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

What to Look for in the Debate Tonight

The top 11 Republican presidential candidates face off tonight at the Ronald Reagan Library in Simi Valley, CA. It is a high-stakes event for most of the participants. Here are some things to watch for.

  • Donald Trump: Will he dominate again? Will the others fight back? Can he handle negative feedback?
  • Ben Carson: He is now #2, will he become a target? Will someone claim to love Jesus more than he does?
  • Jeb Bush: He was kind of wishy washy last time. Will he go after Trump hard or try to be a "grown-up"?
  • Ted Cruz: Will he continue to support Trump on the issues? Is he just waiting for Trump to collapse?
  • Marco Rubio: How will he handle the "outsiders"? Will he say they don't understand foreign policy?
  • Carly Fiorina: She is the candidate most likely to directly attack Trump. Can she pull it off?
  • Scott Walker: He is in free fall. He needs to do something spectacular to recover. What will it be?
  • Mike Huckabee: OK, he's in love with Kim Davis and wants to be the groom at her 5th wedding. Anything else?
  • John Kasich: He is climbing in the polls. Will he fight or try to be the other grown-up in the room?
  • Rand Paul: He is fading fast. This could be his last big chance to become relevant again
  • Chris Christie: Does anybody care what he thinks or says? Will he even get any questions?

Possibly the most exciting boxing match tonight will be Trump vs. Fiorina. Trump recently said of Fiorina: "Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that?" At the National Federation of Republican Women's convention last weekend she retorted: "This is the face of a 61-year-old woman. I am proud of every year and every wrinkle." Fiorina has everything to gain from going after him personally ("With all your money, why did you buy a cheap toupee on sale at Walmart for $39?) and/or professionally ("Unlike some of us on this stage, I've never gone bankrupt even once, let alone four times"). If she can get in a couple of clever sound bites, they will be replayed thousands of times tomorrow and she will zoom.

Dana Milbank of the Washington Post has some advice for all the non-Trump candidates: don't treat him as a candidate, treat him as a schoolyard bully. Go to StopBullying.gov and do a global substitution replacing each mention of "child" by "candidate." This explains why Jeb Bush's strategy of silence just makes the bully think his behavior is fine. Ted Cruz' strategy of encouraging the bully just enables him more. Roger Ailes (CEO of Fox News) alternately praises and admonishes the bully, which just makes him stronger. RNC Chairman Reince Priebus begged him to be nice. Never works. The Website's recommendation for dealing with bullies is for responsible adults to intervene instantly, consistently, and harshly when the bully goes out of bounds and make it clear his behavior is not acceptable. Milbank suggests that moderator Jake Tapper should do that tonight.

Besides the bullying and various fights between the insiders and outsiders, a key question is which of the insiders will emerge as the establishment choice when Trump finally collapses. Will it be Bush, Rubio, Walker, Kasich, or (unlikely) Paul?

Be Wary of Polls This Early

Republicans are panicking as Donald Trump goes up in the polls; Democrats are panicking as Hillary Clinton goes down in the polls. But polls this early are not all that reliable. Eight years ago at this point, Rudy Giuliani and Fred Thompson led the Republican polls and Hillary Clinton had a crushing 18-point lead over newbie senator Barack Somethingorother. Events can change the standings very quickly. Remember how Rick Perry, at one point the front runner in 2012, destroyed his career in 15 seconds by not being able to count to three? For example, something could happen in tonight's debate that suddenly moves a candidate way up or way down.

Iowa Electronic Markets Predict Democrats Will Win the White House

If you can't trust the polls this early, what else is there to look at? Sometimes pollsters ask two questions: "Who are you going to vote for?" and "Who do you think will win?" These aren't the same thing. For example, when questioned, a supporter of Chris Christie might say (1) Chris Christie, (2) Jeb Bush. This second question is a different data point and often useful.

However, there is also a third way of getting a handle on the election: what people do when their own money is at stake. The Iowa Electronic Markets allow people to place bets with real money on real-world events, such as which party will win the White House in 2016.

It works like this. You buy a futures contract on a specific event, such as a Democrat winning the White House. The price of the contract is determined by the market, just as with all futures contracts. So if you think the Democrats will win in 2016, this morning you could buy 100 shares of DEM16_WTA for $59.80. If a Democrat wins, you get $100. If some other party wins, you lose your money. f you think a Republican will be elected in 2016, you can 100 shares of REP16_WTA at the bargain price of $40.40. If a contract were available for the Libertarian Party winning (which it is not), the market would probably price 100 shares for a few pennies. Later in the year futures contracts for specific candidates will probably be available.

In effect, people putting their own money on the line are estimating the probability of a Democratic win at 0.60. People may tell pollsters anything to make a point, but when gambling with their own money, most people tell the truth. Here is a chart showing both contracts over time. Since Nov. 2014 the probability of a Democratic win has always been greater than 0.50 and the probability of a Republican win has never reached 0.50.

IEM chart

The Empire Strikes Back

Everyone knows that sooner or later the Republican establishment would take on Donald Trump. Well, it's sooner and it's here now. The Club for Growth has announced a $1 million ad buy in Iowa to run negative ads against Trump starting tomorrow. The two 30-second ads focus on his past support for liberal policies, such as single-payer health insurance. This will be an interesting test of how much damage such ads can do. If, as commonly thought, Trump's popularity is not due to his policy positions, but due to his willingness to say #?***!$#@*$!! to the Republican leadership, the ads may not have much effect. You can be sure a lot of people will be studying Trump's standing in Iowa before and after the ad campaign.

