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

Are the Iowa Caucuses Any Good at Predicting the Nominees?

The Iowa caucuses get a tremendous amount of attention, not because many delegates are selected, but because Iowa goes first. It has not always been like that, though. For a century, the Iowa caucuses were in the middle of the primary calendar and not of much interest to anyone outside Iowa. They were simply the way the delegates to the national conventions were chosen, and no one ascribed any predictive value to them. Now they have become almost magical: If you can't win in this small and totally unrepresentative state with almost only white people, how could you possibly win in Nevada or North Carolina (which in no way resemble Iowa)? Under these circumstances, one can legitimately ask: Is Iowa any good at predicting the nominee? For a detailed answer, check out our feature story on the Iowa caucuses. (Z)

Next President Likely to Appoint Multiple Supreme Court Justices

The current Supreme Court has five Republican appointees and four Democratic appointees. Although they are supposed to suppress their personal opinions and just interpret the Constitution, in reality, in nearly all important cases, the Democratic appointees vote for what the Democrats want and the Republican appointees vote for what the Republicans want. Once in a while, one of them breaks rank, as Chief Justice Roberts did on the Affordable Care Act, but it is rare. One notable exception is that Justice Anthony Kennedy (a Reagan appointee) can generally be counted on to support gay rights.

When the next President is sworn in, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg,a two-time cancer survivor, will be 84, Justice Antonin Scalia will be 80, Justice Kennedy will also be 80, and Justice Stephen Breyer will be 78. Given these ages, there is a fair chance the next President will get to make multiple appointments to the Court, which could shape the country for decades to come. It doesn't take much imagination to realize that a President Sanders would make quite different picks than a President Cruz. Also, if a Democratic President gets the chance to replace a Republican appointee or vice versa, there will be an epic battle in the Senate over the confirmation. While a lot of people are talking about abortion and same-sex marriage and the Affordable Care Act, they are all small potatoes compared to the issue of Supreme Court appointments. Prof. Rick Hasen of UC Irvine, a noted election law expert, has written a good piece about this issue. (V)

Donald Trump Reveals His Tax Plan

Yesterday Donald Trump revealed his tax plan. It has something in it for everyone except deficit hawks. Individuals making under $25,000 and couples filing jointly with incomes below $50,000 would pay no federal income tax. About half of all taxpayers fall in these categories. But the plan also has something for the rich. The top rate would be slashed from 39.6% to 25%. This would be a huge windfall for the wealthiest Americans. In addition, the corporate tax rate would drop from 35% to 15%. Trump would also close a few specific loopholes used by hedge-fund managers.

The only little fly stuck in the ointment is that the plan would reduce government revenue by trillions of dollars over 10 years. How would Trump prevent the deficit from exploding? Don't worry, he'll just eliminate waste in the federal budget. No sweat. Also, the economy will grow to make up the difference. Needless to say, a massive tax cut like this must be offset by a massive spending cut just to keep the deficit at its current level. Every line in the federal budget is there because some powerful interest group wants it there. When a politician says he will reduce "waste" without specifying which items he has in mind, don't you believe it. The Economist looked at the plan. The review used words like chutzpah, fantasy, and twaddle. Some years ago a politician named Bush once called a similar plan "Voodoo economics."

The takeaway: coming up with the plan to cut taxes is easy. Doing it without having the deficit explode is nearly impossible because that requires steep budget cuts that Congress (and its sponsors) is not willing to make. We've seen this play before. When George W. Bush took office, he inherited a budget surplus due to the Clinton tax increases. Bush then slashed taxes and said the improved economy would increase revenues to make up for the cuts. It didn't and the deficit exploded. The same thing would happen again. (V)

Biden More Popular than Hillary?

Another poll has determined that Joe Biden would be the most popular candidate in the Democratic field if he entered the fray. Last week, we were critical of a Quinnipiac poll that reached the same conclusion. But if enough polls tell us the same thing, we have to start taking it seriously, right?

No. No, no, no, no, no. A thousand times, no.

