Clinton 1776
Sanders 1118
 Needed   2383
Trump 755
Cruz 545
Rubio 171
Kasich 143
Needed 1237

News from the Votemaster

TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Democratic Debate Postmortem
      •  Republican National Committee to Debate the Convention Rulebook
      •  Trump Campaigns on New York Values
      •  Rove Dumps on Trump
      •  Nearly Half of All Super-PAC Money Comes from 50 Families
      •  The GOP Convention Could End in Chaos
      •  Sanders' Trip to Rome Was a Quickie
      •  Sanders Releases His 2014 Tax Returns

Democratic Debate Postmortem

Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) brawled in Brooklyn on Thursday night, their ninth meeting overall. Here's what the punditry is saying:

Left-leaning commentators
Julian Zelizer, CNN Winner: Clinton. Loser: Sanders. "Clinton did slightly better in terms of her performance. She didn't have many gaffes, and she didn't allow Sanders to make any serious dents in her campaign."

Chris Cillizza, WaPo Winners: Clinton, WaPo's Fact Checker, John Dingell. Losers: Bernie Sanders, the audience, yelling, nuance. "If the race continues as it has to date, Clinton will be the nominee. It might not be as smooth a path as she and her team imagined, but she will win unless Sanders can start changing hearts and minds. Sarcasm isn't the way to do that."

Dylan Matthews, Vox Winners: Sanders, Fight for 15. Losers: Clinton, New Democrats, liberal technocrats. "The whole debate saw Clinton on defense and Sanders on offense. When she did attack, he deflected easily and went back to landing punches."

Jason Easley, PoliticusUSA Winner: Clinton. Loser: Sanders. "The Democratic candidates are clearly tired of each other, and the tense tone of the campaign was clearly visible during the debate. Hillary Clinton has been consistently strong in the Democratic debates, and Sen. Sanders was unable to knock her off of her game."

Todd Graham, CNN Winner: Clinton. Loser: Sanders. "So if you're keeping score at home, while Sanders could not provide a single piece of legislation that Clinton supported (or blocked) that offered proof of her being influenced by Wall Street, she slammed home an example of Sanders being influenced—and changing his voting because of influence—by the NRA."

Right-leaning commentators
Ben Geier, Fortune Winner: Clinton. Loser: Sanders. "[I]t seems unlikely that Sanders was able to change enough minds that he will be able to overcome what is still a big poll lead for Clinton. And if he doesn't win New York, his path to the nomination becomes that much more difficult."

Caleb Howe, Red State Winner: Sanders. Loser: Clinton. "Yes, her highness lost. She was schooling him at the beginning, coming off professional to his unserious, but it turned around at the Wall Street transcripts and she just never brought it back. [D]espite more realistic plans (for a Democrat) vs. Bernie's fantasy of the future, she just didn't seem like a winner. She needed to...That makes her the loser. Well, more of a loser."

Kelly Riddell, Washington Times Winner: Clinton. Loser: Sanders. "Although she'd much rather speak about gun control and her readiness for the White House than her paid speeches and transcripts, Mrs. Clinton withheld Mr. Sanders' fury, unleashed harsh criticisms of her own, and didn't make any mistakes. Considering she's leading the popular vote by more than 2 million ballots cast, and has a massive super-delegate lead, that's all she needed to do."

Niall Stanage, The Hill Winner: None. Loser: None. "The vigor of the exchanges on Thursday night made for compelling television. And Sanders's supporters can make a good case that this was one of his best nights on a debate stage since the contest began. But, at this point, the number of voters whose minds can be changed is limited. Clinton holds a double-digit polling lead in New York and a near-impregnable advantage in the Democratic delegate race."

Caitlin Huey-Burns, RealClearPolitics Winner: None. Loser: None. "Given both Clinton and Sanders' intimate familiarity with the state, each tried to hammer home policy differences through a New York lens, from issues such as Wall Street influence to gun control to foreign policy as it relates to Israel. But the arguments put forth echoed messages each has been pushing for some time, and aren't likely to influence the outcome of Tuesday's contest in New York."

Foreign commentators
Harriet Alexander, The Telegraph (UK) Winner: Clinton. Loser: Sanders. "There are no two ways about it: Hillary Clinton was, once again, the clear winner. She was supremely well prepared, fluent in policy minutiae, and an agile debater. Sanders has come on leaps and bounds since the debates begun, and put up a good fight. But Clinton was merciless—turning on him when he let out a nervous chuckle during a section about gun control, and attacking him for his naive world views."

David Lawler, The Telegraph (UK) Winner: Clinton. Loser: Sanders. "Both candidates were prepared for tonight's debate, but neither was very pleasant. The contentious tone of the affair probably helps Mr Sanders—he wants to prove he is still in the fight—but the substance went in Mrs Clinton's favour. She is rock solid when it comes to domestic and foreign policy, and proved it once more in Brooklyn."

