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'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Could the Republican Party Split?
      •  Three Theories of Trump
      •  Another Theory of Trump: Ignorance
      •  Why Hate Jeb?
      •  Bush: Clinton Would Beat Trump Like a Drum
      •  Marco Rubio's Footwear Becomes a Campaign Issue
      •  Fiorina Weighs in on Bill Clinton's Infidelities
      •  Lena Dunham Campaigning for Clinton in Iowa

Could the Republican Party Split?

This election cycle has been unnerving in the extreme to the Republican leadership. The normal procedure is to tell the base that the party hates abortion and same-sex marriage and then expect them to fall in line behind the donors' choice, who has no interest in those subjects and just wants to reduce taxes on the wealthy and ease regulation on businesses. This time the old playbook is not working with the base preferring candidates like Donald Trump, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), and Ben Carson, all of whom the establishment hates with a passion. There are now real fears among the leaders and donors that the party might split and be impossible to put together later. Their fears are captured by a remark made by a 62-year-old Trump supporter from New Hampshire who said: "The Republican Party has never done anything for the working man like me, even though we've voted Republican for years. This election is the first in my life where we can change what it means to be a Republican." That's precisely what the leadership does not want.

Pat Buchanan, who ran for President as an independent in 1992 and 1996, blamed years of job losses and wage stagnation on free-trade deals and cheap labor from illegal immigrants. The trouble is that the business-wing of the Republican Party very much likes free-trade deals and cheap labor. Blue-collar workers and blue-chip executives are discovering they really have incompatible interests. After all, there is a good reason blue-collar workers were the heart of the Democratic Party during FDR's administration and later, until Nixon's Southern Strategy, which was to use racism to distract working-class Americans from the fact that their economic interests were better served by the Democrats. Maybe they are starting to catch on. The problem for the Democrats is that Hillary Clinton is tied too closely to Wall Street and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is the wrong messenger, even if he has the right message.

No matter who wins the nomination, it may be very hard to put Humpty Dumpty back together again. If an establishment candidate, like Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) ultimately gets the nomination, the base might revolt. In a Suffolk University poll, two-thirds of Trump's supporters said they would vote for The Donald as a third-party candidate. If Trump or Cruz gets the nomination and wins, the party would certainly back the new president. But if one of them runs and loses and the party tries to purge them and their backers, there might be a permanent split. (V)

Three Theories of Trump

Nate Silver at fivethirtyeight.com has three theories of why Donald Trump is in the news all the time:

  1. Trump's support reflects a populist revolt among the Republican rank and file
  2. The GOP elite has failed to coalesce around any candidate, creating a vacuum that Trump filled
  3. He is a creature of the media, which have blown him up all out of proportion because he is outrageous

At this point it's hard to tell if any of these are correct, although Silver tends to believe in #2 and #3 more than #1. Silver also makes the point that drawing vast numbers of people to your rallies doesn't mean you can win their votes. Silver is old enough to remember Howard Dean's 2004 campaign, for example, where massive rallies didn't turn into primary victories. (V)

Another Theory of Trump: Ignorance

Trying to understand the rise of Donald Trump is, obviously, a popular parlor game right now for both analysts and political insiders. Like Nate Silver, George Mason University political scientist Ilya Somin has an explanation of the Donald Trump phenomenon: ignorance.

Somin's thesis, which is not all that novel, is that Trump has shrewdly taken political positions that don't stand up to scrutiny, but that play to the emotions of voters who are not well-informed enough to know that. As a case study, Somin looks at immigration, demonstrating that the voters who are angriest about undocumented immigrants tend to live in places where those immigrants are present in small numbers and have relatively little impact. In other words, their response is visceral rather than rational, while also reflecting little understanding of the positive impact that immigrants have on the economy, often doing jobs no one else wants, paying taxes, etc..

While this analysis is likely correct, it's really not sufficient to explain Trump 2016. After all, other candidates—both this year and in elections past—have deployed anti-factual, emotion-driven rhetoric without dominating the polls like this (See: Buchanan, Patrick). If anything, the most important type of ignorance on display may be ignorance (or, perhaps more precisely, forgetfulness) of what the candidate said yesterday, last week, and last month. Politicians generally strive for a certain level of consistency, for fear they will be held to task for flip-flopping, lying, etc.

