Tentative Primary and Caucus Schedule
  March 1 (Super Tues)
  March 2-14
L blue   March 15-31
Delegates needed for nomination:
GOP: 1237,   Dem: 2383
Map explained
New polls:  
Dem pickups:  
GOP pickups:  

News from the Votemaster

Republicans Caucus in Nevada Today

Republicans caucus today in Nevada, which might be good for Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), who lived in Las Vegas for six years in the 1970s and early 1980s. He has many cousins there. Unfortunately, not all of them will vote for him today. His cousin, Mo Denis, is now a Democratic state senator representing the Las Vegas district where Rubio lived and admitted, when pressed by a reporter, that at the end of the day he is a Democrat and would not vote for his cousin.

Las Vegas has changed radically since Rubio lived there. The city was then overwhelmingly white and highly unionized. Latinos were an exception in those days. That is no longer true.

Most polls have shown that Donald Trump is going to win Nevada, so a Rubio upset would be huge news and bolster his campaign enormously. However, if 2008 and 2012 are any guide, the caucuses may not go smoothly. Prior to 2008, Nevada had a primary and many people there are unfamiliar with the caucus system, in which the actual purpose of today's voting is to elect people to go to the county caucuses. The rules are complex and not well understood. In 2012, supporters of Ron Paul alleged fraud and it took three days for the final tally to be announced. Unlike Iowa, which used a smartphone app developed by Microsoft for reporting the results, captains of Nevada's 1700 precincts will call in the results by phone. However, they will also photograph the official tally sheet and email the photo as a backup. (V)

Rubio Is Now the Establishment Candidate

With Jeb Bush and Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) out of the race and Gov. John Kasich (R-OH) going nowhere, the Republican establishment has decided that it is Rubio or bust. Even if he loses Nevada today. The endorsements are rolling in, but it is doubtful they will have much effect. In fact, they might be counterproductive. In a year when close to 2/3 of the vote is going to outsiders, being known as the insider candidate may be the kiss of death. Just ask Jeb!

Rubio's other problem is that winners win. They don't come in second or third or fifth. It is far from clear that Rubio can win any states prior to Florida on March 15, not even Nevada today. By then close to half the delegates will have been awarded. The New York Post is reporting that Donald Trump is leading in 10 of the 14 states voting in the next two weeks. These are Nevada, Alaska, Georgia, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Virginia, Oklahoma, Minnesota, and Louisiana. In highly Democratic Massachusetts, Trump has a 35-point lead over Rubio. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) is leading in Texas, Arkansas, Colorado, and Kentucky. Rubio is not leading in any state. (V)

Univision Will Try to Register 3 Million New Latino Voters

The top-rated Spanish-language television network in the U.S., Univision, is making an ambitious attempt to register 3 million new Latino voters this year. The idea is to make the Latino voting bloc so formidable that no one can be elected President without getting a large piece of it. Univision will run public service announcements and well as holding voter registration drives outside soccer stadiums and other venues.

Expect this project to be very controversial. One of the owners of Univision, Haim Saban, is a major financial backer of Hillary Clinton. The top anchor, Jorge Ramos, who has great respect among the Latino population—think of him as a Spanish-speaking Walter Cronkite in his heyday—had a contentious run-in with Donald Trump earlier in the campaign and he is not likely to allow anyone to forget it. While the registration drive is nominally nonpartisan, since most Latinos vote Democratic, it helps the Democratic Party. Also, if Trump is the Republican nominee, Ramos will surely invite him to be interviewed and asked him pointedly over and over about his plan to deport the 11 million undocumented immigrants. If Trump refuses the interview, Ramos will undoubtedly skewer him for the entire general election campaign.

The network is doing even more about the election this year. It is hosting the March 9 Democratic debate between Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), which gives them a platform to target the Republicans on immigration in front of a sympathetic audience. Furthermore, the network is planning a series of polls in the swing states on issues of importance to Latinos. Finally, Univision has assigned 16 reporters, 20 producers, and dozens of digital journalists to cover the election. Given the Democratic and Republican positions on most issues, de facto all this coverage is going to help the Democrats with the critical Latino vote. (V)

Clinton Already Has a Large Lead in Delegates

Remember, the nominations are won by having more than half the delegates. Large rallies, huge Twitter followings, and other indications of support don't actually mean anything. It is the delegate counts that matter. Currently, Hillary Clinton has 502 delegates to Bernie Sanders' 70. Most of Clinton's delegates are superdelegates, who are party officials. On Super Tuesday, about 880 delegates will be up for grabs. Most of these are in the South, where black voters are strongly supportive of Clinton. If she were to get, say, 2/3 of the delegates, that would bring her total to about 1088 vs Sanders' total of 363, a gap of over 700 delegates. It is hard to see where he could make that up, especially since Clinton beat Obama in 2008 in most of the big states, like California, New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. Sanders has a decent chance to win some states and get some delegates on Super Tuesday, in particular in Colorado, Minnesota, Vermont, and Massachusetts, but they have only about 320 delegates total.