Barney Henderson, The Telegraph (UK) Winner: Sanders. Loser: Clinton. "The tensions between the two candidates was palpable in this debate. Sanders has certainly grown more confident as his wins roll in and he was effective in pushing his rival on whether she supports lifting the cap on taxable income and attacking her over Wall Street links."

Abigail Abrams, International Business Times Winner: Clinton. Loser: Sanders. "Both candidates made effective points, but each targeted their comments to those who already support them, so the debate, while substantive, was unlikely to have changed any minds."

Across the fourteen commentators, the tally ends up like this:

Clinton: 9 wins, 3 losses
Sanders: 3 wins, 9 losses

There are two themes that are near-universal across the various reports: (1) This was the nastiest Democratic debate so far, and (2) Sanders needed a game-changing night, and this was not it. Other popular subjects of post-debate coverage include the $15 minimum wage, Sanders on gun control, Israel/Palestine, and Clinton's speech transcripts/Sanders' tax returns. As he promised, Sanders did release his latest return on Friday; it's unclear when any others may be coming.

The fact checkers, including CNN, USA Today, WaPo, Politifact, and FactCheck came up with a handful of troublesome statements from each of the candidates. Sanders was wrong that SuperPACs don't have to disclose their donors (they do) and he misrepresented the number of petroleum industry donors to Clinton's campaign. He was also incorrect in his suggestion that Clinton's delegate lead is due solely to her strength in the South. For Clinton's part, she gave herself too much credit for NATO involvement in Libya, she made a very misleading assertion about how many of New York's illegal guns come from Vermont, and she was entirely incorrect in suggesting that toy gun manufacturers follow more strict rules than the manufacturers of actual guns. These are all moderate-level errors and exaggerations; none of them terribly egregious. The great majority of the fact-checkers' ink (or pixels) was actually spent on explaining the context that makes the candidates' statements truthful.

It's clear that even with a nice, long break since the eighth matchup between Clinton and Sanders, debate-weariness is setting in for both the media and the two candidates. The tenth and final debate is supposed to take place in May, but neither the exact time nor location has been scheduled. It would not be a huge surprise if it doesn't happen at all. (Z)

Republican National Committee to Debate the Convention Rulebook

At the annual spring meeting of the Republican National Committee in Hollywood Beach, FL next week, the convention's rulebook will be on the agenda. The rulebook will determine what the convention's Rules Committee can and cannot do. One proposal, from Solomon Yue of Oregon, would scrap the old rulebook, which is based on the House of Representatives' rules, and replace it with Robert's Rules of Order. That plan is likely to be tabled, but it is the starting gun for defining the framework in which the convention's Rules Committee is going to operate.

Under the current rules, the chairman, who is elected by the delegates but expected to be Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), can run the event with an iron fist. Under Robert's Rules of Order, any of the 2,472 delegates could raise points of order, objections, and much more. It could be chaos. The idea behind Yue's plan is to give more power to the delegates, leading to a messier but more transparent convention.

The RNC has two concerns it has to deal with. First, make it clear to everyone, especially Donald Trump, that no one is stacking the deck and the delegates really get to pick the nominee. Second, under what conditions could a white knight riding a dark horse be introduced into the mix and be nominated. Finding a solution that makes everyone happy is not going to be easy. (V)

Trump Campaigns on New York Values

Earlier this year Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) accused Donald Trump of having "New York values," somehow implying those weren't American values. At a dinner in New York, Trump threw that remark back in the Texas Senator's face. He talked about the energy and vitality of New Yorkers and how they bounced back from the Sept. 11 attacks. Trump is actively campaigning in the Empire State and could conceivably sweep all 95 delegates, putting him back on track to win the nomination on the first ballot. To win all 95 delegates, he needs to pass the 50% mark statewide and also in each congressional district next Tuesday. The polls, on the whole, suggest that he has a good shot at it. (V)

Rove Dumps on Trump

Republican operative Karl Rove is not a big fan of Donald Trump. He published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal this week arguing that Trump's knowledge of policy is a millimeter deep. Rove has repeatedly said that if the general election is between Trump and Hillary Clinton, then Clinton will win. Trump responded to Rove by calling him a "biased dope" who lost bundles of money backing Mitt Romney in 2012.

Rove hasn't said what he will do if Trump is the GOP nominee. It is entirely possible that he will skip the presidential race entirely and put all his money into contests to help the Republicans hang onto the Senate. If other Republican operatives who control large pots of money feel the same way, Trump may discover that he has to finance his campaign out of his own pocket, something he has been loath to do so far. (V)

Nearly Half of All Super-PAC Money Comes from 50 Families

This cycle, 2,300 super PACs have raised $607 million, with 41% coming from 50 megadonors and their relatives. In 2012, the total amount of super PAC money raised and spent was $828 million, a sum that will be dwarfed by this year's haul. Seventy percent of the money is going to aid Republican candidates. Money is flowing not only to presidential candidates, but also to Senate and House candidates.

