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

February Lineup for the Republican Nomination

Here is our February 2016 list of the Republican presidential candidates in roughly the order of most likely to be nominated to least likely. The strengths and weaknesses of each one in the primaries are listed. Note that what is a strength in the primaries may be a weakness in the general election and vice versa. For example, Donald Trump is anti-immigrant, which may help him in the primaries but hurt him in the general election.

Candidate Advantages in Primaries Disadvantages in Primaries
Marco Rubio
Marco Rubio
  • American-dream type biography
  • Can get votes from all wings of the party
  • Young and telegenic, sort of like Jack Kennedy
  • Very charismatic and likable
  • From the mother of all swing states
  • Presidential when delivering talking points
  • Currently winning the "endorsement" primary
  • Surprised with strong finish in Iowa
  • Establishment may soon pull out all the stops for him
  • Not leading in any early state
  • Has misrepresented elements of his biography
  • First-term senator
  • Something of a lightweight on policy
  • Supported immigration bill before he opposed it
  • Doesn't do well when going off-script
  • Personal finances raise a lot of questions
  • Help for felonious brother-in-law raises questions
  • Seems more suited to the second slot
Donald Trump
Donald Trump
  • Loved by "poke-'em-in-the-eye" voters
  • Has been atop the polls for months
  • Actually created thousands of jobs
  • Can't be bribed, could self-fund
  • Says things no one else dares to say
  • Not a politician
  • Brilliant self-promoter
  • The most famous Republican candidate
  • Looking good in New Hampshire
  • Would be crushed by Clinton
  • Establishment will do anything to stop him
  • Used to be fairly liberal
  • Not exactly sure where the Middle East is
  • Demeaned John McCain's war record
  • Lots of sexist and racist remarks
  • His hair gets more attention than Hillary's
  • The most infamous Republican candidate
  • Second-place finish in Iowa cost him momentum
Ted Cruz
Ted Cruz
  • Won Iowa
  • Republican establishment hates him
  • Called Mitch McConnell a liar
  • Tea party darling
  • Young, fiery, and very conservative
  • Surprisingly good at fund raising
  • Excellent speaker and debater
  • Well organized in Super Tuesday states
  • Using his outspoken father Rafael to great effect
  • Winning Iowa means little; ask Rick & Mike
  • Republican establishment hates him
  • First-term senator
  • For a first-term senator, has a lot of enemies
  • Has more enemies than most six-term senators
  • Not very likable
  • Masterminded the 2013 government shutdown
  • Too establishment for some outsider voters
  • Too outsider for some establishment voters
  • Are evangelical voters enough to win?
John Kasich
John Kasich
  • Establishment choice if he beats Rubio in NH?
  • Twice elected in swing state of Ohio
  • Would win some Democrats in general election
  • Not well known
  • Running on competence, not ideology
  • Said St. Peter likes poor people
  • Supports Medicaid expansion & Common Core
  • Has performed poorly in debates
Jeb Bush
Jeb Bush
  • Establishment likes him
  • Executive experience galore
  • Huge, battle-tested field operation
  • Also from the mother of all swing states
  • Scion of a prominent, powerful political dynasty
  • Super PAC has more money than Uncle Scrooge
  • Lots of endorsements
  • Grassroots hates him
  • Weak campaigner, keeps inserting foot in mouth
  • Has to defend his unpopular brother
  • Wrong positions on immigration & Common Core
  • Married to a Latina
  • Barbara Bush: "We've had enough Bushes"
  • Jeb can fix it? Not so far.
  • The donations have dried up
  • Many of the voters who put him into the governor's mansion are dead
  • Endorsers look ready to jump ship, once Poppy Bush gives his approval
Chris Christie
Chris Christie
  • Aggressive character
  • Ran the RGA well; popular with governors
  • Won election twice in a blue state
  • Would be acceptable to GOP establishment
  • Endorsed by New Hampshire Union Leader
  • Polling badly in home state
  • Hugged Obama
  • Has only recently "discovered" he's conservative
  • Too many other candidates in front of him
  • Last fat President was William Howard Taft; but White House bathtub is bigger now
  • Lambasted by Newark, NJ Star-Ledger
  • We'll cross that bridge when we come to it—if it is open
Carly Fiorina
Carly Fiorina
  • Ran a Fortune 500 company
  • Can attack Clinton without being called sexist
  • Took on liberal icon Barbara Boxer in 2010
  • Self-made multimillionaire
  • Could self fund in the primaries for a while
  • Good debater
  • Not a politician
  • Was fired from a Fortune 500 Company
  • Got $20 million severance when fired
  • Was crushed by Barbara Boxer in 2010
  • No political experience
  • Barebones political operation
  • Not raising enough money
  • Barely registering in the polls any more
  • No more debate invitations will be forthcoming
Ben Carson
Ben Carson
  • Devoted following
  • Was polling very well for a while
  • A more polite version of Donald Trump
  • Not a politician
  • Married to the same woman for 40 years
  • Allows racist voters to say they are not racist
  • Prone to gaffes
  • His numbers are trending downward
  • He's black in a nearly all white party
  • Never held public office
  • Not a dynamic speaker or debater
  • Not politically savvy
  • Campaign staff is in disarray
  • Very weak on foreign policy
  • Does he want to be president or just sell books?
Jim Gilmore
Jim Gilmore
  • Nobody hates him
  • Nobody ever heard of him
  • Lost 2008 Senate race to Mark Warner by 31%
  • British bookies give the ineligible Arnold Schwarzenegger better odds
  • Not allowed into the Republican debates without a ticket
  • Would need to remove only one shoe to count his vote total in Iowa

