Tentative Primary and Caucus Schedule
  March 1 (Super Tues)
  March 2-14
L blue   March 15-31
Delegates needed for nomination:
GOP: 1236,   Dem: 2242
Map explained
New polls:  
Dem pickups:  
GOP pickups:  

News from the Votemaster

Trump Still Rides High

A new Pew Research Center national poll of the Republican field has Donald Trump still in the top position. Here are the results of the poll.

Rank Candidate Pct
1 Donald Trump 25%
2 Ben Carson 16%
3 Marco Rubio 8%
3 Carly Fiorina 8%
5 Ted Cruz 6%
6 Jeb Bush 4%
7 Mike Huckabee 2%
7 Rand Paul 2%
  Other 4%
  Undecided 25%

Same old stuff. The fever hasn't broken yet. It will eventually. Nevertheless, having the theoretical front runner, Jeb Bush, in sixth place with 4% of the vote is not exactly what the big donors, who put $100 million into his campaign, were hoping for. At this point no doubt a lot of big donors are beginning to seriously consider tearing out all their hair. Bush could miraculously recover, of course, but he is clearly damaged goods. Even Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) at 8%, the highest candidate acceptable to the establishment, is hardly stellar, and the backup candidate, Gov. John Kasich (R-OH) didn't even register. (V)

Five Reasons Why Rubio Might Make It

Politico has a story on why Marco Rubio might just make it if Bush really collapses:

  1. He has the exciting "new candidate" smell
  2. Talent still matters and Rubio is a quick study, an excellent speaker, and a first-rate counter attacker
  3. He is following a careful plan: be calm but show some spine
  4. He's just conservative enough to be acceptable to the tea party without driving moderates away
  5. In the past, he has outperformed expectations

Although Rubio has no natural base like Bush (donors), Cruz (tea partiers), Huckabee (evangelicals), or Paul (libertarians), he is reasonably well liked by all of them, in part due to a friendly personality. He is not angry all the time like some candidates. Rubio definitely has a shot at the nomination. (V)

Gore Thinks Television is Ruining American Democracy

Former Vice President Al Gore was featured at the 2015 Washington Ideas Forum on Thursday. He was asked about the divisive impact of social media on American politics, and he surprised the audience when the technology that he chose to lambaste was a golden oldie: television. Said Gore:

Television pushed the printing press off of center stage, and now—still—the politicians spend 75 percent of their money on 30-second TV ads. Political candidates have to spend three-quarters of their time begging rich people for money to get into the television square.

The inevitable result, Gore believes, is that politicians prioritize the interests of their benefactors over those of their constituents.

Gore is right, of course, and few Americans would disagree with the general thrust of his remarks. A recent Bloomberg poll indicated that the vast majority of voters (more than 80%) are unhappy about the influence of wealth upon politics. Asking specifically about the Citizens United decision, the pollsters learned that it was considerably less popular than Roe v. Wade, gay marriage, and Obamacare.

So what is to be done? Gore had less to say about that part of the equation so we will try to fill in the gap. What are the possible paths to fixing a broken system?

  1. Campaign Finance Reform: It seems obvious that an issue on which 4 in 5 Americans agree would present an opportunity for one party or the other to win some votes. But the devil is in the details. Whenever a proposal is put forward to reduce the influence of interest groups, they fight back—hard. Also, the Supreme Court usually shoots down campaign finance reform laws as a violation of the First Amendment.

  2. Smarter Politicians: It has been demonstrated, over and over, that there is fairly little correlation between money expended and electoral success. See this for a fairly good overview of existing research. In particular, television commercials are a terribly inefficient investment because there are so many, after a while, people just ignore them all.

  3. The Decline of Advertising-Based Television: The TV industry has a similar problem to the polling industry—just as people (especially young people) are dumping their landlines in favor of cell phones, so too are they cutting the cord on cable and broadcast television in favor of subscription-based services like Hulu and Netflix. These services do not have commercials and even if they did, they would be easier to skip over than those on live television.