To put the money picture into perspective, the 50 megadonors ponied up more than the $161 million that Hillary Clinton has gotten from 1 million donors. The last time that money in politics was so concentrated was in 1896, when Big Money put Republican William McKinley in the White House over his Democratic opponent William Jennings Bryan. (V)

The GOP Convention Could End in Chaos

Damon Linker has written a piece describing the possible Republican National Convention scenarios:

  • Trump wins on the first ballot
  • Cruz wins on the second or third ballot
  • Chaos

If Trump comes into the convention with 1,237 delegates, he will win on the first ballot and the Republican leadership has a problem. If Trump comes in, say, 50 votes shy of a majority, he can probably attract enough unbound delegates to win on the first ballot.

If he fails to win on the first ballot, about 60% of the delegates will be freed. If Cruz's attention to detail worked, he will scoop up free delegates by the bucketful and possibly win on the second ballot, or maybe the third ballot, when nearly all the delegates are unbound.

But what if both Trump and Cruz fall short? The convention will then have close to 2,472 free agents. Some will be die-hard Trump or Cruz supporters. Those from Ohio will probably still back Kasich in hopes he will be the compromise candidate. Some of the free delegates are certainly Rubio supporters. The Utah delegates may secretly want Romney. How is the Party going to come to a consensus? There doesn't seem to be a mechanism. It won't be a brokered convention because there are no brokers. It is almost inconceivable that RNC Chairman Reince Priebus, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) get together in a smoke-free room, make a plan, and then get 1,237 delegates to thank them from the depths of their hearts for figuring out what to do. Various groups and factions are likely to appear in support of one candidate or another and it may be impossible for anyone to control the process. In addition, a lot depends on rules that haven't even been made yet. The whole thing could be a mess. On the bright side (sort of), the show would attract a tremendous number of viewers. (V)

Sanders' Trip to Rome Was a Quickie

As planned, Bernie Sanders gave a 10-minute version of his stump speech at the Vatican on Friday. "The top 1 percent of people on this planet now own more wealth than the bottom 99 percent," Sanders declared. "That, to me, is unacceptable, it is unsustainable, it is immoral, and together we have got to change that." The speech was very well received, and the Vermont Senator and his wife were mobbed by crowds in Italy.

He met with the pope for 5 minutes but there was no photo op. Probably the pope understood that Hillary Clinton, who has a pretty good shot at being the next President of the United States, wouldn't appreciate him helping Sanders with Catholic voters. So in the interest of good relations between the Vatican and the U.S. in the future, he decided to skip the photo op. Sanders was undoubtedly disappointed, though he was nonetheless full of praise for the Pontiff: "I believe that the pope has played a historical and an incredible role in trying to create a new world economy and a new vision for the people of our planet." After the whirlwind trip, Sanders will be back on the campaign trail by Saturday morning. (Z)

Sanders Releases His 2014 Tax Returns

Bernie Sanders kept his promise to release his 2014 tax returns and did so yesterday. The 1040 form, filed jointly with his wife, shows that the couple had an adjusted gross income of $205,271. This consisted of $156,441 in salary, of which $150,000 was his salary as a senator, $39,281 from Social Security, and about $4,900 each from business income and pensions. Sander had only $11 in interest and $2 in dividends, making him one of the poorest members of the Senate, many of whom are multimillionaires. Nevertheless, he gave $8,350 to charity, about 4% of his income. Sanders' modestly listed his occupation as "Government Service" rather than "United States senator."

In contrast, Bill and Hillary Clinton's 2014 tax return shows an adjusted gross income of over $28 million. They gave over $3 million to charity, or about 11% of their combined income. With the Clintons, nothing is ever an accident, so no doubt in December they sat around the kitchen table with their accountant saying: "Some voters feel that tithing is important, so how much more do we need to give to beat the 10% mark?" Both Clintons listed their occupations as "Speaking and writing." (V)

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---The Votemaster
Apr15 Clinton, Sanders Spar in New York
Apr15 Trump Has a Big Lead in Pennsylvania
Apr15 Sam Wang: Trump Is Still the Favorite for the GOP Nomination
Apr15 One-Third of Republican Voters Are Open to an Independent Run by Trump
Apr15 New York Post Endorses Trump
Apr15 Senators Won't Support Cruz Even When He Asks Directly
Apr15 Trump Could Lose 100 Delegates This Weekend
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Apr15 Kirk Goes Full RINO To Save His Neck
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Apr14 Merkley Endorses Sanders
Apr13 Ryan Does the Full Sherman
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Apr13 Reince Priebus Is in over His Head
Apr13 Many Republican Delegates Have No Idea What Is about to Hit Them
Apr13 Ted Cruz is Starting to Get the Frontrunner Treatment
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Apr11 Trump Has Huge Leads in New York and Pennsylvania
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