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

TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  South Carolina Democrats Go to the Polls
      •  Republican Debate Postmortem
      •  Christie Endorses Trump
      •  Maine Governor LePage Also Endorses Trump
      •  Could Trump Win the Presidency without the Latino Vote?
      •  How Low Can You Go?
      •  Rubio Predicts GOP Will Split If Trump is Nominated
      •  Why Blacks Are Firmly Committed to Clinton

South Carolina Democrats Go to the Polls

Two weeks ago, when New Hampshirites went to the polls, there was very little drama on the Democratic side of the contest. Almost-favorite son Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) was going to beat Hillary Clinton; the only question was by how much. Now, the shoe is on the other foot. South Carolina has more black voters than all but four states, and black voters are very comfortable with Clinton (more on this below). Were that not enough, Clinton has recently tailored her platform to fit South Carolinians' needs. For example, she has discovered that she hates offshore drilling—very unpopular in the Palmetto State—just as much as Sanders does.

Clinton is going to win the state, then, and is likely to win big. Polls put her up anywhere from 18-50 points, with an average of something like +25. In fact, because of the manner in which South Carolina allocates its delegates, we can fairly well predict the delegate count (which is what matters) before the polls even open. The state has six superdelegates, four of whom have already declared for Clinton (the other two are currently undecided). 11 delegates are awarded based on the statewide vote; if Clinton's margin is anywhere from 16 to 31 points (which is highly likely), she will take 7 of the 11. Each of South Carolina's seven districts awards between three and eight delegates proportionally; because delegates can't be "split," she's very likely to win those contests 3-2, 3-2, 2-1, 2-2, 3-2, 5-3, and 3-2. Consequently, she's going to win 28 delegates to 18 for Sanders. When added to her four superdelegates, it will likely be a 32-18 night for the Clinton campaign, give or take a delegate or two.

Of course, this isn't Sanders' first rodeo, and he knows all of this. Though he cannot concede it publicly, and although he has several prominent African Americans (actor Danny Glover, director Spike Lee, former NAACP President Ben Jealous) campaigning in South Carolina on his behalf, he has essentially punted the state so he can focus on the non-Southern Super Tuesday contests. His plan is to paint Clinton as a regional candidate, while presenting himself as someone who can win nationally. It's fairly shrewd, given the hand he's been dealt, though it's not clear how Nevada fits into the "Hillary can only win in the South" narrative.

The bottom line is that we are not likely to know much on Saturday night that we didn't already know on Saturday morning. It is Tuesday that will be revealing, which is why it's Super. (Z)

Republican Debate Postmortem

Now that a full day has passed since Donald Trump, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Ben Carson, and Gov. John Kasich (R-OH) brought the GOP rodeo to Houston, we have a pretty good idea of what the world thinks:

Left-leaning commentators
Matthew Yglesias, Vox Winners: Trump, Romney, Planned Parenthood. Losers: Wolf Blitzer, Cruz. "Trump's pitch is that he's a ruthless businessman who now wants to change careers and exercise his ruthlessness on behalf of the (implicitly white and Christian) traditional definition of the American nation. Nothing Rubio said or did really challenged any of the key premises of that pitch."

Chris Cillizza, WaPo Winners: Rubio, Romney. Losers: Cruz, Trump, Carson, Kasich. "This was not only Rubio's best debate performance. It was the best debate performance by any candidate in any debate so far in the 2016 election."

David Graham, The Atlantic Winner: Rubio. Losers: Trump, Kasich, Carson. "Will Trump's terrible night make any difference? One rule of thumb so far has been that no matter how Trump performs during these debates, it doesn't seem to hurt him. In fact, he's hardly ever done well, though never this poorly. Maybe the concentrated heat of Rubio and Cruz will finally take Trump down a notch. That would be a great relief to the Republican Party establishment, but it would also be a serious indictment. If one debate is all it took, why didn't Rubio and the rest of the party have the guts to take Trump out earlier, before he did major damage to the Republican brand?"

Brian Hanley, HuffPo Winners: Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Trump, Kasich, Carson. Losers: Wolf Blitzer, Cruz, Rubio. "Thursday night's Republican debate reached circus levels of absurdity. Wolf Blitzer lost control. Donald Trump took over. Marco Rubio dripped in sweat. Ted Cruz looked lost at home. Ben Carson seldom spoke but produced the wittiest zinger of the night. 'Can someone attack me please,' he begged, in an effort to be noticed amidst the massacre."

