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

Today Is the Big Day for the Republicans

Today is the day of the South Carolina Republican primary and the Republicans desperately need to winnow the field from the current six candidates to something like three or four at most. All polls show that Donald Trump will win. In the most recent NBC/WSJ poll Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) is second, but Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) is nipping at his heels. Here are the numbers.

South Carolina
Rank Candidate Pct
1 Donald Trump 28%
2 Ted Cruz 23%
3 Marco Rubio 15%
4 Jeb Bush 13%
5 John Kasich 9%
5 Ben Carson 9%

The whole race has been so wacky this year that it would be unwise to put a lot of faith in this poll. In any event, a finish like this probably wouldn't winnow the field very much. If Jeb Bush finishes within 2 points of Marco Rubio, he won't drop out. For John Kasich, getting almost 10% in a very hostile state would be pretty good and he probably wouldn't drop out either. Ben Carson isn't running to be President. He is running to get a good time slot at Fox News and sell a lot of books, so he has no motivation to drop out until the money runs out.

What the Republicans really need now is for Rubio—who has the endorsement of Gov. Nikki Haley (R-SC)—to finish second, way ahead of Cruz and the others, with Bush down in the weeds. Bush has plenty of money left, so the only thing that will drive him out of the race is utter humiliation. If nobody drops out after South Carolina, probably all of them will stay in until March 1, when the rest of the South votes. By then it may be too late for the establishment to coalesce around Rubio, Bush, or Kasich due to the delegate selection rules. If the establishment can't pick a candidate very fast, it is likely to be stuck with Donald Trump and Ted Cruz as the main contenders, something it absolutely doesn't want. (V)

Today Is the Big Day for the Democrats

The Democratic primary in South Carolina is next week, but the Nevada caucuses are today. The small number of Nevada polls that have been conducted (two) show a close race between Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Hillary Clinton. However, polls of caucus states are generally unreliable because turnout is so low. This is especially true in Nevada; since caucusing has only been done there since 2008, many residents don't really understand the process, and pollsters also have little past data to go on. In any event, both candidates are fighting hard for the state.

The stakes couldn't be higher. Sanders did well in Iowa and New Hampshire, states that are nearly all white. Now he has to prove he can win in states with large numbers of Latino and black voters. Nevada is the first test of that. It is also a state where many people have to drive long distances to get to caucus sites and where the rural vote is very important. All of these things work against him. If he can win here, he will have demonstrated he has what it takes to run a serious national campaign. On the other hand, if he loses badly here, Clinton is going to say he is the candidate of liberal white voters only and that is not what it takes to win the Democratic nomination. In short, a lot is on the line for Sanders. A win means he is a national candidate with good potential in other states. A loss means he is a niche candidate.

While Clinton desperately wants to win Nevada, a loss will not be fatal for her because South Carolina votes next Saturday, and a loss in Nevada would be canceled out by a win in South Carolina, where the Democratic electorate is expected to be 55% black and the state's top Democrat, Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC), has endorsed her.

Clinton is betting everything on her young campaign manager, Robby Mook, who is from Vermont and has been watching Sanders for most of his 37 years. He is a very data-driven, microtargeting kind of guy, but there is one thing he can't change: the candidate. She has been running on a platform of gradual change and experience at a time when many voters want to junk the entire system and try something else. Sanders plays to this audience perfectly. Mook was Clinton's state director for Nevada in 2008 and he brought home the bacon then. She needs him to do it again today.

Sanders is not sitting back and taking all this lightly. He has over 100 paid staffers on the ground in Nevada and is outspending Clinton on TV by 2 to 1. He has a large and professional operation in place in the Silver state. He fully realizes the stakes.

With two key contests today, by Sunday we may have a bit more clarity where the races are going. (V)

Pro-Cruz Robocalls Attack Trump on Confederate Flag, Gay Rights

Gov. Nikki Haley's decision to remove the Confederate battle flag from the state capital earlier this year is very unpopular with Donald Trump's supporters in South Carolina. Ted Cruz is trying to capitalize on Trump's remark: "Put it in a museum." His campaign is making robocalls all over the state saying: "Trump talks about our flag like it's a social disease." In a state where the Civil War isn't over yet and the Confederate dream lives on, it could help him a little bit and every little bit helps.