It is highly unlikely that anything meaningful will change in time for next year's presidential election, which could come with a price tag of $10 billion. By 2020, however, who knows? A change may come from the political system, the candidates, or the marketplace. Among those options, the smart money is probably on the marketplace. (Z)

After Oregon Shooting, Trump Trumps Bush

It has been about two days since the latest mass shooting, this time in Oregon. The candidates have all had an opportunity to be asked about the incident, or to weigh in voluntarily, and most have responded in a manner that is predictable and fairly uninteresting.

The possible exceptions to this are the remarks from Donald Trump and Jeb Bush. Trump, like the other candidates, was sympathetic, but argued that solving the problem is quite difficult, because you can't "institutionalize everybody." Not everyone would agree with the Donald's position, but he came off as reasonable and thoughtful. Jeb Bush's argument was very similar, but he made it in a more ham-fisted way, while also carelessly tossing in the phrase "stuff happens." He has been widely ripped for this response. As such, we have now reached the point that Donald Trump is coming off as more thoughtful than Jeb Bush.

For all of his money, and his family's political network, and his residency in the mother of all swing states, and his presumptive frontrunner status, this may be the thing that makes it hardest to believe that Jeb Bush can actually carry the Republican standard in 2016: He says too many thoughtless, impolitic things. If he really wants to be on the biggest stage in politics, he simply cannot keep handing his opponents soundbites, particularly those that can be condensed into a Twitter-friendly 140 characters or less ("stuff happens" = 13 characters).

Mitt Romney, whose candidacy bore more than a passing resemblance to Jeb Bush's, certainly had his share of verbal miscues ("binders full of women," "the 47%," etc.) But they weren't nearly as frequent, and they largely came after he was already the candidate and was in the heat of the campaign. At this point in 2011, Romney was essentially hiding in the shadows and saying nothing while he waited for the other candidates to fizzle. Bush, by contrast, is already providing enough material for whole lists of his ill-conceived comments.

There is no question that Jeb Bush is an intelligent man, and that his missteps are often the product of trying to explain himself fully. However, if he does not learn to edit himself effectively—and soon—his mouth could prove to be his undoing. (Z)

Hitler Is Not A Candidate

For years, Republicans of various stripes have been comparing President Obama to Adolf Hitler. The list of those who have indulged includes Mike Huckabee, Ann Coulter, Rick Santorum, Glenn Beck, Ben Carson (who once said that the best way to understand the president was to read Mein Kampf), Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX), and Rep. Randy Weber (R-TX; N.B. to Weber: It is spelled 'Adolf' and not 'Adolph'.)

The Führer has already been making regular appearances during the 2016 campaign cycle. Bernie Sanders has been the most common target, with the commentariat noting that Sanders is a socialist, and Hitler was a National Socialist, and then running with it. The Nazis continue to be one of Ben Carson's favorite analogies—maybe his very favorite—and he has now broadened his use to imply that all liberals/Democrats are would-be Nazis.

In virtually all cases, anyone who calls an opponent "Hitler" is simply announcing that he failed World History class in 11th grade. A couple of factors that helped Hitler rise but are wholly irrelevant now are:

  • The anger of the German people at being defeated in WW I and then forced to pay massive reparations
  • An economic depression in Germany even worse than the one in the U.S.
  • Unprecedented hyperinflation: in 1923, it took 4 trillion marks to buy one U.S. dollar
  • An unstable European continent with the breakup of the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires
  • A poorly designed German government that was ripe for overthrow from the start

But yelling "he's like Hitler" is an old tactic: in 1951 the philosopher Leo Strauss coined the phrase Reductio ad Hitlerum to describe the tendency. More recently, Godwin's Law, says that as Internet discussions go on and get more heated over time, sooner or later somebody will accuse his opponent of being Hitler.

