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

Background Information on the New Hampshire Primary

New Hampshire law states that the New Hampshire primary must be the first in the nation and authorizes the Secretary of State to choose a date to ensure that happens. Only primaries count, not caucuses, so Iowa is not a problem. It would be a bit awkward if some other state passed a similar law, but so far no one has. Yesterday we looked at the history of the Iowa caucuses. Today it's New Hampshire's turn. (Z)

Republicans' Tax Plans Are Being Scored

Donald Trump released his tax plan on Monday, but other candidates have already released plans. Now it is time for outside groups to begin scoring them to see how much they add or subtract from the federal deficit over a period of 10 years. The Tax Foundation, a conservative group, is the first to come in with some independent estimates of how much the various plans would increase the deficit over 10 years. Here are their numbers.

Candidate Increase of deficit
Donald Trump $12.0 trillion
Marco Rubio $4.0 trillion
Jeb Bush $3.7 trillion
Rand Paul $3.0 trillion

Making a plan to cut taxes is easy. Any sixth grader can say "Let's cut this rate and that rate" and voila, a tax plan. The trick is to figure out how to make the cuts revenue neutral taking into account that every line in the federal budget has defenders who will go to the mat to avoid their sacred cow from being turned into hamburgers. Candidates get special credit when they give the specific spending items they will cut and independent auditors agree that the math works.

Right now we are in fairy-dust land. No candidate has said word about would be cut. And the numbers are big (remember that $12 trillion is 12,000 gigadollars). A stack of $100 bills for that amount would be 7500 miles high. If you happen to have $12 trillion lying around and want to stack it, please read this guide to stacking money first or it might fall over. You can't make up $12 trillion by negotiating harder on all the pencils the government buys. You have to take a meat cleaver to Social Security, Medicare, Defense, or other big items, none of which would be popular in all quarters. (V)

Increasingly, Donors Want To Do More Than Just Donate

It used to be that donors wrote a check, and if it was big enough, got to go to dinners and cocktail parties with the candidate and party pooh-bahs. Now, many of them want to give advice and they expect the advice to be taken. For example "stay out of social issues" or "why are you saying this or not saying that?" To keep donors in the loop in real time, Marco Rubio's team has even created a password-protected mobile app to provide big donors with real-time information on what Rubio is doing right now. To the extent it is mostly one way, candidate-to-donor, it wastes some resources, but it's just an extension of traditional hand holding. But if donors start insisting on not just listening, but influencing the campaign (and in real time), it could get problematical, especially if different donors want incompatible things. (V)

Republicans Are Increasingly Unhappy with the Direction of the Country

From all the support the outside candidates like Donald Trump, Carly Fiorina, and Ben Carson, are getting, it is clear that a lot of Republicans are very unhappy about something, but what? A new NBC/WSJ poll sheds light on the subject. The pollster asked people whether the country is moving in the right direction or wrong direction about a number of items. The differences between Republicans and Democrats on some of the questions is not subtle at all. The table below highlights some of the differences between Democrats, Independents, and Republicans about the direction of the country, with positive scores indicating a net approval of the direction and a negative score indicating a net disapproval.

Item Democrats Independents Republicans
Laws protecting gay rights +67% +31% −3%
Increase in legal immigrants +34% +29% +6%
Relaxing marijuana laws +43% +22% −17%
More restrictions on abortions −43% −11% +37%
Increasing minority share of population +41% +15% −3%
More activity of religious groups in politics −43% −37% −6%

What is ominous for the Republicans is that while independents are in between to the two parties, they are more often closer to the Democrats than to the Republicans.

Part of the problem that is frustrating to many Republican voters is that their candidates make promises they know they can't keep, like repealing Obamacare. When it doesn't happen, voters who drank the kool-aid are angry. If the candidates were honest with the voters and said: "We have to elect a Republican President in 2016 and keep a Republican Congress so we can repeal Obamacare," maybe they wouldn't be so angry. But they didn't so here we are. (V)

The Horse Race Depicted as a Horse Race

Slate has a fun infographic that imagines the Republican horse race as...a horse race (they did the same for 2008, and will eventually have the 2012 Democratic race as well).

