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

Democrats Take Their Turn in Charleston

After burying their last two debates on Saturday night, the Democratic Party will hold its fourth debate in a somewhat more viewer-friendly time slot tonight, with the Congressional Black Caucus and NBC acting as hosts and Lester Holt and Andrea Mitchell moderating. There was talk of omitting Martin O'Malley from the proceedings, but at the last moment NBC announced that he'd be given a podium, so he will be there along with Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

Remarkably, this is the last meeting before voters go to the polls—the next Democratic debate is not until two days after New Hampshire. As such, it's the last chance the candidates have to speak to a national audience before the election is officially underway. Hillary Clinton has gotten very nervous about Bernie Sanders' polling numbers lately (see below), and will be looking to consolidate her support. She will surely bring up guns early and often, since it is Charleston and it is also one issue where she's to the left of Sanders. Expect some mention of her recently-discovered plan to impose a surtax on the rich. She may also talk a bit about electability; it's not sexy, but it may sway some voters.

Sanders, meanwhile, has the most to gain and the most to lose. He's never figured out how to deal with the gun issue; he'll get another chance to answer those questions, and he really needs to have something good. He also needs to show he can connect with black voters; a city that is 25% black and a debate hosted by the Congressional Black Caucus is the place to do it. He has also been weak on foreign policy in the other debates. Actually, not so much "weak"—what happens is that he tries to ignore the issue and steer the discussion back to his economic inequality/Wall Street bread and butter. Understandable, given that Clinton was once the Secretary of State, but it won't do. At some point, he needs to show he can be Commander-in-Chief, and Mitchell—who is NBC's chief foreign affairs correspondent—is not likely to go easy on him. This is not to say that Sanders will play defense all night, however. He's recently been arguing that Clinton is the toady of the wealthy and powerful, and he will certainly make that a theme on Sunday night.

As to Martin O'Malley, well, who knows what he's doing? The notion that he was auditioning for the VP slot, or a cabinet seat, was pretty much put to rest when he went on the anti-Hillary warpath starting a couple of months ago. He surely can't believe he's got a chance to win this thing, and it's not like he's injecting a pet issue into the discussion. Whatever the case may be, this is probably his last stand. NBC did not want to make decisions on behalf of the voters, but by the time of the next debate, the voters will have spoken. If it is indeed his last hurrah, here's hoping he makes it a good one.

The debate will begin at 9 P.M. EST and will be broadcast on NBC, as well as the network's various digital platforms and on the NBC YouTube Channel. (Z)

Clinton Campaigns as Obama's Heir in South Carolina

Yesterday all the Democratic candidates were in Charleston, SC, in preparation for tonight's debate. They put the time there to good use by attending a dinner as part of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day festivities. Clinton owned the room. She got a big round of applause when she commented on the Republican debates with: "[It] really was kind of like a reality TV show, but as it goes on it's become clear that these characters have actually no connection to reality." Clinton also played up her long connection to the black community, an important factor in a state where about half the Democratic electorate is black.

She also made it clear that electing her President would be the best way to ensure that no one tried to undo all of Obama's accomplishments as President. This could be a hint of how she will campaign in South Carolina and the South before super Tuesday. By tying herself to the Obama administration, she is likely to win votes from blacks who greatly admire his presidency and what he did.

Sanders clearly understood he needs to make inroads into the black community. He railed against the broken criminal justice system, saying too many black males spend too much time in prison. He also said that if a black kid gets caught with some marijuana he gets a police record but if the head of a huge bank nearly wrecks the economy and destroys the lives of millions of people, the bank gets a fine but the banker doesn't get a police record. Martin O'Malley also came to the dinner. (V)

Clinton Is Seriously Worried about Sanders

At first, Hillary Clinton just ignored the challenge from Bernie Sanders. No more. She is now planning to put half of her budget into fending off the challenge from Sanders. The campaign has plenty of money, and it would have preferred to hoard it for the general election. But the challenge from Sanders is now taken seriously enough that she is going to put real money into defeating Sanders. The money is slated to be spent in the first quarter of 2016. February is a cheap month, but starting in March, there are big expensive states, like Florida, to be won. At the end of 2015, Clinton had $38 million cash on hand. (V)

