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:  
GOP pickups:  

News from the Votemaster

Democratic Debate Postmortem

The commentariat has now had time to weigh in, and here's what they're saying about Hillary Clinton, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and Martin O'Malley in the fourth Democratic debate:

Left-leaning media

TalkingPointsMemo Winner: None. Loser: None. "So who won? Who helped themselves more? On that front, candidly, I'm not sure. There's clearly something organic taking shape in Iowa and New Hampshire which is very pro-Sanders. Folks in those states are already saturated by the campaign. I don't know how much this debate will affect them. I'm just not sure."

FiveThirtyEight Winners: Clinton, Sanders. Loser: O'Malley. "Sanders knows his message has narrowed Clinton's massive leads in both Iowa and New Hampshire, and he's perhaps hoping that winning those states will reset the race. Clinton is hoping she can hold on in Iowa thanks to Obama's popularity in the state, and, if all else fails in New Hampshire, can count on black support in South Carolina, where African-Americans made up 55 percent of the Democratic electorate in the 2008 primary."

WaPo Winners: Sanders, O'Malley, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), Barack Obama. Loser: Clinton. "The former secretary of state was, as always, solid. So, why is she in the loser column? Because she did nothing in the debate to slow the momentum that Sanders is building in Iowa and New Hampshire. Aside from guns, where Clinton scored a clean win against Sanders, she was unable to effectively cast him as a pie-in-the-sky idealist and herself as the only person who could truly fight for—and win on—Democratic priorities."

Bloomberg Winner: Sanders. Loser: O'Malley. "Bernie Sanders rode a powerful wave of growing confidence, rising poll numbers, and accumulated debate experience to his best performance yet."

Vox Winners: Sanders, Obama, the moderators. Losers: Clinton, O'Malley. "Almost all the discussion focused on policy, but Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton began awkwardly attempting to slip in attacks on each other, though neither really seemed that comfortable doing it. The most animated of the bunch was Martin O'Malley, who seemed energized by his quest to successfully say something, anything, without being talked over."

Right-leaning media

RedState Winner: Sanders. Loser: None. "The Democratic bench is not the only thing that is woefully shallow this election cycle—the talking points are, as well. There was nothing in the debate that was new, revolutionary for their candidacies, or not said practically verbatim before."

Fox News Winner: Sanders. Loser: None. "Apparently believing that commitment and sincerity can be measured in decibels, Hillary Clinton turned up the volume in Sunday night's showdown with rival Bernie Sanders. She also matched her louder volume with sharper attacks on Sanders. But the Vermont socialist came ready to fight, counterpunching and even landing a few blows. You'd have to give him the win, if only narrowly, on the grounds that not only did he dominate the discussion but that she was strangely treating him as the frontrunner."

Powerline Winner: None. Losers: Sanders, Clinton, O'Malley. "There is nothing funny about this crew. They are as funny as cancer."

The Hill Winner: None. Loser: O'Malley. "Clinton, who has seen her lead shrink in Iowa in recent weeks, emphasized her closeness to President Obama and cast Sanders as much less stalwart in his support for the president...But Sanders hit back hard at Clinton on issues including her links to Wall Street and what he called her embrace of 'a Republican criticism' of his healthcare plan. For all the heat of their exchanges, however, it was hard to point to a game-changing moment or even a clear victor."

Foreign media

BBC Winners: Clinton, Sanders. Loser: O'Malley. "O'Malley was nowhere to be seen, but Clinton and Sanders worked hard to sharpen the differences between them, particularly on gun control and healthcare."

Haaretz Winner: Clinton. Loser: None. "After her performance on Sunday night in Charleston, Clinton is probably kicking herself that she hadn't insisted on 2-3 more debates before the Iowans go out to vote."

The Guardian (UK) Winners: Sanders, Clinton. Loser: O'Malley. "Fortunately for Clinton, foreign policy is not Sanders' strong point. Revolution is."

