this:

    Rubio: 9 wins, 0 losses
    Cruz: 8 wins, 0 losses
    Paul: 8 wins, 1 loss
    Fiorina: 3 wins, 1 loss
    Carson: 3 wins, 2 losses
    Trump: 1 win, 3 losses
    Bush: 2 wins, 4 losses
    Kasich: 0 wins, 8 losses

The upshot: Who knows who won? The tally above suggests that Rubio, Cruz, and Paul were the victors and Kasich was the big loser. Insta-polling gave the nod to Trump, but the experts are guessing that Rubio and Cruz are most likely to get a post-debate bounce. It's too bad there isn't a way to keep score so everyone could be in agreement.

In any event, there has now been time for a thorough post-debate fisking, and so specific remarks are getting scrutiny. Politifact completed its usual evaluation of the most shocking/surprising claims being made by the candidates, and declared only one (Cruz's observation that the U.S. tax code has more words than the Bible) was entirely truthful. Ben Carson's assertions about minimum wage, Carly Fiorina's remarks on Obamacare, and Marco Rubio's waxing philosophical about welders did not stand up to scrutiny. The Huffington Post points out that Fiorina and other candidates dodged a question about job growth under Clinton/Obama (brisk) vs. Bush (sluggish), and notes that it is an almost unanswerable question because it undercuts the entire GOP argument for taking back the White House ("we are better job creators"). Historians (including this historian, in yesterday's debate write-up) observed that Donald Trump's understanding of Dwight D. Eisenhower and immigration policy is very shaky. And Hillary Clinton's campaign team even got into the act, noting that the Democratic frontrunner's name was mentioned 40 times across the two Republican debates, but that the GOP's candidates "had close to zero to say about how they would lift incomes for American workers."

There is also a fairly broad consensus that the Fox Business Channel's moderators did a better job with the debate than did the CNBC moderators. The most effusive praise has come from the eight people on stage, with Donald Trump telling the trio that, "You did a really elegant job, the three of you," Ben Carson offering a post-debate assessment that, "I can say the candidates are very happy with you guys." RNC strategist Sean Spicer, meanwhile, opined that Tuesday night's debate "should be a model going forward." Perhaps these are fair and honest assessments, or perhaps they indicate that the FBC moderators were far less willing to challenge the candidates or ask them tough questions. Either way, the RNC and its candidates seem likely to get the kind of debates they wanted, going forward. (Z)

The GOP Race is Really a Series of Smaller Races

The Washington Post's Dan Balz, reflecting on last night's debate, has authored a piece in which he wonders why no one's dropping out of the GOP presidential race. His main conclusion is that the candidates are not focusing on the nomination, per se, at this point (much less the White House). Instead, they all see themselves as being involved in smaller races that must be resolved before any real decisions can be made.

For the past few weeks, it has appeared that the most important "race" is Marco Rubio vs. Jeb Bush. Certainly, the Bush campaign is thinking that way, having developed a comprehensive plan for taking down the Senator. Now, however, it appears that the most important race is actually between Rubio and Ted Cruz, for the mantle of "establishment conservative candidate." This certainly comports with the betting markets and with the commentariat's analysis, both of which assume that the Donald Trumps and Ben Carsons of the world will eventually fade.

Assuming this is correct, Ted Cruz should remember that beating Rubio is not the same thing as becoming president, and that he will eventually need some voters who are not staunchly conservative. He has made some choices this week that could come back to haunt him. For example, he insisted that an atheist is not fit to be president of the United States, and that whomever is president should begin every day with a prayer. By some estimates, nearly 40% of Americans identify as non-religious, and a fair portion beyond that are only nominally religious. Such sentiments may not play well with voters who are not as religious as Cruz is, and voters like that exist even within the Republican Party.

A considerably more serious, but related, error was the choice of Cruz (and Mike Huckabee and Gov. Bobby Jindal) to appear at the National Religious Liberties Conference in Des Moines last weekend. This may play well with the base, but the organizer of the conference—Kevin Swanson—is a fire-breathing evangelical preacher and radio host who has called, on a number of occasions, for all gay people to be put to death by stoning. Roughly 60% of Americans support the legalization of gay marriage; presumably, a larger portion would not approve of the notion that mass executions should take place. The campaign ads and debate sound bites practically write themselves. Of course, Ted Cruz has shown no indication that he cares about voters beyond his base, which is why no serious analyst believes he can win if he triumphs over Rubio (and the rest of the field). (Z)

Congress is Busy Posturing

This week, the two parties in Congress have traded blows, with each trying to put the other in a bad place in time for campaign season. Leading Democrats sent a letter to new Speaker of the House Paul Ryan in which they encouraged him to get to work on campaign finance reform. He's never shown any indication that he's willing to do this, and he's hardly likely to change his mind at time when the Freedom Caucus is looking for signs of weakness. The entire purpose of the maneuver is to allow Democrats to claim that they want campaign finance reform and the Republicans do not.

In the other direction, the Republicans in the Senate used some maneuvering to make it difficult for President Obama to shut down the detention facility in Guantanamo Bay. They want to be able to go on the campaign trail and say that Democrats like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton rarely keep their promises. Congressional Democrats are apparently encouraging the President to ignore Congress and to use executive orders to fulfill his promise. These are just the opening salvos of the season, expect many, many more in 2016. (Z)

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---The Votemaster
Nov11 Conservatives and Moderates Fight over Immigration in Debate
Nov11 Court of Appeals Hands Obama a Defeat on Immigration
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Nov10 One For the Money, Two for the Show, Three to Get Ready...
Nov10 Bernie Sanders Is Trying to Win Latinos
Nov10 Media Attacks Have Helped Carson Raise $3.5 Million
Nov10 Tea Party Not Going After Senate Incumbents in 2016
Nov10 TPP Will Play a Big Role in Determining Control of the Senate
Nov10 Will Software Ruin the Campaigns?
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
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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
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Nov04 And the Winners Are...