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

Jeb Bush Shakes Up His Campaign

At this point, Jeb Bush probably wishes he listened to his mom, Barbara Bush, when she said, "We've had enough Bushes." Against her wishes and also against those of his wife, he let himself be dragged into the presidential race, probably because he expected to be handed the nomination on a silver platter and then go on to crush the email-afflicted Hillary Clinton. It hasn't quite worked out like that. He's polling badly in the early states and not doing much better nationally. So in one last ditch effort, he is shaking up his campaign with pay cuts, downsizing his staff, and cutting ties with some consultants. These are not actions that upbeat, powerful, confident campaigns undertake. The conservative National Review says: "Jeb Bush is Toast."

Earlier this year, Hillary Clinton was supposedly rooting for Jeb Bush to be the Republican nominee. At the time Politico published that story, many people thought it was a Clinton disinformation campaign, sort of like Brer Rabbit pleading with Brer Fox not to throw him into the briar patch. But now it appears the source was telling the truth. Clinton realized months ago that Bush would be a weak candidate and she nailed it. It is still likely that ultimately the outsider candidates—Donald Trump, Ben Carson, and Carly Fiorina—will flame out and a senator or governor will get the nomination, but at this point Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) looks a lot more likely than Bush. If Bush finally gives up, despite all the money his Super PAC raised and all the endorsements, he'll probably go visit his mother with his tail between his legs and say: "You were right, Mom. Mother knows best. I didn't listen. I'm sorry." (V)

People Aren't Betting on Bush Any More

The cuts to Jeb Bush's campaign staff are just the latest indication of his decline and fall as a presidential candidate. Other useful indicators, which we have spent a fair bit of time on this week, are the betting markets. They now have Marco Rubio as the Republican frontrunner.

We have argued that the markets are instructive because bettors are not speaking with their hearts, but instead with their cold, hard cash. This change in odds is particularly meaningful, because Jeb Bush has been the favorite for many months. For Marco Rubio to leapfrog him means that a sizable amount of money has been bet on the senator. It is not good news for Bush, who has thus far not demonstrated the kind of political skills that are needed to stop this kind of bleeding.

The New York Times has a nice tote board of the various indicators that may be useful for handicapping the presidential race: prediction markets, endorsements, Iowa polls, New Hampshire polls, and money raised. Rubio is currently doing well in the prediction markets (#1), fair in money and the Iowa polls (#3 in both), and not great in endorsements and the New Hampshire polls (#6, #5). Bush is, of course, doing well with money and endorsements (#1 in both), and is holding at #2 in the betting markets. Those may all trend downward fairly quickly, however, particularly since he is floundering in both the Iowa and New Hampshire polls (#6, #4). We shall see how he does in Wednesday's debate, which may be a "must win" for him. (Z)

What Does the House Freedom Caucus Want?

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) asked the House Freedom Caucus for a formal endorsement and didn't get it, although a majority of its members have said they support him. Based on this, he is planning to be a candidate for Speaker of the House and will probably win. This doesn't mean he will have an easy time with the Freedom Caucus. It has a list of 21 items it wanted from him before providing a formal endorsement. He has said he will not negotiate on any of the items until after he is elected Speaker. The demands are mostly about rules and power in the House. Some of them are fairly arcane, such as the details about motions to vacate the chair. Others are about raw power. If you are really into inside baseball and want an explanation in plain English of precisely what the Caucus wants, the New York Times has published an excellent easy-to-understand guide. It covers topics such as:

  • Will you give up your power to choose committee chairmen and give it to the members?
  • Can we buck the leadership without fear of retribution?
  • Will you work with the Democrats to pass bills we oppose?
  • Are you going to use procedural tricks to circumvent us?
  • Can we count on you 100% to repeal Obamacare?
  • The Export-Import Bank is dead, right?
  • Do you promise to shut down the government in December if the Democrats refuse to cave to all our demands?
  • You will vote to impeach the I.R.S. Commissioner, right?
  • You will prevent anyone from trying to unseat us in 2016, won't you?

If Ryan were to give them even a fraction of their wishes, the rest of the Republicans in the House would mutiny. So he should have an exciting time as Speaker. There is a fairly good chance that if he ultimately accepts the job, he is giving up any chance of ever being President, something he actually wants. (V)

A Week is a Long Time in Politics

OK, make that 2 weeks, but Harold Wilson's famous remark certainly applies to Hillary Clinton. Two weeks ago, the Democrats had their knickers in a knot. Hillary Clinton was crashing in the polls on account of her email practices, Bernie Sanders could never win a general election, and Joe Biden was making Hamlet look decisive. It was all gloom and doom. Fast forward to now. Clinton had a very strong debate performance, she made the Republicans on the Benghazi committee look like partisan hacks, the 1.6-million-member union AFSCME has just endorsed her, and Bush is collapsing. All of a sudden she's back on the campaign trail, all smiles and enthusiasm, with Bill in tow tonight at the Iowa Democratic Party's Jefferson-Jackson dinner in Des Moines. Everything looks great for the moment, but check back in 2 weeks. (V)

