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

Post-Debate Poll: Clinton Still Way Ahead of Sanders

Most pundits thought Hillary Clinton won the first Democratic debate and several more-or-less scientific polls confirmed that. Now a CNN/ORC horse race poll conducted after the debate shows that Clinton still has a solid lead nationally among Democrats and independents who lean Democratic. Here are the numbers.

Rank Candidate Pct
1 Hillary Clinton 45%
2 Bernie Sanders 29%
3 Joe Biden 18%
4 Jim Webb 1%
  Lincoln Chafee <1%
  Martin O'Malley <1%
  Larry Lessig <1%

There have been rumors (again) that Vice President Joe Biden is planning an announcement this week, but we have been hearing such rumors for months now. If Biden pays attention to polls like this, it won't encourage him to jump in, but if his ambition burns bright enough, he might do it despite the polls. (V)

Jeb Bush No Longer Mr. Inevitable

When the campaign season started, almost all the pundits thought Jeb Bush would easily lock up the Republican nomination quickly. He had the most endorsements and his Super PAC raised $100 million in the first quarter. It was going to be "shock and awe." Now Bush is shocked and the voters are saying "awww."

What happened? According to Chris Cillizza, fantastic fundraising, the best staff money can buy, tons of connections, and good wishes from other politicians aren't enough when the candidate doesn't fit the party any more. The Republican Party of 2015 is nothing like the Party that nominated his brother in 2000. Jeb is wonky and nerdy in a party that is not interested in well-thought-out plans on how to govern. It wants to burn the place down. To top it off, Bush has not been a strong candidate. He seems to have a tin ear and makes gaffes over and over. He is polling sixth in Iowa and fifth in New Hampshire and unless something dramatic happens soon, finishes outside the top three in both states are going to cause almost everyone to write him off for good. (V)

Trump's Secret: Blue-Collar Voters

Ron Brownstein at National Journal, always an acute observer of matters political, has written a piece explaining in two sentences why Donald Trump is doing so well.

  1. Trump has consolidated the blue-collar wing of the Republican party.
  2. The white-collar wing is fragmented over many candidates.

State and national polls show that blue-collar workers are very receptive to his hard-line message on immigration, his opposition to trade agreements, and his view that Washington doesn't work for normal Americans any more. In contrast, white-collar workers don't agree with his stands on immigration and trade and don't think he is qualified to be President (let alone have his finger on the nuclear trigger). To some extent, Ben Carson is also stronger with blue-collar workers than with white-collar workers, although he does draw some support from white-collar evangelicals.

Brownstein thinks that sooner or later, the more upscale Republicans will unify around a single candidate and that candidate and Trump will go down to the wire. With Bush hurting so badly now, it could end up being Trump vs. Rubio, although Sen. Ted. Cruz (R-TX) could also end up in the finals. Brownstein also explains that the pundits are so surprised by Trump because they all have college degrees and don't think like blue-collar workers. (V)

Bill Clinton Hits the Campaign Trail for Hillary

So far, Hillary Clinton hasn't deployed her biggest weapon: her husband. That is about to change as Bill will highlight a rally in Des Moines, Iowa, Saturday. This is no doubt a smart move on Hillary's part as Bill is still one of the most popular politicians in America. Bernie Sanders is married, too, to Jane O'Meara Driscoll, President of Goddard College in Vermont until 2011. But although she is his trusted advisor, she can't draw the kind of crowds Bill Clinton can. (V)

Democrats Are in Deep Trouble and Are Not Even Aware of It

Most of the energy on the Democratic side of the aisle is being completely wasted. There are endless battles among Democrats about whether it is better to have a slightly left-of-center President (Hillary Clinton) or a slightly more left-of-center President (Bernie Sanders). In reality, it doesn't matter that much which one is nominated because the minimum wage won't go to $12/hour (Clinton's plan) or $15/hour (Sanders' plan) even if one of them wins the Presidency. It will stay right where it is now ($7.25/hour) because the Republican-controlled House will never pass a bill raising it a penny.

But while a huge amount of energy is going into the battle for the Democratic presidential nomination, the Republicans currently control both chambers of Congress, 70% of the state legislatures, 60% of the governor's mansions, and 55% of the state attorneys general and secretaries of state. While in a big Democratic wave the Senate might (barely) flip, it is almost inconceivable that come 2017 the Democrats will have a majority of the state legislatures, governor's mansions, and lower statewide offices. And they are hardly making much of an effort there.

