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

Clinton Trounces Sanders in South Carolina

Every major poll of South Carolina but one had Hillary Clinton beating Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) by somewhere between 18 and 30 points. There was the one outlier, a Clemson poll that had her winning by 50. Well, Saturday was a night when the outlier was correct, because she won by 47. Here are the numbers:

Democrats in South Carolina
Rank Candidate Pct Delegates
1 Hillary Clinton 73.5% 43
2 Bernie Sanders 26.0% 14

Clinton had her best night so far among white voters, winning them 54-46. But the story of the evening is the black voters, who turned out in record numbers and broke 84-16 for the Secretary. The other demographics aren't much prettier for Sanders; he lost among every group except voters age 17-24 and white men. Making things even worse is that young people barely showed up, making up only 13% of the electorate.

Clinton was, of course, delighted with the extent of her victory. She delivered a fiery speech once polls had closed, declaring that, "Tomorrow, this campaign goes national. We are going to compete for every vote in every state. We are not taking anything and we are not taking anyone for granted." She has all the momentum heading into Super Tuesday, when another four of the 10 states with the highest percentage of black voters will register their preferences (#3 Georgia, #6 Alabama, #9 Virginia, and #10 Tennessee).

Sanders did not directly respond to the results, and was not even in the Palmetto State on Saturday. However, in a speech in Minnesota that clearly reflected an awareness of the situation, he tried to rally the troops: "Football is a spectator sport. Democracy is not a spectator sport. Every person in this room is extremely powerful if you choose to use your power." He's nervous, as well he should be. The numbers suggest not only that there will be big defeats in the seven Southern states that vote on Tuesday, but also that the Secretary might be able to put Colorado and Minnesota in play.

If we put aside the four superdelegates that Clinton already had in her pocket, she took 74% (39 of 53) of the delegates awarded by popular vote on Saturday. There are 1,004 delegates to be awarded on Tuesday; if Clinton takes just 60% of those, she will finish the day with 1,144. That's just shy of 1,191, which is halfway to the nomination. So, we are on the edge of "knockout blow" territory. The KO probably won't come this week, but Super Tuesday could very well set Clinton up to deliver it by March 15, when Florida, Ohio, Missouri, North Carolina, and Illinois vote. (Z)

The Big Donors Finally Panic and Start Going after Trump

For months the big conservative donors have been in denial about Donald Trump. They expected him to implode. He didn't. Now they are finally convinced he won't on his own and needs to be taken down by force. A new super PAC, called Conservative Solutions PAC has already raised $20 million in the past week alone and is starting to spend it on attack ads.

It may be too little, too late, but it is the only bullet left in their gun. For many Republican donors, a Trump nomination would be a disaster. Not only is he against many things they hold dear and for many things they oppose, but because he won't take their money, they have no leverage over him. That's the worst of it. Normally donors can make politicians heel by turning off, or threatening to turn off, the money faucet. Trump doesn't have a money faucet.

The first two ads were launched Friday. The first one attacks Trump on foreign policy, saying he is not sufficiently pro-Israel, and besides, doesn't know anything about foreign policy. The second one calls him a sleazy businessman who rips off workers and widows and cares only about himself. Both are extremely aggressive and are likely to make Trump supporters redouble their support for him. The extremely harsh tone of the ads might even make undecided voters feel sorry for Trump. The ads will run all weekend and through next week. If Trump does appreciably worse on Super Tuesday than the polls now predict, then money will continue to flow and the ads will continue. But if they appear to have little effect, there really isn't any Plan B. (V)

Trump Leading Rubio by Double Digits in Florida

If there is one thing that is fatal for a presidential aspirant it is being beaten badly in your home state. From that point on, opponents are going to be saying: "The voters who know him best don't want him to be President." It is tough to respond to that. Yet that is exactly Marco Rubio's predicament. A new Quinnipiac University poll shows Donald Trump with a commanding lead in Rubio's home state of Florida. Here are the numbers.

Rank Candidate Pct
1 Donald Trump 44%
2 Marco Rubio 28%
3 Ted Cruz 12%
4 John Kasich 7%
5 Ben Carson 4%

As described above, the big donors are going all out to destroy Trump. If Trump is badly damaged but still manages to beat Rubio in Florida, what's left? A damaged Trump, a damaged Rubio, and an unpopular Cruz? At that point, the Republican strategy has to be to aim for a brokered convention, possibly supporting the hated Ted Cruz, just to make sure nobody gets enough delegates to win on the first ballot. Then Speaker Paul Ryan could be nominated as a (not so) dark horse candidate. Of course, after two weeks of merciless pounding, Trump might not win Florida. That's what the Republican establishment has to pray for. (V)

What Should The Great Wall of Trump Be Made Of?

