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
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Dem pickups:  
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News from the Votemaster

Republican Debate Postmortem

The dust has now settled, and here's what they're saying about Donald Trump, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Gov. John Kasich (R-OH), Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ), Jeb Bush, and Ben Carson in the sixth Republican debate:

Left-leaning media
The Boston Globe Winner: Trump. Losers: Rubio, Christie, Bush, Carson, Cruz. "As Chris Christie and Marco Rubio took turns trying to out-Trump Trump by seeing who could say meaner and more dishonest things about President Obama (Christie won, by calling the president a "petulant child.") As Jeb Bush shed what was left of his dignity, Ben Carson composed delicious word salads, and earnest and unctuous Ted Cruz demonstrated again why everyone in Washington cannot stand him, Trump ran circles around all of them."
Politics USA: Winners: Cruz, Trump, Rubio. Losers: Bush, Carson, Christie, Kasich. "Trump might have lost in a head to head with Cruz, but his personality had the audience laughing and on his side. Trump stuck to much of his standard script, and outside of Cruz, nobody could lay a hand on him. The Republican race is clearly between Trump and Cruz with everyone else serving as a distant second."
WaPo: Winners: Rubio, Trump, Cruz. Losers: Carson, Neil Cavuto/Maria Bartiromo. "7 dudes. 7 dark suits. 6 white shirts. 4 red ties. 3 blue ties. I mean, can't we shake it up even a little bit? How about a gray suit? A purple tie? Some stripes?"
CNN: Winners: Trump, Cruz, Christie, Nikki Haley. Losers: Carson, Kasich, The New York Times. "John Kasich was also present last night—and that sums up his performance."
San Francisco Chronicle: Winners: Cruz, Trump. Losers: Bush, Kasich, Carson. "[Trump]'s shameless, and yet—you cannot help but admire someone who butts heads with the way politics usually work, and leaves the political establishment woozy and seeing stars, while he happily straightens his tie."
Right-leaning media
The Hill: Winners: Cruz, Trump, and Christie. Losers: Carson, Bush, and Kasich. "Overall, this was a more energetic Trump than has been seen in some recent debates, and at times he and Cruz engaged in a kind of Marvin Hagler-Thomas Hearns verbal slugfest. Even if neither of them get the upper hand over each other, they separated themselves from the rest of the field."
The Washington Times: Winners: Cruz, Trump, Rubio, Christie. Losers: Carson, Kasich. "With their fake friendship on the rocks, Mr. Cruz, a favorite of tea partyers and religious conservatives, held his own in the escalating feud with Donald Trump, his top rival ahead of the Feb. 1 Iowa caucuses."
Red State: Winners: Rubio, Cruz, Trump. Losers: Carson, Christie, Kasich, Bush. "The lighting was harsh. The makeup was caked on. After a slow opening segment, the punches started flying, and a raucous crowd was engaged from the first minute onward. At the end of the day, all of the major fights that we expected to have occurred, including Trump v. Cruz, Christie v. Rubio, Jeb Bush v. Himself, and John Kasich v. his own arms."
National Review: Winners: Cruz, Trump. Losers: Bush, Kasich, Carson. "Just 18 days from the Iowa caucuses, the aperture is narrowing, and the Republican primary is increasingly focused on four men: Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Chris Christie."
Fortune: Winner: Trump. Loser: Carson. "The two leading contenders for the Republican nod pulled no punches in attacking each other, and Trump demonstrated why he's the field's Teflon Don, effectively reversing salvos aimed at him to damage his opponents instead."
Foreign media
BBC: Winners: Cruz, Trump, Christie, Rubio. Loser: Carson. "And if there's one big-takeaway from this sixth Republican contest, it's that Donald Trump is improving as a debater - and that should be a big concern for the Republican establishment."
The Telegraph (UK): Winners: Trump, Rubio. Losers: Bush, Carson. Trump will doubtless look back on his performance and tell himself he did a tremendous job. It was classic Trump: uncompromising, combative, scant on detail but full of bravado. Perhaps being booed when he needled Ted Cruz on whether he could stand for president, given that he was born in Canada, may have ruffled his quiff somewhat. But not for long. Cruz came across well—witty, informed, smart—but made a serious error in attacking Trump for being "too New York". Trump's response was devastating: he told how he saw New York react with dignity and resilience, and was proud of the great city. Cruz could only clap, realising his error. Trump triumphed."
The Economist: Winners: Trump, Cruz, Bush, Rubio. Losers: Carson, Kasich, Christie. "[The Republicans] may have to come to terms with having either a yellow-haired populist or a Mephistophelian demagogue (whose views are the lite-version of the populist's) as their candidate. The Democrats' camp must be rubbing their hands at the prospect."