Could McCarthy Replace Boehner as Speaker?

Members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus want to shutdown the government if they can't get their way on defunding Planned Parenthood. House Speaker John Boehner does not want a shutdown since he knows the Republicans will get blamed and it could hurt them in 2016. But Boehner doesn't have enough Republican votes to pass the necessary funding bill so he is in a pickle. One way out is for him to go to Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and say: "Nancy, I have to talk to you, but first I need a cigarette. OK, I'll make you a deal. I'll bring a clean bill to fund the government to the floor and you tell the Democrats to vote for it. After it passes, it's Mitch's problem. When the crazies in my caucus try to remove me as Speaker, your folks support me. Deal?" That could work because the Speaker is elected by the entire House, not by the majority caucus.

Up until now, scenarios with conservatives trying to oust Boehner have run into a problem: who would be the new Speaker? Now they are warming to the idea of Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) as the new Speaker. McCarthy hasn't taken sides yet, but the threat of toppling Boehner if he makes a deal with Pelosi becomes more realistic if there is a potential alternative Speaker lined up.

Is the Country Coming Apart at the Seams?

Ronald Brownstein has an insightful piece in the National Journal about how the country is coming apart. It is e pluribus unum in reverse. In particular, the Republican base is deeply upset about demographic and cultural changes the country is undergoing and a lot of this anxiety is reflected in the rise of outside candidates who they hope can do the King Canute thing and command the tide to stop.

Immigration and demographics are only part of the picture. Another piece is the tension between black leaders and the police. Black leaders and Democrats in general feel the police are gunning down innocent, unarmed blacks for no reason at all while many Republicans feel it is the police who are under siege.

A third area which societal changes are very unsettling to many Republicans is the attitude toward gays and same-sex marriage. It used to be that gays hid deeply in the closet and it was easy to pretend they didn't exist. Now they are demanding their constitutional and legal rights. much like blacks did in the 1960s. For people who were raised in churches that proclaimed homosexuality is an abomination, this is hard to accept.

All these changes are tearing the fabric of the country apart in ways that will take a very long time to repair. Maybe it won't happen until most of the old people who cling to the past have died off (or at least have Alzheimer's disease).

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---The Votemaster
Sep15 Bush Debating How to Debate Tomorrow
Sep15 Fiorina Not Debating How to Debate
Sep15 Sanders Tries Reaching Out in Virginia
Sep15 Panic on Wall Street: Trump Could Win
Sep15 Could Hillary Pick Bill as Veep?
Sep14 Trump Is Ahead in the First Three States
Sep14 Sanders Leads in Two of the Early States
Sep14 Bernie Sanders' Southern Problem
Sep14 Poll Shows Clinton Beating Trump by Just 3 Points
Sep14 Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump Are Not Mirror Images of Each Other
Sep14 Congressional Democrats Divided over a Biden Run
Sep12 Perry Drops Out
Sep12 Walker Drops to 10th Place in Iowa
Sep12 Number of Democratic Debates Will Not Change
Sep12 Sanders' Challenge in South Carolina
Sep12 Romney's Team Wants to Stop Trump
Sep12 Hillary Clinton's Email Problem Explained
Sep11 Has Donald Trump Exposed a Fault Line Between the Elites and the People?
Sep11 New CNN/ORC Poll Puts Trump above 30%
Sep11 CNN Announces Debate Participants
Sep11 Biden Drops a Hint that He May Not Run
Sep11 Sanders Addresses the Congressional Black Caucus
Sep10 The Sheldon Adelson Primary Is in Full Swing
Sep10 Blue-State Republicans Matter
Sep10 Trump is Not At All Like Perot
Sep10 Bush Follows Trump on Taxes
Sep09 Can a Disorganized Party with 17 Candidates Beat an Incumbent Party?
Sep09 Huckabee and Cruz Rush to Meet Kim Davis
Sep09 Clinton Apologizes for Using a Private Email Server
Sep07 Ranking of the Republican Candidates
Sep07 Clinton Going South
Sep05 Republicans Are Quietly Plotting to Get Rid of Trump
Sep05 Kasich Is Running as a Politician
Sep05 Insiders Think Biden Will Not Run
Sep04 Trump Signs Loyalty Oath
Sep04 Heitkamp May Run for Governor
Sep04 Biden Still on the Fence about Run
Sep03 Nevada and South Carolina Will Be Critical in 2016
Sep03 Republicans Split on Defending Kentucky Clerk
Sep03 Some People Support Trump as a Protest Vote
Sep02 Winning Delegates Is What Counts
Sep02 Fiorina Will Make the Next Main Debate
Sep02 Ben Carson is Now in Second Place Nationally
Aug31 New Map Shows Dates of Primaries and Caucuses
Aug31 Clinton May Have 20% of the Needed Delegates Already
Aug31 Republicans Silent on Ashley Madison
Aug31 Trump May Sign Pledge Not to Run as an Independent
Aug27 First Look at the Senate
Aug25 RNC Chairman Reince Priebus Says Trump is a Net Positive
Aug25 Puerto Ricans Moving to Florida in Large Numbers