Mark Halperin, Bloomberg Winners: Rubio, Trump. Loser: Carson. "[Rubio] confronted Trump with voluminous opposition research and a mocking smile, and stood his ground when the billionaire fought back, but also didn't get any clean kills, let alone a knockout (except perhaps in the eyes of media and political elites)."

Right-leaning commentators
Erick Erickson, The Resurgent Winners: Rubio, Cruz. Losers: Trump, Carson, Kasich. "Rubio and Cruz showed what their tag teaming Trump can do. But they have to keep doing it. They cannot think this is a one night thing. They absolutely must sustain the tag team over the next few weeks. They need advertising to highlight Donald Trump raping the truth."

Reince Priebus, RNC Chair Winners: None. Losers: None. "Tonight we saw another spirited debate between the most diverse & well-qualified group of presidential candidates in history."

Niall Stanage, The Hill Winners: Trump, Rubio. Losers: Cruz, Kasich, Carson. "Trump's performance on Thursday night would not have won him first place in a debating championship. But that hardly matters. The point of the exercise is to win elections—and, by that measure, the billionaire did all he needed to do.."

Tom Benning, Dallas Morning News Winners: Texas, the Bushes, Rubio. Losers: NBC, Kasich, Carson. "Marco Rubio emptied his opposition research book on Donald Trump. And then Cruz landed some punches on Trump later in the debate. It might take that kind of teamwork to take down The Donald."

Douglas E. Schoen, Fox News Winner: Rubio. Losers: Cruz, Kasich, Carson. "[W]hat was different on Thursday night was that Rubio showed real backbone. He knew that fresh off second place finishes he needed to make the case that not only is Donald Trump is unhinged, unprincipled and has no concrete plans, but also that he is much better equipped to be president than Ted Cruz, his chief rival."

Foreign commentators
Michael Kaplan, International Business Times Winner: Rubio. Losers: Trump, Carson. "Thursday evening's CNN-Telemundo Republican presidential debate in Houston was an ambush on GOP front-runner Donald Trump."

Anthony Zurcher, BBC News Winners: Rubio, Cruz. Loser: Trump. "Both Mr. Cruz and Mr. Rubio drew blood with their attacks but Mr. Trump will be likely to emerge unbowed"

Ben Jacobs and Tom Dart, The Guardian (UK) Winners: Rubio, Cruz. Loser: Trump. "It was the first time rival candidates have used a debate stage to go after the foundation of Trump's campaign—his experience as a businessman, his assertion that he is the only candidate who can be relied upon to be a stalwart opponent of illegal immigration, and his fundamental belief in 'winning.'"

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

Rubio: 10 wins, 1 loss
Trump: 4 wins, 6 losses
Cruz: 3 wins, 5 losses
Kasich: 1 win, 6 losses
Carson: 1 win, 8 losses

There is a broad consensus that Rubio performed well, Trump less so, Cruz was a third wheel, and Carson and Kasich did not belong on the stage. The main difference of opinion is whether or not Rubio's "win" will matter. Some think it might, most think it won't. As we noted yesterday, the online polls certainly favor the latter interpretation, with Trump proving as popular as ever in post-debate "who won?" surveys conducted by Drudge Report, Time, and Google, among others.

The story of the night (besides Ben Carson's fruit salad, that is) was the nastiness of the debate and the inability of the moderators to maintain order. CNN has even put together a minute-long montage of the 20 best insults delivered by the candidates. As chance would have it, the candidates' primary competition for viewers was professional wrestlers. The debate won that showdown, attracting 13.1 million viewers to 2.4 million for the wrestling. In fairness, though, some of the wrestling fans may not have realized they tuned to the wrong station.

The fact checkers, including WaPo, PBS, USA Today, PolitiFact, and FactCheck all report that, to nobody's surprise, Trump, Rubio, Cruz were in something of a competition to see who could bend the truth the most. Trump has conveniently forgotten his past support for regime change in Libya (including a YouTube video he made), while nearly any specific figure he names (tax rates, poll numbers, cost of a fence along the Mexican border) is essentially fantasy. Rubio is very shaky on the business that Congress has conducted, including decisions about the Obamacare bailout fund and about ethanol subsidies. In fairness to the Florida Senator, his confusion is understandable, since he's not there all that often. Meanwhile, you can tell whenever Ted Cruz is fudging the truth: His lips are moving. One should be wary, in particular, of any "facts" that seem to prove that Donald Trump is a closet Bernie Sanders clone.

