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

Now Trump Leading Nationally

Yesterday we headlined a national poll with Ted Cruz leading the Republican race. Today we have one from CBS News with Trump way ahead. Here are the numbers.

Rank Candidate Pct
1 Donald Trump 35%
2 Ted Cruz 18%
3 Marco Rubio 12%
4 John Kasich 11%
5 Ben Carson 6%
6 Jeb Bush 4%

The situation is so unstable that polling is nearly impossible. So much depends on how the poll is conducted (live interviewers or computerized polling) and the underlying model of the population the pollster is using. Furthermore, it can change at the drop of a hat. After South Carolina votes tomorrow, we might have a completely different lineup as that news saturates the airwaves.

One thing is already quite clear though. If the establishment can't settle on a candidate very fast, in two weeks it may be too late. Most of the South votes on March 1 and hundreds of delegates are at stake. If they split 5 or 6 ways, with Trump and Cruz divvying up more than half of them, it will be an uphill struggle for any establishment candidate to overcome his deficit. If the establishment wants to emerge whole from this thing, Rubio, Kasich, or Bush has to crush the other two in South Carolina tomorrow. If all three of them stay in until March 1, it may be too late already.

A huge problem for the establishment candidates is that some of the March 1 states, specifically Texas, Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, and Vermont, together worth 14% of the total delegates to the Republican National Convention, all have a threshold of 20%. Any candidate coming in under the threshold in some delegate jurisdiction (a state, congressional district, or state senate district) gets zero delegates. Just as an example, suppose all the districts in all those states end up as above, with Trump at 35%, Cruz at 18%, etc. Then Trump would get all the delegates in all five states (at least 340). At that point he would be unstoppable. If Cruz also cleared the 20% threshold, he and Trump would divide up the delegates and the others would get none. Thus for the Republican race, there is a huge difference between Cruz coming in second with 19% and Cruz coming in second with 20%. As with so many things in the world, the devil is in the details. (V)

Cruz Has to Come in Second in South Carolina or His Whole Case Falls Apart

Ted Cruz's argument for being the Republican nominee is that he will bring out millions of evangelical voters who have never bothered to vote before. That theory will be sorely tested in South Carolina tomorrow. If Marco Rubio beats him for the second place slot in the Palmetto State, won't the same thing happen on Super Tuesday? Won't his goose be cooked if he loses to Rubio is a state with more evangelicals than just about anywhere? Cruz understands this perfectly, and is running ads in South Carolina attacking Rubio on immigration and other issues. (V)

Cruz Campaign Shoots Itself in the Foot

At the same time that Ted Cruz was blasting Barack Obama for being faithless (see below), his campaign was busy making another misstep, one that is even more obvious and unambiguous. And even the National Review, the same magazine that ran an anti-Trump issue in hopes of helping Cruz, is calling the Senator out on it.

Cruz, of course, is currently waging war on two fronts: The Rubio front and the Obama front. And in an attempt to get two for the price of one, Cruz's campaign published a graphic blaming both men for the Trans-Pacific Partnership and (ostensibly) showing them gleefully shaking hands over their "agreement." Reporters suspected the image was not real, but a Cruz spokesman assured them that, "I am confident that our campaign would not use a photo that is not authentic." Of course, the reporters were right—the image was Photoshopped. And whoever created the fake image didn't even work very hard to hide their chicanery: The original stock photo is quite literally the first result that shows up when searching Google images for "businessmen shaking hands". As the Review observes, "Now Rubio and his team can spend the final 48 hours before primary day arguing that Cruz and his campaign are liars, who use Photoshopped images, et cetera, instead of arguing about whether the vote on the trade deal or other bipartisan agreements was the right decision."

