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

Hillary Clinton Came, She Saw, and ... She Conquered?

Hillary Clinton appeared for several hours before the congressional committee investigating Benghazi, and the general consensus is that Trey Gowdy and the other GOP members of the committee were outclassed. MSNBC's Steve Benen, for example, wonders:

Which strategic genius in the Republican Party thought it'd be a good idea to pit Hillary Clinton against obscure, unprepared, far-right members of Congress? Why on earth would the GOP go out of its way to make the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination look like the adult in the room?

The conservative media were similarly underwhelmed. For example, John Podhoretz of the New York Post and the Weekly Standard, tweeted:

Why doesn't [Rep. Mike] Pompeo [(R-KS)] just go over and swear her in for president now--if he goes on like this he'll practically get her elected.

Perhaps Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) will continue tilting at windmills—the investigation has already lasted longer than the Congressional investigations into 9/11 or Watergate. However, we have now reached the point that 75% of Americans think the investigation is politically motivated, while 60% say they are no longer interested in the story. The political calculus suggests it is time for the GOP to cut its losses. (Z)

Political Market Did Not React to Biden's Decision

Yesterday, RNC chairman Reince Priebus said that Vice President Joe Biden's decision not to run for President was a "major blow" to the Democrats. While it will be a week or so before we have any new general election polls taken after Biden's announcement, other indicators are available immediately. One of them is the Iowa Election Markets, a real-time market where you can buy "shares" in political outcomes. One of the markets is the winner-take-all presidential race by party. Currently, you can buy 100 shares of "Democrats win the popular vote" for $62, slightly up from the $61 it was a week ago. If a Democrat wins the popular vote, your 100 shares are worth $100 the day after the election, otherwise they are worthless. A contract for 100 shares of "Republicans win the popular vote" is $38, down $2 from a week ago. In other words, Biden's announcement didn't really change anyone's perception of which party will win.

Unlike the betting markets we discussed yesterday, IEM is like the stock market: Every transaction involves a buyer and a seller of the contract, each trying to get the most advantageous price, with bid and asked prices. When there are more buyers than sellers for a contract, its price goes up. When there are more sellers than buyers, the price goes down. Here are the price graphs for the contracts since Nov. 2014:

IEM graph

The takeaway here is: Nothing happened. Biden's withdrawal didn't spook the market at all, which reacts quickly to major news. So Priebus may think Biden's move is a big hit to the Democrats, but people with real money on the line didn't seem to think it mattered much. (V)

Massive Ad Campaign Doesn't Help Bush in New Hampshire

Money can't buy you love and in Jeb Bush's case, doesn't seem to be able to buy votes either. Despite a month of heavy positive pro-Bush ads in New Hampshire, Bush is still in third place in the polls at 10%, slightly down from the 11% he had 6 months ago. New Hampshire is probably Bush's best shot among the early states, since New Hampshire Republicans are not as conservative as those in Iowa and South Carolina. If he indeed comes in third at 10% in his best state, the media narrative won't be good for him. The numbers from the Saint Anselm College poll are given below.

New Hampshire
Rank Candidate Pct
1 Donald Trump 24%
2 Ben Carson 17%
3 Jeb Bush 10%
4 Marco Rubio 8%
5 Carly Fiorina 7%
5 John Kasich 7%
7 Chris Christie 5%
8 Ted Cruz 4%
8 Rand Paul 4%
10 Mike Huckabee 1%
10 Lindsey Graham 1%
10 Rick Santorum 1%
  Bobby Jindal <1%
  George Pataki <1%
  Jim Gilmore <1%

The poll also asked for the candidates' favorable/unfavorable ratings and they don't seem to correlate well with the rankings. Bush's favorable/unfavorable ratio, 57%/39% is almost identical to Trump's (58%/39%) yet he is preferred by far fewer voters. Even more surprising is Carly Fiorina's ratio, 67%/19%. Everyone loves her but she is still in fifth place. The candidate with the strongest favorables, Ben Carson (74%/14%) at least scores high in the rankings. One would expect a bit more correlation between the two measures. (V)

Why Is Clinton Targeting the Middle Class?

Have you wondered why Hillary Clinton keeps talking about the middle class over and over and over? It is because being part of it is a distant memory to millions of people. Yesterday, the Social Security Administration released a table showing how much Americans earn. Here is an excerpt from the table. Of particular note is that 72% of workers make less than $50,000/year, what some economists say is needed for a middle-class lifestyle.

Annual wage Pct below annual wage
$20,000 31%
$25,000 45%
$30,000 51%
$35,000 57%
$40,000 63%
$45,000 68%
$50,000 72%
$55,000 75%
$60,000 78%
$90,000 90%
$125,000 95%
$250,000 99%

What is telling here is that the federal poverty line for a family of four is $24,250. For a family of five it is $28,410. From the table above, you can see that roughly 45% of all wage earners would live in poverty if they were the only support for their four-person family. The median income for all wage earners is $28,851, which means that about half of all five-person families would be in poverty if they had only one breadwinner. For many of these people, both parents (if there are two parents living together) must work to survive, but the cost of child care may easily eat up one of the incomes.

