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

Bush Supporters Struggling to Pick Up the Pieces

Jeb Bush's top fundraisers aren't setting their hair on fire yet, but they are beginning to look for matches. One of his largest donors said: "It's frustrating for those of us who are supporters of his, those of us who know him." Another bundler put it this way: "I don't want to hear about this 'joyful tortoise' anymore, I want to see a wounded lion." Bush certainly hasn't given up and picked up a key endorsement yesterday, from former New Hampshire senator Judd Gregg. New Hampshire has now become critical for Bush. If he can't finish close to the top there, he's really in deep doo-doo.

The depth of Bush's problems was echoed by Politico's special panel of Republican insiders, operatives, strategists, and activists in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada. Nearly 60% of them said Bush blew it [the debate]. Almost as many said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) was the winner. The panel was also impressed with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ). Not a single person in the group saw Donald Trump as the winner. (V)

CNBC Was the Biggest Loser Wednesday

Unlike the first two Republican debates and the one Democratic debate, all of which were fairly orderly, the CNBC debate this week was chaos. Many of the questions were small bore, the candidates got away without answering any of the hard ones, candidates went over their time limit repeatedly, and candidates and moderators got into arguments every few minutes. In addition, the audience, which was by invitation only to keep out students in very liberal Boulder, frequently interrupted the debate by booing.

Part of the mess was a result of conservatives' view that the media is liberal. When the say "media," they really mean the New York Times, CNN and MSNBC. Surely they don't mean Fox News, the Wall Street Journal, or USA Today, none of which can be called liberal. And it is very unlikely the "liberal media" includes Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, Michael Savage, Laura Ingraham, Monica Crowley, Mark Levin, and a host of other personalities who dominate radio. But because conservatives are convinced the media are against them, candidates get cheers when they bash the media. That strategy won't work as well next time as the Nov. 10 debate is hosted by Fox Business and the Wall Street Journal. (V)

Truth Was Another Loser at GOP Debate

On Wednesday night, FactCheck did its usual analysis of the Republican debate. Their report was not flattering, uncovering nine different serious distortions or lies that issued forth from the Republican candidates. By Thursday afternoon, there had been time for the rest of the media to do a thorough fisking, and their conclusions were even more critical.

The 800-pound-gorilla in the room that the debaters would not confront, even when prodded, is their tax plans. Since these tend to be the heart of the candidates' platforms, and in some cases (Trump) are the only specific policy proposal that has been put forward, they are kind of important. The outmatched CNBC moderators pointed out the math does not add up for several candidates' plans, and were unable to compel the debaters to do anything except deflect or reject these questions. Several good pieces followed up on the subject today, with The Atlantic explaining that the plans just won't work, the Huffington Post calling them "basically insane," and Slate trying to figure out which plan is the most delusional.

There have also been scores of items about individual candidates' falsehoods and distortions, from Donald Trump's critique of Mark Zuckerberg, to Chris Christie's claims about Bernie Sanders, to the fact that nearly every statistic related to the U.S. economy that the candidates gave was wrong. The candidate who may have been caught the most red-handed is Ben Carson, who unequivocally denied endorsing the supplements firm Mannatech. The problem is that videos of him doing just that are easily found online.

Playing fast and loose with the facts may be tolerable when the debates are a circus and all the other candidates are doing it. However, those sorts of shenanigans are not likely to work out for whatever candidate reaches the big leagues next year and has to go one-on-one with the Democratic nominee. (Z).

Bush and Rubio Are Now on a Collision Course

It was clear months ago that Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio would eventually butt heads. Both are from Florida so a Bush/Rubio ticket, which might make sense politically, is not an option. Many observers thought that the collision would come in March as the two slug it out for Florida's 99 delegates in the March 15 winner-take-all primary. But after Wednesday's shouting match, it looks like the battle is starting now and it looks like the young Turk is doing better than the old bull. The one thing Bush has that Rubio does not is a super PAC that raised $100 million. But as the billionaires begin circling to see where they want to drop their millions, it seems increasingly likely that Rubio will get a large piece of the action, evening up the money score.

What Bush needs to do—and fast—is take Rubio down a couple of pegs to make the billionaires wait before sprinkling dollars on him. No doubt he will try to do that. The two meet again tomorrow at a forum in Des Moines hosted by the Iowa Republican Party. (V)

For All His Strengths, Rubio also Has Serious Weaknesses

The general consensus is that Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) won the third GOP debate, and that he is the frontrunner for the nomination once the non-serious candidates are out of the race. This perception is partly rooted in the fact that he has looked very presidential throughout much of the debates, delivering answers smoothly and with conviction. However, he is only at his best when offering pre-packaged talking points. As Salon, observes, he is not terribly good at serious policy discussions. And as MSNBC's Steve Benen notes, it is clear from the debates that Rubio does not think on his feet well.

