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

Clinton Spending Vast Sums on Infrastructure

Hillary Clinton may make some mistakes in her campaign, but they won't be the mistakes she made in 2008. Then she (actually, her pollster, Mark Penn) assumed she would clean up big time on Super Tuesday and didn't bother planning for the events following it, which turned out to be a crucial error when Barack Obama won primary after primary in deep-red rural states. In the general election, no Democrat wastes time and money on states like Oklahoma, Utah, and Wyoming, but in the primaries they matter since they send delegates to the Democratic National Convention and a Utah delegate counts as much as a California delegate.

This time around, Clinton is building a massive (and expensive) infrastructure. She has spent twice as much on campaign staff and three times as much on office space as any other presidential candidate so far. As a consequence, her burn rate is also among the highest of all the candidates. Although she currently has $31 million in the bank, at the rate she is going, she is going to have to continue to raise lots of money. One problem for her is that many of her current donors have already made the maximum legal contribution ($2700), so she needs to find new donors. In contrast, very few donors to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) have maxed out, so he can just hit them up for another $20 time and time again. On the other hand, all the offices and computers and databases she has purchased are going to be tough for Vice President Joe Biden to replicate quickly should he finally decide the pool is warm enough and jump in. Furthermore, a lot of the infrastructure will serve Clinton well in the general election should she be the Democratic nominee.

The only Republican with an infrastructure even approaching hers is Jeb Bush. The current Republican leader, Donald Trump, has spent more ($678,000) on hats and T-shirts than he has on field offices and staff in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina combined ($353,000). Trump is clearly assuming his name will carry him all the way, whereas more conventional campaigns want to have a strong ground presence to actually get their supporters to the polls. (V)

Republican Pretenders Must Soon Face Reality

A significant acknowledgement that Donald Trump and Ben Carson are serious contenders for the Republican presidential nomination has come to pass: Starting next week, they will both receive Secret Service protection. This is not only a product of their polling numbers, but also the fact that they have received enough attention to be the subject of credible domestic and/or foreign threats. They join Hillary Clinton, who is entitled as a former first lady, in being granted this privilege. Bernie Sanders is likely not far behind.

The news comes at the same time that at least six Republicans are confronting a cold, hard fact: The money is running out. A burn rate above 100% means the candidate is spending more than he or she is taking in. George Pataki's Q3 burn rate was 226%, followed by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC; 188%), Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY; 181%), Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA; 144%), Mike Huckabee (110%), and Rick Santorum (101%). There is too much competition for dollars with so many Republican contenders, and there are many key expenses like office space and advance staff that wealthy benefactors (and PACs) are not allowed to pay for. These things must be funded by the regular campaign, where primary donations are limited to $2700 per donor.

These six surely have October 28 circled on their calendars—the date of the next Republican debate. A strong performance, followed by a Fiorina-like surge, could quite literally be their last hope. But for four of the six, there is another mountain to climb first: Jindal, Santorum, and Pataki would not presently qualify for the main debate (Jindal has argued the rules should be changed to admit him), while Graham would not even qualify for the junior debate. In other words, the race is beginning to shake out, and the Republican field should be much thinner by Halloween. (Z)

Rubio and Bush Begin To Go After Each Other

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) was always the protege and friend of former Florida governor Jeb Bush. However, as it becomes clearer that whoever wins the March 15 winner-take-all Florida primary will get a big boost (and 99 delegates) and whoever loses will get a rather large push toward the exit, they have become bitter rivals. When Rubio claimed this week that he had more money in the bank than Bush, the Bush campaign fired off this tweet: "Lying about budgets. Guess Marco picked up something in the Senate." Team Bush has also criticized Rubio for being the senator who has missed the most Senate votes. Probably the worst insult Bush has thrown at Rubio is comparing him to another first-term senator who thought he was presidential material. Rubio missed the chance to fire back: "the voters didn't seem to have a problem with that, since Obama won." The sniping is only going to get worse. (V)

The Decline and Fall of the Republican Party?