In 2008, Obama had an 11-state winning streak in which he gained a small lead in delegates that Clinton was never able to overcome, despite her successes in the big states. Part of the problem is the proportionality rules the Democrats use combined with many of the delegates being elected by congressional district. For example, if a district has five delegates at stake and one candidate wins 2/3 of the vote, that candidate gets 3.33 delegates to the loser's 1.67 delegates. But since delegates are actual people, not just entries on a spreadsheet, getting 2/3 of the vote gets the winner only one delegate more than the loser (3.33 rounds to 3; 1.67 rounds to 2). So if Sanders is behind by 500 delegates or more on Wednesday next week, he is going to have to win battles by more than 2/3 and in lots of places. It will be a steep climb. (V)

Another Day, Another Dirty Trick for Cruz

Once again, Ted Cruz is under attack for his campaign's tactics. On Sunday, his team posted a video showing a brief encounter between Marco Rubio and a Cruz staffer carrying a Bible. The subtitles to the video provided by the Cruz campaign made it appear as if Rubio looked at the Bible and said it contained, "not many answers." In fact—and the video isn't terribly ambiguous—Rubio said it contained "all the answers." So, for those keeping score at home, that's Cruz's campaign lying about Rubio's Christianity to make the point that Cruz is a better Christian. Perhaps they missed that commandment about bearing false witness. If only it was second on the list of ten instead of ninth.

Once the deception was revealed, Cruz apologized, explained that it is his staff who is dishonest and not him, and fired his communications director. It is remarkable how closely Cruz is hewing to the Nixon playbook; today's incident brings to mind November 17, 1973, when the 38th president declared that he was not a crook, but acknowledged that he had failed to supervise his staff closely enough, and that he would therefore be firing several of them. Not to give anything away in case anyone happens to be reading All the President's Men at the moment, but it turns out that, in fact, he was a crook.

Denials and deflections aside, it looks more and more every day like the same is true of Cruz. Indeed, Vanity Fair has a rundown of the underhanded stunts that the Texas Senator's campaign has pulled in just the last week. They include:

  • Photoshopping an image of Rubio and Barack Obama shaking hands
  • A false robocall (in Spanish) suggesting that Rubio supports amnesty for undocumented immigrants
  • Another robocall exaggerating Donald Trump's opposition to the Confederate battle flag
  • Yet another robocall falsely portraying Donald Trump as a militant on LGBT equality
  • A fake Facebook page for Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) renouncing Rubio and endorsing Cruz
  • An ad implying Rubio was responsible for the San Bernardino shootings
  • Threatening to sue a South Carolina television station for airing a "defamatory" anti-Cruz ad
  • Pretending to be fluent in Spanish at the GOP debate

It would be very interesting to get inside Cruz's head to try and understand what he is thinking. Presumably, he still thinks he has a shot at the GOP nomination and at the White House. And for that to be true, there will come a time when he'll need some of those Trump and Rubio voters to join his cause. Burning bridges now can and will lead those people to stay home, or even to jump ship and vote Democratic, should Cruz become the nominee. Perhaps he thinks that these individuals will hold their noses and vote GOP no matter how odious they find the nominee. Perhaps his assessment of their intelligence is so low that he thinks they will forget the dirty tricks by the time Election Day rolls around. Perhaps he's not thinking at all, and he simply has faith that scorched Earth has worked well for him so far in his career, and it will continue to work for him all the way to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Whatever it is, he might want to keep in mind what happened to Nixon just nine short months after declaring that he was not a crook. (Z)

Democratic Turnout Was Down in Nevada As Well as Iowa and New Hampshire

In all three of the states that have had Democratic nominating contests, turnout is way down compared to 2008. Last week we reported that fewer Democrats voted in Iowa and New Hampshire this year than in 2016. It happened again in Nevada. Turnout in Nevada was about 80,000 this year, a 33% drop from the 118,000 Democrats who caucused in 2008.

These numbers are especially disappointing to Bernie Sanders. His whole game plan is to get large numbers of new voters to show up not only at his rallies but also at the polls. He's doing great with the rallies, pulling in vastly bigger crowds than Hillary Clinton, but his supporters are not showing up to vote. If this trend continues, he will have a tough time collecting enough delegates. (V)

Conservatives to McConnell: Supreme Court is More Important Than Your Majority

Conservative leaders are making it clear to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that voting on President Obama's nominee to replace the late Antonin Scalia is unacceptable, even if preventing a vote costs the Republicans the Senate. Newspapers are already running editorials saying that the Senate has a duty to consider any nominee presented to it and to give that nominee and up-or-down vote. Senators who support McConnell are being called obstructionists. The pressure on Republican senators up for reelection in states that Obama carried in 2012 is immense. Continuing to obstruct confirmation hearings may cost them their seats but conservatives would rather lose the Senate than lose the Supreme Court.