These problems are largely manageable for a skilled campaign manager. They can tightly control Rubio's appearances, making sure he's not often put in the position of speaking off the cuff. It certainly worked for Ronald Reagan, who was great at delivery, but not at crafting his words (he famously went to cocktail parties with index cards that contained the "lines" he would be use for small talk). The one fly in the Rubio ointment would be when he debates the Democratic candidate. Assuming a Clinton-Rubio matchup in the general election, she would try to schedule as many debates as is possible, and then would use those debates to push Rubio into places he's not prepared for. If the senator wants to move to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, he will need to take some improv classes, because it's not possible to plan and prepare for all contingencies when there are only two people on stage. (Z)

Another weakness Rubio has concerns his personal finances. Unlike many of the other candidates, Rubio is not a millionaire and he has struggled financially. By itself, that is a plus rather than a minus, since he can then claim to understand the problems of struggling Americans. The trouble is he has made some very bad decisions that are going to come back to haunt him. For example, when deep in debt, he purchased an $80,000 luxury boat. Couldn't he find an $8,000 boat? Also, he liquidated a $68,000 retirement account, something financial advisors say you should never do except in emergencies. As a consequence of this decision, he paid about $24,000 in taxes and penalties. He sold a house in Tallahassee for $18,000 less than he paid for it. He also used his personal credit card to pay for his campaigns and appointed his wife as treasurer of his political action committee. The list goes on. If he becomes the nominee, expect to find the complete list on the Website of Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders next summer. (Z & V)

Reid Calls on Rubio to Resign from the Senate

Following an editorial in the Florida Sun Sentinel Wednesday calling on Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) to resign from the Senate because he has missed so many votes, now Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is also calling on Rubio to resign. Rubio has already said he will not run for reelection next year, whether or not he is the Republican presidential nominee.

It is hard to fathom why Reid has called for Rubio to leave the Senate. Was it just to emphasize that he has missed many votes and is thus not doing his job? If so, it seems very shortsighted. Suppose Rubio heeds his advice and resigns. Then according to Florida law, Gov. Rick Scott (R-FL), a very conservative Republican, would get to appoint an interim senator who would serve until the next general election. Needless to say, that person would have a leg up on competitors for the seat, including Democrats. If Rubio stays in the Senate, even if he never shows up for work, it would be an open-seat election in Nov. 2016, giving the Democrats a much better shot at winning it. Maybe Reid knows Rubio well enough to know that he won't resign (or can't afford to), so he can safely hound Rubio without any danger of creating a Republican incumbent. (V)

Rubio and Cruz Each Raise A Million Dollars Since Debate

How do you measure who "won" the Republican debate? Instapolls are worthless since the samples are always very biased, depending on who is running the poll. Scientific polls are much better, but take about a week to come in. One measure that is quick, however, is fundraising, and both Rubio and Cruz claim to have raised nearly a million dollars each since Wednesday. If that is true, it certainly propels both of them forward considerably. (V)

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---The Votemaster
Oct29 Rubio and Cruz Shine at Chaotic Debate
Oct29 Could Bush Come Back Like McCain Did in 2008?
Oct29 Rafael Cruz is Too Busy To Campaign in Iowa So He Sent Rafael Cruz There
Oct29 Could a Cruz Nomination End the Gridlock?
Oct29 Florida Newspaper to Rubio: Resign
Oct28 Tonight's Debate is Number Three for the GOP
Oct28 Carson Passes Trump Nationally
Oct28 Trump Plays the Faith Card
Oct28 On Taxes, Republicans Go for Puppies and Rainbows
Oct28 Mark Kirk Is the Most Endangered Republican in the Country
Oct28 Could Hillary Clinton Really Be Beating Bernie Sanders by 41 Points in Iowa?
Oct28 Could It Be Cuban vs. Cuban in the End?
Oct27 Boehner Negotiates Stealth Budget Deal
Oct27 Carson Has Double-digit Lead in Iowa
Oct27 Republicans Are In Denial about Hillary Clinton's Chances
Oct27 Cruz Working on Texas
Oct27 Jeb Loads the Last Bullet into the Chamber
Oct27 Sharron Angle Might Run for the Senate Again in Nevada
Oct27 Hispanic Voters Don't Like Republicans
Oct27 Marco Rubio Doesn't Like the Senate
Oct26 Republican Voters See Trump as Strongest General Election Candidate
Oct26 Clinton Would Love to Face Trump
Oct26 Rubio Attacks Trump's Immigration Plan
Oct26 Carson Against Abortion Under All Circumstances
Oct26 Ross Douthat Meekly Predicts Rubio Will be the Republican Nominee
Oct26 Sanders Drawing Sharp Contrasts with Clinton
Oct26 No Smooth Sailing for Obamacare Repeal
Oct26 Fundraising Looks to Be No Problem for Ryan
Oct26 Republicans Facing a Tech Gap?
Oct25 Trump Attacks Carson's Religion
Oct25 Bushes Not Made for These Times?
Oct25 GOP Establishment Trying to Figure Out How To Attack Trump
Oct25 The Clinton and Clinton Show Hits Iowa
Oct25 Vitter Survives to Fight Another Day, Barely
Oct25 New Congressional Investigation: Planned Parenthood
Oct24 Jeb Bush Shakes Up His Campaign
Oct24 People Aren't Betting on Bush Any More
Oct24 What Does the House Freedom Caucus Want?
Oct24 A Week is a Long Time in Politics
Oct24 Overturning Citizens United May Not Be a Panacea After All
Oct24 Lincoln Chafee Quits
Oct24 Time for the Death Penalty to Die?
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