If Rubio comes in second or third in New Hampshire, we expect most of the remaining candidates to call it a day. Nevertheless, there could still be surprises in store. If Bush pulls out, he could endorse some other candidate (Christie?) and send some of remaining millions in this direction. (V & Z)

Could the Republicans Be Down to Three Serious Candidates Already?

Some pundits, including the National Journal's Josh Kraushaar, think it is already a three-way race for the Republican nomination, between Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Donald Trump. Iowa showed that the rest are in the dust and three of them are even officially out (see below). However, the it's maybe a week too early to say for sure. In particular, if Gov. John Kasich (R-OH) scores well in New Hampshire, as polls indicate that he might, it could become a four-way race. Also, New Hampshire voters delight in being contrarian and rather than confirm what Iowa voters said, often have a different message.

No matter what happens in New Hampshire, Cruz, Trump, and Rubio are not going away for a long time. Cruz is the favorite of the conservative movement. Trump has solid support among working-class whites, and Rubio is the establishment favorite for the moment, unless Kasich does well in New Hampshire. (V)

Santorum and Paul Call It Quits

Rick Santorum, who won the Iowa caucuses in 2012, didn't win them in 2016. He got 1% of the votes this time. He is out of money and hope so he is dropping out. In 2012, he was the only serious candidate who appealed to Iowa's numerous evangelical voters. This time he had to contend with Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, and Ben Carson, among others, all of whom appealed to the evangelicals. The voters wanted a fresh face and it wasn't his. His withdrawal will have no effect on the race whatsoever.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) also dropped out yesterday. Dynastic politics doesn't always work. His father ran for President in 2012 and generated a lot of excitement but not enough delegates to make much of a difference. Paul junior got far less traction than Paul senior. His libertarian message just didn't catch on. Modern Republicans aren't really libertarians. They rant against big government but what they really mean is that they don't like big government to get involved with the economy. They very much like big government to get involved in personal matters such as women's reproductive health. Paul has another reason for getting out now: He has a Senate reelection campaign to worry about. The Democrats found a strong opponent to run against him, Lexington Mayor Jim Gray, so Paul needs to start raising money and campaigning if he wants to hold his seat.

Mike Huckabee got out Monday after a disappointing showing in Iowa. He won in 2008, but couldn't even crack 2% this time. His departure is hardly surprising.

The most surprising development of all was yesterday's announcement by Jim Gilmore that he is still in the race. His showing in Iowa wasn't so great. He got 12 votes statewide. Note, that is not 12% of the votes. It is 12 votes, total, as in 6 + 6 or if you prefer 10 + 2. It is not known if he has 12 relatives in Iowa. He came in last. He barely campaigns, so he doesn't need much money to keep going. (V)

Rubio is Gaining Momentum, Though at What Cost?