CNN is taking Trump's Wall seriously and has consulted with civil engineers about how to go about building it. Using cinder blocks would be too labor intensive. Poured concrete might crack in such a warm climate. The civil engineers are in favor of precasted cement blocks. To cover the 2,000 mile border, 339 million cubic feet of cement would be needed. This is five times the amount in Hoover Dam. Between the blocks, 5 billion pounds of reinforced steel would be needed. The cost of the cement blocks alone would run to $11 billion. Add to that the cost of the steel. Oh yes, the wall would not assemble itself, so quite a bit of labor would be needed, although on the plus side, that would create thousands of construction jobs and profits for companies that make cement, steel and heavy construction equipment. Finishing it in 4 years is probably doable with enough effort.

One factor the engineers did not take into account is the land. Nearly all the land along the U.S. Mexican border is private property. It would all have to be taken by the government using eminent domain, something the Republicans hate. And it wouldn't just be the 8 inches for the wall. Access roads would be needed, as well as yards for storing the blocks before they were assembled, and more. The government might have to take 500-1000 feet of border property from thousands of landowners for a construction project roughly five times the size of Hoover Dam. Although Republicans hate eminent domain, the Fifth Amendment explicitly grants the federal government the power to take private property for public use but it has to pay "just compensation." How much would the land cost? Who knows? How much would it cost to defend against the hundreds of lawsuits from land owners who think their land is worth more than the government is willing to pay? People can bring ladders to climb over even a 20-foot high wall, so (electrified?) barbed wire would be needed, at additional cost. The cost of the wall would certainly run into the tens of billions of dollars, even before the usual cost overruns, The annual maintenance cost would certainly run into the hundreds of millions of dollars.

A cheaper scheme has been proposed than building an actual wall: build a sensor network that would detect trespassers. That sounds easy: just drop sensors along the border from a helicopter, and presto, a secure border. One of us (V), has actually studied this approach in detail and concluded it would never work. Among other problems, would be the need to have the sensors on poles several feet above the ground to give them enough range, the need to replace the batteries every few months, and vulnerability of the sensors to being hacked. Also, hundreds of border patrol stations would be needed along the wall to insure a rapid response to a radio signal from a motion sensor indicating that a Mexican, a coyote, or a jackrabbit had been detected. These stations would have to be staffed 24/7 with multiple border patrol agents and multiple vehicles at every one, to prevent diversionary attacks in which a decoy feints a crossing 10 miles east of the border station and then 10 minutes later his friend attempts a real crossing 10 miles west of the station, while the first agent is on a wild-goose chase in the wrong place. While the initial costs of the sensor network would be less than building a wall, the running costs would be far higher. (V)

Trump Could Be on Trial for Fraud in August

A topic briefly mentioned in Thursday's debate was Trump University, a school set up to teach students the secrets of investing in real estate. For a tuition of up to $36,000 they would be taught how to become a successful real estate investor. Thousands of them signed up, expecting to be taught by experts handpicked by Trump. There were no such experts and the school went bankrupt. Now many of the students are suing Trump. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman filed suit against Trump as well, claiming the whole university was a classic bait-and-switch scam.

Even more troublesome for Trump are the two related cases going forward in California. Pretrial discovery there will take place in May and the trial is scheduled for August. Should Trump be handed the Republican nomination in July, having to trade the trail for the trial a month later would not only use up precious time, but the publicity might not be so favorable. If the jury finds that he committed fraud, the headlines might not be so great for him. Of course, his lawyers will do everything in their power to delay the trial until after the election, but the judge may or may not go along.

If the judge plays along, the trial is delayed, and Trump wins the election, we could have a situation with a sitting President on trial for fraud. These are civil, not criminal, case so he won't go to prison even if found guilty, but it could get icky. Also, since these are state, not federal cases, as President he could not pardon himself. (V)

Rubio Tried to Partner with Conservative Media on Immigration Reform

Perhaps you harbor doubts that Fox News is really doing the bidding of the Republican Party, or that both entities kowtow to Rush Limbaugh. Well, doubt no more. A new story in the New York Times takes readers behind the scenes, back to when Marco Rubio was trying to rally support for his planned overhaul of U.S. immigration policy. Rubio and co-sponsor Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) met with Fox News owner Rupert Murdoch and CEO Roger Ailes in an attempt to curry positive coverage for their efforts. Murdoch and Ailes were willing to play ball, but "warned that the senators also needed to make their case to Rush Limbaugh, the king of conservative talk radio, who held enormous sway with the party's largely anti-immigrant base." A second meeting was held with Limbaugh in attendance, with Rubio and Schumer unable to persuade the conservative radio host.

