Tentative Primary and Caucus Schedule
  March 1 (Super Tues)
  March 2-14
L blue   March 15-31
Delegates needed for nomination:
GOP: 1237,   Dem: 2242
Map explained
New polls:  
Dem pickups:  
GOP pickups:  

News from the Votemaster

TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Caucus Day Is Upon Us
      •  Monday Is Also Judgment Day for Microsoft
      •  Sanders Has a Massive Rally in Iowa City
      •  Sanders Raised $20 million in January
      •  Koch Brothers Network Spent $400 Million in 2015
      •  Soros Gives $8 million to Clinton
      •  DNC Will Sanction More Debates
      •  Keep Your Friends Close, and Your Enemies Closer

Caucus Day Is Upon Us

For the better part of a year we have been hearing from candidates, party leaders, pundits, donors, and pollsters about who should be president. The only people who haven't had a say are the voters. Today is their turn, at least in Iowa. The entire direction of both parties could change tomorrow, depending on what happens in over 1,700 caucus locations in Iowa's 99 counties tonight.

The parties have different procedures. For the Democrats, each candidate gets a room, or a corner of a room, in which supporters can gather. Each elects a speaker to present the candidate's case to the plenary session. Then a vote is taken. Candidates with less than 15% (sorry, Martin, that's you) are deemed nonviable and their supporters will have to find a new home with another candidate. Then another vote is taken, until all candidates are viable. Then the number of delegates for each candidate is calculated in proportion to the vote. The final step is for actual delegates to the county caucuses to be elected.

The Republican caucuses are simpler. A speaker for each candidate makes a pitch for the candidate. Then everyone writes the name of their favorite candidate on a sheet of paper. After the results are announced, the actual delegates are chosen. The Republicans have no threshold of viability, which is a good thing in a party in which most of the candidates are polling below 5%.

For the Democrats, the big question is: Can Bernie Sanders topple Hillary Clinton? If he can, and also wins New Hampshire next week, he will be on a roll. If Clinton wins, as Ann Selzer's poll suggests she will, it will take a lot of the air out of his balloon. Iowa Democrats are very liberal and if he can't win there, states like Nevada and South Carolina will be tough nuts to crack.

For the Republicans, what everyone is looking at is the order the top three candidates finish in and how far apart they are. Everyone expects the order to be Donald Trump, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), but this year has been so unpredictable, anything could happen.

A lot depends on turnout. If it is low, Clinton and Cruz will probably win. If vast numbers of first-time caucusgoers show up, Sanders and Trump could win. Nevertheless, surprises are common. Also worth mentioning is that Iowa has a rather poor record of predicting the nominee. The candidates who win there frequently lose the nomination, as Mike Huckabee in 2008 and Rick Santorum in 2012 did.

Tuesday morning, there will be blood on the snow. Most likely some of the candidates will surrender to reality although a few of the losers may straggle on to New Hampshire. Our guess is that Huckabee and Santorum will give up the ghost Tuesday. Possibly Ben Carson, too. Even if Carly Fiorina gets 1% of the vote and no delegates, she will probably call if a moral victory, move on to New Hampshire, and drop out the day after the primary. (V)

Monday Is Also Judgment Day for Microsoft

The use of computers to count votes is controversial, due to the possibility of errors or outright fraud. On the other hand, holding caucuses in the middle of winter in a state that is home to many rural voters is wildly inefficient. The Republican Party learned this firsthand in 2012, when it took two weeks to name Rick Santorum (and not Mitt Romney) the winner.

Microsoft, looking to serve the public interest while also getting a little free publicity, has stepped forward in an attempt to tackle both issues. They've created an app (actually, two apps, one for each party) that will allow results to be reported efficiently and accurately (they hope). Clinton and Sanders, at least, aren't willing to put all their eggs in that one basket, so they each have their own proprietary backup reporting system. It will be interesting to see if the Microsoft tally matches the Clinton and Sanders tallies. (Z)

Sanders Has a Massive Rally in Iowa City

Saturday night, on the campus of the University of Iowa in Iowa City, Bernie Sanders (and some other rock stars) pulled in a crowd estimated at 4,000, far larger than any of Hillary Clinton's crowds. But he has to somehow convert enthusiasm into actual caucus votes. A problem that Sanders also has is that his supporters are very concentrated in university towns, like Ames and Iowa City, leaving open the possibility that Sanders gets more votes statewide but Clinton gets more delegates by winning far more precincts. Nevertheless, for the moment, the passion is with Sanders. (V)