Of course, not everyone is still fighting over a symbol from the 19th century. Fortunately, Cruz's robocall machines have 21st century hot-button issues covered as well. At a recent town hall meeting, Trump got a question about his approach to LGBT rights should he become president, and gave a "live and let live" type of answer. The Cruz campaign took that and ran with it; their anti-gay robocall intones:

"It's not about tolerance anymore. It's about mandatory celebration. It's about forcing people to bake cakes and photograph gay weddings. Forcing clergy to officiate. It's about transgender bathrooms in your child's school. It's about tearing down our Judeo-Christian values. It's about tearing down our America.

Of course, Trump never said or implied any of these things. In fact, some of these—forcing clergy to officiate gay weddings, for example—haven't been endorsed by anyone. But Cruz clearly believes that desperate times call for desperate measures. (V & Z)

Rubio Would Deport DREAMers

There was once a time when Marco Rubio was decidedly moderate on immigration issues, but that time has passed. On Friday, he made some of his most aggressive remarks on the issue to date, declaring that on his first day in the Oval Office, he would stop protecting DREAMers from deportation.

The DREAM (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) Act gives special consideration to the non-U.S. born children of undocumented immigrants when making decisions about temporary or permanent residential status. In brief, having arrived before age 16 and having lived in the U.S. for more than five years without engaging in bad behavior is a basis for conditional residency; those same requirements plus college attendance or military service are a basis for permanent residency. The basic logic, of course, is that young children cannot help the circumstances of their birth and their arrival in this country and should not be held responsible for the actions of their parents.

Rubio undoubtedly took this new position because he felt it was necessary to counter the attacks being launched upon him by Ted Cruz, and to try and save his campaign for the presidency. But in so doing, he may be winning the battle in a way that loses him the war. Rubio himself is the child of immigrants, of course, and had no more or less control over the circumstances of his birth than did the DREAMers. He will face some uncomfortable questions as to how and why he's willing to draw such a bright, red line between two very similar groups of first-generation Americans. Further, Rubio is counting on strong support from the Latino community in the general election; hence the attacks on Ted Cruz's Spanish-language skills, the interviews on Univision, etc. If he thinks that's going to happen after making such aggressively anti-immigrant statements then he is, quite simply, delusional. (Z)

Court Agrees to Hear Case about Cruz's Citizenship

Donald Trump and Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) have threatened to sue Ted Cruz over the question of whether he is a natural-born citizen, as required by the Constitution to be eligible to be President. But neither actually pulled the trigger. So Lawrence Joyce of Illinois did it for them. The case will be heard by Judge Maureen Ward Kirby of the Circuit Court of Cook County in Chicago. Cruz was born in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, but claims he is a natural-born citizen because his mother was born in Delaware. Cruz's claim to citizenship based on where his mother was born is demonstrably false. Federal law states that the child of a U.S. citizen and a noncitizen born abroad is a citizen only if the citizen parent met certain residency tests prior to the birth. Cruz has never commented on whether his mother met the tests.

But even if his mother meets the residency tests, that merely determines if he was a citizen at birth. Whether he was a natural-born citizen or an unnatural-born citizen (if such a category exists) has never been addressed by the courts. If the case goes forward, it is likely to end in the Supreme Court, hopefully sooner rather than later. Of course, with one seat on the Court now vacant and the Republicans in the Senate refusing to even consider any nominee President Obama might propose, there is the very real possibility of the Court breaking 4-4 on the case. Under those circumstances, the lower-court ruling would be binding, but only for the circuit in which the case originated. In the worst case scenario, if elected, Cruz might only be President of Illinois, Wisconsin, and Indiana, the states covered by the United States Circuit Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. It would be an awkward situation to say the least. (V)

Maybe Trump Actually Can Go Too Far

For months, it has seemed that there were no limits to what Donald Trump could say—no matter how outrageous or offensive he got, his supporters just loved him all the more. But events in the last few days have suggested that even The Donald has to watch his mouth sometimes.