Overturning Citizens United May Not Be a Panacea After All

The Supreme Court's ruling in Citizens United effectively allows corporations, lobbying groups, and billionaires to give unlimited funding to candidates (through Super PACs), while Joe Public is limited to a mere $2,700 (if he can afford it) in the primary and again in the general election. As such, the decision has become something of bugaboo for many Americans—both a symbol and a cause of what's wrong with the American political system. Not so fast says BYU political scientist Michael Barber.

In his soon-to-be-published research, Barber looked at the donors who give to political candidates, specifically comparing organizations and businesses to individuals. The organizations and businesses are primarily interested in someone who will work with them on their particular concerns (for example, Wal-Mart wants lower corporate taxes, while AARP wants bigger increases in Social Security). Otherwise, they are relatively unconcerned about the candidate's ideology and their stands on the issues. This is why a great many wealthy groups and individuals (including the pre-2016 Donald Trump) give generously to both Republican and Democratic candidates. Individual donors, by contrast, tend to give their hard-earned dollars to ideologically pure candidates (Think: tea party). Ergo, concludes Barber, anything that increases the power of individual donors is likely to lead to greater political polarization. Most Americans are presumably unhappy with candidates who are in the pockets of lobbyists and big business, but are also unhappy with gridlock and political grandstanding. It may well be that, absent total public funding of elections, all we can do is decide which is the lesser of two evils. (Z)

Lincoln Chafee Quits

The Democrats and Republicans are now tied: They have each lost two candidates so far. The most recent dropout is former Rhode Island senator and governor Lincoln Chafee. He used to be a Republican, then he was an independent for a bit. Now he is a Democrat. You don't actually have to be a Democrat to run for the Democratic presidential nomination—Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) isn't actually a Democrat—and he's doing fine. But there was never any rationale for a Chafee run, nobody had any interest in him, he polled below 1%, raised no money, and yesterday plugged the plug on the campaign. No one will miss him.

Besides Hillary Clinton and Sanders, the only serious Democratic candidate left is former Maryland governor Martin O'Malley. He is polling pretty close to zero but he might stay in a bit longer if the money holds out. At this point he must know he has virtually no chance to be President, but maybe, just maybe, if all the stars align, he could be the Vice Presidential nominee, given how old both of the leading Democrats are. Clinton will be 68 on Monday and Sanders is 74. O'Malley is 52.

The two Republicans who dropped out so far were actually viewed as serious candidates in the beginning, namely former Texas governor Rick Perry and Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI). But neither raised much money or polled well, so they both threw in the towel early. (V)

Time for the Death Penalty to Die?

A year out, it is difficult to know exactly which issues will bubble to the surface and become important in the 2016 campaign. In October of 2011, for example, Mitt Romney's Mormonism seemed to be a much bigger hurdle than it proved to be, while his tax returns were not on the commentariat's radar. The crystal ball for 2016 is still cloudy in some places, but one subject that has the potential to push its way to the forefront in the next six months is the death penalty.

In the past several years, as Slate points out, a disturbingly large number of executions have been badly botched. These are clearly a violation of the Constitution's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. Another issue is that lethal injection is essentially the only execution method in use today (and in many states is the only legally-allowed method). Hospitals, medical professionals, and pharmaceutical companies do not want to be in the business of providing the drugs used to kill people, and have almost universally refused to participate. As such, states are turning to illegally imported drugs from a shadowy businessman in India who does not appear to have any medical training. Breaking the law in order to execute someone so as to demonstrate how wrong it is to break the law is a bit of an incongruity. Some might even call it hypocrisy. And when Antonin Scalia himself predicts that the nation is nearing a tipping point on capital punishment, it says something.

Presidential candidates are reluctant to declare opposition to the death penalty, since the last nominee to do so—Michael Dukakis in 1988—was badly burned. Consequently, Bernie Sanders is the only candidate in either party to currently be on record against capital punishment. But that could well change, with Hillary Clinton naturally being most likely to embrace the issue. (Z)

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---The Votemaster
Oct23 Hillary Clinton Came, She Saw, and ... She Conquered?
Oct23 Political Market Did Not React to Biden's Decision
Oct23 Massive Ad Campaign Doesn't Help Bush in New Hampshire
Oct23 Why Is Clinton Targeting the Middle Class?
Oct23 Carson Suspends His Campaign
Oct23 Two More Black Eyes for Trump
Oct23 Biden Announces He Will Run for President
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