One of the biggest challenges in politics at the highest levels is losing touch with reality. This is not to say that presidents and senators and other high-ranking officials are schizophrenic, merely that they can find themselves surrounded by yes men while having little contact with regular citizens. The result sometimes is a severely distorted perception of events, and a lack of awareness of how their statements and actions appear to outsiders. The most notorious example in recent memory, as documented brilliantly by historians Robert Dallek and Robert A. Caro, was Lyndon B. Johnson, who was so isolated that he struggled mightily to grasp the breadth and depth of opposition to the Vietnam War. Richard Nixon had a similar experience; by the height of the Watergate scandal his only contact with the "outside" world was his close friend Bebe Rebozo. It's still early in the campaign, but Cruz's tactical, stylistic, and rhetorical choices—as well as his apparent tin ear—certainly recall both of those men. Of course, the 36th and 37th presidents did not live in the Internet Age, and so their dirty tricks were not subject to a quick Google images search. (Z)

Sanders Leads All Republicans in General Election Match-ups

Fans of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) will no doubt be overjoyed to see a new Quinnipiac University poll that shows Sanders beating every Republican in head-to-head general election match-ups. Not to be the skunk at the garden party, but so far no one has gone negative against Sanders. The Senator and Hillary Clinton have been very polite to each other and focused on the issues. Clinton would never dream of calling him a diehard Communist or comparing him to Karl Marx (or maybe to Joseph Stalin). Republicans are barely starting to do this. After $500 million in deceitful ads against him, the situation might be a bit different. For Clinton, it is harder to find new scandals because she has been out there so long and the old ones are wearing off. Don't put any stock at all in general election polls this early. None. In fact, it is not even clear you should put a lot of stock in the Nevada Democratic caucus polls, and the caucuses are tomorrow. (V)

Clinton Puts Up Very Emotional Ad in Nevada about Deportation

Hillary Clinton has long been accused of being stiff and robotic, but she is running an ad in Nevada now that shows her with a group of people sitting in a circle in which a young girl is crying due to fear that her parents will be deported. Clinton calls the girl to come to her and gives her a big hug and says from now on, she will do the worrying.

The ad is a clear reference to Obama's policy of not deporting the parents of children born in the United States, which she supports. It is clearly aimed at Latinos in Nevada, who could make up 15-20% of the caucusgoers tomorrow. By tying herself closely to Obama, it could also help her with black caucusgoers. Earlier this week she pointed out that even if we break up all the big banks, that doesn't solve all of America's problems. Implicitly, she is suggesting that Bernie Sanders is a one-trick pony because breaking up the banks won't solve this little girl's problem. The ad really shows off Clinton as a caring person, not a robot. It is very well done. (V)

Clinton Picks Up a Big Endorsement

Fresh off of being disappointed by the AFL-CIO's declaration of neutrality in primary season, Hillary Clinton just picked up one of the most valuable endorsements that were still available: Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC).

Clyburn's endorsement is a doubleheader for Clinton: He is the most prominent Democrat in South Carolina, and he is the most senior black member of Congress. So, his support should help short-term and long-term. The bad news is it won't help much in Nevada, which is where the Secretary could really use a boost right now. (Z)

Pope Says Donald Trump Is Not a Christian

Yesterday Pope Francis visited the U.S.-Mexican border and said that anyone who thinks only about building walls and not bridges is not a Christian. Yes, Donald, that means you. Trump shot back with: "I'm proud to be a Christian, and as President I will not allow Christianity to be consistently attacked and weakened." Trump is nominally a Presbyterian, but he rarely goes to church and until he started campaigning, never paid much attention to religion. A senior Trump advisor went on Twitter yesterday to point out that Vatican City has a wall around it. Which is only partly true, and besides, the Vatican lets people in through their wall. In any case, regardless of whatever the flaws of the Catholic Church or the papacy are, it's rather difficult to win a "Who is the better Christian?" argument with the Supreme Pontiff. (V)

Fight over Scalia's Seat Could Change Everything

Most observers think that there is almost no chance the Senate will approve President Obama's choice to replace the late Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court. If Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would even allow a vote, the GOP peasants would come to the Senate with pitchforks and demand his head on a pole. So the real fight will be in January.

