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

Democratic Debate Postmortem

On Thursday, Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) met for the sixth time. On Friday, the world weighed in on their performances:

Left-leaning media
Josh Voorhees, Slate Winner: Sanders. Loser: Clinton. "Fresh off a race-altering and historically large victory in New Hampshire, Bernie Sanders arrived at the Democratic debate on Thursday with all the momentum. He left with a bit more, but barely."

Chris Cillizza, WaPo Winners: Clinton, Barack Obama. Losers: Sanders, Henry Kissinger. "Beginning to end, this was Clinton's best debate of the election. In the first half hour, Clinton poked a series of holes in Sanders's health-care proposal and broadly cast the Vermont senator as someone who talks a big game but simply can't hope to achieve his goals."

Matthew Yglesias, Vox Winners: Clinton, Obama, Black Lives Matter. Losers: Republicans, Wall Street, Henry Kissinger. "A whole new generation of young Sanders-loving liberals are likely to find themselves checking out books like Gary Bass's The Blood Telegram to find out about Kissinger's involvement in Pakistan's brutal military campaign against Bangladesh."

Jason Easley, PoliticusUSA Winners: Sanders, Clinton, Democratic voters, PBS. Loser: Republicans. "It was a bad night for Republicans. Their candidates look childish and unprepared after the show that Clinton and Sanders put on. If the question before voters in November is who do you trust to run the country, Democrats will win hands down. There is clearly only one adult political party that has their act together, and it isn't the gang being led by Donald Trump."

Errol Louis, CNN Winner: Clinton. Loser: None. "The days of Hillary Clinton subtly separating herself from President Barack Obama on one policy or another are over: she won the debate in Milwaukee by lavishly and repeatedly praising Obama -- and delivered a sharp rebuke to Sen. Bernie Sanders for criticizing the President."

Right-leaning media
Leada Gore, al.com Winners: Sanders, Clinton. Loser: None. "Sanders has seen a huge surge in the polls since December by hammering his mantras of economic equality, criminal justice and immigration reform and overhauling the campaign finance system. He covered all those Thursday night, to much applause from his supporters in the audience. The big question is how he plans to accomplish his reforms and those details seem to be scarce."

Bobby Blanchard, Dallas Morning News Winner: Wisconsin voters, Canada. Loser: Wisconsin voters, Undecided voters, Clinton, Sanders. "Try as they might, Clinton and Sanders weren't able to create much of distinction between themselves to help Democrats make up their minds."

Sam Frizell, Fortune Winner: Barack Obama. Loser: None. "There were only two Democrats on the debate stage in Milwaukee on Thursday night, but they should have brought a third podium for President Obama."

Jay Caruso, Red State Winner: None. Losers: Clinton, Sanders. "If you watched any of the Democrat debate as I did last night, you had a chance to see two old white people go back and forth, jockeying to see which of them could prove to the masses who was the most far-left-neo-maxi-zoom-dweebie. It was hard to tell. Ever since Sanders has made life difficult for the anointed one, Hillary Clinton, she's been making a mad walker-assisted dash to the left."

Ron Fournier, Fox News Winner: None. Losers: Clinton, Sanders. "Hillary Clinton did not sharpen her message. She is still meandering all over the place. What does she really stand for? It's hard to tell. And Bernie Sanders for the love of God, how do you go through the debate and not mention e-mails or that the state department went after the Clinton foundation?"

Foreign media
Lucia Graves, The Guardian (UK) Winner: Clinton. Loser: Sanders. "Throughout the debate, on practically every topic, Clinton's cool demeanor played well. Even on the one topic that should have gotten under her skin—why more New Hampshire women, particularly young women, didn't vote for her—she resisted the temptation to be or even sound critical."

Bruce Wright, International Business Times Winner: Clinton. Loser: None. "Clinton seemed to maintain a sense of calm and competence while working to emphasize that she and Sanders have similar goals but pointing out that the Vermont senator is not realistic about how to get there."