What Trump has concluded, apparently correctly, is that with some voters this really isn't a concern. He has dominated headlines with near-daily outrageous statements, many of them contradictory, absurd, or offensive. He realizes that tomorrow's outrageousness will push today's out of the minds of his supporters, such that he can easily escape the repercussions of even the most outlandish declarations. After all, how many people are still talking about his equating Mexican immigrants with rapists, or his attack on John McCain, or his snide comments about Carly Fiorina's face, or his description of Ben Carson as "pathological"?

One person who has not forgotten these remarks is Hillary Clinton. In fact she has quite a collection of recordings of him saying outrageous and contradictory things. Now if she could just find a good video editor, some of these might see the light of day later this year. (Z)

Why Hate Jeb?

Slate's Jim Newell has a piece headlined, "Why Do Republicans Dislike Jeb Bush So Much?" After demonstrating that Bush really is disliked (a net -24 approval rating among all voters, and a net -1 among Republicans, both of which are very bad), Newell dispenses with two obvious explanations (his stance on immigration, his brother.) Curiously, however, the piece never gets around to actually answering the question posed in the headline.

Surely that answer, whatever it may be, is related to the question being asked by Nate Silver and Ilya Somin. Donald Trump, both in his approach, and in his resume, is as non-establishment as it gets. Jeb Bush, at least on this level, is his mirror image. He is the scion of a prominent family that has been in politics for generations, the advisee of the most notable GOP insiders of the last 20 years, the beneficiary of $100 million in funds that were essentially in place before the election season was underway. Once we've settled on an explanation as to why Donald Trump is so popular, then we will probably have a pretty good answer as to why Jeb Bush is so widely disliked. (Z)

Bush: Clinton Would Beat Trump Like a Drum

With nothing left to lose, Jeb Bush is finally going after Donald Trump with all he's got. Yesterday in New Hampshire, Bush repeatedly said: "Donald Trump is an incredible showman, he's a phenomenal guy, he blocks out the sun. But if he is the Republican nominee, Hillary Clinton will beat him like a drum. Just tear him up. It'll be ugly to watch."

Up until now, only Gov. John Kasich (R-OH), whose poll numbers have been hovering around 1%, has been the only one to go after Trump. Now Bush is joining in. Their attacks are subtly different however. Kasich has been attacking Trump on policy grounds. Note that Bush didn't mention anything about policy. Instead he is saying Trump wouldn't be electable (and by implication, Bush would be). Bush was careful not to say he is pro-immigrant or that Trump is crazy as that would upset the voters he wants to jump ship from Trump to him. So the implicit message is: "Nothing wrong with his ideas, but he couldn't win so pick me." (V)

Marco Rubio's Footwear Becomes a Campaign Issue

Short Quiz: Is the billionaire who lives in a gold-plated apartment on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan or the young son of immigrants who has been deep in debt his whole adult life the working man's candidate? And which is the effete elitist? If you guessed (1) Donald Trump and (2) Marco Rubio you are right, of course. Now, rich people like FDR, JFK, and LBJ have been the candidate of ordinary Americans before, so that is not new. What is new is that 48 hours after a photo of Marco Rubio wearing shiny, fashionable $130 boots went viral, other Republicans are questioning whether Rubio is a "real man." Donald Trump, ever the provocateur, said that Rubio has a "short man's complex" and needed the high-heeled boots to look taller. Rubio fought back by saying,

"Let me get this right: ISIS is cutting people's heads off, setting people on fire in cages, Saudi Arabia and Iran are on the verge of a war, the Chinese are landing airplanes on islands that they built and say belong to them in what are international waters and in some ways territorial waters, our economy is flat-lined, the stock market is falling apart, but boy are we getting a lot of coverage about a pair of boots."

Candidates' appearances have long been considered fair game. Former presidential candidate John Edwards was once videotaped looking into a small compact and combing his hair and this ended up on YouTube with the West Side Story song "I Feel Pretty" as the soundtrack. Politics ain't beanbag. (V)

Fiorina Weighs in on Bill Clinton's Infidelities

In a interview with Sean Hannity on Friday, Carly Fiorina was asked about Hillary Clinton's response to Bill's philandering. After acknowledging that exploiting this issue is not the best way for the GOP to win the presidency, Fiorina opined:

"Look, if my husband were doing that, I would have left him. I wouldn't have behaved the way Hillary Clinton did, and I would have apologized to all those women."

