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

Republican Operative Plans to Destroy Trump

A former RNC communications director, Liz Mair, is planning a guerrilla campaign to destroy Donald Trump. In an internal memo obtained by the Wall Street Journal, she wrote:

"The stark reality is that unless something dramatic and unconventional is done, Trump will be the Republican nominee and Hillary Clinton will become president."

Other groups have had the same idea, but Mair has formed a super PAC called "Trump Card LLC" to do the dirty work and is now soliciting funds from campaigns and donors, who can give anonymously. This kind of action shows that Republicans who at first thought Trump was some kind of joke are now beginning to realize that he could win some caucuses and primaries and conceivably even the nomination.

Raising money is the easy part. There are plenty of billionaires who don't like Trump, mostly because they can't control him at all and cutting taxes for billionaires is not something he cares much about. The hard part is figuring out how to take him down. The usual method—in fact, the only one political operatives know—is running attack ads on television. But that might not work against Trump since his supporters hate the Republican establishment and if they think the establishment is trying to take him down, might cling even more tightly to him. (V)

CNN Announces Polling Thresholds for the Dec. 15 Debate

For the first time, polling well in an early state can get a candidate on the main stage for the next Republican debate, slated for Dec. 15 in Las Vegas. To make the cut a candidate needs a national polling average of 3.5% or more or be polling at 4% in Iowa or New Hampshire. Step back for a moment and think about this. A candidate polling at 4% in one state is considered a viable candidate for the Republican nomination. It is not a very high bar.

Using the polls may seem to be objective, but the reality now is that the Republican field has solidified into two tiers. The top tier consists of people who might get the nomination, namely Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), and Jeb Bush. The second tier consists of everyone else. It would make a lot more sense for CNN to announce that the top five candidates in the national polling will be on the main stage and everyone else can be at the kiddie table if they want. This would allow more time to actually question the serious candidates in detail. By using the rank instead of absolute polling scores, it would still be objective, but CNN is going with the traditional metric of using arbitrary polling percentages.

The next debate may be unlike the previous one, which was run by Fox Business News and the Wall Street Journal. The Las Vegas debate will be moderated by CNN's Wolf Blitzer, one of the most experienced political reporters in the country and not one to simply lob softballs at the candidates as happened last time. It is also unlikely to be like the CNBC debate, where the candidates ran roughshod over the moderators.

It remains to be seen what questions Blitzer asks, but in case he can't think of any relating to foreign policy, Gwen Ifill of PBS has thoughtfully provided 10 questions for him.

  1. What does "boots on the ground" mean to you?
  2. How vulnerable are we, and what should we do about it?
  3. How should we prioritize our resources? Please provide budget numbers.
  4. Do Iran, Russia, and Syria have a place at the table as we battle terrorism? If not, what do you propose?
  5. Should religious tests be applied as a determinant of risk?
  6. Is the United Nations useful or useless at a time like this?
  7. How hard should our borders be? At what cost?
  8. What constitutes effective vetting for people seeking to enter the U.S.?
  9. Should the U.S. lead, collaborate or step away from conflicts rooted in the Middle East?
  10. Should we close Guantanamo and fully exit Afghanistan and Iraq?

Most likely all the candidates would try to wiggle around them, but it is the job of the moderator to prevent that with follow-ups. (V)

Runoff Election in Louisiana is Today

Today's runoff election for governor of Louisiana is important in several ways. First, if Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) loses to state representative John Bel Edwards (D), Vitter will be badly wounded and this could affect his Senate reelection run in 2016 and possibly control of the U.S. Senate. Second, Vitter has been way behind in the polls for weeks (because his 2007 prostitution scandal has dominated the news) so in a last ditch effort he has bet the farm on a pitch to keep Syrian refugees out of Louisiana. Of course, he neglected to mention that governors have zero say in where refugees are placed. This decision is made by the federal government. If Vitter manages a huge come-from-behind victory, it is going to inspire all the Republican candidates to get in a frenzied race promising to keep out all immigrants and maybe kick out those already here. While this may play well right now, a year from now the Paris attacks will be a distant memory but the anti-immigrant sentiment may play badly with Latinos, Asians, and other groups that care a lot about immigration policy. To paraphrase Jeb Bush, sometime you have to lose the general election to win the primaries. (V)