The Republicans have total control (governor + state legislature) in 25 states. The Democrats have it in 7 states. Here is the map showing the states where the Republicans have the trifecta, the states where the Democrats have the trifecta, and the states that are divided.

Trifecta map

With the federal government likely to be completely deadlocked at least until 2020, when the House is regerrymandered (if that is a word), all the legislative action is at the state level. California, for example, recently followed Oregon in automatically registering every driver's license applicant as a voter. No red state has any plans to do that. In fact the reverse is true. The Republican-controlled states have been actively legislating in the following areas:

  • Requiring photo ID to vote and generally making it more difficult to vote
  • Passing right-to-work laws in the Midwest, which has the effect of weakening unions
  • Implementing large-scale layoffs of teachers and public-sector employees who skew Democratic
  • Restricting abortions in a myriad of ways

Except for the expansion of the franchise in California and Oregon and increases in the minimum wage in scattered places, Democrats have achieved relatively little of their legislative agenda and don't seem to have much focus on capturing state government. In fact, in four of the bluest states—Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, and New Jersey—the governor is a Republican who can and will veto any progressive bills coming out of the Democratically-controlled state legislatures. In short, at the state level, by and large, the Republicans run the show and are using it govern as they see fit. (V)

Deeper Trouble, or Possibly a Silver Lining

Reflecting on the Matthew Yglesias story linked to above, ThinkProgress has responded with its own analysis in which they note (as have we) that the Supreme Court could be just as critical to the fate of the Democrats—or even more so—than the Republican-controlled Congress.

If the Democrats can take the White House, particularly if they hold it for eight years, they will likely be able to shift the balance on the Supreme Court from 4 liberals, 4 conservatives, and 1 semi-conservative to a liberal majority (perhaps even a two-thirds liberal majority). They could then make some progress on issues like the gerrymander, where upcoming cases will have a big impact on the future of the practice. On the other hand, if the Republicans claim the White House, it raises the possibility that the Court will be staffed with John Roberts and a passel of young Samuel Alitos. This would likely allow the GOP to control the judicial branch for a generation or more, meaning that even if the Democrats gained control of the other two branches, they might achieve very little in the long term. In other words, the Democrats have a fair number of things to keep them up at night. (Z)

Canada Has a New Prime Minister

The folks to the north have gone to the polls and, as predicted, the Liberal Party was triumphant, winning an outright majority in the Canadian Parliament. Their leader, Justin Trudeau, son of former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, will be the new Prime Minister. All those "No dynasties" bumper stickers didn't do the job there and while the excess ones may get shipped south, even in the event of Hillary Clinton or Jeb Bush as general election candidates, they are unlikely to do much better. It doesn't seem to be an issue.

Jeb Bush is having a lot of trouble defending his brother's record, but his problem is not "too many Bushes," so much as it is that the previous one was not popular. When Donald Trump suggested that Bush 43 might have had some responsibility for 9/11, Jeb just blew it off. Just wait until somebody brings up 43's infamous Aug. 6, 2001 CIA briefing entitled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S." Trump or someone else could then ask "And what action did your brother take to avert the impending disaster?" Hillary has no such "dynastic" problem since her husband was and is quite popular and many people would be quite happy to have the 1990s economy come back.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the news from Canada, for those of us to the south, is how wrong the pollsters were. The Liberals were projected to claim approximately 145 seats—a plurality, but not the 170 needed for a majority. Instead, they took 184. The Conservatives were expected to take 120 seats while the New Democrats were pegged for 65. In fact, they claimed 99 and 44.

This is second major Western election this year that the pollsters blew, following on the heels of the UK's general election in May, which British and American pollsters both fumbled badly. A parliamentary election is more difficult to project than a presidential election, but these results nonetheless remind us that pollsters are in a brave new world of cell phones and low-response rates, and that they will need to get creative if they don't want to have egg on their faces on November 9, 2016. (Z & V)

Congressman Will Try to Impeach Clinton on Day 1

Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) has announced that he does not care what comes of the Benghazi or e-mail investigations because he is already convinced Hillary Clinton "has committed high crimes and misdemeanors." As such, if she is elected president, he plans to begin impeachment proceedings on her first day in office.

