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

Fiorina Zooms to #2 in New CNN/ORC Poll

In a new CNN/ORC national poll of registered Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina has shot into second place behind Donald Trump, largely on the strength of her very strong performance in the second Republican debate. Here are the numbers.

Rank Candidate Pct
1 Donald Trump 24%
2 Carly Fiorina 15%
3 Ben Carson 14%
4 Marco Rubio 11%
5 Jeb Bush 9%
6 Ted Cruz 6%
6 Mike Huckabee 6%
8 Rand Paul 4%
9 Chris Christie 3%
10 John Kasich 2%
11 Rick Santorum 1%
  Jim Gilmore <1%
  Lindsey Graham <1%
  Bobby Jindal <1%
  George Pataki <1%
  Scott Walker <1%

Perhaps even more amazing than Fiorina's rise is Scott Walker's fall from grace. He was originally hyped as the Bush-killer, a Midwestern governor who had balanced budgets, beaten unions, and shown he could actually govern as a conservative, not just talk about it. Now he is below 1% along with George "Who?" Pataki and a few others.

Fiorina's rise and Walker's fall are indications of how unstable the race is. You make a couple of clever quips on the teevee and now you are #2 for President. It makes little sense. Walker is governor of an important state in a critical part of the country. That alone makes him a serious candidate. Fiorina is mostly famous for being fired in a spectacularly public way from a highly respected company that she almost drove into the ground. In a way she can be (unfavorably) compared to Michele Bachmann, who won the Iowa straw poll in 2012 and then had her 15 minutes of fame. But in Bachmann's favor, she was elected to Congress four times. It's not that business executives are implausible as presidential candidates (although the only businessman-President, Herbert Hoover, was not a great success). But a Bill Gates or a Steve Jobs could point to a track record of success that Fiorina cannot. Fiorina's standing in the polls is likely to be short lived as her opponents begin talking about her record of failure more.

Actually, the talk has already started. Yesterday Donald Trump, who after all, has some business credibility, said: "The Compaq computer deal was one of the worst deals made in business history. And she destroyed the company that she was at before then." Others are sure to pile on soon. People may want an outsider but Bill Gates is busy curing African children of terrible diseases and Steve Jobs is dead. How long can it be before Trump or someone else says to her: "I worked with Steve Jobs. I knew Steve Jobs. Steve Jobs was a friend of mine. Carly, you're no Steve Jobs."

It is almost as if the Republicans are so angry with "Washington" that they don't care about winning. They have four governors or former governors (Walker, Kasich, Christie, and Bush) and a plausible senator (Rubio) available, all of whom would be formidable general-election candidates. Nevertheless, the top three in the current poll, good for 53% of the total, are all weak to hopeless, while the five serious candidates add up to 25%. If Kim Kardashian were to announce she is running for President as a Republican, she would no doubt shoot up to the top instantly.

Ten Candidates Are One Percenters

We have heard a lot about millionaire and billionaire donors this year, but some of the candidates themselves are also pretty well heeled. A report from Politico shows that 14 presidential candidates, 12 Republicans and 2 Democrats, have a net worth of over $1 million. Ten of them (8 Republicans and 2 Democrats) exceed the $7.8 million threshold to make it into the 1% club (Jindal, at $7.6M, just missed). Here is a table from the report showing the estimated net worth of the 14 millionaires.

Rank Candidate Net worth
1 Donald Trump $1 billion
2 Carly Fiorina $59 million
3 Hillary Clinton $32 million
4 Lincoln Chafee $25 million
5 Jeb Bush $25 million
6 Ben Carson $14 million
7 John Kasich $13 million
8 Mike Huckabee $12 million
9 Gerorge Pataki $11 million
10 Jim Gilmore $8 million
11 Bobby Jindal $8 million
12 Ted Cruz $3 million
13 Chris Christie $2 million
14 Rand Paul $1 million

Even candidates who try to come over as "just plain folks," like Mike Huckabee ($12M) and Ben Carson ($14M) have a net worth that is two orders of magnitude more than the average family. For comparison purposes, the estimated median net worth of all American families in 2013 was $81,400. The mean was $528,400, which shows the enormous skew in the distribution.

In a sense, the presence of so many millionaires in the race is not surprising. Ordinary people are just barely making it. Running for President requires taking off 2-3 years from work and racking up huge expenses, not all of which are reimbursed by the campaign, even if it has the money. The days when a former hat maker from Missouri, like Harry Truman, could make it big in politics are long gone.

Not all the candidates are wealthy. Four of them are actually in debt: Scott Walker, Marco Rubio, Rick Santorum, and Martin O'Malley. However, with politicians, being in debt doesn't mean being poor. Rubio recently bought an $80,000 fishing boat, for example.

