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

Introducing a New Contributor: Zenger

I"m pleased to announce that the site will have a new contributor starting today, Christopher Bates, who will be "Zenger" to my "Votemaster." He is a UCLA-trained historian. He teaches in the communications studies department there now, as well as in the history department at Cal Poly Pomona. Officially a specialist in 19th and 20th century American political and cultural history, he has written on a wide and eclectic variety of subjects: Grover Cleveland, baseball, Civil War reenactment, rock and roll music, the Ku Klux Klan, the Internet, and restaurants among them. He previously worked for the UCLA Daily Bruin and for the Los Angeles Times. You can expect to see him contributing many of the "Feature stories," a new menu item to the left of the map. A feature story is basically a longer, usually historical, piece about elections or politics. If it is of modest length and there isn't much other news, it will run on the front page. Otherwise, there will be a short summary on the front page and then a link to it, but it will available thereafter via the menu item. He will also contribute news items, especially during the next 2 weeks, when I will be traveling. We will indicate who the primary author of each news item is by appending (V) or (Z) to it. Longer pieces will be signed. (V)

Is There A Third-Term Curse?

It has been widely reported that it is very hard for a party to win a third consecutive term to the White House. Since World War II, this appears to be true: of the six times a party has held the White House for two consecutive terms, the attempt to get a third one has failed in five of them. Does this mean that the Democrats are doomed in 2016? Far from it, as this new feature story explains in detail. As with all feature stories, it will continue to be available after today using the Feature stories link (in red today) on the menu to the left of the map. (Z)

New Poll Shows Trump Sagging

A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll shows Donald Trump slipping to 21%, barely ahead of Ben Carson at 20%. Marco Rubio is third at 11%. Trump and Carson are not considered serious candidates but having your top serious candidate at 11% is not encouraging for the Republicans. Jeb Bush is polling at 7%. For someone expected to run away with nomination easily, he is not doing well. The poll was taken before former House Speaker John Boehner resigned, so any effect of that is not visible here. Below are the numbers. Some respondents weren't sure, wanted none of them, or wanted a candidate who has already dropped out, so the sum is not 100% .

Rank Candidate Pct
1 Donald Trump 21%
2 Ben Carson 20%
3 Marco Rubio 11%
3 Carly Fiorina 11%
5 Jeb Bush 7%
6 John Kasich 6%
7 Ted Cruz 5%
8 Rand Paul 3%
8 Chris Christie 3%
10 Mike Huckabee 2%
11 Rick Santorum 1%
11 Bobby Jindal 1%
  Lindsey Graham <1%
  George Pataki <1%
  Jim Gilmore <1%

Amazingly, the candidates who would be acceptable to the GOP establishment, Rubio, Bush, Kasich, and Christie, add up to only 27%. Normally the establishment gets what it wants, but this cycle has been so strange, maybe for the first time in memory it won't.

Over on the Democratic side, Sen. Bernie Sanders is gaining on Hillary Clinton. She leads Sanders by just 7 points with Biden in the race and by 15 points without Biden. It is getting close enough that probably the media can drop "presumed Democratic nominee" that was used as a kind of honorific before her name until now. But make no mistake, if Biden doesn't enter the race, she is still the clear favorite, just not so overwhelming, as Sanders continues to struggle with minority voters. (V)

Bush's Donors Are Starting to Get Nervous

Jeb Bush raised over $100 million in his first reporting quarter by going to potential donors and saying "I'm a Bush and I'm running for President." The money flowed like wine. Nobody bothered to ask if he was any good. With his poor debate performances and weak standings in the polls, more and more of them are now asking. Bush is definitely rusty on the campaign trail, not having run for public office since 2002. Last week he said that he was going to win over black voters by offering them "hope" instead of "free stuff." It didn't go over well. And that wasn't his first gaffe by any means. Dan Pfeifer, a former aide to President Obama said: "If Jeb's last name were Walker, he would be out of the race by now." That may well be so, but his last name is Bush and he has $100 million stockpiled, so he is not leaving any time soon. On the other hand, you can't buy love with money. Of course, he is not trying to buy love; he's trying to buy votes. No, that's not quite right either. But you get the idea. (V)

Republicans Overestimate the Power of Identity Politics

Part of the case for Carly Fiorina's candidacy—and a point that she's made explicitly—is that she is a woman, and therefore can challenge Hillary Clinton for the female vote in a way that the other Republican candidates cannot. Part of the case for Marco Rubio's candidacy, at least implicitly, is that he will attract Latino votes (Ted Cruz, too, though Rubio has been more aggressive in emphasizing his heritage.) Part of the case for Ben Carson's candidacy, again at least implicitly, is that he will attract black votes. Events this week, and indeed throughout 2015, suggest that it may not be so easy.

On Saturday, while Carly Fiorina campaigned at an Iowa Hawkeyes football game, supporters of Planned Parenthood counter-protested and showered the candidate with condoms. Now, these protesters are hardly likely to vote Republican, regardless of whom the candidate is. However, the protest does speak to a perception issue that Fiorina faces: A candidate who is highly conservative on feminist issues like abortion, birth control, and sexual harassment is not terribly likely to steal large numbers of women's votes from Hillary just because she also happens to lack a Y-chromosome.