As to Hitler himself, one should not be fooled by the presence of the word 'socialist' in his party's name. He was an ultra-ultra-ultra conservative. Further, the essential element in his rise to dictatorial power was the loyal backing of the German military leadership. As such, if one is to believe that Barack Obama or Bernie Sanders or any other Democrat is a budding Hitler, then they must ignore that none of the conditions above exists, while at the same believing that the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is willing to join in the governmental overthrow (only to get executed, if Obama/Sanders stay true to form).

The upshot: Though some Americans take Obama = Hitler or Sanders = Hitler comparisons very, very seriously, those analogies lack any sort of substance. If one simply must compare a Democrat to a power-hungry, sociopathic, murderous dictator, then at least pick a left winger like Joseph Stalin. (Z)

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---The Votemaster
Oct02 McCarthy Admits Beghazi Hearings Are about Damaging Hillary
Oct02 Virginia Republicans Admit They Gerrymandered Districts
Oct02 GOP Doesn't Get Preferred Candidate in Colorado Senate Race
Oct02 HP Employees Haven't Contributed to Fiorina's Campaign
Oct02 Has the Email Story Hurt Hillary?
Oct02 Hillary Will Be 'Live, from New York!' This Weekend
Oct01 Congressional Glass Ceiling Is Firmly in Place
Oct01 Straight-Ticket Voting Could Hurt Democrats
Oct01 Sanders Approaches Clinton in the Money Race
Oct01 Republicans Consider New Primary Systems for 2020
Oct01 October Run-down of the Republican Candidates
Sep30 Background Information on the New Hampshire Primary
Sep30 Republicans' Tax Plans Are Being Scored
Sep30 Increasingly, Donors Want To Do More Than Just Donate
Sep30 Republicans Are Increasingly Unhappy with the Direction of the Country
Sep30 The Horse Race Depicted as a Horse Race
Sep30 Trump Tower starting to Lean
Sep30 FEC has Questions for Ted Cruz PAC
Sep29 Are the Iowa Caucuses Any Good at Predicting the Nominees?
Sep29 Next President Likely to Appoint Multiple Supreme Court Justices
Sep29 Donald Trump Reveals His Tax Plan
Sep29 Biden More Popular than Hillary?
Sep29 Shutdown Averted, for Now
Sep29 Clinton Finally Acknowledges Sanders
Sep28 Introducing a New Contributor: Zenger
Sep28 Is There A Third-Term Curse?
Sep28 New Poll Shows Trump Sagging
Sep28 Bush's Donors Are Starting to Get Nervous
Sep28 Republicans Overestimate the Power of Identity Politics
Sep28 Straw Polls Are Not Worth the Paper They're Written On
Sep28 Reading the Bobby Jindal Tea Leaves
Sep27 Could Boehner's Departure End the Gridlock Temporarily?
Sep27 The Media Are Always Preaching to the Choirs
Sep27 Boehner's Downfall is Infecting the Presidential Race
Sep27 Bill Clinton Is Back on the Trail
Sep26 Boehner Quits
Sep26 Conservatives Will Now Gun for McConnell
Sep26 Will The Pope's Visit Affect the 2016 Elections?
Sep25 The Pope Gives a Left-Wing Speech to Congress
Sep25 Democrats Are trying to Piggyback on the Pope's Speech
Sep25 Senate Rejects Efforts to Defund Planned Parenthood
Sep25 The Problem with Safe Districts
Sep25 Bush Says Blacks Want Hope, Not Free Stuff
Sep25 Why Does Donald Trump Say Marco Rubio is Sweaty?
Sep25 Ignore All Polls in 2015
Sep24 Pope Making Republicans Squirm
Sep24 Dissecting Walker in a Postmortem
Sep24 Republicans Begin to Go After Trump
Sep24 Dark Money is Up Fivefold Compared to 2012
Sep24 Democrats Debate Debates