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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News from the Votemaster

Democrats Dance in Charleston

Hillary Clinton, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and Martin O'Malley took their turn in Charleston, South Carolina on Sunday night, just three days after the GOP field paid a visit. Here are the main story lines of the evening:

Everybody Loves Martin: No, not O'Malley. King. Each of the three candidates made a point of incorporating the civil rights leader into their opening statements (with O'Malley also managing to squeeze Frederick Douglass in later in the debate). This was neither a surprise, nor inappropriate, given that King's birthday is being celebrated Monday, Charleston was the site of a notable speech by him in 1967, and the debate was being co-hosted by the Congressional Black Caucus Institute. In any event, the opening statements were the first occasion, among many, when the trio were clearly trying to curry favor with black voters. Clinton, for example, was prepared for a question about the justice system, rattling off a series of statistics about racial disparities in incarceration rates (though not all of her numbers were entirely accurate). Sanders, for his part, was forceful in his denunciations of police misconduct, and declared that a Sanders-led Justice Department would investigate every death of a suspect in police custody. O'Malley fell back on his record as governor of Maryland, though the question of whether his policies helped or hindered black citizens is hotly debated, so he had to be a little circumspect.

Everybody Loves Obama: Though the three candidates have regularly held the President at arm's length in the other debates, Sunday was an Obama love-fest. O'Malley struck first, in his opening statement:

Eight years ago, you brought forward a new leader in Barack Obama to save our country from the second Great Depression. And that's what he's done. Our country's doing better, we're creating jobs again...We need new leadership. We need to come together as a people and build on the good things that President Obama has done.

In part, the pro-Obama rhetoric was a byproduct of the desire to connect with black voters, with whom he remains very popular. And, in part, it was a signal that the President's star is on the rise in Democratic (and independent) circles, thanks to his State of the Union Address and recent successes in Iran and elsewhere. However, the primary driver of the Obama celebration was a tactical choice by Hillary Clinton: She wanted to paint Sanders as the anti-Obama. This was a backdoor way of raising questions about the practicality of Sanders as the nominee—instead of attacking him on electability, she instead tried to suggest that he would not be able to get things done in the White House because he's unrealistic and impractical. For example, in discussing healthcare reform, she said that the only viable approach is to build on the ACA (aka "Obamacare") and that Bernie Sanders' approach—to tear the system apart and replace it with a single-payer model—was not politically feasible. She's almost certainly right about that. Clinton also celebrated Obama's foreign policy and economic accomplishments, while ultimately compelling Sanders to proclaim his support for and his close friendship with the President.

The Sparks Flew: It wasn't quite enough to qualify as "fireworks," like at the Republican debate, but this was certainly the snippiest of the four Democratic debates. In addition to her anti-Obama line of attack on Sanders, Clinton also—to nobody's surprise—hit the Vermont Senator hard on guns, reciting a long list of his votes that don't square with his current anti-gun rhetoric (including voting against the Brady Bill five times). Sanders still doesn't have much of an answer for this, but he did hit back very hard on Clinton's being in bed with Wall Street, in particular repeating several times that she received $600,000 in speaking fees from Goldman Sachs in one year. He also managed to describe Bill Clinton's sexual history as "deplorable" in the midst of a declaration that he wanted to keep the campaign about issues, and not make it personal. O'Malley, for his part, is apparently running almost as far to the left as Bernie Sanders these days, going so far as to denounce Clinton as a liar after she laid out her plans to regulate Wall Street and build upon Dodd-Frank.

That's How to Moderate: The moderators—Lester Holt and Andrea Mitchell—did a masterful job. Some of the questions they asked were expected and obvious, but others were curveballs. They largely kept the candidates under control and on topic, asking some good follow-ups when the answer wandered off topic. Holt and Mitchell also did not presume that they are the only ones who might have useful questions to ask, and ceded the floor on several occasions to queries from YouTube. It seems clear, at this point, that the best debates are the ones hosted by major networks using their varsity talent. The people running for President are the major leaguers of American politics, and they need moderators who are their equals. When the junior varsity journalists—whether from Fox Business Network or CNBC or one of the other second-tier cable networks—are given their chance, they get eaten alive.

A Solid Performance By All: All three candidates had a few stumbles and/or moments that rang a little false on Sunday night. On the whole, however, all three gave strong performances, skillfully handling some challenging questions, and firing off some good jokes and applause lines. Sanders and Clinton, for their parts, effectively illustrated to voters the choice that each represents, with Clinton a more pragmatic foreign policy specialist, and Sanders a more idealistic class warrior. O'Malley, meanwhile, had his best debate of the campaign. It won't matter, but it was still his best debate.

The next time the Democrats meet will be in Milwaukee on February 11. By then, we'll no longer be speaking in hypotheticals and polling projections, because the voters (or, at least, a small, unrepresentative group of them) will have spoken. Will Martin O'Malley reach the end of the line? Will the Sanders surge continue? Will the beads of sweat on Hillary's brow become bullets? We will see in about three weeks. (Z)

Clinton Ahead of Sanders by 25 Points Nationally

A new NBC/WSJ poll released yesterday shows that Hillary Clinton is the choice of 59% of the Democratic primary voters to 34% who support Bernie Sanders. In December the numbers were 56% to 37%, so Clinton may have picked up a little bit. A second poll, from YouGov, has an almost identical result. Here are the numbers.