There are no universally accepted definitions of what "middle class" means, although you can find plenty of statistics on median household income by state, which ranges from $38,000 in Mississippi to $72,500 in Maryland. However, making $38,000 in Mississippi doesn't mean you have a comfortable life with a house and a car and the ability to pay for college for your kids. It just means you are making more than half the people in the state.

Hillary Clinton didn't need this new data to tell her that a lot of people are hurting and that they are likely to be receptive to all her specific proposals for raising the minimum wage and child-care subsidies, paid family leave, and a lot more. And Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) goes way beyond her. The Republicans are surely aware of these data as well, but most of their economic proposals come down to tax cuts, and those would be primarily for the wealthy. Now, the GOP can and will argue that cutting taxes for the rich will generate more jobs, but for people who already have jobs but are barely making it, the siren song of "free stuff" like Clinton and Sanders are offering may be very tempting.

Karl Rove knew all of this 10 years ago and realized that just selling tax cuts for the rich wasn't going to seal the deal with the 72% of the people earning under $50,000 a year. That's why he pushed so hard on the social issues. It's hard to sell tax cuts for millionaires to someone making $30,000, but if you can throw in opposition to abortion and possible prejudice against gays, it could work. Only with so many younger voters being pro-abortion and pro-gay rights, the old strategy may not work any more, so the Republicans need to do some thinking about V2.0. (V)

Carson Suspends His Campaign

Actually, he suspended it a week ago, so he could go on a two-week book tour. For those wondering what Carson's end game is, given his consistent use of impolitic rhetoric that even angers a lot conservatives, The Root says the book tour gives us the answer—Carson is not running for president, he's auditioning for a lucrative media career. This makes a great deal of sense; asserting that Obamacare is like slavery, the Big Bang is a fairy tale, and Planned Parenthood is a plot to kill black babies is more likely to impress Fox News than the roughly 50% of the American public needed to win the presidency.

Somehow it seems ironic, though, that quite a few candidates who actually want to be President, like George Pataki, Jim Gilmore, and Bobby Jindal, are going absolutely nowhere, whereas Ben Carson, who has at least a small shot at being (Vice) President, doesn't even really want the job. (Z)

Two More Black Eyes for Trump

Donald Trump appears to be bulletproof, at least for now, so new embarrassments are likely not a problem. Nonetheless, he forgot one of the three fundamental rules of presidential politics on Thursday: You don't spit into the wind. You don't pull the mask off that old Lone Ranger. And you don't insult Iowa. After learning that Ben Carson had overtaken him in polling of Iowa voters, Donald took to Twitter to respond, retweeting a tweet that wondered if "Too much Monsanto in the corn creates issues in the brain." After an hour or so of blowback, Trump deleted the tweet and blamed it on an intern.

Meanwhile, Wednesday was Back to the Future Day. In the 1989 film Back to the Future II, main character Marty McFly travels to the distant future—October 21, 2015. The movie's screenwriter, Bob Gale, has been doing interviews in honor of that date's arrival, and he admitted that the villain Biff Tannen—an arrogant, loudmouthed bully with a very bad combover and a business empire rooted in corruption—was inspired by Donald Trump. Some of the film's predictions about the future were wrong (flying cars) and some were right (a baseball team in Miami). How well Gale did in guessing that Tannen-cum-Trump would destroy civilization as we know it by 2015 is, perhaps, in the eye of the beholder. (Z)

Biden Announces He Will Run for President

Well, not exactly. When a news event is going to happen but the outcome is not known, media outlets generally have two versions prepared, one for each possibility (just as they have obituaries ready for people not yet dead). The New York Times has just published the story it would have run had Biden decided to jump in. It highlights the problems he would have had, which is most likely why he didn't try to grab the brass ring. (V)

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---The Votemaster
Oct22 Biden Is Out
Oct22 Ryan Marching Toward Speakership
Oct22 Clinton to Testify Before Benghazi Committee Today
Oct22 National Review Senior Editor Ramesh Ponnuru Says Clinton Will Win White House
Oct22 Sanders Was Right
Oct22 Democrats Value Honesty, Republicans Want Intelligence
Oct22 Trump Speaks at a Fourth-Grade Level
Oct21 Hill Bets on Hill
Oct21 Supreme Court Gets Another Sensitive Election Case
Oct21 Ryan or Bust for Main Street Republicans?
Oct21 Rubio's Turn to Beat the (Tin) Drum
Oct21 Is Biden Going to Run to Clinton's Right?
Oct21 Webb Drops Out of Democratic Race But May Run as an Independent
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