She is right about one thing: Trying to make Hillary Clinton into the bad guy is a losing proposition for the Republican Party. Polls, then and now, show that voters sympathize with Clinton rather than blaming her. However, Fiorina seems to feel that, as a woman herself, she is free to pass judgment. In truth, her remarks are both presumptuous and tone deaf. Does she really believe that a cheated-upon spouse should be apologizing to anyone? Maybe Carly should just go back to rooting for Iowa to beat Stanford. (Z)

Lena Dunham Campaigning for Clinton in Iowa

Actress and Girls creator Lena Dunham campaigned for Hillary Clinton in Iowa yesterday. She said: "Nothing gets me angrier than when someone implies I'm voting for Hillary Clinton simply because she's female." Dunham said she supports Clinton on account of her policies, not her gender. Dunham is going to work to get young women to turn out to vote for Clinton. (V)

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---The Votemaster
Jan09 Economy Adds Another 292,000 Jobs in December
Jan09 Is Donald Trump the New George Wallace?
Jan09 Poll: 20% of Democrats Would Vote for Trump
Jan09 Trump Is Not Living in Iowa or New Hampshire
Jan09 The Conventional Wisdom Is Often Wrong
Jan09 Democratic Candidates Get Testy
Jan09 Rubio, Abbott Call for Constitutional Convention
Jan09 Democrats Press Obama on Deportations
Jan08 Planned Parenthood to Endorse Hillary Clinton
Jan08 Chairman of Congressional Black Caucus Endorses Clinton
Jan08 McCain Raises Questions about Cruz's Eligibility
Jan08 Trump Advocates Huge Tariff on Chinese Goods
Jan08 Trump Throws Protesters Out in the Cold
Jan08 Second-Tier Republicans Have a Bad Day
Jan08 Rubio Playing the Trump URL Game
Jan08 Republicans Want Nikki Haley To Be the Veep Candidate
Jan08 Obama Mounting Full Court Press on Gun Control
Jan07 Cruz: I am Tougher Than Trump on Illegal Immigrants
Jan07 The Trump Gap Is Getting Bigger
Jan07 Cruz with Small Lead over Trump in California
Jan07 Cruz Now Running an Ad With Bankers, Lawyers, and Journalists Crossing a River
Jan07 RNC Now Running an Ad With a Firefighter, Student, Haitian Immigrant, and Former Prostitute
Jan07 Other Republicans Join the Ted Cruz Birther Movement
Jan07 Right-Wing Media Fuel Hillary Health Conspiracies
Jan07 Why Doesn't Rubio Resign from the Senate?
Jan07 Rubio Swaps Commercial Flights for Private Charters
Jan06 Republicans Differ on their Approach to Oregon Protest at Bird Refuge
Jan06 What Will Trump's Loss Look Like?
Jan06 Could the Republican Nominee Be ... Paul Ryan?
Jan06 Do TV Ads Still Matter?
Jan06 As It Turns Out, Trump Does Have a Data Operation
Jan06 Trump Finally Gets around to Questioning Cruz's Citizenship
Jan06 Nikki Haley to Give GOP Response to SOTU
Jan06 Jeb: My Brother Is Most Popular President Among Republicans
Jan05 Why the GOP Is Not Going After Trump
Jan05 The Mud Is about to Start Flying in the Republican Race
Jan05 Trump Running an Ad Showing Illegal Immigrants Climbing a Wall
Jan05 The Big Dog Is Back
Jan05 Best to Avoid Sarcasm on the Campaign Trail
Jan05 Obama to Issue Executive Orders on Guns
Jan05 New Carson Book Out Today
Jan04 January Candidate List
Jan04 Rundown of Republican Primaries and Caucuses
Jan04 Everyone's Angry about Something
Jan04 Three-time Loser Endorses Carly Fiorina in New Hampshire
Jan03 Bernie Sanders Keeps Pace with Hillary Clinton in Fundraising
Jan03 Bush's Strategy: Destroy Everyone Else
Jan03 Previously Unknown Big Donors Getting Ready to Donate
Jan03 Trump Appears in Al Qaeda Recruitment Video
Jan03 Trump Says That Clinton, Obama Created ISIS