Nothing that Rubio did here was untoward; politicians regularly use every trick in the book to manipulate and cajole the media into doing their bidding. However, the story makes it all the more difficult for him to distance himself from immigration reform in an election notable for its xenophobia. Within an hour of the story being published by the Times, it had found its way on to the front pages of right-wing websites unfriendly to the Florida Senator, including RedState, WND, and Breitbart.

The optics are less good for Fox News, for whom the story is proof that—far from being an independent news source—they serve not only the GOP, but also Limbaugh. That said, it probably won't matter. Anyone who remains persuaded that the channel really is "fair and balanced" isn't going to mind a little horse trading over coverage of issues, even when it happens with the subject of that coverage. (Z)

Christie Beats Haley--for the Second Slot

The announcement by Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) that he is supporting Donald Trump has changed everything—for the GOP veepstakes. Until Christie's announcement, the smart money was betting on Gov. Nikki Haley (R-SC) as the Republican nominee for Vice President. Now at Ladbrokes, the only major betting firm currently accepting bids on the GOP vice presidential race, Christie has jumped into the top slot. John Kasich is second, and if he continues in the race until Ohio votes and wins there, his stock will only go up. Marco Rubio gets the bronze medal among bettors, but given all the acrimony between Trump and Rubio, it is hard to see Trump picking someone he really, actively detests. Christie, Kasich, or Haley would do just as well soothing the establishment. Here are the top 10.

GOP Veep candidate
Rank Candidate Probability
1 Chris Christie 29%
2 John Kasich 25%
3 Marco Rubio 20%
4 Nikki Haley 14%
5 Mike Huckabee 9%
6 Sarah Palin 8%
7 Carly Fiorina 6%
7 Tim Scott 6%
9 Paul Ryan 5%
9 Rob Portman 5%

A Trump/Christie ticket would feature two extremely pugnacious characters, mostly likely facing a woman. They would have to be extremely careful about not acting like bullies. If women have the feeling that the Republicans are bullying Hillary Clinton, it could bring back personal memories of times they were bullied by a man and that could override everything else. In our view, the gentle and polite Kasich or female Haley would be much better at attracting non-Republican votes. On the other hand, if the election is all about turning out your own base, Democrats be damned, Christie would be a good choice.

In case you are curious about what bettors think about the Republican presidential nomination, the chances of Trump getting it are rated at 80%, with Rubio at 25% and Cruz tied with Kasich at 3%. Bettors give Hillary Clinton a 94% chance of getting the Democratic nomination and a 61% chance of being elected President, with Trump trailing at 31%. (V)

What Are the Chances of Another Supreme Court Justice Dying by 2021?

We have already seen the fuss created by Antonin Scalia dying. Just imagine another justice dying. Not necessarily now, but before 2021, when the new President's first term ends. Chris Kirk and Stephen Laniel have built a calculator that lets you compute the chance of any justice dying before 2021, a conservative justice dying, a liberal justice dying, and other combinations. These are based on generic actuarial tables, so for example, Justice Ruth Ginsburg is considered a standard non-Hispanic white woman of 82. The fact that she is wealthy and gets excellent medical care isn't considered nor is the fact that she had cancer twice.

The chance of any justice dying during the next President's first term is 80%. The chance of a conservative justice dying is 53%. The probability of a liberal justice dying is 57%. If you are a Democrat and want to shoot the moon and get rid of two conservatives, there is only a 13% chance, the same as the probability of two liberals dying. The bottom line here is that the next President is very likely going to get at least two vacancies to fill, Scalia's and one more.

Also important is that it is an open secret that Justice Stephen Breyer would like to retire but won't do so unless a Democrat is elected President. If a Democrat wins the election, he is likely to start making his retirement plans on Nov. 9, possibly giving the new President three Court slots to fill: Scalia's, Breyer's and (statistically most likely) Ginsburg's. (V)

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---The Votemaster
Feb27 South Carolina Democrats Go to the Polls
Feb27 Republican Debate Postmortem
Feb27 Christie Endorses Trump
Feb27 Maine Governor LePage Also Endorses Trump
Feb27 Could Trump Win the Presidency without the Latino Vote?
Feb27 How Low Can You Go?
Feb27 Rubio Predicts GOP Will Split If Trump is Nominated
Feb27 Why Blacks Are Firmly Committed to Clinton
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?