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

Suppose Biden Continues To Keep Mum

The political world is carefully watching Vice President Joe Biden for signs of his intentions about entering the Democratic presidential primary. He is doing many of the things candidates do, but not all of them. He is calling leading Democrats, talking to potential donors, and attracting a lot of attention to his Hamlet-like indecisiveness ("to run or not to run, that is the question").

However, one thing he is not doing that actually matters is filing to run in early states. Once the deadlines are past, those delegates are lost to Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). From the table of 2015 filing deadlines below, it is clear that de facto Biden has until Nov. 20 to announce his decision. If he delays beyond that, he misses the New Hampshire primary. (Caucuses, like in Iowa, don't have a formal deadline.) While New Hampshire has only 32 delegates, the publicity that either Sanders or Clinton will get from winning that would be a huge blow to Biden. If he further delays and misses the Nov. 30 Florida deadline, it ceases to be about publicity and starts to be about delegates lost, as Florida has 238 delegates to the Democratic National Convention. If Biden allows all of them to be divvied up by Clinton and Sanders, it will be hard to catch up. If he also misses the early December deadlines used by some of the Super Tuesday states, his only chance of getting the nomination is if something takes down Clinton altogether. So in reality, he has about 5 or 6 weeks to come to a firm decision.

Of course, the filing dates are not the whole story. Even if he announces tomorrow and files everywhere, both Clinton and Sanders have raised huge amounts of money, have hired most of the top Democratic consultants, and have large ground operations already in place. Replicating this is going to take a lot of time.

Filing date Primary State
Nov. 6, 2015 Mar. 1, 2016 Alabama
Nov. 9, 2015 Mar. 1, 2016 Arkansas
Nov. 20, 2015 Feb. 9, 2016 New Hampshire
Nov. 30, 2015 Mar. 15, 2016 Florida
Dec. 1, 2015 Mar. 1, 2016 Georgia
Dec. 1, 2015 Mar. 1, 2016 Tennessee
Dec. 4, 2015 Mar. 5, 2016 Louisiana
Dec. 9, 2015 Mar. 1, 2016 Oklahoma
Dec. 10, 2015 Mar. 1, 2016 Virginia
Dec. 11, 2015 Mar. 8, 2016 Michigan
Dec. 14, 2015 Mar. 22, 2016 Arizona
Dec. 14, 2015 Mar. 1, 2016 Texas
Dec. 16, 2015 Mar. 15, 2016 Ohio
Dec. 29, 2015 Mar. 15, 2016 Missouri

With the stellar performance turned in by both Sanders and Clinton in last week's debate, even Biden fans are beginning to hope he declines a run, arguing

  • Unless something happens to Hillary Clinton, it is too late to jump in now and beat her
  • If something does happen to Hillary Clinton, he can always jump in later, even in the spring
  • His popularity is now at its maximum; the instant he declares the mud will begin flying at him

It's Election Day, Eh

Not in the United States, of course. But for citizens in the Great White North, Monday is election day. If the polls are to be believed, the Liberal Party will claim a plurality, but not a majority, of the seats in the Canadian parliament. This will bring an end to almost 10 years of Conservative leadership under Stephen Harper, and will clear the path for Justin Trudeau—son of former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau—to assume power. A coalition government with the New Democrats will almost certainly be necessary.

It is difficult to say exactly what the impact on American politics will be, since—for example—a Trudeau-Clinton dynamic would surely be very different from a Trudeau-Rubio dynamic. However, the Liberal Party generally favors a much closer relationship with the United States than Harper has pursued. They support NAFTA and trade agreements that bring the three major nations of North America closer together, but they oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership. They would also look to work with Washington on environmental agreements, particularly trying to counter global warming, though Trudeau (who knows that a lot of Canadians are in the oil business) has already endorsed Keystone XL.

The New Republic, meanwhile, has an interesting article about the potential lessons of this election for the Republican Party. Part of the secret of Stephen Harper's success has been building bridges to conservative-leaning minority constituencies, among them Chinese-, Punjabi-, and Sikh-Canadians. With economic instability and unrest in Canada on the rise, the Prime Minister tried to shore up his support by running on an Islamophobic and homophobic platform. His gamble was that this would resonate with religious minority voters (97% of whom in Canada are not Muslim) while also rallying white ultra-conservatives. It's not working: Minorities recognize xenophobia when they see it, even when they are not the target, while white ultra-conservatives long ago decided Harper was a phony. The lesson is that no matter how carefully the dance is choreographed, there is not room for minorities and people who dislike minorities in the same party: A choice must be made.

Finally, while the vast majority of Americans are blissfully unaware that it is election day up North and probably not one in 100 could name the major contenders, both Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton are no doubt keenly aware of the dynastic implications of a Trudeau victory. If Justin Trudeau becomes Prime Minister, a year from now if "dynasties" become an issue in the U.S. general election, a potential retort will be "seems to work pretty well in Canada." (Z & V)

Fiorina Slumping Again

Following a post-debate surge, Carly Fiorina's polling numbers are again heading downward, back to the single digits. She's still doing better than much of the competition, but she's also looking upwards at Ben Carson's and Donald Trump's numbers.