How Do the Paris Attacks Affect Individual Candidates

Political guru Charlie Cook thinks that the attacks in Paris are a mixed bag for most of the candidates. Most have something to gain from them but also something to lose. For example:

  • Hillary Clinton knows foreign policy better than anyone but she also is responsible for current U.S. foreign policy
  • Bernie Sanders voted against the war in Iraq but is otherwise uninterested in foreign policy
  • Marco Rubio sounds like he knows what he is talking about but looks like he is about 28 and untested
  • Ted Cruz projects toughness, but do people really want thousands of American soldiers to die in Syria?
  • Jeb Bush is a serious and thoughtful adult but his family has a tendency to start wars in the Middle East
  • Donald Trump offers simple solutions but maybe he is too much of a bull in a China shop for a war President

An interesting piece from Cook, as always. (V)

What to Do About Islamophobia?

The fear and paranoia resulting from ISIS' attack on Paris is running fairly rampant in the United States these days. A Philadelphia man was barred from boarding his flight because he was speaking Arabic. A high school football game ended when spectators heard what they thought were gunshots, suspected a terrorist attack, and fled the stands. The University of Arkansas's class registration system, Integrated Student Information System (ISIS) will undergo a name change, to UAconnect.

Of course, as the Washington Post's Bethany Albertson and Shana Gadarian observe, this fear has consequences, particularly in the midst of campaign season. They list four predictable results:

  1. Voters absorb distorted information
  2. The public demands protection
  3. People demand strong leadership (usually from Republicans)
  4. Politicians (particularly Republicans) resort to fearmongering

We are, of course, already seeing evidence that these things are taking place. In addition to the posturing by Trump and Co., polls reveal that the number of Americans who feel terrorism is the most important issue facing the country has doubled in the last four days. A majority now support the use of ground troops to fight ISIS. Meanwhile, some American Muslims say that the hostility they feel right now is even worse than the days and weeks following the 9/11 attacks.

All of these results—frightened people, tension between Muslims and non-Muslims, possible use of violent force—are, of course, exactly what ISIS was hoping for. Indeed, their leaders could scarcely have imagined that an attack on France would have such a profound and (from their perspective) positive impact on the United States. So what is to be done? After the 9/11 attacks, President Bush was able to calm the public by preaching tolerance and reiterating many times that American Muslims should not be held responsible for the acts of Muslim terrorists. President Obama has tried to follow Bush's lead, but the people who most need to hear him stopped listening to him long ago (if, indeed, they ever did listen). Consequently, Slate's Jamelle Bouie argues that the only person who can have a real impact right now is George W. Bush himself. Bouie suggests Bush come out of retirement to speak out against Islamophobia, just as he did after 9/11. It's an intriguing suggestion and one that, if Bush were to take it, could have a big impact on the dynamics of the presidential race. But since the Republicans benefit from a scared and desperate public, he has to weigh the country's interests against the Republican Party's interests. (Z)

Refugees are Not the Problem

Since the Paris attacks, one of the most visible targets for politicians has been the Syrian refugees trying to get into the United States. Outside of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Jeb Bush, who would admit Syrian Christians, the GOP field has called for all Syrians to be barred from entering the country. On Friday, both houses of Congress engaged in a round of pseudo-legislating, geared at raising the bar to impossibly high levels for those Syrians who would enter the country.

There are two ways of looking at this question, and both make clear that targeting refugees is pointless—a case of doing something for the sake of doing something so that people will feel safe (aka "security theater"). From the terrorist side of the equation, as CNN points out, it is already so hard to enter the United States as a refugee that no militant would choose that option—every other means of entering the U.S. (tourist, fake passport, sneaking across the border, etc.) is much more efficient. From the refugee side of the equation, ThinkProgress has compiled a chart of the 784,000 refugees who has settled in the U.S. since 9/11, with black dots representing those among the 784,000 who have plotted terrorist acts against the country and green dots representing those who have not. (Hint: Scroll way, way down to find the black dots). In short, all available evidence suggests that when it comes to making America safe, refugees are not the problem. (Z)

The Media is to Blame for the Media Circus

The primary process, at least on the Republican side, is something of a circus and the media is to blame. It used to be that the candidates would slog through the snows of Iowa and New Hampshire and the early state voters would determine who was serious and who was not. Iowa and New Hampshire are small and unrepresentative states, but at least it was thousands of actual voters making the calls. Now it is all about debates, in which the media is more interested in sensation and getting viewers than discussing what the candidates would do as President. Serious candidates like Jeb Bush are rated as failures because they are not good at shooting off one-liners on stage. Candidates who are good debaters, like Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz do well, even though Presidents don't have to debate much.

