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

Hill Bets on Hill

Polling at this stage of the game is known to be fairly unreliable, as both President Giuliani and President Perry can attest. So what else is there? Betting on political outcomes is illegal in the U.S. with minor exceptions like the Iowa Election Markets, which is actually a scientific experiment run by the business school at the University of Iowa.

However, elsewhere in the world, bets on politics are legal and there are reputable firms that take sports, political, and other bets. One of the best-known firms in the U.K. is William Hill. One of the best-known in Ireland is PaddyPower. Both of them accept bets on the U.S. presidential election.

The payouts are roughly determined like this. All the money bet on a race (like who wins a nomination or the presidency) is put in a pot. The winners get their initial bets back, plus a share of the losers' bets (minus the vig). Take the Democratic nomination as a simple example. If 15 people bet $1 on Hillary Clinton, 15 people bet $1 on Bernie Sanders, and 5 people bet $1 on Lincoln Chafee there would be $35 in the pot. If Clinton won, that would leave $20 in losing bets for the winners to split. The book would take their 10% from the losing bets, leaving each of the Clinton bettors 1/15 of $18, or $1.20. The Clinton bettors would then get their $1 back, plus their $1.20 in winnings. This would mean that the bettors got 6-to-5 odds, which is precisely what William Hill is giving right now. If Lincoln Chafee won, by contrast, that would leave $30 in losing bets for the winners to split. The book would take their 10% from the losing bets, leaving each of the Chafee bettors 1/5 of $27, or $5.40. The Chafee bettors would then get their $1 back, plus their $5.40 in winnings. That would mean the bettors got a little better than 5-to-1 odds, which is considerably worse than William Hill is offering right now.

In any event, The table below gives you an idea of what bettors so far are thinking. It provides the current expected winnings for each dollar wagered. For example, if you place a bet of $1 with William Hill that Hillary Clinton will be elected President, and she is, you get your $1 back plus $1.20. If she loses, you get nothing. If you are convinced that Rick Santorum has it in the bag, your dollar will generate a $150 profit if he wins. Below are the payouts from both William Hill and PaddyPower for the candidates they list.

Candidate William Hill PaddyPower
Hillary Clinton $1.20 $1.25
Donald Trump $6.00 $5.00
Joe Biden $6.50 $8.00
Jeb Bush $6.50 $8.00
Marco Rubio $7.00 $6.00
Bernie Sanders $8.00 $8.00
Carly Fiorina $28.00 $18.00
Ben Carson $33.00 $25.00
John Kasich $40.00 $33.00
Chris Christie $40.00 $40.00
Ted Cruz $50.00 $50.00
Mitt Romney $50.00 $50.00
Mike Huckabee $50.00 $50.00
Rand Paul $66.00 $33.00
Martin O'Malley $100.00 $100.00
Rick Santorum $150.00 $66.00
George Pataki $150.00 $100.00
Lindsey Graham $150.00 ?
Bobby Jindal ? $40.00

William Hill also allows you to place a bet on which party will capture the White House. The current payout for a Democrat winning is $1.67. For a Republican it is $2.20. This means the bettors think a Democrat will win, and they would place the odds of that possibility at around 60%. Coupled with the specific odds on Hillary Clinton, it means that William Hill bettors are giving her a slightly better chance of winning the White House than everyone else running for president, combined (about a 52% chance). Note: If you get excited about this and decide to bet you will notice the odds are different from our table as they are updated continuously in real time. (V & Z)

Supreme Court Gets Another Sensitive Election Case

The Supreme Court has had an enormous impact on elections with its decisions in two recent cases. In Citizens United v. FEC, it struck down laws that limited the influence of corporations, unions, and billionaires, leaving them free to pour as much money into Super PACs as they want to. In Shelby County v. Holder it struck down parts of the Voting Rights Act, letting states make it as difficult to vote as they want. In a new case, Evenwel v. Abbott, the plaintiffs want to change the way seats are apportioned in the House of Representatives. Currently it is done in proportion to the number of people living in each state. The plaintiffs want to change that to make it proportional to the number of eligible voters in each state. In other words, they don't want undocumented immigrants, felons, and children to count in the process. If the Court sides with the plaintiffs, it will dramatically increase the number of Republicans in the House because undocumented immigrants are largely clustered in blue states, which would lose representatives and electoral votes. The only red state to be affected much would be Texas.