While amusing, the infographic also illustrates an important point: It is very difficult to lead a race from wire to wire, and the early leaders usually fall off the pace (unless they are Dwight D. Eisenhower or Secretariat). As soshable reminds us the Republican favorite in October 2011 was Rick Perry, and in October 2007 was Rudy Giuliani. Others who have taken turns as the 13-months-before-the-election favorite for their party include Joe Lieberman, Mario Cuomo, Gary Hart, George Romney, George Wallace, and Edmund Muskie. Not a lot of Secretariats there. (Z)

Trump Tower starting to Lean

The current "October surprise," of course, is Donald Trump. And this week, he's been learning that life is hard as king of the hill. As we noted yesterday and above, his tax proposal—which is also his first serious foray into specific policy ideas—was roundly derided. He continues to be lambasted as a racist, and to be despised by Latinos. It's a rare day that someone in the media doesn't make hay out of some of Trump's past kookiness, most obviously his support for the birther movement.

More damaging than all of these things, however, may have been this week's issue of Forbes magazine, in which they presented their annual list of the world's richest people. Trump came in 121st with $4.5 billion—well less than the $10 billion net worth he claims. Either way, a lot of money, right? Maybe not.

Central to Trump's case for the presidency is his success as a businessman. The lower that net worth is, the weaker his case is. And, it gets worse than that for Trump 2016. In 1978, Business Week reported that Trump had a net worth of $100 million (mostly inherited from his father). Trump, true to form even back then, insisted that Business Week was wrong, and he had already increased his inheritance to $200 million. We can plug those numbers into the S&P 500 Return Calculator which estimates how much money a person would have today if they invested a lump sum into an S&P index fund and then just left it alone, plowing dividends into the principal and spending their time watching television or knitting tea cozies. The calculator tells us that if Trump took $10 million out to live like a king and put $90 million to work in an S&P index fund, he would have a little over $5 billion right now. If he took $20 million to live like an Abu Dhabian emir and put $180 million to work, he'd have $10 billion right now. The numbers might be slightly imprecise, but depending on which 1978 estimate you believe (Business Week or Trump), it almost certainly means that the difference between Forbes' 2015 number and Trump's is the difference between a competent businessman and a hack who could not even outperform the market. This is why he is so heavily invested in the higher number, and why he promptly blasted Forbes' reporting. Unfortunately for the Donald, every other independent analysis of his wealth agrees with Forbes' (or puts the number even lower).

The upshot is that the foundation on which Trump's candidacy is built—even more important than his outspokenness or his outsider status—is crumbling. The pundits are watching closely, each hoping to be the one that correctly calls "the beginning of the end" for Trump. Odds are, that will be sooner rather than later. (Z)

FEC has Questions for Ted Cruz PAC

Over a month ago, a number of media outlets noticed an unusual expenditure by Keep the Promise I (one of Ted Cruz's SuperPACs): $500,000 to CarlyPAC (the main SuperPAC for Carly Fiorina). Now, the FEC would also like to know more about that expenditure.

Though the reason for the $500,000 payment is widely being called a "mystery," the most likely explanation is self-evident: Fiorina was hurting for money (she had less cash on hand than any candidate at that time) and was desperate to keep the dream alive. Cruz has aggressively positioned himself to inherit his rivals' supporters when/if those rivals drop out, and he (or, at least, his PAC) offered a quid pro quo: We'll give you a cash lifeline in exchange for your endorsement if things don't work out.

Cruz's PAC has until October 21 to answer the FEC's questions. Who knows what they will come up with, but it is not good news for them that a judge just ruled that certain kinds of payments to PACs can be treated as illegal bribes. This could become a big story in a couple of weeks. (Z)

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---The Votemaster
Sep29 Are the Iowa Caucuses Any Good at Predicting the Nominees?
Sep29 Next President Likely to Appoint Multiple Supreme Court Justices
Sep29 Donald Trump Reveals His Tax Plan
Sep29 Biden More Popular than Hillary?
Sep29 Shutdown Averted, for Now
Sep29 Clinton Finally Acknowledges Sanders
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