Sanders Raised $20 million in January

Bernie Sanders announced yesterday that he raised $20 million in January. Almost all were small-dollar donations, averaging $27. Very few of Sanders' donors have reached the $2700 maximum, so they can donate again and again, assuring the Vermont senator of plenty of money going forward. Hillary Clinton has not announced her January totals yet. (V)

Koch Brothers Network Spent $400 Million in 2015

While Sanders $20 million in one month is very impressive, even more impressive is the $400 million that the Koch brothers network raised and spent in 2015. The brothers intend to spend nearly $900 million this cycle. If they do that and end up with Donald Trump as their standardbearer, they will not be happy campers. (V)

Soros Gives $8 million to Clinton

While we wait for Hillary Clinton to announce her campaign's January fundraising totals, we already know what Democratic megadonor George Soros has done: Written two checks, one for $6 million and one for $2 million, to Clinton-affiliated Super PACs. Soros is something of the liberal answer to the Kochtopus, in the sense that he has a lot of money to spend and his blessing is something of a bellwether of "establishment" support. That said, while Soros might give generously by most people's standards, he's not likely to shepherd a Koch-like nine-figure sum towards the blue team. (Z)

DNC Will Sanction More Debates

Responding to complaints that too few Democratic candidates' debates had been scheduled, and that the ones that had been scheduled were buried on weekend/holiday nights, DNC chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz helped herself to a generous serving of crow and agreed to sanction several more meetings between Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and (if he's still in the race) Martin O'Malley. The first of the newly-added debates will take place on Thursday in advance of the New Hampshire primary.

In theory, this is a win for transparency in general, and for the Sanders campaign in particular, who felt (probably correctly) that they were being buried by Wasserman Schultz. But will it really matter? Just as the Republicans seem to cover the same ground over and over in their debates (confront radical Islam, down with Obamacare, cut taxes, etc.), so too do the Democrats (minimum wage, Glass-Steagall, up with Obamacare/single-payer, etc.). Fatigue has set in, as indicated by declining ratings on both sides of the contest. We're getting down to just the political junkies; it's hard to imagine that too many undecideds are tuning in any more. Which means that Sanders won the battle, but in waiting so long to do so, he may have lost the war. (Z)

Keep Your Friends Close, and Your Enemies Closer

Everyone knows by now that Ted Cruz has a lot of enemies, enemies who have not been shy about sharing their opinion. In just the last 24 hours, in fact, he's been declared a liar by two different prominent members of his party. The first of those is Donald Trump, whose bromance with the Texas Senator is definitely over. Cruz declared that, "Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have the identical position on health care, which is they want to put the government in charge of you and your doctor." Trump responded: "Look, Ted Cruz is a total liar. I am so against Obamacare. I've been saying it for two years in my speeches." For what it's worth, PolitiFact concurs with The Donald.

The other GOP luminary to turn his guns on Cruz this weekend is Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). As one of his standard stump speech talking points, the Texas Senator has been telling crowds, "Do you know if you define as a Reaganite anyone who supported Ronald Reagan in the 1980 primary, do you know that the Republican Party has never once nominated a Reaganite to be president since 1984?" This bit of sophistry disqualifies 1988 and 1992 nominee George H. W. Bush and 1996 nominee Bob Dole as Reaganites because they ran against the Gipper in 1980 before throwing in the towel and endorsing him, 2000 and 2004 nominee George W. Bush because he supported his father in 1980, and 2008 and 2012 nominees McCain and Mitt Romney because they made no public statements of preference in 1980. McCain furiously denounced this characterization as an "outright lie," and explained (quite correctly) that he could not publicly support Reagan in 1980 because he was still in the U.S. Navy Reserve and so barred from making political endorsements.

And while Cruz takes damage from his adversaries, he's also learning what Warren Harding meant when, in the midst of the Teapot Dome scandal, he declared, "I have no trouble with my enemies. But my friends...my goddamn friends...they're the ones who keep me walking the floor [at] night!" It was Cruz's campaign staff, for example, that was undoubtedly responsible for the Iowa mailer that has created a firestorm of criticism. As we noted yesterday, the official-looking envelope accused recipients of a "VOTING VIOLATION" for failure to turn out in past elections. On top of the letters were the words "official public record." Each mailer showed the name of the voter and gave him or her a grade from A to F, based on past voting. Grades for neighbors were also given, as was an ominous warning that there would be a follow-up after the caucuses, suggesting that failure to caucus was a crime, which it definitely is not. The Republican Secretary of State Paul Pate slammed Cruz for this, saying there is no such thing as a voting violation and if anything illegal was going on it was Cruz's misrepresentation of his office.