Similarly, Marco Rubio's "identity" case rests on a tenuous foundation. He is Latino, yes, but a Cuban American in a country where the largest Latino ethnic group—by far—is Mexican Americans. The experience of immigrants from those two groups almost could not be more different, beginning with the fact that Cubans are generally welcomed by the United States government (as they are fleeing a Communist government) while Mexicans are not. Polling on Rubio's appeal among Latinos is limited at this point, but those polls that have been done do not provide good news for the senator from Florida. A majority of Latinos have an unfavorable opinion of him, while also expressing a strong preference for Hillary Clinton over him (even in Florida).

Ben Carson may be in the most tenuous position of all. He has stirred controversy recently with his opinions about Muslims. Such remarks do not help him with black voters, some of whom are themselves Muslim, and all of whom recognize prejudice when they see it. Further, it is clear that the statements were neither isolated or atypical for Carson, so much so that the newspaper of record has accused him of soft bigotry. The Atlantic's Te-Nehisi Coates, arguably the most important young black intellectual in the country, has gone even further, dropping the "soft" and simply calling the candidate Ben Carson, bigot.

It is possible that one or more of these candidates will survive deep into the primary season—and perhaps even win the Republican nomination—based on primary voters' belief that nominating a female/Latino/black candidate will be a shrewd political move. That would be misguided. If the Republican candidate is not strong enough to win on his or her political merits, then he or she is not strong enough to win. (Z)

Straw Polls Are Not Worth the Paper They're Written On

Pop quiz: Which of these is an actual, annual straw poll?

  • The Charleston County Republican Party straw poll
  • The Citizens United straw poll
  • The Conservative Political Action Conference straw poll
  • The Georgia Association of Republican County Chairmen straw poll
  • The Greenville County Convention straw poll
  • The Holliston Republican Town Committee
  • The Maine Republican Liberty Caucus straw poll
  • The New Hampshire Young Republicans straw poll
  • The Northeast Republican Leadership Conference straw poll
  • The Northern Virginia Democrats St. Patrick's Day straw poll
  • The Pennsylvania Leadership Conference straw poll
  • The Southern Republican Leadership Conference straw poll
  • The National Republican Trust PAC straw poll
  • The Values Voters Summit straw poll
  • The Washington State Republican Party
  • The Western Conservative Summit straw poll
  • The Wisconsin Democratic straw poll

Answer: It is a trick question. They are all real.

Straw polls, by their nature, generate results that do not represent the feelings of the rank and file members of a party. They are a baldfaced attempt by small numbers of voters, usually party activists, to garner some headlines and to maximize their influence on their party's presidential selection. Quite often, a fringe candidate (or several fringe candidates) will play along, so that they have a "win" they can trumpet.

For example, the Values Voters Summit is a convention run by the conservative Family Research Council in Washington, D.C. Usually, about 3,000 people attend. Its goal is to bring together activists to fight against abortion and same-sex marriage. Big-name conservatives often speak there. This year the speakers included most of the Republican presidential candidates, many Republican politicians, and a raft of conservative pundits.

The Summit (and straw poll) were held last week, and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) won for the third consecutive year with 35% of the vote. Ben Carson came in second with 18%, followed by Mike Huckabee with 14%, and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) with 13%. Donald Trump was fifth at 5%. Jeb Bush got only 7 votes.

This straw poll has value in that it shows Cruz to be more popular than Carson or Huckabee with religious conservatives. Since he also has much more money than they do, he will probably outlast them as the primaries get started. But that is where the value of this—and nearly any straw poll—ends. The Values Voters Summit poll has been held in every year since 2007, except for 2008 and 2012 (it came so late in the year that the Republican candidate had already been nominated in both cases). In that time, the winners have been Mitt Romney (2007), Mike Huckabee (2009), Mike Pence (2010), Ron Paul (2011), and Ted Cruz (2013, 2014, 2015). Only one of those men was actually nominated by the Republicans, and that was five years after his straw poll victory. Not terribly impressive.

The Democrats tend to hold fewer straw polls, but when they do, the results are not much more meaningful. The most prominent might be the Wisconsin Democratic straw poll, which has been held intermittently since the 1980s in election years or right before election years. Hillary Clinton won this year, edging out Bernie Sanders 49% to 41%, and she won last year, trouncing the not-actually-running-for-president Elizabeth Warren 57% to 25%. However less than 500 Wisconsinites voted this year (essentially, the ones who were enthusiastic enough to stay to the bitter end of the state's annual Democratic convention.) Last year, the total was about 300. And while they are likely to be right about Hillary, in the five previous polls Wisconsin Democrats bestowed their blessing on John Edwards (2007), Howard Dean (2003), Jesse Jackson (1988), and Alan Cranston (1983, 1984). Again, not exactly a great track record.

