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
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Dem pickups:  
GOP pickups:  

News from the Votemaster

TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Democrats Duel in Durham
      •  Trump Barely Ahead in New National Poll
      •  Rubio in Second Place in New Hampshire
      •  Powell and Rice also Used Personal Email Accounts for Classified Data
      •  Barbara Bush To Campaign for Jeb in New Hampshire
      •  Cruz Raised $3 Million Since Iowa Caucuses

Democrats Duel in Durham

Anyone who didn't realize that Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Hillary Clinton were debating tonight might be forgiven, since the whole event came together in just the last 36 hours or so. But debate they did, and despite the last-second nature of the whole thing, it was the strongest debate of the campaign so far.

With Martin O'Malley finally having exited stage right, and with the questioning in the hands of veterans Rachel Maddow and Chuck Todd—who were remarkably well prepared, under the circumstances—the two candidates were able to lay out their cases for the presidency as clearly as they have thus far. The focus was less on specific policy questions (where there really aren't that many areas of major disagreement), and much more on approach. Clinton made her case early as a realist who understands what is possible and what is not. In her opening remarks, she declared that, "I'm not making promises that I cannot keep." Shortly thereafter she unveiled an (apparently) new line, "A progressive is someone who makes progress." Expect that to be on t-shirts and bumper stickers within the week. She returned to this basic theme as often as was possible, including her closing statement, when she said to the voters of New Hampshire, "I'm asking you to bring both your heart and your head to vote with you on Tuesday."

Clinton is also quite obviously working to develop effective ways to critique the Senator without engendering too much blowback. Beyond her argument that his approach and his ideas are admirable but not practical, she also went on the offensive during the inevitable Wall Street part of the discussion. Clinton characterized as a "smear" the Senator's oft-implied, but never directly stated, notion that she has been bought and paid for through speaking fees and campaign contributions, and she told him to knock it off. He somewhat avoided the point, launching instead into 90 seconds of generic railing against the evils of Wall Street. Clinton also declared that Sanders is the "self-proclaimed gatekeeper for progressivism," and observed that Joe Biden, Barack Obama, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and late Sen. Paul Wellstone (a liberal icon) apparently don't qualify as progressives by his standard.

Sanders also did an excellent job of defining himself—authentic, and as a candidate of the people, rather than the establishment. In one of his strongest moments, he said:

I will absolutely admit that Secretary Clinton has the support of far more governors, mayors, members of the House. She has the entire establishment or almost the entire establishment behind her. That's a fact. I don't deny it. But I am pretty proud that we have over a million people who have contributed to our campaign averaging 27 bucks apiece. That we have had meetings where 25,000-30,000 people have come out. That our campaign is a campaign of the people, by the people, and for the people.

He too went on the attack, as apropos, taking particular exception to Clinton's suggestion that he wants to dismantle Obamacare before establishing a replacement.

That said, while this was certainly the most heated of the Democratic debates, one cannot help but observe the basic civility that reigns. Even the attack lines are not personal, and instead focus on policies, statements, and governing philosophies, all entirely apropos subjects for critique. Even when disagreeing, the candidates were generally gracious and willing to recognize one another's strengths and accomplishments. This is true of Sanders in particular:

And as I have said many times, you know, sometimes in these campaigns, things get a little bit out of hand. I happen to respect the secretary very much, I hope it's mutual. And on our worst days, I think it is fair to say we are 100 times better than any Republican candidate.

This line got a lot of applause, while Clinton nodded vigorously. It was also one of the few times the candidates put the GOP directly in their crosshairs. This is another dimension of the Democratic debates' general civility; while the GOP candidates—Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), in particular—take nearly any opportunity to slam the Democrats in general and Clinton/Sanders/Obama in particular, the Democrats generally offer only infrequent, and relatively mild, rebukes of the Republicans. On Thursday, they made a pair of offhanded references to Donald Trump, neither of them critical, and none to the party's other candidates. The Republican who got the most attention, actually, was Theodore Roosevelt.

This is not to say that the whole night was perfection for either candidate. With 40 or 50 minutes' speaking time each, mistakes will be made. Sanders, as is usual, fumbled on foreign policy and Clinton had her usual deer-in-the-headlights moment when the name 'Goldman Sachs' was uttered. They were also backed into saying a few things they might like to take back, with Sanders declaring that he is a revolutionary but is not a radical (Twitter found the oxymoron to be rather amusing), while Clinton declared flatly that she would never send ground troops to Syria or Iraq (sounds good, but those kinds of promises can come back to haunt a president after they get to the White House).

When all is said and done, the debate will do little to change the status quo. In a reversal of the usual situation, it was Hillary Clinton who could have used a big win so as to make New Hampshire competitive and to soften the 11-day "her campaign is in trouble" narrative that will take hold leading into Nevada. She didn't get it. The Secretary was good, but so too was the Senator, and so a big win was not really available. The silver lining for the Clinton campaign is that the very existence of this debate will help to weaken the argument that the DNC and/or DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz are stacking the deck on Hillary's behalf.