With the Speaker of the House drama, the parade of presidential contenders, and debates that seem to feature shouting and personal attacks more prominently than discussion of policy, the dysfunction within the Republican Party has been a big story in 2015. A number of commentators have written about that subject this week, reaching fairly similar conclusions about hostility between the various wings of the party. For example, the Huffington Post's Charles J. Reid frames the situation as a struggle between "insurgents" and "the establishment." The Nation's William Greider essentially agrees, except that he prefers to label the two factions "social-issue hard-liners" and "country-club elites." On Friday, RNC chair Reince Priebus seemed to affirm such analyses, declaring "I do think that we're cooked as a party for quite a while if we don't win in 2016."

It may seem surprising that the Republican Party's head cheerleader would offer such a frank—and even damning—assessment. Priebus is a shrewd operator, however, and there is undoubtedly method to his madness. The lightly-encoded message to Republican voters is, "Vote for a serious candidate, for God's sake, and not Donald Trump or Ben Carson." He can thus undermine unelectable candidates indirectly without appearing to attack his own party. Further, Priebus is the only person to chair the Republican Party for three consecutive terms under a Democratic president. Election to a fourth term would take place one week before Inauguration Day in 2017. The chairman surely knows his own personal goose would be cooked if RNC members were casting their votes while staring down the barrel of four (or eight) years of Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, or Bernie Sanders. As such, he might as well go all in on 2016, since he has nothing to lose.

When pundits (mostly on the left) write about the demise of the Republican Party, one is tempted to recall Mark Twain's remark "reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated." While the House is a mess and Republicans have trouble winning the White House, they do control both chambers of Congress, 31 of the 50 governor's mansions, and a majority of state legislatures. A quick look at the chart on this page will show that it has a lot more red than blue. While at the national level, the Republicans are having trouble, the party is far from washed up. (Z & V)

Stumped by Trump

Journalists, historians, political scientists, the commentariat, etc., have been pulling their hair out (or, at least, combing it over) trying to make sense of Donald Trump's meteoric rise to the top of the polls. The Washington Post decided to ask several psychologists for their opinion, and they found the answer(s) to be fairly simple:

  • He speaks his mind
  • He offers simple solutions to problems
  • He plays to voters' fears

Historically, these particular characteristics have been an effective path to office when appealing to fairly homogeneous constituencies, and so it is easy enough to find former members of Congress (James Michael Curley of Massachusetts, Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin) or state governors (Ben Tillman of South Carolina, Huey Long of Louisiana) for whom this has been a winning combo. But the American public is not now, nor has it been anytime recently, a homogeneous constituency. This is why it would be necessary to go far back into the past (Andrew Jackson?) to find a president who rode this approach all the way to White House. It is also why analysts find "President Donald Trump" to be so utterly inconceivable.

It is important to keep in mind that while the Republican primary electorate is fairly homogeneous, the country as a whole is not. Trump's appeal to a white farmer in Iowa does not transfer so easily to a black factory worker in Illinois. Also, so far nobody has launched any serious negative ads at Trump, for example about his four bankruptcies or three marriages (two of them to immigrants, whom he so despises). In a general election campaign, they will be front and center. (Z & V)

Why Has Paid Family Leave Become a Big Campaign Issue?

In the Democratic debate, the subject of paid family leave came up and is likely to come up again in the Democratic primaries and then in the general election. Why? Several factors have come together to put this issue on the agenda. Some of the more important ones driving this issue are as follows:

  • More women than ever before are working and women care a lot about paid family leave
  • The majority of voters are now women
  • Men are much more concerned about work-family balance issues than ever before
  • The President has talked about the issue a lot
  • The idea is popular with voters, albeit not their highest priority

Some Campaign Donors Will Get Refunds

Under federal law, donors to presidential candidates can give up to $2700 for the primary and up to $2700 for the general election. When candidates go begging, they usually just ask for the $2700 they need now. However, sometimes overly enthusiastic donors send in a check for $5400 without being asked. Of the 21 people currently running for the Democratic or Republican nomination, only two will make it to the general election. All the others will be required to refund all contributions from donors in excess of $2700.