Haaretz Winner: None. Loser: None. "The sixth presidential debate featured several sharp exchanges but a more sedate tone than their last meeting."

Across the thirteen outlets, the tally ends up like this:

Clinton: 7 wins, 4 losses, 2 ties
Sanders: 3 wins, 5 losses, 2 ties

In short, a slight edge to Clinton, but nothing game-changing. To a large extent, the most interesting thing that comes from this comparison is how often the various media declared that Barack Obama "won" the debate. The efforts by both candidates, and particularly Clinton, to hitch their wagon to the President's were not subtle. This is a marked change from the last time the Democrats ran with a term-limited incumbent in the White House. Thanks to Monica Lewinsky and other scandals, Al Gore was somewhat ambivalent about embracing Bill Clinton's record and, by nearly all accounts, it cost him the presidency.

There are three main sub-topics in the post-debate coverage. The first is the moderators, who are receiving near-universal praise for their handling of the debate, and for being the first all-woman team to moderate a debate. The second is a Rubio-style narrative starting to coalesce around Bernie Sanders that he is something of an automaton; some are already using the phrase "Bernie Bot.". The third, and the one with the most legs, is the question of why Hillary Clinton was not asked about the subpoena she received on Thursday morning from investigators looking into the activities of the Clinton Foundation. Naturally, the right-wing media is interpreting this news and its omission as further evidence of Clinton corruption, and of the media being in the bag from Hillary.

The fact checkers, including CNN, the AP, USA Today, PolitiFact, and FactCheck have gone through the transcript with their usual careful eyes. Most of what they found, as is generally the case with the blue team, was moderate-level spin or distortion. Hillary Clinton, for example, claimed that blacks have benefited most from Obamacare, but it's actually Latinos. She also misrepresented Sanders' criticism of Barack Obama in such a way that Politifact deemed her words to be "half true." The Vermont Senator's biggest sins were exaggerating the unemployment rate in the black community, and the extent of childhood poverty in America. The situation on those fronts is worrisome, but not as bad as Sanders suggested. None of these things is "pants on fire" level dishonesty.

There's some evidence that voters are feeling a bit of debate burnout (or, perhaps more accurately, Bern-out). The broadcast drew about 8 million viewers, which is much better than the last Democratic debate (4 million), but trails the GOP debates (averaging about 11.5 million). Twitter engagement was down, such that Clinton was actually able to equal Sanders in terms of number of mentions, though both lagged behind Kanye West. There's nearly a month until the next Democratic debate; by then, perhaps, appetites will have been whetted by more than twenty states and territories having voted. (Z)

GOP Candidates Going to Debate Tonight in South Carolina

If it seems like there's a Republican debate every week, that's because there is. Or, at least, there has been for four weeks in a row. The latest, and ninth overall, will be held in Greenville, SC in advance of the South Carolina primaries. Donald Trump, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, and Gov. John Kasich (R-OH) are all invited and expected to be in attendance.

Hands down, the main storyline of the night will be Rubio. Publicly, he has acknowledged that he made tactical errors in his last debate performance, focusing too much on Barack Obama and not enough on Donald Trump. He's been going after Trump with both barrels on the campaign trail this week, and that will surely continue Saturday. What Rubio cannot acknowledge, but what everyone nonetheless knows, is that the voters are going to be watching to see if he can disprove that he's the MarcoBot. The problem is that his competition, most obviously The Donald, is aware of this and will be trying to get him off his game. So that's an unscripted Rubio, operating under enormous pressure. Could definitely be a recipe for disaster.

Trump, for his part, is cruising in the polls, and could easily play things safe. That has not been his MO, however, and beyond that he surely cannot resist the opportunity to poke the Rubio hornets' nest. He may also spar with Cruz; it probably depends on how he's feeling Saturday night. Or maybe whether the coin flip comes up heads or not. The Donald is also going to have to be ready for a direct assault from Bush (see below for more).