This is, first of all, extraordinarily bad democracy. Impeachment is an extreme measure, and one that should be used only in extraordinary circumstances. Tossing this option around cavalierly inherently weakens the Presidency, the Congress, and the Constitution by politicizing an exceedingly powerful legal doctrine of last recourse. Further, if Republicans in Congress were to somehow succeed in using parliamentary trickery to overturn the outcome of a lawfully conducted election (which is very, very, very unlikely) then the country could be in chaos. Suppose Clinton was impeached and convicted. Then the Vice President, say HUD Secretary Julian Castro for argument's sake, would become President. Since he was on a roll, Brooks might then try to impeach Castro on the grounds that the other Castro was a nasty Communist dictator and he assumes they are related. If that also worked, the Republican House Speaker would become President, assuming the Republicans can pick a Speaker by then. In effect, we'd then have a parliamentary system in which the legislature can remove the President simply by voting for it (although it takes a 2/3 majority in the Senate to convict). Paul Ryan has always wanted to be President, so maybe The Brooks Plan will encourage him to take the Speaker's job.

Of course, Brooks knows that impeachment is an impossibility, and his announcement is just politicking. However, it is also extraordinarily bad politics, at least at the national level. If the GOP wants to cultivate the impression that they are offering serious and substantive critiques of Hillary Clinton, as opposed to personal attacks and witch hunting, talk of impeachment does not help that case.

On the other hand, threatening Hillary Clinton with impeachment is almost certainly very good politics at the local level. Brooks represents Alabama's 5th District, whose current shape comes from a 2012 map so gerrymandered that the Supreme Court ordered Alabama to fix it (they are appealing). Before the gerrymander, Brooks was winning his elections by a comfortable margin of 12-17 points. In the one election since, he won by 49 points. He is thus a case study in how gerrymandering can backfire, a lesson that House Republicans are learning in painful fashion right now. This gives some small glimmer of hope—albeit a very small glimmer—that both parties may eventually reject the practice. (Z & V)

A Congressional Coalition?

Following Kevin McCarthy's departure from the race to be Speaker of the House, we suggested that a coalition Speakership was a longshot possibility, with moderate Republicans turning their backs on the Freedom Caucus and partnering with the Democrats. It is still a longshot—Plan C, where "Paul Ryan" is Plan A, and "mystery solution" is Plan B—but a longshot that members are now discussing openly.

It is hard to know how serious such talk is. Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA) may just be floating a bit of a trial balloon to see how Republican voters respond to the idea, and possibly also to warn the Freedom Caucus not to push their luck. The arrangement seems particularly tricky in an election year, when the parties want to highlight their differences and not their areas of agreement. However, the move could give a nice boost to the moderate faction of the Republican Party and its seemingly more electable presidential candidates (Bush, Kasich, etc.) In any event, an unlikely possibility is, at least for the moment, becoming a bit less unlikely. (Z)

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---The Votemaster
Oct19 Suppose Biden Continues To Keep Mum
Oct19 It's Election Day, Eh
Oct19 Fiorina Slumping Again
Oct19 Could Ending the Gerrymander Fix the House?
Oct19 Ryan May Be Open To Running for Speaker
Oct19 Cruz Wins Conservative Caucus Vote in New Hampshire
Oct19 Mothers Condemn Benghazi Ad
Oct18 Clinton Spending Vast Sums on Infrastructure
Oct18 Republican Pretenders Must Soon Face Reality
Oct18 Rubio and Bush Begin To Go After Each Other
Oct18 The Decline and Fall of the Republican Party?
Oct18 Stumped by Trump
Oct18 Why Has Paid Family Leave Become a Big Campaign Issue?
Oct18 Some Campaign Donors Will Get Refunds
Oct18 Clinton Spending Vast Sums on Infrastructure
Oct18 Republican Pretenders Must Soon Face Reality
Oct18 Rubio and Bush Begin To Go After Each Other
Oct18 The Decline and Fall of the Republican Party?
Oct18 Stumped by Trump
Oct18 Why Has Paid Family Leave Become a Big Campaign Issue?
Oct18 Some Campaign Donors Will Get Refunds
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?