Meanwhile, at a Cruz rally on Sunday, "Duck Dynasty" star Phil Robertson described gay marriage as "evil," "depravity," "wicked," and "nonsense." This follows on the heels of Tony Perkins endorsing the Texas Senator. Perkins has been even more harsh in his anti-gay rhetoric, claiming that gay rights advocates intend to round up Christians and imprison them. He has also described LGBT Americans as "disgusting" and has declared that nearly all gay men are pedophiles. And these statements were made when Perkins was not busy partnering with former KKK grand wizard David Duke, or speaking to white supremacist groups like the Council of Conservative Citizens. Ted Cruz is undoubtedly delighted to have the support of these men, and even tweeted that, "@tperkins is a man of incredible principle and faith. I am honored to have his blessing and endorsement for 2016!" If Cruz becomes the GOP candidate, he will learn that the oppo research teams are even more thrilled than he is about who his friends are. (V & Z)

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---The Votemaster
Jan31 Ann Selzer: It's Clinton and Trump
Jan31 The People Who Don't Love Trump, Hate Trump
Jan31 How about a Trump/Sanders Ticket?
Jan31 Is the Bloom off the Ted Cruz Rose?
Jan31 How Will Christians Vote?
Jan31 Guide to Help You Pick a Candidate
Jan31 Clinton and Sanders Agree to Have More Debates
Jan31 Clinton Turns to Gabby Giffords to Help Her Campaign in Iowa
Jan31 Sanders Lists the Top Ten Corporate Tax Dodgers
Jan31 New York Times Endorses Clinton and Kasich
Jan31 No Loyalty Oath in Virginia
Jan30 Republican Debate Postmortem
Jan30 Clinton Leads in Iowa
Jan30 No Surge of New Voters in Iowa
Jan30 Some of Clinton's Emails Were Highly Classified
Jan30 What Explains the Rise of Donald Trump and Ted Cruz?
Jan30 Some Union Members Like Trump
Jan30 Koch Brothers Having a Retreat This Weekend
Jan30 What a President Can Do without Congress
Jan29 The Song Remains the Same in Iowa
Jan29 It is All about Expectations
Jan29 Rural Iowans Rule
Jan29 The Real Difference between Sanders and Clinton
Jan29 Governor of Guam Endorses Cruz
Jan29 Obama Doesn't Want To Be on the Supreme Court
Jan28 Seven Not Looking Very Lucky for Republicans
Jan28 Clinton Wants a Debate before the New Hampshire Primary
Jan28 Cruz super PAC Offers $1.5 Million to Veterans if Trump Will Debate Him
Jan28 Iowa Isn't about Winners, It Is about Losers
Jan28 Clinton Still Has A Large Lead Nationally
Jan28 Rand Paul Will Face an Openly Gay Opponent
Jan27 Trump Tops 40% for the First Time in a National Poll
Jan27 Trump Likely to Sit Out Thursday's Debate
Jan27 Democrats May Participate in Unsanctioned Debate
Jan27 Is the GOP Really Resigned to Trump as the Nominee?
Jan27 And Justice for Obama?
Jan27 Turnout in Iowa May Break Records
Jan27 Kasich Racking Up New Hampshire Newspaper Endorsements
Jan27 Candidate Hacks into Elections Office in Florida
Jan27 Seda Officially Climbs on O'Malley Bandwagon
Jan26 Trump Victories in Iowa and New Hampshire Could Seal the Deal
Jan26 Trump Says He May Skip Next Debate
Jan26 Bill Clinton To Campaign in Iowa This Week
Jan26 Why Sanders Can't Crack the Black Vote
Jan26 North Carolina Voter ID Law on Trial
Jan26 Senator, You're No Jack Kennedy
Jan26 Makers of Doctored Planned Parenthood Video Indicted
Jan26 Cruz's Insurance Tale Doesn't Stand up to Scrutiny
Jan26 Sanders Has His Own Ice Cream
Jan25 New polls: Trump is Leading in Iowa