The next debate is just five days away. It's not clear who will be on stage yet, but one thing you can bet on is that it will be just as nasty as debate #10 was. If Donald Trump does worse than expected on Super Tuesday, then it will seem like the attacks are working. And if he performs as well as expected, or better, well, Cruz and Rubio really don't have anything else left in their bag of tricks. (Z)

Christie Endorses Trump

Yesterday, Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ), feeling which way the wind is blowing, endorsed Donald Trump. In his endorsement speech he didn't mention whether he would prefer to be Vice President or attorney general, but he would probably gratefully accept either position in a Trump administration because he is term limited and cannot run for reelection as governor of New Jersey in 2018. Christie had many nice things to say about Trump, as clever job seekers often do. Christie's love of Trump is new. As recently as December, the two were brawling, with Trump accusing Christie of knowing all about the George Washington Bridge closing and Christie saying Trump's proposed ban on Muslims entering the U.S. was ridiculous.

For Trump, this endorsement is something of a coup. Christie is the first major elected official to endorse him. Furthermore, Christie is someone who appeals, at least somewhat, to Democrats. Sarah Palin also endorsed Trump, but she has zero crossover appeal. A bonus for Trump is that every campaign needs a hit man, and Christie can do that job perfectly. He still resents the fact that the establishment is fawning over Marco Rubio, who he sees as an unqualified lightweight. If his job in the campaign is to attack Rubio for breakfast, attack Rubio for lunch, and attack Rubio for dinner, he will do it with gusto and with no holds barred. Of course, Democratic oppo research teams will be recording all this in high definition (or maybe in 4K), just in case Rubio is the nominee. (V)

Maine Governor LePage Also Endorses Trump

Just hours after Chris Christie endorsed Donald Trump, Gov. Paul LePage (R-ME) did too. It is not obvious what position in a Trump administration LePage is after, but we'll deal with that later. Maine votes on March 6 and LePage is very controversial and unpopular in his own state, so the endorsement probably is not worth much. LePage made his endorsement on Howie Carr's radio program.

Trump also got his first endorsements from sitting members of Congress yesterday. Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY), a businessman from upstate New York and Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), a Marine veteran from San Diego, also jumped on the bandwagon. Collins' district is full of white working-class Catholics, who have seen their jobs being shipped overseas and like Trump's willingness to attack trade agreements. Hunter has a different base. Being very close to the Mexican border, immigration is a key issue for him and he likes Trump's stance on it. Besides, building that great big wall would create a lot of construction jobs in his district. (V)

Could Trump Win the Presidency without the Latino Vote?

The "autopsy" report commissioned by RNC chairman Reince Priebus after Mitt Romney's defeat said that to win the Presidency, a Republican needs to win at least 40% of the Latino vote. Recent polls show that 80% of Latinos dislike Donald Trump. Does this mean that he is doomed? Not so fast. In Nevada, a state with many Latino voters, Trump carried the Latino vote by a wide margin. He even outpolled Marco Rubio, a Cuban-American who grew up in Nevada. However, the vote in one state does not means it holds nationwide. Also, the overwhelming majority of Nevada Latinos are Democrats, who didn't participate in the Republican caucuses there. In fact, only about 7% of the state's Latinos voted for him and the sample size of the entrance poll was 100, which implies a margin of error of ±10%.

Trump's strategists believe that Latinos are not one-issue voters. They care about the economy and national security as well, and there Trump is thought to be strong. Also, they note that Latinos are mostly located in states that are not battlegrounds, like California, New York, and Texas (although Colorado and Virginia have enough Latinos to have an effect). It is also possible that Trump could attract enough Democrats as a result of his anti-establishment positions to compensate for doing badly with Latinos, but most observers think that without at least 30% of the Latino vote, he is doomed. (V)

How Low Can You Go?

The tone of the Republican primary is less civil than any primary of either party in decades. Contested primaries are very common, but not like this. The candidates all talked at the same time in Thursday debate and called each other liars on stage. Now Marco Rubio has has lowered the bar even more by saying that Trump wet his pants on stage. We're not talking about a 12-hour continuous filibuster here, but a 2-hour debate with plenty of commercial breaks. Rubio claimed that during one of the breaks Trump asked for a full-length mirror to check if his pants were wet.