Across the thirteen outlets, if we exclude people and entities who are not in fact running for the GOP nomination, the tally ends up like this:

Trump: 13 wins, 0 losses
Cruz: 10 wins, 1 loss
Rubio: 7 wins, 1 loss
Christie: 4 wins, 4 losses
Bush: 1 win, 7 losses
Kasich: 0 wins, 8 losses
Carson: 0 wins, 13 losses

The consensus is pretty clear across the spectrum. Trump and Cruz came out ahead, with Rubio and Christie forming a second tier of "winners." The remaining trio did very badly. This fairly well mirrors the outcomes of the last two or three debates and, in the aggregate, some very strong perceptions of the race are starting to crystallize. Even much of the GOP establishment has begun to accept that they need to be thinking in terms of a two-person contest, while many other commenters see a "Final Four."

Still, these are in the moment responses, and—as we and others repeat so often—in politics a week is a lifetime. In particular, Cruz is seen as a "winner" right now, but his attempt to defuse the birther issue and/or his swipe at New York could prove to be damaging in the long term (see below for more). That's what he gets for ruffling Donald Trump's quiff.

As we noted, the fact checkers had their work cut out for them. CNN, the Washington Post, FactCheck, and Politifact have completed their work, and found a broad variety of statements to question. The two most common subjects are Cruz's citizenship (an issue that does not appear to be going away), and the various questionable statements made by Chris Christie (particularly about Sonia Sotomayor). Slate, in fact has a piece right now arguing that "straight shooter" Christie may be the most dishonest candidate in the race.

To nobody's surprise, Donald Trump "won" the Internet during the debate, accounting for 38% of all Twitter mentions, with his defense of New York the most popular subject. He also dominated online polls, such as the one on Drudge Report, where 52.9% of the 400,000-plus respondents gave the win to The Donald, followed by 31.2% for Cruz, 8.7% for Rubio, 2.2% for Christie, and roughly 1.5% each for Kasich, Carson, and Bush.

The moderators have also been excoriated for their performance, with feedback nearly as bad as the CNBC moderators got. WaPo's Chris Cillizza (in the article linked above), wrote:

Look, moderating debates—especially at this level with this number of candidates—is hard. But, the key to making these debates work as they should is to force the candidates to get off their talking points—usually by asking pointed follow-up questions or allowing the candidates to go at one another. There was way too little of either in this debate, meaning that we didn't learn as much about who the candidates really are (and what they really think) as we might have.

Slate's Justin Peters was even more unsparing:

What was clear Thursday was that the candidates interpret such shaky moderating as a sign that they can say whatever they want. Not only did they interject at will, but they did so in order to say things with no particular substance. Far too often, Cavuto and Bartiromo offered the mere outlines of questions and then let the candidates treat them like pivot points from which they could say whatever. Interrogative minimalism can be a respectable debate-moderation strategy. But on Thursday, it just felt like lethargy.

For the next GOP debate, on January 28, Fox will bring out its varsity team: Bret Baier, Megyn Kelly, and Chris Wallace. Hopefully, they will not become part of the story. It will also be interesting to see if Fox embraces the "Final Four" notion, and sends Kasich, Bush, and Carson packing, since they seem, by literally all accounts, to be adding nothing to the proceedings. More probably, the media will let Iowans and New Hampshirites do their dirty work for them. (Z)

New York Daily News Is Not Happy with Ted Cruz

During Thursday's debate, Ted Cruz accused Donald Trump of having New York values. The New York Daily News, which endorsed Mitt Romney in 2012, didn't take that too well and ran the following front page.