Rank Candidate NBC/WSJ YouGov
1 Hillary Clinton 59% 58%
2 Bernie Sanders 34% 33%
3 Martin O'Malley 2% 3%

The NBC/WSJ poll also says that 79% of Democrats say they could support Clinton in the general election vs. 18% who say they could not. (V)

Is Rubio Using Giuliani's Strategy?

One of the questions pundits have been asking Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) is: "When are you going to win a state?" Iowa and New Hampshire seem out of the question already, and so does South Carolina. Nevada is a Latino-heavy state, which might help Rubio, but he has hardly been there at all. He might win Florida, but that is not until March 15. By then 27 states and territories will have voted and 45% of the delegates will already have been selected. In 2008, Rudy Giuliani's strategy was to bet the farm on Florida (which voted Jan. 29 that year), but it was too late. Is Rubio going to suffer the same fate? Since 1976, no Republican has been nominated after losing both Iowa and New Hampshire. Of course every cycle is different, but the only time in recent memory that a candidate didn't win an early state yet won his party's nomination was 1992, when Bill Clinton didn't win a contest until March 3 (Georgia). Rubio's only real hope is that after New Hampshire, all of his rivals drop out, leaving the race between him, Trump, and Cruz. But to a large extent, their dropping out is beyond his control. (V)

Court Strikes Down Two-Tiered Voting System in Kansas

A number of Republican-controlled states have passed laws requiring voters to show approved photo ID in order to vote. They say this is to prevent fraud, but almost no in-person voting fraud exists. These laws do not apply to absentee-ballot voting, where there actually is a little bit of fraud. These laws are transparently designed to make it harder for poor people to vote, since in many cases they cannot afford the fee to get a birth certificate via mail or the travel cost to an office where they can get one in person.

Federal law says that states must accept a federal form that allows a voter to register for a federal election. These forms do not require any form of ID. Kansas' Secretary of State Kris Kobach challenged this law in court and lost. Then he decided to institute a two-tier voting system, in which people with ID could vote in federal and state elections and people without ID could vote only in federal elections. This meant that people without ID could not vote for governor or the state legislature, which draws the congressional election districts every 10 years.

Kobach just lost that approach too, when a state judge ruled that such a system violates both state and federal law. Kobach hasn't decided what to do next yet. The case is important as many states have photo ID requirements and this case could easily be applicable to them as well if the judge's opinion is sustained in the appeals process. (V)

Former RNC Chairman Michael Steele Says Trump Will Be the Nominee

The predecessor of current RNC chairman Reince Priebus, Michael Steele, believes that the Republican presidential nominee will be Donald Trump. When asked about this, he said: "I think Donald Trump effectively closed it [the nomination] over the last couple of months." Basically, Steele can't see who stops his momentum. Steele also noted Trump's improved performance in last week's debate as more evidence that he is unstoppable at this point. (V)

What Happens If Trump Loses Iowa?

Donald Trump is a winner. Just ask him and he'll tell you. He tells everyone who is willing to listen and more than a few who didn't want to listen. But suppose the caucusgoers in Iowa on Feb. 1 don't agree and have the audacity to decide that Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) is the winner. What happens to Trump and a campaign based to a large extent on the fact that he is a winner?

Research has shown that when a candidate is doing well, marginal voters are inclined to come out and support him, but when he is not doing well, they stay home. A lot of Trump supporters are probably marginal voters. If he loses Iowa, it could hurt him in New Hampshire, although his lead there is currently big enough that he could survive a small loss of support. But if he loses two in a row, many people might write him off as history. (V)

When Will Candidates Stop Saying They Can Bring Us All Together?

Many politicians love to say they will unite the country and "bring us all together." Don't believe it. When was the last time the country was united? Consider some recent decades:

  • 2010s: When Republicans said Barack Obama was born in Kenya and not even eligible to be President?
  • 2000s: When Democrats hated George W. Bush for lying about nonexistent WMDs and invading Iraq?
  • 1990s: When Republicans impeached Bill Clinton?
  • 1980s: When Democrats hated Ronald Reagan for running against "welfare queens" and the poor?
  • 1970s: When there were fierce battles over Vietnam, Watergate, and the Equal Rights Amendment?
  • 1960s: When there were riots, bombings, and assassinations in the news all the time?
  • 1950s: When Democrats were being hauled before Republican Joe McCarthy and accused of harboring
                Communist sympathies?

How about the build up to the Civil War and its aftermath? Not so much. Maybe if we go back far enough the country was more united. How about the election of 1800, when a Federalist newspaper said that the election of Thomas Jefferson would make murder, robbery, rape, adultery, and incest openly practiced and taught? The reality is except for brief periods once in a while (like in the middle of WW II), the country has rarely been in kumbaya mode.

It is impossible to imagine any candidate now who says anything that can placate both the Muslim-and-Latino hating Trump supporters and the corporation-and-Koch-brothers-hating Sanders supporters. What could such a candidate offer? It can't be done and perhaps candidates should stop talking about it and just say if they get a majority and a friendly Congress they will carry out their programs and that is what democracy is all about. (V)

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---The Votemaster
Jan17 Democrats Take Their Turn in Charleston
Jan17 Clinton Campaigns as Obama's Heir in South Carolina
Jan17 Clinton Is Seriously Worried about Sanders
Jan17 Chuck Schumer Defends Trump
Jan17 Let the Anti-Ted Cruzsade Begin
Jan17 Christie Donated to Planned Parenthood
Jan17 Why Is Nobody Attacking Trump on the Air?
Jan17 Trump Was Once a New York Liberal
Jan17 Might Scott Brown Be Trump's Veep?
Jan17 Are All Journalists Suffering from Pauline Kael Syndrome?
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