Trying to figure out how many people live in each state is a massive project and undertaken only once every 10 years in the census. The census questionnaire does not ask anything about citizenship, previous history of felonies, or anything on which to base the calculation, so as a practical matter there would be chaos if the government had to determine how many eligible voters lived in each state, followed by endless lawsuits. In principle, it would be possible to get a count of registered voters, but many eligible voters are not registered, so that wouldn't do the job.

On a more philosophical level, the founding fathers well understood that not every person was an eligible voter. The exact wording of Art. I Sec. 2 of the Constitution reads:

Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.

So the exact wording refers to "free Persons" not "citizens" and certainly not "eligible voters." At the time the Constitution was written, only propertied white males could vote— a small fraction of the population—so the framers obviously understood the difference between "eligible voters" and "free Persons."

In theory, Supreme Court justices who consider themselves "originalists" should throw the case out since the wording of the Constitution makes it abundantly clear the framers meant "everybody counts" except for slaves and Indians not taxed, which were special cases until the 15th Amendment was adopted. But with today's partisan Court, it is entirely possible that it will be a close vote. (V)

Ryan or Bust for Main Street Republicans?

It's only whispers so far, but the National Journal is reporting that some moderate Republican members of Congress who are facing difficult reelection battles may choose to retire if Paul Ryan does not become Speaker of the House.

This may be for real—after all, John Boehner just quit Congress for similar reasons. It could also be idle grumbling, or a thinly-veiled warning directed at the Freedom Caucus. Until someone puts their name behind the threat, it is hard to take it too seriously. However, the story nonetheless suggests a dynamic that could play an important role in next year's elections. Congress' approval ratings are historically abysmal right now, and have been for several years, with only 10% of Americans (give or take a couple of points) approving of the job the legislature is doing. Generally speaking, voters do not express their anger with "Congress" by punishing their own representative, whom they may like very much. But in a fairly balanced district—say an R+1 or a D+2—it only takes a small percentage of the electorate to flip the result. In other words, it is unlikely that 30% of voters would back a challenger because those voters are angry with Congress, but it's not hard to see 5% of them doing so. As such, the Speaker drama may come back to haunt many Main Street Republicans, whether they throw in the towel or not.

Ryan met with his colleagues yesterday. Reports say that he will take the job under pressure but only if the caucus unites behind him. What that probably means in practice is that Ryan told them he would be willing to change the House rules a little bit to mollify the Freedom Caucus, but after that, they had better do as they are told. In particular, he doesn't want to hold the government hostage as budget bills, debt ceiling bills, and other must-pass bills come to the floor.

However, even this deal may not be adequate for some conservatives. Ryan has supported immigration reform in the past and this is anathema to most of them so they fundamentally don't trust him and certainly don't want him to bring the immigration bill the Senate passed to a floor vote as it would surely pass with most Democrats and a handful of Republicans voting for it. The last thing the conservatives want is to face their constituents next year after Congress has granted "amnesty" to 11 million undocumented immigrants. So the bottom line is even if Ryan runs for the job and gets it, what happens next is still far from clear. (Z & V)

Rubio's Turn to Beat the (Tin) Drum

Yesterday, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) gave a fiery speech in which he said that federal workers who do not do their jobs should be fired. Then, he showed up to his first Senate vote in four weeks.

Jeb Bush, Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ), Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA), Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and several of the other Republican contenders have taken turns showing off their tin ear this year—saying things that appear thoughtless, insensitive, or hypocritical. Now it was Rubio's turn. The modern presidential candidate lives in a world dominated by television, the Internet, and social media. Something that is scandalous/offensive but complicated may slip by the voting public, particularly if it cannot be distilled down to 140 characters. But setting yourself up for something as simple as "He skips work all the time, while attacking others for doing the same" (71 characters!) is an inexcusable political blunder, particularly for someone whose party opposes welfare and tries to appeal to hardworking blue-collar voters. Marco Rubio should either make a point of getting back to Washington for far more votes, or should resign his Senate seat, since he says he is retiring anyhow. Unless, of course, he's not actually planning to retire if this presidential thing doesn't work out. (Z)

Is Biden Going to Run to Clinton's Right?