Maybe Cruz forgot that New York sends 95 delegates to the Republican National Convention, more than all states except California, Texas, and Florida. Or maybe he thinks dissing New York will win more votes in the South than it loses in the North. Or maybe he wasn't thinking at all and was just mad at Trump for not being nice to him.

While Cruz doesn't figure to win any electoral votes in the Northeast, irritating people in New York does have a real downside. A lot of the national media is located in New York and they can choose to play up or ignore the story about whether he is a native-born citizen. If the media keep this story going endlessly, it can only hurt him.

While Cruz may not like New York values, he most certainly loves New York money. The second largest check to his super PAC—for $11 million—came from New York hedge fund manager Robert Mercer. He has also received large donations from executives at Wall Street firms, including from Goldman Sachs, where his wife is an executive. Goldman also gave him a large loan to finance his campaign. And Goldman isn't just any old investment bank. It's chairman and CEO, Lloyd Blankfein, won an award from the LGBT-oriented Human Rights Campaign for his leadership on marriage equality. Not only has Goldman long provided full benefits to same-sex partners of its employees, but Blankfein lobbied the New York State legislature hard in 2011 to get it to pass a bill allowing same-sex marriage. He was also the driving force in getting other banks to provide full benefits to same-sex partners. So while Cruz may sound off about "New York values," he's actually in bed with them. (V)

Bettors Are Putting Their Money on Trump

Political betting is illegal in the U.S. but legal in the U.K., Ireland, and some other countries. The British bookie Website William Hill takes bets on the Republican nomination, among other political races. Since people there are risking their own money, they may be more honest than what people tell a pollster. One very nice property of betting sites is that it is real time. If a candidate says something brilliant/stupid during a debate, for example, bettors can use this knowledge to buy or sell bets instantly. In any event, here are the implied odds determined by bettors post debate.

William Hill Betting
Rank Candidate Pct
1 Donald Trump 40.0%
2 Marco Rubio 33.3%
3 Ted Cruz 26.7%
4 Jeb Bush 9.1%
5 Chris Christie 5.3%
6 Mitt Romney 2.0%
7 Ben Carson 1.2%
7 John Kasich 1.2%
9 Carly Fiorina 1.0%
10 Mike Huckabee 1.0%
10 Rand Paul 1.0%
10 Rick Santorum 1.0%
13 Paul Ryan 0.7%
14 Susana Martinez 0.7%
15 Condi Rice 0.4%
15 Eric Cantor 0.4%

What is interesting is the bettors think the Rubio is more likely to get the nomination than Cruz. The pundits think that the Texan has the edge over the Floridian.

On the Democratic side, bettors give Hillary Clinton an 82% chance of getting the nomination and Sen. Bernie Sanders a 25% chance. Martin O'Malley is tied with John Kerry for third place at 1%, but slightly ahead of Al Gore and Elizabeth Warren. The scores don't add up to 100% because of the way odds are calculated. They pay off at a lower rate than they should in a fair game because the house takes a cut, the vig. (V)

Sanders Catches Up to Clinton in Iowa

A new poll from Ann Selzer, queen of the Iowa pollsters, puts Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) in a statistical tie with Hillary Clinton in the Hawkeye state. She is at 42% and he is at 40% with a margin of error of 4.4%. Furthermore, he is climbing and she is dropping. Some people are speculating this could be a rerun of 2008, when an unknown senator grabbed the crown she was planning to use for her coronation.

Nevertheless, there are major differences between 2016 and 2008. In particular, Iowa Democrats are among the most liberal in the country, which helped Obama and is helping Sanders. New Hampshirites are quirky and Sanders is a neighbor so Sanders might be able to win the first two events. Then things start to get interesting. Next comes Latino-heavy Nevada on Feb. 20 and South Carolina on Feb. 27, followed by the rest of the South on March 1. In the South, politics is very racially polarized. Most whites are Republicans and most blacks are Democrats. For Sanders, having to compete in eight states with majority black electorates (or close to it) may not go as smoothly as it did for Obama. In 2008, many voters in those states saw the nomination of the first black presidential candidate as hugely important. Obama swept Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. That Sanders is popular among young liberals is beyond dispute. What he needs to do—and quickly—is become the first choice among poor evangelical blacks in the South.