First of all, even though Biden was a Senator for 36 years and now has been vice president for seven, he is something of a blank slate. Most voters do not know where he stands on the issues, and—more importantly—none of the jobs he's held have required him to lay out the kind of grand vision and the kinds of specific policy initiatives that a presidential candidate must eventually provide. As Donald Trump is learning (see above), it gets much harder once you have to get specific.

Further, because Biden is not on the campaign trail, he's not giving multiple speeches daily, he's not having large public meetings, he's not constantly being interviewed, and he's not debating (so far). He therefore has little or no opportunity to say something impolitic. And keep in mind that Joe Biden has one of the worst cases of foot-in-mouth disease this side of Rick Perry. They don't call him "Crazy Uncle Joe" for nothing.

Finally, nobody is presently working to discover Biden's private email server, raise questions about his birth certificate, discredit his service in the Texas Air National Guard, or find out exactly where he puts his cigars. In part, this is the custom in American politics—a candidate is generally a "civilian" until he or she has formally declared. In part, it is because Biden just lost a son in tragic fashion. Attacking him would be unseemly, so he's bulletproof. In fact, he's almost certainly getting "extra credit" sympathy points from voters right now. He could be caught personally breaking into the Watergate tomorrow morning, smuggling arms to Iran in the afternoon, and outing a few CIA operatives in the evening, and nobody would utter a peep.

This is not to say anything about the quality of Biden as a candidate. Merely that, until he formally declares and has been in the race for a few months, comparing him to Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders is comparing apples to oranges. (Z)

Shutdown Averted, for Now

The Senate has passed a bill to fund the government through December 11. John Boehner will ram it through the House, Barack Obama will sign it, and so the government will not shut down in October.

Ted Cruz and other conservatives still want to defund Planned Parenthood, so this may just be a case of kicking the can down the road. Once the new Speaker is in place, there could be a knock-down drag-out fight, particularly if he or she is a firebrand. This possibility seems exceedingly remote, however. To start, polls suggest that Republicans would shoulder more of the blame for a shutdown than the Democrats, so the strategy is likely to backfire. This is especially true two weeks before Christmas, when the possibility of a backlash is substantial. Even Ted Cruz would not want his picture to appear in the paper next to a photo of a federal government employee who cannot afford to buy Christmas presents for his kids.

Another stopgap bill, punting the decision into the post-holiday months, is possible. However, at some point, voters will begin to ask some pointed questions like "What is the point of this melodrama?" Further, the current bill passed the Senate overwhelmingly, with only 19 nays. It is hard to see that number and believe that the will and desire needed for a high-stakes game of chicken exists on either size of the aisle. Cruz will probably have to surrender on this one and find some other way to score points with the base. (Z)

Clinton Finally Acknowledges Sanders

When Franklin D. Roosevelt was running his three reelection campaigns, his preference was never to utter the name of his opponents (Alf Landon, Wendell Wilkie, and Thomas E. Dewey, respectively) since he regarded it as free publicity for them. For the last several months, Hillary Clinton has been running the FDR playbook, refusing to mention Bernie Sanders by name. She broke the embargo today, just long enough to offer a compliment of dubious sincerity, and then to observe that Democratic officeholders and officials are all endorsing her.

Hillary's words were carefully chosen to imply that these Democratic functionaries, having worked with both of them, just like and respect her more than Sanders. This is a tad disingenuous—politics is a game of horse trading, and a politician who throws their weight behind a loser may find themselves frozen out of patronage and other spoils of office by the winner. As such, the endorsers are not saying "I like Hillary better" so much as they are saying "I think Hillary is going to win." Still, the net effect is the same—regardless of their motivation, the people who make decisions for the Democratic Party are lining up behind Clinton, and her nomination moves closer to being a reality every day. Come election day, people vote for the candidate they like better and feel more comfortable with, no matter where their email is served. Absent Joe Biden, Hillary is still on track. (Z)

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---The Votemaster
Sep28 Introducing a New Contributor: Zenger
Sep28 Is There A Third-Term Curse?
Sep28 New Poll Shows Trump Sagging
Sep28 Bush's Donors Are Starting to Get Nervous
Sep28 Republicans Overestimate the Power of Identity Politics
Sep28 Straw Polls Are Not Worth the Paper They're Written On
Sep28 Reading the Bobby Jindal Tea Leaves
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