We have cautioned many times that early polls are not, in most cases, terribly meaningful. However, this result speaks to a difficult—and potentially insurmountable—truth that Fiorina faces. There are effectively four groups of Republican candidates: The establishment "moderates" (Bush, Kasich, Christie, Gilmore, Pataki); the social conservatives (Jindal, Graham, Rubio, Cruz, Huckabee, Santorum); the outsiders (Trump, Carson, Fiorina); and Rand Paul. There is probably not room for more than one from any group once primary season heats up, and certainly there is not room for more than two. As such, Fiorina is largely limited to crumbs as long as Trump and Carson remain viable. Could she tread water and wait for them to implode? Possible, but she does not seem to be planning for that possibility, nor does she really have the money to pull it off (in contrast to Ted Cruz, who has definitely been planning, and who does have the money). Another strong debate performance may give Fiorina another boost but, in the end, the math just does not seem to add up. (Z)

Could Ending the Gerrymander Fix the House?

The House of Representatives is completely dysfunctional at the moment, with the majority party unable to even choose its own leader. A case can be made that the root cause of the problem is the gerrymander. About 40 Republicans in the House come from districts so gerrymandered that the Republicans could nominate a yellow dog there and win (much like the Democrats could in the Solid South before Nixon's Southern Strategy). With representatives so far to the edge of the political spectrum that there is no room to their right for a primary challenge and no possibility of losing in the general election, they can (and have) become so unhinged from reality that they can cause immense problems for their own leadership.

One solution is to end the gerrymander. In California, voters passed a referendum giving the power to draw congressional district lines to an independent commission, greatly reducing the possibility of partisan gerrymandering. In Florida, the state supreme court threw out the map that the Republican-dominated state legislature drew up and adopted some elements from citizens' groups. If the maps in most of the larger states were drawn by neutral boards, many more House races would be competitive and as a consequence, winners would be far less likely to engage in stunts that could hurt the country, for fear of losing to the other party in the next general election. (V)

Ryan May Be Open To Running for Speaker

CBS is reporting that Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) may be a candidate for Speaker of the House when the House Republican caucus meets Wednesday morning. But under one (big) condition: He is not going to ask the Freedom Caucus for their votes and is not going to offer any sweeteners to them. It will have to accept him as is, with no conditions. If it doesn't, he's not interested in the job. If it accepts him as is, he will certainly be elected Speaker, but he will face precisely the same problems retiring Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) faced, namely not having 218 votes when key bills come to the floor for a vote. (V)

Cruz Wins Conservative Caucus Vote in New Hampshire

A conservative New Hampshire group, the 603 Alliance, held a caucus of 700 activists Saturday and gave Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) 72% of its vote on Saturday. Ben Carson was second and Carly Fiorina was third. The group is trying to unite New Hampshire conservatives around a single candidate to avoid splintering the conservative vote. (V)

Mothers Condemn Benghazi Ad

One of the many anti-Clinton groups, the Stop Hillary PAC, is airing an ad about Benghazi in which they try yet again to heap blame for the incident on the former Secretary of State. Two of the mothers whose deceased children are featured in the ad have lashed out against it. Barbara Doherty says that, "It's so crude and so unfeeling to do something like this. To see your own son and hear a voice coming up from the grave, it's tasteless," while Cheryl Croft Bennett explains that, "I have not been angry because it's counter-productive. But this ad made me angry."

Each day, it seems, another chink appears in the armor of the Benghazi committee. This weekend, for example, it was revealed that Committee Chairman Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) either erred or lied in claiming that a Libyan CIA agent's name, referenced in Hillary Clinton's emails, was "some of the most protected information in our intelligence community." In fact, according the to the CIA, the information was not classified. Now, the Republicans find themselves opposed by a pair of grieving mothers. This is not a good look for a political party.

Hillary Clinton is scheduled to testify before the committee later this week, which will give House Republicans one more bite at the Benghazi apple. If nothing comes from the testimony, as is likely, the GOP would be wise to quietly wind the investigation down and disband the committee. It is becoming more of a political liability than an asset since at some point Clinton can begin running ads featuring clips of Republicans like Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and grieving mothers saying the whole exercise was just designed to take down Clinton and has little to do with uncovering the truth. But most likely the chairman, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), relishes his 15 minutes of fame and will try to stretch it out as long as he can.

One fly in the ointment for Gowdy, however, is that although they have no real power, there are Democrats on the Benghazi committee and they are starting to speak up and contradict him in public. The sight of Gowdy having to argue with the ranking member of the committee, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), is going to do little to enhance the credibility of the committee. Having Cummings go on the offensive also causes a problem for Gowdy. If he allows Cummings to ask questions at the hearing, there is a danger that Cummings may bring up issues Gowdy doesn't want publicized. If Gowdy doesn't allow Cummings to ask questions, Cummings is going to call the hearings a one-sided witch hunt and having panel members attacking the legitimacy of the hearings themselves is just going to make the whole show look very partisan, rather than a fact-finding investigation. (Z & V)

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---The Votemaster
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