Cruz is going to deliver his usual performance, heavy on red meat for the base. Lots of talk of values, radical Islam, the evils of Obamacare, etc. Fully one-third of South Carolina identifies as evangelical, so it will be the Senator's kind of audience. And then, when he loses the state to Trump next Saturday, he'll be left to explain exactly how he plans to claim the nomination when he can't even win one of the five most evangelical states in the union.

Bush and Kasich both have high hopes for both tonight and next Saturday. Kasich, of course, is coming off of his strong performance in New Hampshire and is hoping to assume the mantle of "establishment favorite." His problems are that he's not a great debater, he doesn't have any money or ground game in South Carolina, and he's not the Palmetto State's kind of politician. Bush finished not far behind Kasich in New Hampshire, and he does have money and a ground game, including some big guns who have hit the campaign trail for him (see below). He's been a mediocre debater, like Kasich, though his performance has improved dramatically in the last pair of meetings. The upshot is that both governors will be on the warpath, trying to bring down Rubio and at the same time put themselves forward as the most electable candidate. Bush is much more likely to be successful, though that may or may not translate into votes, since he's not really South Carolina's kind of politician either.

Ben Carson is almost surely making his last stand, debate-wise. He is sinking in the polls, barely qualified for Saturday's event, and has added virtually nothing to the proceedings in the past eight meetings. If he manages to come on stage the first time his name is called, it will be a good night for him.

CBS is hosting, with CBS News political director John Dickerson as the main moderator, and CBS News White House correspondent Major Garrett and The Wall Street Journal's Kimberley Strassel assisting him. The broadcast will begin at 9:00 EST on the network, with extended pre- and post-debate coverage, as well as the debate itself, being streamed on CBSN, the network's digital platform. Then, the GOP candidates will finally take a week off from debating before squaring off in Houston on Feb. 25. (Z)

Who Will Young Black Voters Support?

Young voters like Bernie Sanders. Black voters like Hillary Clinton. So what do young black voters do? Among black voters in general, Clinton has a 3 to 1 margin, but among blacks 18 to 29 years old, her margin is only 46% to 33% according to a new Ipsos poll. While being down 13 points is not exactly victory for Sanders, it is still better than being 30 to 40 points down. Black voters are about 12% of the electorate in Nevada and about 55% in South Carolina, the next two nominating contests, both of which favor Clinton. (V)

Biggest Newspaper in Florida Endorses Clinton

The Tampa Bay Times endorsed Hillary Clinton yesterday. The paper said that Sanders' proposals were "unrealistic" and "expensive fantasies." The editorial said she had terrible judgment in using a private email server but that nobody is perfect and her standing as a pragmatic progressive is beyond any doubt.

On the Republican side, the editors chose Jeb Bush over the other Floridian, Marco Rubio. The Florida primary is March 15. (V)

Bush Finally Pulls Out All Stops against Trump

For Jeb Bush, the next 2 or 3 weeks are do or die. He is finally starting to hit Donald Trump hard and with no apologies. An ad he is running in South Carolina starts out with the narrator saying that some candidates suck up to Trump—with a photo of Ted Cruz hugging Trump. Next he intones that some candidates run away from him in fear—with a cartoon of Marco Rubio as a robot running away from Trump. Then it gets tough, with these scenes:

  • Bush on stage saying to Trump: "That is downright wrong"
  • Trump palling around with Bill and Hillary Clinton
  • With Megyn Kelly on screen, the narrator attacks Trump for insulting women
  • A clip of Trump mocking a disabled reporter
  • Trump attacking Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) for being captured with "Trump: four draft deferments" on screen

The ad ends with by making the point that Bush is a real conservative and shows the oval office, implying Bush would be a better commander-in-chief. (V)

Republican Insiders Still Don't Think It Will Be Trump

Maybe they are burying their heads in the sand, but Politico's panel of Republican insiders still don't think Donald Trump will be the Republican nominee. Their argument is this: Don't look at the votes he got; look at the votes he didn't get. Consistently, across all votes and polls, 60-70% of the voters are against Trump and he is almost nobody's second choice. The reasoning here is that as other candidates drop out, their supporters are not going to jump onto Trump's bandwagon. They are going to support some other candidate. Eventually there will be only one left and he will get all the non-Trump votes.

