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

Trump and Clinton Continue to Lead in South Carolina

A new CNN/ORC poll released yesterday has Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton showing commanding leads in their respective primaries. Here are the numbers.

South Carolina
Rank Candidate Pct
1 Donald Trump 38%
2 Ted Cruz 22%
3 Marco Rubio 14%
4 Jeb Bush 10%
5 Ben Carson 6%
6 John Kasich 4%

South Carolina
Rank Candidate Pct
1 Hillary Clinton 56%
2 Bernie Sanders 38%

Both of them appear to be holding steady compared to other recent polls. The Republican South Carolina primary is this Saturday; the Democratic one is a week later. South Carolina is very racially polarized, with most whites being Republicans and nearly all blacks being Democrats (Sen. Tim Scott notwithstanding). Clinton does especially well with blacks, which accounts for much of her lead. Large majorities of both blacks and whites see Clinton as the stronger general election candidate (V).

Sanders Working Very Hard to Court Black Voters

Bernie Sanders understands very well that he must improve his standing with black voters to have a chance in South Carolina and all the states in the South that vote on March 1. He is doing his best in South Carolina talking to black crowds about institutional racism, reforming the police, education, and jobs. We will know in two weeks if he can move the needle but it won't be easy since both Clintons have long and deep relationships with the black community. If Sanders loses this demographic, it won't be for lack of trying. (V)

Democratic Turnout is Down; Republican Turnout is Up

One of the points Sen. Bernie Sanders keeps making is that people are sick and tired of the old way politics is working and that millions of young Americans who never voted before are going to turn out in 2016 and change American politics for good. While only two states have voted so far and two data points is not very much, it is better than zero data points. So have millions of new voters showed up in Iowa and New Hampshire? Short answer: not so much. The bar chart below shows Democratic and Republic turnout in these states for 2008 and 2016. The number after each bar is the turnout in thousands.


As you can see, Democratic turnout in both states in 2016 was lower than it was in 2008 while Republican turnout in both states was higher. Sanders may yet be proven correct, but in the first two states, both tailor-made for his candidacy, he appears to be less inspiring than Barack Obama was. If this pattern continues to occur in the next 2 weeks, Hillary Clinton is surely going to make the case that Sanders' millions of new voters aren't showing up as he hoped and Democrats would be better off with a more conventional candidate.

Perhaps also relevant is that progressive candidates like Sanders, Howard Dean, Bill Bradley, Paul Tsongas, Gary Hart, and George McGovern show up from time to time but rarely does one get the nomination. One exception is George McGovern, who was the Democratic nominee against Richard Nixon in 1972. McGovern was not only a strong progressive, but was also a WWII military hero, which gave him extra credibility. Here is what the 1972 electoral vote map looked like:

1972 map

So there are two takeaways here. The last time the Democrats ran a true progressive candidate—and one who was a military hero as well—the only state he carried in the general election was Massachusetts. He lost the other 49. Maybe turnout for Sanders will go through the roof this time and break all records, but in the first two contests fewer Democrats showed up than in 2008. In 2016 Democrats are very motivated on account of inequality, but in 1972 they were very motivated by the Vietnam War and McGovern's opposition to it. Still, every cycle is different, so who knows? (V)

However, Latino Turnout was Up, at Least in Iowa

An important (and underreported) story from the Iowa caucuses is the fact that more than 10,000 Latino voters showed up, which is easily a record (by about 15%), and a fairly impressive number for a state that only has about 20,000 eligible Latino voters. Not surprisingly, the vast majority of those Latino votes (80%) were cast for a Democrat.

Numbers are not available for New Hampshire, so this is currently a very tentative, very early indicator. We will get a better handle once Nevada votes, as Latino voters are a far greater percentage of the population there (17%, as opposed to 3-5% in Iowa and New Hampshire). But if Latino turnout really is up 15% relative to 2012 or 2008 (presumably in response to Donald Trump), and those votes break 80% Democratic, then the election math gets truly frightening for the GOP. They would essentially need every Republican in the Southwest to show up at the polls, or they will likely lose Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado, and possibly even Texas (in addition to the already foregone conclusion that is California). And if the Southwest goes all blue (even if we exclude Texas), then the GOP's margin of error would be razor thin; they would have to take Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida to win the White House. So, Reince Priebus had better hope that Iowa was an aberration, in more ways than one. (Z)

Boomers Still Dominate Millennials in Voting

A lot of news coverage gives the impression that boomers are over the hill and millennials have taken over. It's not true. First of all, there is no generally agreed-upon definition of "millennial." Pew Research considers those who are 19 to 35 as millennials, which is good enough for now. As a percentage of eligible voters, they are 31%, the same as the boomers. However, there is a catch: A much larger percentage of boomers actually vote, so their share of the actual electorate is much higher. In 2012, for example, the under 30 set represented only 19% of the actual voters. Some day all the boomers will be gone but that day won't be in 2016. (V)

Tax Policy Center Not Enamored of Cruz's Plan

The non-partisan Tax Policy Center (TPC) has taken a careful look at Sen. Ted Cruz's (R-TX) tax plan, and they don't like what they see. Like all candidates with flat tax plans (Cruz would set the level at 10%), the Senator has argued that his plan is the fairest for all Americans, and that the loss of income for the government would be offset primarily by eliminating deductions and loopholes. The TPC does not agree with either of these assertions, saying that the corporations and the rich would benefit disproportionately from Cruz's plan, while also calculating that it would cost the government $8.6 trillion in revenue over the next decade.