Below is a map from Steve Sims of who won which primary/caucus in 2008. Clinton is in gold and Obama is in purple.

Dem 2008 map

Note that Obama's strength was largely in two regions. He swept the South and he won the poorly attended caucuses and primaries in red states in the West. Clinton foolishly didn't think she needed to worry about them, so by getting a few thousand people to the polls, he was able to haul in the delegates. This time she is going to fight tooth and nail for places like Wyoming and Utah.

Sanders clearly understands what he has to do and is working hard to do it. He is running ads on black-oriented radio stations and visiting historically black colleges in the South. His pitch is that he marched with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., thinks police brutality is a major issue, and wants to raise the minimum wage to $15/hour. Nevertheless, he has a steep hill to climb. A recent Gallup poll showed that 43% of blacks had a favorable view of him vs. 86% who viewed Hillary Clinton favorability. His basic problem is not that blacks don't like his policies, but they like and trust Clinton even more. The most recent poll of South Carolina puts her ahead of him 69% to 21%, so he has a lot of catching up to do.

Nevertheless, many Democratic Party leaders are beginning to worry about what a Sanders candidacy would mean downticket. Would moderate Democrats come out to vote for him? While it is almost too much for political junkies to dream about, a Sanders vs. Trump race would really stick it to the establishment, with voters of both parties saying "no thanks" to the current way of doing things. Nevertheless, Sanders has to show he can do well in the South to prove that he is serious, just as Ted Cruz has to show he is strong in the North. Sanders can't get the nomination just by winning the Northeast and West Coast and Cruz can't get it just by winning in the South. (V)

Bush Donors Anxiously Waiting Permission to Jump Ship

When Jeb Bush announced his candidacy last July, donors were fighting each other to be the first on his bandwagon. Traffic is now heading in the other direction. Out of loyalty to the Bush family, however, only a couple of donors have already publicly left the Bush parade. Quietly, however, many are urging Bush to accept reality and exit the race after he is crushed in New Hampshire, as everyone expects. Then they will be free to bet on a new horse, depending on what happens in Iowa and New Hampshire. Once Bush gives them permission, there will be a stampede toward the exit.

Political science students are going to be studying this race and scratching their heads for decades to come. Some of the takeaways so far:

  • A candidate with a universally known name and $100 million was completely crushed
  • A businessman who insulted women and preached bigotry and racism got off to a blazing start
  • A U.S. senator despised by the other 99 senators proved popular with the voters

And the voting hasn't even started yet. Who knows what's yet in store? Donald Trump winning the nomination and then at his "acceptance speech" in Cleveland saying: "Thank you for the honor but I don't want job. It doesn't pay very well"? (V)

Republicans in Congress Very Nervous about Trump Candidacy

As Republicans gathered in Baltimore this weekend for their annual retreat, the elephant in the room wasn't the party mascot. It was Donald Trump. When a reporter asked Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL) about aforesaid pachyderm, he replied: "Heaven help us." Other Republicans, such as Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) helpfully pointed out: "He does appeal to the anger." Officially, Trump was not on the agenda, but in the hallways, he was topic A. They were worried that Trump could embarrass the party and were more than worried that a Trump candidacy would be a disaster downticket as many loyal Republicans would simply sit out the election. They also have fears that he could redefine the party from a conservative party to one based on anger, fear, and bigotry and it could take a long time to erase that image. (V)

Gap Between the Parties is Greater than Ever

During campaign season, it is expected that the parties will take pot shots at one another. But this time around it seems that their descriptions are referring to two different countries From President Obama's SOTU speech we learned:

  • The United States has the strongest, most durable economy in the world
  • We're in the middle of the longest streak of private-sector job creation in history
  • The United States is the most powerful nation on earth. Period.
  • We spend more on our military than the next eight nations combined

However, according to the candidates at the sixth Republican debate in South Carolina:

  • Our military is a disaster (Trump)
  • In this administration, every weapon system has been gutted (Bush)
  • This country is not respected around the world anymore (Christie)
  • Let me tell you, if we don't get this election right, there may be no turning back for America (Rubio)

The Democrats are basically saying that while it's not perfect, the country is in decent shape. The Republicans are saying it is a complete disaster, bordering on ruin. The whole campaign is likely to be about these competing visions.