On Thursday, during the CNN Republican town hall, Trump was asked about his assertion that George W. Bush had lied to justify the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and also about his supposed opposition to that invasion. Trump was in clear damage-control mode, explaining that he didn't necessarily mean to suggest that Bush lied, and also that he may not have opposed the war before it began, but he definitely began to oppose it once it was underway.

On Friday, Trump found himself apologizing for another remark he made at the CNN Town Hall, namely his acknowledgement that he was not opposed to the Obamacare mandate. He was ripped to shreds, by among others, Rush Limbaugh. This compelled The Donald to take to Twitter to explain that his remarks had been misunderstood, and that he only meant that he liked the idea of requiring insurers to cover pre-existing conditions.

Having (apparently) stepped in it twice recently has not caused Trump to be more circumspect, however. At his final rally before South Carolinians vote, the billionaire approvingly recalled the story of General John Pershing throwing a scare into enemy Muslims during the Philippine War by rounding up 50 Muslim prisoners, executing 49 of them with bullets coated in pig's blood (supposedly denying them entrance into heaven), and then sending the one surviving prisoner away to spread the story of what had happened. Beyond the fact that the story is not true, one wonders if Trump realized that he was effectively endorsing mass executions without benefit of trial. Perhaps he will backtrack on Saturday, giving him a three-day streak.

It is not in Donald Trump's nature to reverse course, or to admit to being wrong. Presumably, he's reversing course because his staff or his polls are giving him bad news about the response to his bloviating. Could this presage a decline, or even a fall, for the billionaire? Perhaps—we recall that the collapse of Ben Carson happened very swiftly, as did the fall of Herman Cain, Michele Bachman, Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry, et al. in 2012. On the other hand, Trump has a pretty big margin for error right now, and his competitors seem to have even more liabilities than he does. So maybe Reince Priebus, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio can get their hopes up a little, but they probably shouldn't get them up too much. (Z)

Trump Calls for a Boycott of Apple--from his iPhone

Apple and the Dept. of Justice are locked in a battle over privacy and security. The DoJ wants Apple to write a new version of iOS and install it on the captured iPhone of one of the San Bernadino terrorists. The new version would allow the FBI to keep attempting to break into the phone until it succeeded. Normally, after 10 failed attempts, the phone erases everything on it. Apple's CEO Tim Cook says that if such a version were available, the Chinese and Russian governments could use it to hack into any iPhone and so he refused to cooperate with the FBI. This case will probably end up in the Supreme Court, which will likely deadlock 4-4. Donald Trump got into the act by sending out a tweet calling for a boycott of Apple. He sent the tweet from his iPhone.

An interesting sidelight to the case is that other big tech companies like Microsoft, Google, and Amazon did not rush to Apple's defense. They didn't do anything at all. Why? It turns out that the other companies all do substantial business with the federal government. Amazon, for example, runs the CIA's cloud service. Siding with Apple might be bad for their future government contracts. Apple, in contrast, doesn't do a lot of business with the government and so the government can't punish it by refusing to give it new contracts. (V)

Email a link to a friend or share:

Back to the top

---The Votemaster
Feb19 Now Trump Leading Nationally
Feb19 Cruz Has to Come in Second in South Carolina or His Whole Case Falls Apart
Feb19 Cruz Campaign Shoots Itself in the Foot
Feb19 Sanders Leads All Republicans in General Election Match-ups
Feb19 Clinton Puts Up Very Emotional Ad in Nevada about Deportation
Feb19 Clinton Picks Up a Big Endorsement
Feb19 Pope Says Donald Trump Is Not a Christian
Feb19 Fight over Scalia's Seat Could Change Everything
Feb19 Even Scalia's Funeral Has Become Politicized
Feb19 Canada Welcomes Americans Who Don't Want To Live Under President Trump
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?