Marco Rubio is having an excellent week. After a surprisingly strong showing in Iowa, he has his New Hampshire operation running like a finely-tuned machine. Also, in a likely sign of things to come, he has pulled ahead of Jeb Bush in congressional endorsements, 32-31. The six that he bagged on Wednesday include heavy-hitter Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC); several other GOP senators are rumored to be not far behind. What is the secret of Rubio's resurgence? Well, it seems to be a bit of that good old-fashioned Trump-style demagoguery. The Florida Senator's rise in the Iowa polls coincided with a significant and deliberate uptick in his anti-immigrant rhetoric.

By all evidences, Rubio will continue to borrow from The Donald's playbook. On Wednesday, President Obama visited a mosque and delivered an address decrying Islamophobia in American society. The remarks were widely lauded, even by many conservatives (talk-show host Hugh Hewitt, for example, described the speech as "superb.") Trump, of course, was not complimentary, but by his standards he was rather restrained, saying, "I don't know, maybe he feels comfortable there. There are a lot of places he can go, and he chose a mosque." The billionaire's passivity left an opening for Rubio to fire away with both barrels, and so fire away he did, absolutely lambasting the President:

I'm tired of being divided against each other for political reasons like this President's done. Always pitting people against each other. Always! Look at today: He gave a speech at a mosque. Oh, you know, basically implying that America is discriminating against Muslims.

It takes a special kind of cognitive dissonance to believe that Muslims are not being discriminated against, and also to attack a member of the other party whilst at the same time lamenting the divisiveness of American politics. For the moment, it's working for the Senator—we once again have him as the favorite to claim the GOP nomination, in fact. But, like Ted Cruz and Trump, Rubio seems unconcerned about the fact that winning the White House will eventually require more than the votes of the base. Oh, wait. You can buy an Etch A Sketch at amazon.com for only $14.96. Like Romney in 2012, he'll need one. (Z)

Trump Says He Will Sue Over the Iowa Caucus Results

True to form when he loses at something, Donald Trump whines and threatens to sue. He claims that Ted Cruz stole the Iowa caucuses. Specifically, he is complaining about a mailer that Cruz sent to Iowa voters with a big label: "VOTER VIOLATION," insinuating that the voter had broken some law by not voting. The mailer listed the elections the voter had participated in as well as those his neighbors had voted in. The Iowa Secretary of State, Paul D. Pate, slammed Cruz for the mailer, but didn't go as far as to claim it was a crime.

It is not clear who Trump would sue. Cruz? The Iowa Republican Party? Suing your own party is generally not a good way to win the hearts and minds of its supporters. Also it is very unlikely any court would order the Iowa Republican Party to hold a new caucus and if it did, the ill will generated by the lawsuit would probably cause Trump to drop to Jeb Bush territory.

Now that Trump is really going after Cruz, the Texas Senator is showing that he can dish it out as well. Yesterday he said that Trump doesn't have the temperament to be President and we might wake up one morning to discover that President Trump has nuked Denmark. For such a small country, Denmark is getting a lot of free publicity in this election. In the first Democratic debate, Bernie Sanders praised Denmark and Hillary Clinton announced that she was running for President of the United States, not President of Denmark. (V)

Ted Cruz Has Another "Misunderstanding"

Poor Ted Cruz is certainly the victim of an unusually large number of innocent misunderstandings. Last week, his negative remarks about Donald Trump were misunderstood as "personal attacks." Before that, he misunderstood the letter from his insurance company, reading "we are changing your policy to a slightly different one" as "we are canceling your policy and leaving you without coverage thanks to Obamacare." And not long before that, he misunderstood what current legislation says about fencing along the U.S. border.

The latest misunderstanding involves Ben Carson, who announced that he would be going home to Florida on Wednesday after 17 days on the road. The Cruz campaign inferred from the announcement that Carson was dropping out of the race, and sent an email to supporters in Iowa suggesting as much and encouraging them to recruit Carson's now-available delegates. The problem is that Carson was just going home to get a change of clothes, and had no intention of withdrawing from the race. Late on Wednesday, after initially defending the email as a legitimate communication of "breaking news," Cruz apologized.