If Trump does well next Tuesday, as most polls suggest he will, then to have a chance, Rubio is going to have to savage Trump in a way that we have never seen in a primary before. He is going to make the Willie Horton ad look like a gentle rebuke—and that was in the general election, with a Republican attacking a Democrat, not Republican on Republican. The battle could have no limits.

The Democratic primary looks like it is happening on a different planet. Yes, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton disagree on (a small number of) issues, but this level of vitriol is completely absent. There are few personal attacks, neither one impugns the other's integrity, and there is a certain level of basic decency that is completely absent on the Republican side. (V)

Rubio Predicts GOP Will Split If Trump is Nominated

Yesterday Marco Rubio said: "The Republican Party would be split apart if he became the nominee, because we cannot allow the party of Reagan to be taken over by a con man." Would that happen? It's hard to tell at this point. What would a split mean? One possibility is that some Republican runs as a third-party candidate. It could also mean that Republicans simply concede the White House and focus entirely on holding the Senate and House so they could obstruct a Democratic President for four years.

The split could also come in the form of numerous Republican office holders openly condemning Trump. One of them has already started to do so. Yesterday Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said that if Trump is the nominee, the GOP will get slaughtered. Then he added:

I think he's a kook. I think he's crazy. I think he's unfit for office. I'm a Republican. and he's not. He's not a conservative Republican, he's an opportunist. He's not fit to be president of the United States.

In case you missed the point, this is a Republican senator speaking, not Bernie Sanders. What would happen if there is a brokered convention and in June, before the convention, many Republican politicians begin talking like this? It would be hard to put the party together again in September. (V)

Why Blacks Are Firmly Committed to Clinton

Hillary Clinton is widely expected to win today's South Carolina primary due to her extreme popularity with black voters. The Washington Post's Jonathan Capehart (who is black) explains why this is so. His first point is that Obama's approval rating with blacks is 89% and Clinton is hugging him as tightly as she possibly can. She also keeps bringing up the subject of Sanders arguing for a primary challenge to Obama in 2012. Black voters don't like to hear that.

Second, Clinton talks about race all the time. Sanders talks about class all the time. Many blacks believe that even if all the big banks were broken up, the police would still be racist. Clinton understands this; Sanders doesn't.

Third, Clinton constantly puts the blame for persistent racism on whites and says whites need to listen a lot better when people are talking about racism in the criminal justice system, education, employment, housing, and other areas. Sanders talk about breaking up the big banks just doesn't resonate with black voters the way Clinton does. (V)

Email a link to a friend or share:

Back to the top

---The Votemaster
Feb26 Rubio the Lone Star in Texas Debate
Feb26 Trump Still Won't Release Tax Returns
Feb26 Trump Has Huge Lead in the Bible Belt
Feb26 Speculation about Trump's Running Mate Is Already Here
Feb26 List of Upcoming Democratic Contests
Feb26 Sanders and Clinton Voted the Same Way 93% of the Time
Feb26 Latinos Like Clinton, Hate Trump
Feb26 Democrats Planning to Use Supreme Court Vacancy as a Weapon
Feb25 Republicans Will Debate in Houston Tonight
Feb25 Is the Conventional Wisdom about Trump Wrong?
Feb25 What Would Trump's Platform Look Like?
Feb25 Conservative Group May Drop Cruz for Rubio
Feb25 Trial Balloon: Brian Sandoval to Replace Scalia
Feb25 Senate Races Beginning to Heat Up
Feb24 Nevada GOP Votes: Trump Makes His Point, Kasich Craps Out
Feb24 Does Winning NH and SC Mean You Will Be the Republican Nominee?
Feb24 Trump Holds Huge Lead Nationally
Feb24 Has the Republican Party Fractured into Three Parts?
Feb24 Judiciary Committee Will Not Hold A Hearing on Scalia's Successor
Feb24 Rubio Picks Up Megadonor
Feb24 Judge Orders Discovery on Clinton's Email Server
Feb23 Republicans Caucus in Nevada Today
Feb23 Rubio Is Now the Establishment Candidate
Feb23 Univision Will Try to Register 3 Million New Latino Voters
Feb23 Clinton Already Has a Large Lead in Delegates
Feb23 Another Day, Another Dirty Trick for Cruz
Feb23 Democratic Turnout Was Down in Nevada As Well as Iowa and New Hampshire
Feb23 Conservatives to McConnell: Supreme Court is More Important Than Your Majority
Feb23 Scalia Replacement Drama Continues to Occupy Center Stage
Feb23 When Is a Trump Not a Trump?
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