Now, if straw polls are not terribly meaningful, what about the early events of primary season: the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primaries? Well, tomorrow we will have a feature story that addresses the Iowa part of that question, and on Wednesday we will tackle New Hampshire. (V&Z)

Reading the Bobby Jindal Tea Leaves

This weekend, Politico predicted that the next three Republicans to fall would be Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA), George Pataki, and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY). Jindal promptly and angrily denied that the end was near, calling the prediction "B.S." and declaring "I'm in the presidential race to stay."

If ever there was a case of "the man doth protest too much, methinks," then this is it. Jindal has absolutely no reason to respond—much less respond angrily—to predictions by Internet political wonks unless those predictions hit awfully close to home. The campaign is unquestionably on life support—he's not allowed to debate with the big boys (and gal), he's barely registering in the polls, and he finished seventh in the Values Voters Summit straw poll—and those are his people. That is not a terribly problematic result for a moderate like Gov. John Kasich (R-OH), who can just wait for everyone else to collapse, but it's devastating for someone whose constituency is social conservatives.

In fact, Jindal has almost certainly accepted the inevitable and is no longer running for president. But if that is the case, then why is he still in the race? There may be a number of reasons (which are not necessarily mutually exclusive):

  1. Money: When Jindal 2016 last filed with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) in June, he had about $500,000 in the bank. The next FEC update is not due until October 15; when it is filed it is very likely the campaign will be upside down. Presidential debt can linger for years (or decades), and would attach to any future campaign Jindal might run (regardless of the office). A candidate who is out (or whose campaign is "suspended") will collect virtually nothing in the way of donations. As such, Jindal may be trying to squeeze every drop from his supporters before throwing in the towel.
  2. The vice presidency: It is possible Jindal may want to keep his name in consideration for the #2 spot on the Republican ticket. This thinking would be a tad bit delusional; if the VP slot is going to a social conservative, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz have much stronger cases.
  3. Jindal 2020: At this point, the Louisiana governor may be looking four years down the road to his next presidential run, and is rallying supporters and networking in service of that goal. The problem is that embarrassing poll results and sitting at the kiddies' table for the debates has already damaged his brand beyond repair. If a Democrat wins in 2016, someone like Cruz could try again, but not Jindal.
  4. The U.S. Senate: Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) is running this year to replace the term-limited Jindal in the Louisiana governor's mansion, and if he wins, Jindal may try to slide over to the Senate seat that would be vacated. Once again, however, keeping his name in the headlines comes at the expense of damaging his brand. Louisianans already know who Jindal is and what he stands for, and they are unlikely to forget in the next 12 months. How much publicity does he really need right now?

Only Bobby Jindal knows what his goals are, and therefore only he knows when he is likely to exit the race. However, October 15 is a potential drop-dead date: If it turns out his campaign has pennies in the bank, or is in debt, that will be yet another nail in the coffin. Coupled with the October 28 Republican debate, from which he will presumably also be excluded, the odds are pretty good that Politico will be proven right by the time Halloween rolls around. (Z)

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---The Votemaster
Sep27 Could Boehner's Departure End the Gridlock Temporarily?
Sep27 The Media Are Always Preaching to the Choirs
Sep27 Boehner's Downfall is Infecting the Presidential Race
Sep27 Bill Clinton Is Back on the Trail
Sep26 Boehner Quits
Sep26 Conservatives Will Now Gun for McConnell
Sep26 Will The Pope's Visit Affect the 2016 Elections?
Sep25 The Pope Gives a Left-Wing Speech to Congress
Sep25 Democrats Are trying to Piggyback on the Pope's Speech
Sep25 Senate Rejects Efforts to Defund Planned Parenthood
Sep25 The Problem with Safe Districts
Sep25 Bush Says Blacks Want Hope, Not Free Stuff
Sep25 Why Does Donald Trump Say Marco Rubio is Sweaty?
Sep25 Ignore All Polls in 2015
Sep24 Pope Making Republicans Squirm
Sep24 Dissecting Walker in a Postmortem
Sep24 Republicans Begin to Go After Trump
Sep24 Dark Money is Up Fivefold Compared to 2012
Sep24 Democrats Debate Debates
Sep24 Rubio Passes Bush in Florida
Sep23 Clinton (Finally) Opposes the Keystone Pipeline
Sep23 Super PAC Money is Not the Same as Campaign Money
Sep23 Bush Is Having Trouble with Sound Bites
Sep23 Obamacare Seems to be Working
Sep23 Does Business Experience Matter?
Sep22 Scott Walker Drops Out Again
Sep22 Did Fiorina Violate U.S. Law When CEO of Hewlett-Packard?
Sep22 The Pope Has Become a Political Football
Sep22 New Poll Shows Clinton Leading with or without Biden
Sep22 Republicans May Set Priorities This Month
Sep22 Congressional Campaign Committees Announce Their August Hauls
Sep21 Fiorina Zooms to #2 in New CNN/ORC Poll
Sep21 Ten Candidates Are One Percenters
Sep21 Report: Jill Biden Won't Stop Joe from Running
Sep21 Republicans Wrestling with Islam
Sep21 The Voting Machines To Be Used in 2016 Are Hopelessly Outdated
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?