The Republicans take a turn next, on Saturday. Clinton and Sanders, meanwhile, will take a one-week debate break before facing off again in Wisconsin on Feb. 11 with PBS hosting and Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff moderating. (Z)

Trump Barely Ahead in New National Poll

Donald Trump's poor showing in Iowa is already affecting his national standing. PPP ran a poll of the Republican race post-Iowa. Here are the results.

Rank Candidate Pct
1 Donald Trump 25%
2 Ted Cruz 21%
2 Marco Rubio 21%
4 Ben Carson 11%
5 John Kasich 5%
5 Jeb Bush 5%
7 Chris Christie 3%
7 Carly Fiorina 3%
9 Jim Gilmore 1%

The key observation is that the race has gotten much tighter, with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Marco Rubio now tied for second and only 4 points behind Trump. Clearly Trump and Rubio both have momentum, but Trump's going downward and Rubio's is going upward. That said, if Trump wins New Hampshire, as current polls suggest he will, that could stop Trump's fall. Rubio might gain or lose momentum, depending how he does in the Granite State. (V)

Rubio in Second Place in New Hampshire

Maybe the party decides after all. The GOP leadership definitely would prefer Marco Rubio to either Ted Cruz or Donald Trump and Rubio is zooming upwards in New Hampshire. A new CNN/WMUR poll has Rubio in second place now at 18%, trailing only Donald Trump. Here are the numbers.

New Hampshire
Rank Candidate Pct
1 Donald Trump 29%
2 Marco Rubio 18%
3 Ted Cruz 13%
4 John Kasich 12%
5 Jeb Bush 10%
6 Chris Christie 4%
6 Carly Fiorina 4%
8 Ben Carson 2%
9 Jim Gilmore 0%

If Rubio indeed comes in second—which is by no means certain since the Republicans have another debate this week—then he will become Trump's main challenger. That doesn't mean Cruz will go gentle into that good night, though. Cruz has plenty of money, a good ground game in the South, and a massive amount of ambition. Still, if the order in New Hampshire is Trump, Rubio, Cruz, that will probably be curtains for everyone else. (V)

Powell and Rice also Used Personal Email Accounts for Classified Data

Hillary Clinton has been dogged for a year for her use of a private email server that sent and/or received emails that were later classified. Now it appears that former Secretaries of State Colin Powell and Condolezza Rice did the same thing. Clinton is certainly going to use this revelation to argue (1) you can't fault someone for sending or receiving an email that wasn't classified at the time but was classified later, (2) the Republicans are harping on this issue for strictly partisan purposes, and (3) the classification system has simply run amok. The third point is so well established that in Oct. 2010, Congress passed Public Law 111-258, entitled "Reducing Over-Classification Act." At that time Congress recognized that bureaucrats were overzealous in classifying documents as secret long after they had been produced, often to hide some bureaucrat's mistakes by keeping nosy reporters from seeing them. (V)

Barbara Bush To Campaign for Jeb in New Hampshire

Although Barbara Bush, wife and mother to Presidents, once famously said: "We've had enough Bushes," she has changed her mind and is planning to help her son Jeb in New Hampshire. She is the most popular and least controversial Bush, and Jeb needs all the help he can get. It is basically do or die for him in New Hampshire. If he can come in second or third, he will live to campaign another day, but if he comes in fourth or fifth, he's likely toast.

Another advantage that she brings is that if Donald Trump starts throwing mud at her it will look pretty bad. Going after any mother would be in very poor taste, but one who is both the wife and mother of a President and who has always comported herself with great dignity is likely to backfire badly on Trump. Trump did tweet, however, that Jeb can't bring his mommy along to help deal with terrorists. (V)

Cruz Raised $3 Million Since Iowa Caucuses

Ted Cruz's win in Iowa is helping him financially. Since then he has raised $3 million. Like Bernie Sanders, most of it came in small donations, which means the donors can donate over and over. However, unlike Sanders, Cruz also has multiple super PACs run by different people, which happily accept large donations. One of them took an $11 million donation from New York hedge fund manager Robert Mercer, for example. (V)

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---The Votemaster
Feb04 February Lineup for the Republican Nomination
Feb04 Could the Republicans Be Down to Three Serious Candidates Already?
Feb04 Santorum and Paul Call It Quits
Feb04 Rubio is Gaining Momentum, Though at What Cost?
Feb04 Trump Says He Will Sue Over the Iowa Caucus Results
Feb04 Ted Cruz Has Another Misunderstanding
Feb04 In New Hampshire, Sanders Leads Clinton by 33 Points
Feb04 Clinton Raised $27 Million from State Parties
Feb04 Additional Democratic Debates Are a Go
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