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

Paul Ryan Is between a Rock and a Hard Place

Republican leaders—both inside the House and out—are pressuring Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) to put his name into consideration for Speaker of the House. Certainly, the ambitious Ryan must find the prospect tantalizing, since it would instantly make him the most prominent Republican in the country if he were to win. However, a win may not be guaranteed as the Freedom Caucus is signaling that the former vice-presidential candidate may be too centrist for its taste. The other problem for Ryan is that if he runs and wins, he would become Speaker of the House. Politico has a list of five reasons why no Republican in his right mind wants that headache:

  1. The new Speaker will have to deal with not only the Freedom Caucus but also with Sen Ted Cruz (R-TX)
  2. The 2013 government shutdown didn't scare the tea party so they might want an encore
  3. Any candidate with a chance of winning is automatically "establishment," and thus the enemy
  4. Being Speaker and herding rabid cats will hurt his future chance of being President
  5. To get anything through the House, he is going to have to work with Nancy Pelosi, who is toxic to the GOP base

While a large number of Republican House members are imploring Ryan to take the Speaker's job, which is being handed to him on a silver platter, strong Republican voices outside the House, like Kathleen Parker, are advising him to say "no thanks" if he values his future. Chris Cillizza has seconded Parker's motion. (Z & V)

Biden Is Also Between a Rock and a Hard Place

As Vice President Joe Biden evaluates when and if to throw his hat into the presidential ring, another obstacle is presenting itself: The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The TPP is a wide-ranging NAFTA-like trade agreement, except involving the nations of the far east. Not much is known about the agreement, as the negotiations have been conducted in secrecy. However, President Obama has thrown his weight behind it, seeing it as a way to boost the economy and tighten America's relationship with Asia. It's one the few things the President and the Republican Party can agree on—the party's leadership in both the House and the Senate has endorsed the plan.

Obama has deployed the vice president in an effort to bring the negotiations to completion; Biden is currently working with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. His problem, from a 2016 perspective, is that nearly every major Democratic constituency hates the idea. Environmental groups think the TPP will lead to more pollution, labor thinks it will make it harder to unionize, consumer groups think it will allow dangerous products to creep into the American marketplace, and human rights and LGBT groups think it will encourage persecution and human slavery. Democratic leadership in Congress hates the TPP, too.

If Biden does enter the race, his ongoing support for the agreement will serve to antagonize virtually every group he hopes to appeal to. If he suddenly discovers he does not support TPP, it will make him appear to be an opportunist and a flip-flopper. It will also alienate the President, whose support Biden would undoubtedly be counting heavily upon in 2016. Daily Kos wonders if TPP makes a presidential run impossible for the Veep; the question is a very good one. (Z)

GOP Fundraising Suffers from House Chaos

One of the jobs of the Speaker of the House is to raise money to defend his or her party's incumbents. Both Nancy Pelosi and John Boehner were incredibly successful at filling their party's coffers. With the outcome of the Speaker's race in doubt, many potential donors are sitting on their wallets, waiting to see how it is resolved. Although many Republicans see Paul Ryan as the ideal Speaker, there is one thing about him that is less than ideal. He has three young children and he has made it abundantly clear that he has no intention of deserting them to travel around the country raising money for incumbents. If he were to become Speaker, someone else (likely #2, the Majority Leader), would get to do all the flying and get all the frequent flyer miles. But it remains to be seen if donors would flock to dinners and meetings featuring #2. (V)

The Resurrection of Chris Christie?

Politico observes that Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) has been flying low and working hard behind the scenes, shoring up support and claiming a few endorsements that were formerly Scott Walker's. He is particularly focusing on Iowa, and has had a fair bit of success there of late. Still, color us skeptical. Christie is pretending to be a staunch conservative despite representing a blue state that does not elect that type of governor. He also has a long and widely known track record of moderate Republicanism. The actual staunch conservatives don't forgive and don't forget that sort of thing, and they are not going to line up behind a sheep in wolf's clothing.

While his poll numbers have been going down over the past few months, so has something else: his weight. The badly overweight governor had lapband surgery in 2013 and has since shed 85 pounds. The reality of modern politics is that appearances matter, and while the new Christie could not be described as svelte, he is definitely less hefty than the old Christie. (Z & V)

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---The Votemaster
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