It's nice that the TPC has gone to all this trouble, but really, they need not have bothered. Since American income taxes are progressive based on income, a flat tax will disproportionately help the highest earners under virtually all circumstances. Indeed, that's the whole point of the scheme, which is why flat taxes are generally proposed by Republicans and billionaires. And meanwhile, if we cut taxes on the highest earners—who pay a huge percentage of the government's overall income tax haul—then it will necessarily reduce revenues, regardless of whatever deductions or loopholes are eliminated. Anyone who says otherwise is, to borrow a phrase from George H. W. Bush's, likely practicing voo doo economics.

The only surprise here is that candidates continue to hitch their wagon to flat tax plans. While they may appeal to a small segment of the electorate—heck, even a moderate segment—these plans are so clearly flawed and so obviously not going to become law that no flat taxer has ever made it out of primary season. And the rest of the Western world is no more impressed than Americans are. As then-Prime Minister Gordon Brown put it when the British Conservative Party proposed a flat tax in 2005, "[It's] an idea that they say is sweeping the world...well, sweeping Estonia...well, a wing of the neo-conservatives in Estonia." In the (unlikely) event that Cruz should become the Republican nominee, you can bet the TPC's report will feature in more than a few Democratic ads. (Z)

Politicians' Words Come Back to Haunt Them

Naturally, the 100 members of the Senate are being asked about Barack Obama's stated intention to nominate a replacement for Antonin Scalia, as well as the declarations by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Judiciary Committee chair Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) in support of the so-called "Thurmond Rule," which proposes that lame duck presidents should not make judicial nominations in the last year (or last six months) of their term. "The reality is that the Senate has never stopped confirming judicial nominees during the last few months of a president's term," said one Democratic senator on Tuesday, while another declared that, "I think it's clear that there is no Thurmond Rule. And I think the facts demonstrate that."

Oh, wait. Those statements weren't made by Democrats on Tuesday. They were made by Grassley and McConnell in July 2008. At that time, with George W. Bush in the waning months of his presidency, they wanted to make certain that he was able to keep appointing judges up until the day the movers arrived.

The point here is not to show that McConnell and Grassley are being disingenuous and hypocritical. It's to show how obvious they are being about their disingenuousness and hypocrisy. They and the rest of the GOP, as we and others have pointed out, could have taken an essentially passive-aggressive approach to this process. Consider Obama's nominee, and then spend months fact-finding before voting the nominee down and asking for another. Before you know it, Obama's term has run out. Alternatively, they could have advanced a theory of presidential power that stands up to at least some scrutiny. For example, "The branches of government exist in an adversarial relationship, and we will be using every tool at our disposal to advance our goals just as we are sure the President will be using every tool at his disposal to advance his." Either of these approaches would have allowed the Republicans to do what they're going to do anyhow—stop any nominee from coming up for a vote, and then use "the future of the Court" is at stake to rally conservative voters in November. But by committing themselves to a theory of presidential power that is so obviously not supported by the Constitution, so clearly at odds with the historical record, and that runs entirely contrary to their own on-the-record statements, McConnell and Grassley have handed the Democrats a giant club to wield for the next nine months. It's a huge error by veteran politicos who really ought to know better.

According to a piece in Politico, McConnell did the country a real favor when he announced that the Senate would not take up Obama's nomination to the Supreme Court, no matter how qualified the nominee. Many people believe the high Court is above politics, even in the face of vast evidence that it is not. In reality, as soon as a case is accepted, in most cases it is possible to predict the outcome in advance, although sometimes Anthony Kennedy surprises people, but not really that often. Kennedy is a consistent conservative on most things although he is also a supporter of gay rights. This is why people see him as a "swing vote," although he is reasonably predictable. What McConnell has done is make it obvious that the Court is just a miniature, unelected legislature, and politics reign supreme there as in every other aspect of American life. This has been true for years, but never so visible as now. It is clearly not what the founding fathers intended. In fact, the Court's power to throw out laws is nowhere mentioned in the Constitution. The Court just did it in Marbury v. Madison and it stuck. (Z & V)

How To Get the Republicans To Consider Obama's SCOTUS Appointee

The conventional wisdom is that there is no way the Senate Republicans will touch President Obama's Supreme Court nominee with a barge pole. Chris Weigant has made a suggestion that might do the trick. Weigant has observed that Republicans hate the 54-year-old Obama with a passion. His suggestion is that Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton hold a joint press conference in which they both announce that if either one of them wins and Scalia's seat is still open then, on January 20, 2017, whoever wins will nominate Barack Hussein Obama to the Supreme Court. After all, politicians have served there before. Earl Warren was a former governor of California before being appointed to the Court, and justices Hugo Black, Harold Burton, James Byrnes, Olvier Ellsworth, Edward White, and Levi Woodbury were all sitting senators at the time of their appointment. Another 25 appointees also had held elected office prior to the appointment. Furthermore, Obama was a professor of constitutional law before becoming President.