In keeping with the journalistic tradition of turning every utterance of Vice President Joe Biden into a Big Deal, we offer this today. Yesterday Biden said: "it's naive to think the country can be governed without working with Republicans." Does this mean that Biden has concluded that he can't run to Clinton's left because he realizes that Bernie Sanders' supporters aren't going to switch horses in midstream? To top this off, Biden also said: "I actually like Dick Cheney, for real. I get on with him. I think he's a decent man." If his idea was to guarantee that not a single Sanders' supporter will vote for him, Biden found the perfect message. Among Sanders' supporters, Cheney is probably the most hated person in the country, even more than George W. Bush.

So what is Biden thinking? He's not stupid and he's seen up close for the past 7 years the Republicans have absolutely refused to do business with President Obama on anything. He knows Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) very well and fully understands McConnell will not do business with him either, other than keeping the government open. Most likely Biden is making a subtle pitch to the millions of voters who say every day: "Why can't the politicans just work together for the benefit of the country?" If he were honest (not a wise idea in politics), he could say: "Because they want different things. Democrats want to raise taxes on the rich, grant citizenship to undocumented immigrants, and keep abortion legal. Republicans want to slash taxes on the rich, deport undocumented immigrants, and ban abortion. How do you expect us to work together?"

But Biden has a history of saying things without thinking them through carefully, so maybe these remarks do not foreshadow a run to Clinton's right. But maybe they do. Who knows? (V)

Webb Drops Out of Democratic Race But May Run as an Independent

Recognizing that there is probably no place left for him in the Democratic Party, former Virginia senator Jim Webb dropped out of the race for the Democratic presidential nomination yesterday. He is reportedly considering a run for President as an independent.

It is hard to know exactly what Webb's purpose would be. The only viable path to the presidency as a third-party candidate—and it is a longshot—is to deny the major party candidates from claiming an Electoral College majority. This would send the election to the House of Representatives, who would then decide the election on a state-by-state basis, with each state getting one vote. This was Theodore Roosevelt's (unsuccessful) strategy in 1912, for example—he hoped that the election would reach the Republican-controlled Congress, and that they would prefer him to the Democrat Woodrow Wilson or the more conservative and less popular Republican William Howard Taft.

Webb surely cannot think his popularity is great enough to impact an election in this way. Some third-party candidates run to draw attention to their pet issues (for example, anyone who runs under the banner of the Green Party), but Webb does not have an obvious cause of this sort. He might also want to be a spoiler, but he's only polling at 1% in the Democratic race, and the Republicans already have plenty of East Coast moderates (Christie, Bush, Pataki, etc.), so it is hard to see where he thinks he would draw votes from. There is also the little matter of getting money for a campaign. If Donald Trump loses the Republican nomination and takes it badly, he could retract his promise not to run as an independent and do it anyway. We know where he would get his financing. Webb doesn't have a $4 billion bank account he can use for his campaign. Most likely, his "threat" to run as an independent is just a continuation of the whining he did on stage last week, when he constantly complained about not getting enough air time. (Z & V)

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---The Votemaster
Oct20 Post-Debate Poll: Clinton Still Way Ahead of Sanders
Oct20 Jeb Bush No Longer Mr. Inevitable
Oct20 Trump's Secret: Blue-Collar Voters
Oct20 Bill Clinton Hits the Campaign Trail for Hillary
Oct20 Democrats Are in Deep Trouble and Are Not Even Aware of It
Oct20 Deeper Trouble, or Possibly a Silver Lining
Oct20 Canada Has a New Prime Minister
Oct20 Congressman Will Try to Impeach Clinton on Day 1
Oct20 A Congressional Coalition?
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