Interestingly enough, one of the Democrats, Bernie Sanders, agrees with the Republicans that the country is in terrible shape, although his arguments are rather different than theirs. He says the problem isn't a crippled military, it is all-powerful corporations and wealthy political donors who are the cause of its problems. (V)

Alan Wilson Is Still Alive

Who, might you ask, is Alan Wilson and why is his current presence on the planet politically important? Excellent question. When Ted Cruz was born, in Canada, his mother put her name on the birth certificate as Eleanor Darragh Wilson. Her first husband was Alan Wilson, who lives in London. When a reporter called him and told him that his ex-wife later had a child who is now a top contender for President of the United States, in that typical British understatement, he said: "I'll be darned," adding: "No kidding?"

Wilson could become an important witness if a court ever has to look into the matter of whether Cruz's mother met the residency requirements for her to transmit U.S. citizenship to baby Ted. Wilson said that he and Eleanor lived in London for several years, which means those years don't count toward the residency test.

The possibility of a court case about Cruz's eligibility is not mere speculation. A suit was filed Thursday in Texas claiming that Cruz is not a natural-born citizen. However, the complaint is full of irrelevant material, so Cruz may win an easy victory here and settle the matter once and for all.. (V)

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---The Votemaster
Jan15 Republicans Get Down to Business in South Carolina
Jan15 Republicans Love Cruz, Carson, and Rubio the Most
Jan15 Trump Way Ahead Nationally in New Poll
Jan15 Cruz and Trump Backers in Iowa Differ on Some Issues
Jan14 Republicans Square Off in South Carolina Tonight
Jan14 Is Paul Ryan Really Headed for Big Things?
Jan14 New Iowa Poll: Cruz by a Nose
Jan14 Republican Donors Complaining about Lack of Return on Investment
Jan14 Republicans Tell Bush to Lay off Rubio
Jan14 Clinton Worried about Sanders
Jan14 The GOP Veepstakes Have Started
Jan13 State of the Union a Big Success
Jan13 Sanders Catching Up to Clinton in Iowa
Jan13 MoveOn Endorses Sanders
Jan13 Another Betting Market Says It's Hillary in 2016
Jan13 Young Women Support Sanders over Clinton
Jan13 Constitutional Law Professor: Cruz is Not a Natural-Born Citizen
Jan13 Repubicans Won't Approve Any New Obama Nominees
Jan12 Trump with Slight Lead in Iowa
Jan12 Obama's Final State of the Union is Tonight
Jan12 Why Have Recent Polls Been So Wrong?
Jan12 Clinton Calls for Surtax on the Rich
Jan12 Rubio Walking a Narrow Path in Iowa
Jan12 Thanks, Obama: Domestic Edition
Jan12 Rand Paul Goes Full Birther
Jan12 Paul's Presidential Campaign is Fading Fast
Jan12 More Carson Staffers Leave
Jan12 Koch Brothers' Father Built Key Nazi Oil Refinery
Jan11 Cruz is Leading in Iowa, Trump in New Hampshire
Jan11 Supreme Court Could Decide the Presidency
Jan11 Trump Promises to Tax Wall Street
Jan11 Advice for Republican Candidates
Jan11 No Primary Endorsement for Obama
Jan11 Cruz: A Spectacular Liar
Jan11 Adelson Stymied by Family Dispute
Jan11 Thanks, Obama: North Korea Edition
Jan10 Could the Republican Party Split?
Jan10 Three Theories of Trump
Jan10 Another Theory of Trump: Ignorance
Jan10 Why Hate Jeb?
Jan10 Bush: Clinton Would Beat Trump Like a Drum
Jan10 Marco Rubio's Footwear Becomes a Campaign Issue
Jan10 Fiorina Weighs in on Bill Clinton's Infidelities
Jan10 Lena Dunham Campaigning for Clinton in Iowa
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