The Economist Winner: Sanders. Loser: None. "Mrs. Clinton's performance probably highlighted her own weakness with voters more than Mr. Sanders's. Given her record, she inevitably represents the status quo at a time when most Americans, whether blue or red, want change. There is probably not a great deal she can do about that."

Across the thirteen outlets, if we exclude people who are not running for the Democratic nomination, the tally ends up like this:

Sanders: 9 wins, 1 loss

Clinton: 4 wins, 3 losses

O'Malley: 1 win, 7 losses

It is clear that Sanders had a very good night, but it is equally clear that the right-wing media—at least, those that find time to give any attention to the Democratic debates at all—simply will not give Hillary Clinton a victory under any circumstances. She could give the Gettysburg Address of debate performances, and the conservative commentariat would denounce her snobbishness ("Why can't she just say 87 years?") and lack of substance ("The last full measure of devotion? What's that?"). Indeed, on reading the commentary from the conservative media, one is sometimes left wondering if they actually watched the debates at all. Consider, for example, RedState's declaration that the debate lacked anything new. Well, Clinton's dramatic change of direction towards embracing President Obama was so new and novel that nearly every mainstream media outlet is talking about it. Similarly, just two hours before the debate, Bernie Sanders released an aggressive new plan to overhaul America's healthcare system (see below for more), one that got plenty of attention from the candidates on stage. Whether or not one likes Obama and/or Sanders' single-payer democratic socialism, there is simply no question that both developments represent new and very dramatic moves in the Democratic primary chess match. And readers who want to know what's going on in the race for the White House—regardless of their political stripe—are not well served by commentators who can not or will not give a thoughtful assessment of what is taking place.

It was not just the conservative media that was disdainful, however—the GOP candidates also got involved in the hurling of invective. After he was shut out from the last Republican debate, Rand Paul got his revenge by live-tweeting during the debate. He decided to do the same with the Democrats on Sunday night, offering up such observations as, "@HillaryClinton is giving @barackobama a big hug right now in the #Demdebate. @ChrisChristie getting jealous." Other Republican candidates, including Jeb Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), decided to join in as well, though their takes were not quite as quote-worthy. Donald Trump, for his part, was uncharacteristically silent. Perhaps he was busy working on his "terrific" plan to replace Obamacare.

Speaking of Trump, the First Law of the 2016 Candidates Debates is that he always "wins" the Internet when the Republicans take the stage and Sanders does the same for the Democrats. The Law certainly held on Sunday, as Sanders added the most Twitter followers and received the most Twitter and Facebook mentions. He won every online poll in sight, with a huge majority of HuffPo (71%), Slate (86%), Politico (70%), NBC (75%), and Time (85%) visitors giving him the nod. In terms of Google, Sanders was the most searched candidate in 38 out of 50 states during the debate, and the states that he did not "win" were Southern and Mountain states that—outside of Florida—are not in play for the Democrats. The most-searched Sanders-related question was "Why is Bernie Sanders so popular?" For Clinton, much to the delight of the right-leaning media (all of whom have a story about it), the most-searched question was "Will Hillary Clinton get prosecuted?" Not good for her, obviously, but Google's autofill as well as the potential for users to game the results means that information should be taken with a wheelbarrow full of salt.

Meanwhile, it certainly appears that as the caucuses and primaries get closer, the claims get more...questionable. Though not quite as egregious as the GOP debate on Thursday, the Democrats certainly gave the fact-checkers, including Politifact, FactCheck, PBS, and CNN, more to do than in any of their other three meetings. Coming under particular scrutiny were Clinton's claims that the cost of health care is at its lowest in 50 years and that one in three black males born today will spend time in prison (both are exaggerations), and Sanders' record on gun control (both he and Clinton are spinning truthful statements to create misleading impressions).