The Senator might want to pick up a biography of LBJ sometime soon, say Robert Dallek's Lyndon B. Johnson: Portrait of a President, and peruse it sometime soon. One of the main lessons: Underhanded tricks work in American politics, but only if people don't know you're pulling them. (Z)

In New Hampshire, Sanders Leads Clinton by 33 Points

The first poll of New Hampshire after the Iowa caucuses puts Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) ahead of Hillary Clinton 63% to 30% according to a University of Massachusetts poll. Sanders has been leading Clinton in New Hampshire for weeks, but this is an even bigger lead than before. Sanders is from an adjacent state and New Hampshire is even whiter (94%) than Iowa (91%) so a Sanders win here will be discounted by many observers. However, it will give him momentum for 11 days heading into the Nevada caucuses on Feb. 20.

Clinton is not giving up on New Hampshire, though. She clearly remembers that in 1992, husband Bill not only didn't win Iowa, he got crushed, coming in at 2.8%. But a week later, he came in at 25%, only slightly behind Paul Tsongas, a liberal former senator from neighboring Massachusetts and favorite of young people and New England liberals—essentially, Sanders' base. After New Hampshire, Bill Clinton went around calling himself the comeback kid. Hillary is clearly hoping to pull off the same stunt. (V)

Clinton Raised $27 Million from State Parties

Bernie Sanders raised $20 million the day after the Iowa caucuses, an incredible haul, especially considering it came mostly from small donors. Hillary Clinton is also pretty good at raising money, but she goes about it differently. FEC filings show that she has alliances with state Democratic Parties that will give her $27 million. Sanders has one such alliance, for a total of $1,000. Clinton also has donors who have written 7-figure checks to her super PAC. Sanders doesn't have, or want, a super PAC, preferring to rely on small individual donations (V).

Additional Democratic Debates Are a Go

In a development that surprises no one, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have ironed out all the major wrinkles, and will indeed meet up for four additional debates in addition to the two that had already been scheduled. Clinton got her Flint, MI meet-up, while Sanders had to settle for New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and California as the other three locations. The latter two states aren't prime Sanders territory, but it could be worse (any Southern state, for example).

The agreement means that instead of taking place on February 11th, the next Democratic debate will happen...tonight, at the University of New Hampshire in Durham. Recent interactions between the candidates have been considerably less cordial than they were earlier in the campaign, and the CNN town hall that took place Wednesday was downright churlish, with Sanders questioning Clinton's credentials as a progressive and also asking uncomfortable questions about some of her Wall Street speaking fees. Undoubtedly, these points will be raised again on Thursday night. Clinton, meanwhile, will probably be playing defense, coming off a narrow victory that has supporters worrying about her momentum, and facing a crowd that will mostly be in the Senator's corner.

The candidates would be well-advised to keep the meeting short and sweet, perhaps an hour, to avoid fatigue. After all, between the two parties, there are now a staggering 20 debates scheduled before the general election even gets underway. That said, it is a rare politician indeed who sees the value in brevity, so a two-hour affair is what we will get. NBC News will host, with Chuck Todd and Rachel Maddow moderating. The debate will air on MSNBC and all of NBC's digital platforms, beginning at 9:00 EST. (Z)

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---The Votemaster
Feb03 Clinton Barely Edges Out Sanders in Final Iowa Tally
Feb03 Clinton and Sanders Voters See Issues Differently
Feb03 Republican Voters Also See Things Differently
Feb03 It's a Marathon, Not a Sprint
Feb03 Is Cruz Like Santorum?
Feb03 Bush, Kasich, and Chrisie Are Going to Aim Their Arrows at Rubio
Feb03 Devil Is in the Details for Democratic Debates
Feb03 MacFarland Has a Message for Cruz
Feb03 Sanders Has Yet Another Multimillion Dollar Day
Feb02 Let the Spin Begin
Feb01 Caucus Day Is Upon Us
Feb01 Monday Is Also Judgment Day for Microsoft
Feb01 Sanders Has a Massive Rally in Iowa City
Feb01 Sanders Raised $20 million in January
Feb01 Koch Brothers Network Spent $400 Million in 2015
Feb01 Soros Gives $8 million to Clinton
Feb01 DNC Will Sanction More Debates
Feb01 Keep Your Friends Close, and Your Enemies Closer
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