As is so often the case, you should be careful what you wish for. You might get it. Since Obama desperately wants to get a third justice on the Court as his legacy, he is likely to pre-compromise and nominate a moderate, such as Merrick Garland, the Chief Judge on the D.C. Court of Appeals. If the Senate fails to vote and this helps the Democrats capture the White House and Senate, a President Clinton or President Sanders is likely to nominate a far more liberal and much younger person, which the Democratic Senate will probably approve, possibly after abolishing the filibuster or at least forcing Republicans to actually filibuster for a month or two. (V)

Scalia Replacement Drama Continues to Occupy Center Stage

Conservatives and the Republican leadership may want to drag their feet regarding a replacement for Antonin Scalia, but some of the moderate Senators who face tough reelection battles may not be on board. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) have both declared that Barack Obama's forthcoming nominee should get a hearing, and Kirk has gone so far as to say the candidate should come up for a vote.

One should be wary of putting too much stock into these declarations until something actually comes of them, however. After all, the GOP base is happy as long as nobody actually gets appointed to the Court. And Kirk, et al., have a fair amount of cover if a nominee is voted on and rejected, or if they are vocally opposed to the leadership's stall tactics. Either scenario allows the endangered moderates to claim that they are not personally responsible for any obstructionism that might be taking place. So, this "rebellion" could ultimately just be theater for the benefit of voters in a handful of states with close Senate races.

Meanwhile, we pointed out last week that when the shoe was on the other foot in 2008, with George W. Bush's term winding down, it was Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Chuck Grassley (R-IA) who said that the president should be able to make appointments right up until the day they left office. It is only in the last week or so that they have only discovered their deeply-held affinity for the so-called "Thurmond Rule" (that lame-duck presidents should not appoint justices).

Well, the cable channel C-SPAN has some very good researchers, and they have come up with a speech from 24 years ago, in which a prominent Democratic Senator declared that lame duck appointments should be verboten. Proactively trying to keep the other Bush from making any nominations as his term came to a close, this Senator declared that Senate Democrats would filibuster any nominee sent to them, if need be (none was). Now, one might question how germane a speech from more than two decades ago really is. However, that Democrat was the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee. More importantly, that Democrat was...Joe Biden.

Needless to say, both sides are furiously spinning this new piece of information. Republicans, including Grassley specifically, say they're just doing what Joe Biden would do if he was running the Senate. In fact, they are now calling it the "Biden Rule" instead of the Thurmond Rule. Democrats, meanwhile, are saying that Biden's speech was only hypothetical, and in any case it was delivered much later in the year (June). It's a very interesting sub-soap opera as part of the large soap opera that's unfolding right now; we shall see whose performances the voters find to be more compelling. (Z)

When Is a Trump Not a Trump?

CNN has an important piece on Donald Trump's real estate dealings. In it, home buyer J. Michael Goodson talks about how he put down $345,000 for a Trump-branded condo in Florida. When the project went bankrupt, he sued and was informed that despite Trump's name being plastered all over the brochures for the project, Trump had merely licensed his name and wasn't responsible for its failure. Goodson lost in court.

The takeaway here is that if Donald Trump becomes nominee, people like Goodson, a lawyer and extremely successful businessman, are going to be popping out of the woodwork and some of them are going to be corralled by the Democrats to make ads "explaining" how Trump made his money and it won't be pretty. (V)

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---The Votemaster
Feb22 Eight Takeaways about South Carolina and Nevada from CNN
Feb22 Five Takeaways from Politico
Feb22 Five Takeaways from USA Today
Feb22 Five Takeaways from the Washington Examiner
Feb22 Three Takeways on Nevada from Michael Tomasky
Feb22 Candidates Go after Super Tuesday a la Carte
Feb22 So Much for Kasich the Moderate
Feb22 Why Couldn't Jeb Fix It?
Feb22 Could an Old Photo Help Sanders in South Carolina?
Feb22 Did Sanders Really Win the Latino Vote?
Feb22 Is Hillary Clinton Inevitable?
Feb22 Is Donald Trump Inevitable?
Feb22 Scalia's Death Could Cost the Republicans the Senate
Feb21 South Carolina Votes: Trump Succeeds, Bush Secedes
Feb21 Nevada Democrats Back Clinton
Feb21 Supreme Court Makes North Carolina Redraw Its Districts
Feb21 Obama Will Review Supreme Court Candidates this Weekend
Feb21 Voters in Sanders' Old Neighborhood Prefer Trump
Feb20 Today Is the Big Day for the Republicans
Feb20 Today Is the Big Day for the Democrats
Feb20 Pro-Cruz Robocalls Attack Trump on Confederate Flag, Gay Rights
Feb20 Rubio Would Deport DREAMers
Feb20 Court Agrees to Hear Case about Cruz's Citizenship
Feb20 Maybe Trump Actually Can Go Too Far
Feb20 Trump Calls for a Boycott of Apple--from his iPhone
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