The insiders also felt that Rubio is not completely dead, but he must do well in Nevada or South Carolina and win at least a couple of states in the South that vote on Super Tuesday.

On the Democratic side, the panel thinks Clinton still has a good shot at the nomination, New Hampshire notwithstanding. One of them summed the situation up by saying: "New Hampshire is white and weird." On the other hand, no one expects Sanders to drop out any time soon, no matter how many states he loses on March 1. He has plenty of money and a cause he is fighting for. (V)

The Sleaze Is Already Here

South Carolina has a well-deserved reputation for dirty tricks and the first ones have surfaced already. Robocalls to South Carolina voters start out like ordinary polls, as 53-year-old schoolteacher Natalie Barrett reported to the Washington Post. But when she selected Marco Rubio as her choice, the robovoice asked whether she knew that Rubio supported amnesty and whether she knew Rubio supported letting Syrians into the U.S. freely (which he most definitely does not)? The voice then took some potshots at Donald Trump for supporting eminent domain—a Republican bugbear even though the Fifth Amendment specifically authorizes the federal government to take private property as long as it pays just compensation. This kind of trick is known as a "push poll." It has little to do with polling. It is just an attack ad disguised as a poll. Both Rubio and Trump accused Cruz of organizing the calls, but Cruz denied it.

Trump is fighting back by redoing Lee Atwater's infamous Willie Horton ad. The ad that Trump is running in South Carolina focuses on the 2008 murder of a black teenage athlete by an illegal immigrant. The not-so-subtle message is: "Illegal immigrants are all criminals and I'll build a big wall on the Mexican border to keep them out." This may work well with the all-white South Carolina Republican electorate, but will play a lot less well if he is the Republican nominee and the Democrats run it over and over on Spanish-language television. (V)

Clinton Gets More Corporate Support

In what is sure to be an extremely controversial decision, the DNC yesterday announced it was rescinding its 2008 rules banning donations from lobbyists and political action committees. In addition, Clinton's super PAC, Priorities USA Action, has decided to spend money being saved for the general election in the primaries. The net effect of these two developments is twofold. First, Clinton will have a lot more (Wall Street) money to buy ads and organize her ground game in the primaries. Second, it will strengthen Bernie Sanders argument that Clinton is a creature of Wall Street and can't be trusted to take it on. Sanders reacted to this news yesterday by issuing a news release entitled: "Clinton Wall Street-Funded Super PAC Enters Democratic Primary Against Sanders."

The timing of these moves seems very strange. The calendar strongly favors Clinton right now. She is likely to win the Nevada caucuses next Saturday and then win a huge landslide in South Carolina a week later. Three days later the rest of the South votes and she is likely to win hundreds of delegates there. She doesn't need any help in those states. By tying herself more closely to Wall Street, she not only validates Sanders' argument, but makes it more likely his supporters will sit out the general election if she is the nominee. (V)

Wasserman Schultz Defends Having Superdelegates

Many Sanders supporters are unhappy that the Democratic Party has about 712 superdelegates, mostly party leaders and elected officials, and they are nearly all lining up behind Hillary Clinton. Yesterday, DNC chairwoman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) defended the concept of having superdelegates. Basically, she said that Democratic governors, senators, and other party leaders of course want to attend the convention as voting delegates. If they were not guaranteed seats as superdelegates, they would run against activists in the primaries and caucuses, making it harder for the activists to attend. Also, the superdelegates are not bound to any candidate and can change their minds later in the process. While she didn't mention it, just suppose that Hillary Clinton is indicted for something connected to her email server or the Clinton Foundation and Vice President Joe Biden threw his hat in the ring in May. The superdelegates could switch to supporting him, but the delegates elected in primaries and caucuses could not. This gives the party some flexibility. (V)