Chuck Schumer Defends Trump

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), who is slated to become the Democratic leader in the Senate in 2017 and who is about as canny a politician as there is, defended fellow New Yorker Donald Trump yesterday. He referred to remarks Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) made in the Republican debate about Trump having "New York values" and how Trump hit back. Schumer said:

I'd like Ted Cruz to go talk about New York values to the firefighters who rushed to the towers on 9/11, and the police and EMTs, to the brave New York police officers who keep our streets safe,

Schumer, of course, is quietly trying to make Trump a hero and thus boost his chances to get the nomination. Does Schumer like Trump? They are both powerful New Yorkers and probably know each other well, but Schumer fully realizes that Trump is the weakest candidate the Republicans have and anything he can do to boost Trump is worth doing. Using their mutual New York connection is a fine way to get started. (V)

Let the Anti-Ted Cruzsade Begin

As you may have heard, the Republican establishment does not much care for Ted Cruz. And now, his rise in the polls, not to mention his excellent prospects in most of the early primary/caucus states, have the conservative commentariat sitting up, taking notice, and aiming for the target that has magically appeared on the senator's back.

Several weeks back, former aide to Ronald Reagan and onetime RNC political director Curt Anderson fired an early shot across the bow in an editorial for Politico. Labeling Cruz a "televangelist" and "the biggest narcissist in the GOP field," Anderson argues that he is a phony who is easily recognizable as such:

There is no denying that Cruz is a smart and gifted orator. But if you listen closely you will find that he sells everything with the exact same level of zeal. Whether he is condemning the Islamic State or ordering a ham sandwich, the invective is identical. When a speaker oversells everything, it calls everything he says into question, and it begs questions regarding authenticity and genuineness. And when it comes down to it, Cruz does not stand by all that he so dramatically defends. For example, he proclaims he's always faithful to the most conservative positions. Yet he found himself in 2013, when the political winds on immigration seemed to be blowing toward a softer approach, including legalization, earnestly advocating for a pathway to legal status for illegal immigrants already in the country.

Anderson concludes by expressing hope that his fellow Republicans and Christians do not fall for Cruz's "shtick," his "contrivance," and his "theater."

On Saturday, David Brooks—one of the main conservative voices of the New York Times' op-ed page—offered an even more unsparing assessment, one that is certainly not going to improve Cruz's opinion of the Times or of New York Republicans. Under the headline "The Brutalism of Ted Cruz," Brooks goes for the throat, declaring that the Texas Senator really isn't much of a Christian:

[I]n his career and public presentation Cruz is a stranger to most of what would generally be considered the Christian virtues: humility, mercy, compassion and grace...Cruz's speeches are marked by what you might call pagan brutalism. There is not a hint of compassion, gentleness and mercy. Instead, his speeches are marked by a long list of enemies, and vows to crush, shred, destroy, bomb them. When he is speaking in a church the contrast between the setting and the emotional tone he sets is jarring.

It's a fair point; certainly it is hard to imagine Jesus threatening to bomb anyone until the sand glows, to take but one example. And more broadly, it is a rare candidate who wins the presidency going negative in all ways, at all times. Past candidates who were otherwise begative, including Richard Nixon with "Bring Us Together," and Ronald Reagan with "Morning in America." found room for some optimism in their campaigns. For all of his intelligence and political savvy, Cruz seems to be unaware of this. He may come to regret it. (Z)

Christie Donated to Planned Parenthood

The GOP establishment is frantically looking for an alternative to Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. No one thinks Jeb Bush is going to come back from the dead or Gov. John Kasich (R-OH) is going to join the living. That leaves Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ). A lot of people realize that Rubio is a policy lightweight and his youthful looks emphasize that. Still, he may be the best they have. But if he falters, Christie is the backup, or maybe was until now. Suddenly, his contributions to Planned Parenthood in the 1990s are becoming a big deal. He had been pro-choice for years, but later switched to pro-life when that became convenient. Planned Parenthood is such a bête noire among Republicans now, that this revelation might be the end of him. If that happens, for the GOP leadership, it is Rubio or bust. If he stumbles, there is really no one else. (V)

Why Is Nobody Attacking Trump on the Air?