If the new President's party does not have 60 votes in the Senate, the minority party is likely to filibuster any nominee it doesn't like, which is to say, all of them. This seat is so important that the majority party will probably either abolish the filibuster outright or at least make the members of the minority stand on the floor of the Senate reading the Bible (for Republicans) or Shakespeare (for Democrats) all day and all night until they drop. Once the filibuster is gone for all judicial appointments, the next step is to eliminate it for everything, making the Senate like the House. This change could alter politics forever. It could make it possible for the President's party to pass legislation with 50 seats in the Senate and 218 in the House. (V)

Even Scalia's Funeral Has Become Politicized

President Obama is being slammed in some quarters for his decision not to attend Antonin Scalia's funeral, instead paying his respects while the Justice's body lies in repose in the Great Hall of the Supreme Court and sending Vice-President Joe Biden to the service in his stead. The President's reasoning, which is not outlandish, is that his extensive security detail would be a distraction at a solemn occasion like a funeral mass. The critics say that Obama's non-attendance is a calculated, partisan snub.

The loudest attacks have come, naturally enough, from Ted Cruz, who declared that the decision was further evidence that Obama is "lawless" and "faithless." The Senator made this judgment while at the same time admitting that he himself did not plan to attend the funeral because he was too busy campaigning in South Carolina. Recognizing that the optics here were not great—indeed, some would say that Cruz looked quite hypocritical—he later reversed course and made room in his schedule to attend Scalia's service.

Cruz is engaging here in an entirely transparent political theater performance for the benefit of the white voters of South Carolina. It's no longer socially acceptable to openly express racist sentiments, so when a politician needs to connect with voters who harbor such sentiments, they use thinly-encoded verbiage—words like, well, "lawless" and "faithless." If the Senator could have squeezed "hoodie" or "thug" or "gangster" in there somehow, he would have done it. Perhaps Cruz knows what he's doing, but it seems that Donald Trump is having a lot more success by not bothering to encode his racism. Meanwhile, there will come a day when the Republican candidate will have to face the entire electorate, and if Cruz is somehow the nominee, the Democrats are not going to let him conveniently forget his primary-season rhetoric. (Z)

Canada Welcomes Americans Who Don't Want To Live Under President Trump

An enterprising soul who is a big fan of Canada's Cape Breton Island has put up a Website whose front page says:

Hi Americans! Donald Trump may become the President of your country! If that happens, and you decide to get the hell out of there, might I suggest moving to Cape Breton Island!

It goes on to point out that on the island, women can get abortions, Muslims can roam freely, and the only walls are those holding up the roofs of the affordable houses. The official Cape Breton tourist bureau says it did not set up the Website. (V)

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---The Votemaster
Feb18 Nikki Haley Running for Veep on Rubio's Ticket
Feb18 Cruz Leads Trump Nationally in New Poll
Feb18 Sanders Catches Clinton in Nevada
Feb18 Clinton's Fate May Be Determined in Red States
Feb18 AFL-CIO to Stay Out of Primaries
Feb18 Rubio Holds Town Halls But Refuses to Answer Any Questions
Feb18 Bush Breaks Twitter
Feb18 Nine Ways to Replace Scalia
Feb18 Time to Invest Heavily in Mud Futures
Feb17 Trump and Clinton Continue to Lead in South Carolina
Feb17 Sanders Working Very Hard to Court Black Voters
Feb17 Democratic Turnout is Down; Republican Turnout is Up
Feb17 However, Latino Turnout was Up, at Least in Iowa
Feb17 Boomers Still Dominate Millennials in Voting
Feb17 Tax Policy Center Not Enamored of Cruz's Plan
Feb17 Politicians' Words Come Back to Haunt Them
Feb17 How To Get the Republicans To Consider Obama's SCOTUS Appointee
Feb17 Nevada is Likely to Be a Big Surprise
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