Report: Jill Biden Won't Stop Joe from Running

The very public saga of Vice President Joe Biden's possible entry into the presidential race took another turn yesterday with a report from NBC News that Biden's wife, Dr. Jill Biden, is "not an obstacle" to his running, despite the death of her stepson, Beau Biden, from brain cancer in May. Previous reports said that she was not ready for a grueling campaign against front-runner Hillary Clinton. Biden himself said only last week that he hasn't made a decision and didn't think anyone should run unless they could give 110% of themselves. If he jumps in now, the first reporter to get to him is going to check the gas gauge: "Mr. Vice President, are you 80% full? 90%? Where are you?" Biden has been testing the waters for weeks now, probably as much to see how full his tank is as to see what the voters think. All recent polls have shown that in a de facto three-way race between him, Hillary Clinton, and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), he draws as much support from Sanders as from Clinton, still leaving her with a comfortable lead.

Republicans Wrestling with Islam

Just before Pope Francis will visit the United States and is likely to discuss topics such as climate change that make Republicans uncomfortable, religion has been injected into the presidential race in a different way. Several Republicans have either outright rejected or are uncomfortable with the idea of a Muslim Commander in Chief. Ben Carson has stated and then repeated his belief that Islam is not consistent with the Constitution. Gov. John Kasich (R-OH) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) have said the possibility makes them uncomfortable. In contrast, DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz said "Of course a Muslim, or any other American citizen, can run for President."

The Republican Party is in a bind on this subject. The national Republican leadership is focused on winning elections, which means having a big tent. However, presidential candidates who are aiming like a laser at narrow slices of the primary electorate or members of the House who come from lopsided conservative districts have a completely different message, which is often in conflict with the national strategy. This problem is accentuated when everyone sees polls showing that 43% to 54% of Republicans think President Obama is a Muslim and only 45% say they would ever vote for a Muslim. The leadership knows this is nonsense, but telling your own base that what they deeply believe is all wrong is not a strategy for remaining in the leadership for long.

The Voting Machines To Be Used in 2016 Are Hopelessly Outdated

It is well-known that America's physical infrastructure is crumbling. The American Society of Civil Engineers issued a report in 2013 giving it a grade of D+ . But the technology used to vote is just as bad. After the 2000 election, with its hanging chads and pregnant chads, many states and counties bought new voting machines. As of next year, much of this equipment will be about 15 years old. Voting machines are essentially PCs with some strange peripheral equipment (e.g., optical scanners). Would you use a 15-year-old computer? The Brennan Center has surveyed over 100 experts on voting technology and although they didn't award the voting infrastructure a letter grade as the ASCE did, D+ would probably be overly optimistic.

Election officials are constantly warning their political bosses about the need for new equipment and the possibility of major snafus if they don't get it, but officials from 22 states have already said they have no money for new optical scanners and other equipment. Only three states (California, Indiana, and Ohio) have laws requiring local election officials to have a backup plan in the event of failure. The usual procedure is to wait until there is a disaster somewhere, with the presidency in the balance, and then start arguing about whose fault the problem is.

Going forward, there is some hope because the technology has changed. Voting machines used to be expensive special-purpose device produced in low volume. The trend now is to commercial off-the-shelf technology. For example, each voting booth could be equipped with an iPad or Android tablet and a small printer. The voter would use the tablet to vote (possibly in multiple languages or with audio cues for the blind). When finished, the voter would tap "PRINT" and the printer would spit out a marked ballot the voter could inspect for accuracy. This would then be either scanned immediately or deposited in a ballot box for scanning later. In either case, the paper ballot would be the only one that mattered and could be hand counted in the event of a close election. The tablet would simply serve as an interface to the printer. To avoid ballot-box stuffing, each voter would be given just one sheet of nonstandard-sized colored paper with an invisible watermark.

The key aspect of this system is the ability of the voter to inspect the printed ballot immediately and check it for accuracy, so if a malicious app made its way onto the tablet, the voter could detect the result. The tablet would not keep score, since it cannot be trusted. For a good Website on voting technology, see Verified Voting. If you are comfortable with computer technology and want to see the design of a voting system that voters could verify themselves, check out this paper published by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

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---The Votemaster
Sep20 Republicans Beginning to Worry about Trump
Sep20 National Parties Go after Big Donors
Sep20 Bush Profited from Governorship after His Term Was Over
Sep19 Trump Says He Will Spend $100 Million of his Own Money to Get the Nomination
Sep19 Brazil's Supreme Court Bans Corporate Contributions to Campaigns
Sep19 Fiorina Faces Big Crowds
Sep19 Obama Jumps into the Presidential Campaign
Sep19 Bush Says Obama is an American and A Christian
Sep19 Republicans Are from Mars, Democrats Are from Venus
Sep18 Fiorina Offers a Way to Reach Women
Sep18 Betting Market: Rubio or Bush Will Be the Republican Nominee
Sep18 Walker Reassures Nervous Donors
Sep18 Clinton to Give Keystone Pipeline View Soon
Sep18 Can Anything Be Done about Unlimited Dark Money in Politics?
Sep18 Will Apple Upend Politics?
Sep17 Republicans Yell at Each Other Instead of Debating
Sep16 What to Look for in the Debate Tonight
Sep16 Be Wary of Polls This Early
Sep16 Iowa Electronic Markets Predict Democrats Will Win the White House
Sep16 The Empire Strikes Back
Sep16 Could McCarthy Replace Boehner as Speaker?
Sep16 Is the Country Coming Apart at the Seams?
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