It used to be that governors were by definition serious candidates because they had actually run a state, proposed a budget, and dealt with a legislature. Seventeen Presidents had "governor" on their resume. Eight of the original Republican candidates this cycle were current or former governors, but none of them caught on at all. In fact, all three of the candidates forced out so far (Scott Walker, Rick Perry, and Bobby Jindal) are current or former governors. All that seems to matter this time is whether a candidate makes the main stage or not and how many minutes of speaking time he or she gets. The arbitrariness of allowing Gov. John Kasich (R-OH) on the main stage last time because he was polling 3.0% but not allowing Mike Huckabee because he was polling 2.4% is absurd when the margin of error in the polls is about 4% just on statistical grounds, let alone the whole issue of who is a likely voter and who is even paying attention at this point. The reality is that executives at a handful of television networks, not the voters, get to set the rules that have an outsize impact on who the Republican nominee will be. (V)

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---The Votemaster
Nov20 Nationally, Trump Still Ahead By a Wide Margin
Nov20 Trump Would Require All Muslims to Register with the Government
Nov20 Can Trump Survive the Establishment Onslaught?
Nov20 Rubio Gets Another Big Donor, at Jeb Bush's Expense
Nov20 Both Parties Pretend to Write Laws Addressing Terrorism
Nov20 Cruz and Rubio Begin Attacking Each Other on Terrorism
Nov20 Carson Unveils His ISIS Plan
Nov20 Carson Compares Syrian Refugees to Mad Dogs
Nov20 Mayors Fight Governors on Refugees
Nov19 Rubio Skips Intelligence Briefing for Fundraiser
Nov19 Catholic Bishops Declare Same-sex Marriage To Be an Intrinsic Evil
Nov19 Obama Says Republicans Are Helping ISIS Recruit New Terrorists
Nov19 Republicans All Striking a Pose
Nov19 Democrats Can Also Be Jingoistic
Nov19 Paris Terrorists Communicated Using Unencrypted Text Messages
Nov19 Democrats Release Autopsy of the 2014 Elections
Nov19 Republicans Have a New Hampshire Problem
Nov19 Seattle Adopts Voucher System for Political Contributions
Nov18 Jindal Calls It Quits
Nov18 Latinos Don't Like Republicans
Nov18 Carson's Advisers Say He Doesn't Understand Foreign Policy
Nov18 Clinton Picks Up Major Union Endorsement
Nov18 Vitter Trailing in Louisiana Gubernatorial Race
Nov18 Salt Lake City Elects an Openly Lesbian Mayor
Nov18 Words Matter, Part II: Terrorism
Nov17 Steve King Endorses Ted Cruz
Nov17 Will the Paris Attacks Really Be a Game Changer?
Nov17 Words Matter, Part I: Declaring War
Nov17 The World Is Not As Dangerous As You Think
Nov17 O'Malley Reduces Headquarters Staff
Nov17 Poll: Americans Like Old Presidents
Nov17 Interested in a Sane Horse Race Debate Right Now?
Nov16 Polls: Clinton Won the Debate
Nov16 Republicans Urge Aggressive Action after Attacks on Paris
Nov16 Can Donald Trump Survive?
Nov16 Can Ben Carson Survive?
Nov16 Democrats Wish Trump and Carson Would Survive
Nov16 Trump's Wall Would Not Be the Only One
Nov16 The General Election Campaigns Are Pointless
Nov16 Marco Likes Susana
Nov15 Democratic Debate a Draw
Nov15 Clinton Has 359 Delegates Months Before the Voting Starts
Nov15 Paris Attacks Already Reshaping Presidential Race
Nov15 Colorado Voters May Repeal and Replace Obamacare
Nov14 Paris Under Attack
Nov14 And Then There Were Three
Nov14 Jeb May Have a Much Bigger Bush Problem Than He Thought
Nov14 Cruz and Rubio Spar on Immigration
Nov14 Many Republican Candidates May Skip the Florida Primary
Nov14 Judge Rules Clinton Emails Do Not Have To Be Released Right Now