It appears that no negative ads are airing anywhere trying to take down Donald Trump, despite his being the frontrunner almost everywhere and despite the whole party leadership quaking in their boots about a possible Trump nomination. Why? Nate Silver takes a stab at answering this. Marco Rubio, for example, might prefer a virtual tie between Trump and Cruz rather than a Cruz blowout in Iowa since that gives him an outside shot at sneaking into first place. In any event, a Cruz landslide might define the race as Trump vs. Cruz, which Rubio doesn't want, so he would prefer Trump holding down Cruz, at least in Iowa. Chris Christie, a potential tough guy and potentially acceptable candidate to the leadership (which doesn't really care about Planned Parenthood), might prefer Trump to do well initially to create panic within the party. If Christie can do well in New Hampshire and survive until April when the big blue states vote, the party might see him as their savior. Cruz doesn't really want to go after Trump too much because he hopes to inherit Trump's supporters if and when he fails. Bush could go after Trump, but his current strategy is to destroy Rubio and Christie, leaving him as the non-Trump. So no candidate has an individual interest in taking on Trump as he sails along. (V)

Trump Was Once a New York Liberal

Maybe Ted Cruz was right when, in the debate, he said Donald Trump has New York values. A 1999 video has now surfaced in which Trump states on national television that:

  • He is for gay marriage
  • He supports having gays in the military
  • He is in favor of the late-term so-called partial-birth abortion

None of these positions are wildly popular with the Republican base right now. If and when some candidate—most likely Cruz—decides it is time to really take down Trump, this is the ammunition. In New Hampshire it probably won't work, but in Iowa, South Carolina, and the Southern states that vote on super Tuesday, it might. But in a multiway race, there is always the danger that one candidate spends money running the video causing Trump's supporters to desert him, but not go to the candidate running the ad. Consequently, it might make sense for Cruz to hold his fire until it comes down to Trump, him, and maybe one other. (V)

Might Scott Brown Be Trump's Veep?

While campaigning in New Hampshire yesterday, Donald Trump floated the idea of former Massachusetts senator Scott Brown as his running mate. He didn't discuss Brown's policy positions or other credentials, just that he is really good looking. Trump might be aware that Brown once posed nude for Cosmo magazine after winning the magazine's "America's sexiest man" contest. Maybe Trump thinks that he can make up for insulting women and get them to vote for his ticket by putting a sexy man on it. With or without Brown, Trump may have trouble finding someone to hop onto a ship that many people thinks is likely to be sunk by the S.S. Clinton (V)

Are All Journalists Suffering from Pauline Kael Syndrome?

It's hardly a secret that almost no journalist or pundit 6 months ago thought that Donald Trump would be the frontrunner heading into February. Why? This surprise brings to mind the (probably apocryphal) story of the New York Times film critic Pauline Kael saying she was surprised that Richard Nixon won the 1972 election because no one she knew voted for him. The reason this anecdote comes up again this year is that journalists tend to be relatively well off, highly educated, and care passionately about the issues. Most Americans aren't like that and many are hurting financially. In effect, journalists are living in a bubble and can't understand why someone like Trump, who hates Muslims, immigrants, Latinos, and women might be popular with older white men who feel threatened by all these groups in a way that journalists are not.

Of course, Trump may not be the nominee in the end. He generally polls around 30-35%, which means that 65-70% of Republicans don't like him. The problem is that they are fragmented among far too many candidates. If most of them get knocked off early, say after New Hampshire, then whoever is left standing might well be able to take on Trump, proving the journalists right in the end. (V)

Email a link to a friend or share:

Back to the top

---The Votemaster
Jan16 Republican Debate Postmortem
Jan16 New York Daily News Is Not Happy with Ted Cruz
Jan16 Bettors Are Putting Their Money on Trump
Jan16 Sanders Catches Up to Clinton in Iowa
Jan16 Bush Donors Anxiously Waiting Permission to Jump Ship
Jan16 Republicans in Congress Very Nervous about Trump Candidacy
Jan16 Gap Between the Parties is Greater than Ever
Jan16 Alan Wilson Is Still Alive
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