However, the excess contributions are not completely innocuous. When reporting how much cash they have in the bank, candidates generally report the complete amount—including the general election funds they are not allowed to spend until they are officially nominated at their convention. Reporting funds that they have but are not allowed to spend yet gives an overly optimistic view of how strong they are in the primaries. Donors obsess over cash on hand when making decisions about who is strong (and thus worth funding) and who is weak (and is thus road kill). Hillary Clinton, for example, has about $1.5 million in cash that she can't spend unless and until she is the official Democratic nominee. In her case, few donors are comparing her bank account to Sanders' and making a funding decision based on that—other factors play a bigger role. But for Bush vs. Rubio, donors who want to make sure they are betting on the right horse would prefer an honest picture, which they may not get. (V)

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---The Votemaster
Oct17 Clinton and Sanders Tied in New Hampshire
Oct17 Clinton Won the Debate
Oct17 CNBC Caves to Trump on Debate Rules
Oct17 California Expands Voter Base, Kansas Contracts Voter Base
Oct17 Sanders Kept Meeting to Himself
Oct17 Karl Rove Goes after Bernie Sanders
Oct16 Candidates Announce Third Quarter Fundraising Totals
Oct16 Trump and Carson Protest Another Long Debate
Oct16 Republicans Beginning to Agree on a Plan to Replace the ACA
Oct16 Sanders Rejects Donation from Price Gouging CEO
Oct16 Castro Officially Endorses Clinton
Oct16 Getting Right with Israel
Oct15 Was the GOP the Real Loser on Tuesday Night?
Oct15 The Other Three Democrats Had a Bad Wednesday
Oct15 The Democratic Debates, Factually and Graphically
Oct15 Debate May Slow Down Sanders in Iowa
Oct15 The Window Is Closing for Joe Biden
Oct15 Is Hillary Clinton Too Old?
Oct15 A Third Republican Says Benghazi Committee is All About Hurting Clinton
Oct15 Trump Has Big Leads in South Carolina and Nevada
Oct14 Clinton, Sanders both Winners in First Debate
Oct14 Democrats Have Detailed Policy Statements
Oct14 What is Hillary Really Thinking?
Oct14 Rubio Gaining with Megadonors
Oct13 Democratic Debate Preview
Oct13 Clinton Donors Worry about Biden
Oct13 O'Malley Is Fourth in His Home State
Oct13 Fringe Candidates Sometimes Pop and Sometimes Fizzle
Oct13 What is going on at Quinnipiac?
Oct13 Carson's Inflammatory Remarks Help Him
Oct13 Senate Republicans May Weaken the Filibuster
Oct12 Another Day, More Speaker Drama
Oct12 Koch Opposes Special Interests
Oct12 Obama May Issue Executive Order on Gun Sales
Oct12 Benghazi Inquiry Now Focused on Emails
Oct12 Part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Leaked
Oct12 Chris Christie Doesn't Get It
Oct11 Recent Speakers and Why They Stopped Being Speaker
Oct11 Half the Campaign Money Comes from Only 158 Families
Oct11 Julian Castro Expected to endorse Hillary Clinton Next Week
Oct11 Ex Benghazi Committee Staffer: It is a Partisan Investigation
Oct10 Paul Ryan Is between a Rock and a Hard Place
Oct10 Biden Is Also Between a Rock and a Hard Place
Oct10 GOP Fundraising Suffers from House Chaos
Oct10 The Resurrection of Chris Christie?
Oct09 McCarthy Out of the Speaker's Race...Probably
Oct09 Congressman Writes Job Ad for Speaker
Oct09 Boxer Wants to KO Fiorina
Oct09 Bush Opposes a New Voting Rights Act
Oct09 Democrats Speak English Gooder than Republicans?