We Won't Have Jim Gilmore to Kick Around Any More

The news we were all waiting for has arrived: Jim Gilmore is gone. Vanished. Vamoosed. No more Gilmore. Could it be that he failed to break the magic 200-vote barrier in New Hampshire? Was he embarrassed that Rick Santorum, who dropped out after Iowa, beat him in New Hampshire? So, sorry, no more Jim Gilmore stories here. (V)

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---The Votemaster
Feb12 Clinton and Sanders Spar in Old Milwaukee
Feb12 Republican Leadership Has No Idea How to Stop Trump in South Carolina
Feb12 South Carolina Has the Dirtiest Politics in the Country
Feb12 Hillary Clinton is Hoping Black Pastors Will Save Her
Feb12 Both Democrats Enlist Celebrities to Help Them
Feb12 Some Advice for Hillary Clinton
Feb12 Winning Delegates in Nevada Requires Understanding the Rules
Feb12 Democrats Testing General Election Theme
Feb11 New Hampshire Was The GOP's Worst Nightmare
Feb11 Trump Had Broad and Deep Support in New Hampshire
Feb11 The Democrats' Moaning is Maybe a Tad Premature
Feb11 Sanders a Good Thing for Hillary?
Feb11 Obama Will Probably Endorse Clinton Sooner Rather than Later
Feb11 Sanders Raises $6 Million Since the New Hampshire Primary
Feb11 Fiorina, Paul, and Christie Are Out
Feb11 Sanders Is the First Jewish Candidate Ever To Win a Presidential Primary
Feb10 New Hampshire Voters Poke Establishment in the Eye
Feb10 IRS Deems Karl Rove's Attack Group a Social Welfare Organization
Feb10 Clinton Praised Goldman Sachs in Her Speeches
Feb10 Sanders Supports Big Defense Spending If It Is in Vermont
Feb10 Government Wants to Give Politicians $300 Million but None Want It
Feb10 Carson Violates the Protocol, Says He Would Be Trump's Veep
Feb09 New Hampshire's Turn at the Plate
Feb09 New New Hampshire Voter ID Law Goes Into Effect Today
Feb09 Does Bush Still Have a Shot at the Nomination?
Feb09 How to Really Make America Great Again
Feb09 Does the Republican Establishment Actually Want to Win?
Feb08 Republican Debate Postmortem
Feb08 In New Hampshire, It's Trump, Then a Four-way Tie for Second
Feb08 Myths about the New Hampshire Primary
Feb08 Sanders Outspending Clinton 3-to-1 in New Hampshire
Feb08 Trump's Draft Deferments Could Be an Issue in South Carolina
Feb08 Clinton Still Ahead in Iowa
Feb07 A Bad Night for GOP Frontrunners in New Hampshire
Feb07 Another National Poll Says Clinton and Sanders Are Tied
Feb07 Kasich Says He Would Be a Terrible Vice President
Feb07 Is There A Special Place in Hell for Women Who Don't Help Each Other?
Feb07 Gloria Steinem: Young Women Support Sanders to Meet Boys
Feb07 Get-Out-The-Vote Operations Have Become More Sophisticated
Feb06 Democratic Debate Postmortem
Feb06 GOP Candidates Take Their Turn in New Hampshire
Feb06 New Poll of New Hampshire Puts Rubio Second
Feb06 Sanders Catches Clinton in New National Poll
Feb06 Why Do Millennials Love Sanders?
Feb06 Trump Will Appear at March 3 Debate Moderated by Megyn Kelly
Feb05 Democrats Duel in Durham
Feb05 Trump Barely Ahead in New National Poll
Feb05 Rubio in Second Place in New Hampshire
Feb05 Powell and Rice also Used Personal Email Accounts for Classified Data
Feb05 Barbara Bush To Campaign for Jeb in New Hampshire