The Republicans would laugh out loud at such an announcement now, but if come September, Hillary Clinton was leading Donald Trump by 15 points in the general election polls, McConnell might have a change of heart.

Another unconventional suggestion comes from Michael Tomasky: Tino Cuellar. "Tino Who?" you might be thinking. Cuellar, who is just 43, is an associate justice on the California Supreme Court. He was born in Mexico and moved to California as a teenager. He was a smart kid, so after getting his bachelors at Harvard, he got his law degree at Yale. Then, just for fun, he got a Ph.D. at Stanford. The Republicans will have a hard time saying he is not smart enough for the job. He later worked in the White House and the Treasury Dept. and taught law at Stanford before getting the highest possible rating from the California Bar Association and being unanimously approved by the California senate. He is married to a U.S. district judge, Lucy Koh, a Korean American the Senate approved 90-0. The logic of this appointment is how are Latinos and Asian Americans going to react to Cuellar's rejection? Probably not so well.

No matter who Obama would like to nominate, he first has to convince the potential nominee to get undressed on national television, be humiliated for a year, and then walk away with nothing. It is certainly possible that potential candidates would rather not answer the questions Anthony Kennedy was asked, including:

  • Have you ever engaged in kinky sex?
  • Did you shoplift as a kid?
  • Any associations with groups like the Ku Klux Klan?
  • Ever abuse a girlfriend?
  • Any cruelty to animals?
  • Tell us about sex in college: how many women? How often? Any veneral diseases?

And this is only the start. (V)

Nevada is Likely to Be a Big Surprise

Polling in Nevada has been extremely thin Only one poll of Nevada Democrats has been conducted in 2016, and it was by a Republican firm. It showed a tie between Sanders and Clinton. Sanders is stronger with young voters and Clinton is stronger with Latinos. Nevada has plenty of both. Both groups have poor turnout records and Nevada is a caucus state, so it is really hard to say anything about the result at this point.

In preparation for "anything is possible," the Nevada Democratic Party has supplied each precinct with a fresh, unopened deck of cards and instructions on how to use it in the event of a tie. First, the deck is shuffled seven times. Then a supporter of each candidate draws a card. High rank wins. If both cards are of the same rank, high suit wins, with the order being spades, hearts, diamonds, and clubs. In Iowa, where gambling is frowned upon, ties were determined by a coin toss. (V)

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---The Votemaster
Feb16 Republicans All Agree to Block Scalia's Replacement
Feb16 Supreme Court Nominations Weren't Always Like This
Feb16 The Scalia Vacancy Summarized in Seven Bullets
Feb16 Should Cruz Recuse Himself From the Process of Picking Scalia's Replacement?
Feb16 Trump Threatens to Sue Cruz; Cruz Strikes Back
Feb16 It's Morning...in Canada?
Feb16 Understanding the Delegate Selection Rules
Feb16 Why Is U.S. Politics So Crazy?
Feb15 Everyone is Strategizing about Scalia's Replacement
Feb15 Looking at Some Supreme Court Appointment Hypotheticals
Feb15 South Carolina Poll: Trump and Clinton Still Leading
Feb15 Betting Markets Say It Will be Clinton vs. Trump
Feb15 Republican Debate Postmortem
Feb14 Antonin Scalia Is Dead
Feb14 Could Scalia's Replacement Really Be Held Up until 2017?
Feb14 Could Obama Make a Recess Appointment to Replace Scalia?
Feb14 Lawsuit Filed in Voter ID Case
Feb14 Trump Way Ahead in South Carolina
Feb14 Republicans Get Nasty in South Carolina
Feb13 Democratic Debate Postmortem
Feb13 GOP Candidates Going to Debate Tonight in South Carolina
Feb13 Who Will Young Black Voters Support?
Feb13 Biggest Newspaper in Florida Endorses Clinton
Feb13 Bush Finally Pulls Out All Stops against Trump
Feb13 Republican Insiders Still Don't Think It Will Be Trump
Feb13 The Sleaze Is Already Here
Feb13 Clinton Gets More Corporate Support
Feb13 Wasserman Schultz Defends Having Superdelegates
Feb13 We Won't Have Jim Gilmore to Kick Around Any More
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