The debate was watched by 10.2 million viewers. On one hand, that's nearly the same as the 11.1 million who watched the GOP debate on Thursday. On the other hand, the Republicans were on a second-tier cable channel and the Democrats were on a major network. DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz insists that the schedule was designed to "maximize the opportunity for voters to see our candidates." Given that the last three debates all taken place before a day off, nobody is buying it. However, the next meeting will take place on February 11, a Thursday. If Bernie Sanders is coming off a pair of wins in Iowa and New Hampshire, then a primetime national platform might be just what he needs to keep the momentum going and to press his case as a superior alternative to Clinton. Further, the debate is on PBS—one can scarcely imagine a channel whose demographics are more Sanders-friendly; they may as well give out a "Sanders for President" button with every $50 contribution during pledge drives. In any event, a schedule that seems to have been pretty clearly designed to bury the Vermont Senator may instead buoy him. But it all depends on what Democratic voters do when they go to the polls on February 1 and 9. (Z)

Sanders Releases His Healthcare Plan

Just before Sunday's debate, Bernie Sanders released his healthcare plan. Actually the plan is very simple: the government would pay for all healthcare in the country, saving billions in administration costs and putting private health insurance companies out of business. The hard part was always how to pay for it and his plan explains that in detail. The basics are that individuals would pay a 2.2% premium that would replace their current insurance premium, employers would pay a 6.2% payroll tax, and rates for high-income taxpayers would rise, starting at individuals making $250,000. The top rate would be 52%, for incomes above $10 million. Republicans had been fearmongering that he wanted to raise rates back to the level they were at during the administration of (conservative Republican) Dwight Eisenhower (91%). He didn't do that. Nevertheless, Hillary Clinton is going to be attacking him on his plan in the coming weeks because it raises taxes on some people she would exempt from a tax increase. Sanders claims that when they realize that they won't have to pay insurance premiums, co-pays, or deductibles any more, most middle-class people will be better off under his plan. Healthcare is one of the relatively few issues on which Clinton and Sanders both have concrete plans that differ substantially. (V)

Democrats Preparing for a Long Battle

Just as the 2008 Democratic primaries went into overtime, so might the 2016 primaries. When the race started, many people predicted that the good-looking young liberal former governor of Maryland, Martin O'Malley might give Hillary Clinton a bit of competition. He didn't. Virtually no one thought a 73-year-old Jewish Social Democrat from Brooklyn who has only one speaking mode—angry—would be a problem for her at all, but he is not going away soon. If Sanders manages to win Iowa and and New Hampshire, his supporters will be turbocharged and the race could go on for months, even if Clinton wins Nevada (Feb. 20), South Carolina (Feb. 27), and all of the South (March 1). If Sanders manages to win a couple of states on super Tuesday, such as Colorado, Minnesota, or Massachusetts, in addition to Vermont (which hardly counts because he is from there), he will see the day as a draw, even if she gets most of the delegates. Candidates normally drop out when they run out of money, and Sanders has plenty of it, nearly all from small donations.

Clinton also has plenty of money, but she is spending a large piece of it in Iowa, where she is determined not to be beaten again, as she was in 2008. A long campaign cuts both ways for the Democrats. It could exhaust the eventual winner and empty the pockets of their donors, but it also keeps the Democrats in the news—even with Donald Trump sucking up a lot of the oxygen available. Despite Iowa being close according to recent polls, however, it is good to keep in mind that Iowa has a very poor track record at predicting the eventual nominee because the state is 91% white, old, rural, and completely unrepresentative of the Democratic Party. (V)

Report: 62 People Own as Much as Bottom Half of World's Population

A new report released yesterday by Oxfam International says that the richest 62 people in the world own as much wealth as the bottom half of the world's population combined. This is undoubtedly a report that Bernie Sanders will be quoting often from now on as evidence that billionaires own the world. His main pitch since entering the race is that there is far too much inequality in the world and this reports substantiates his claim. (V)

A Record 12,900 Ads Have Run in Des Moines

Des Moines, IA, television viewers who enjoy political ads are undoubtedly having a enjoyable time the past few months. Other Des Moines viewers, somewhat less so. A total of 12,900 spots have already run in Des Moines and we still have two weeks to go. Here is a breakdown of the ads for the major players.

Rank Candidate Spots
1 Marco Rubio 3,373
2 Bernie Sanders 1,862
3 Hillary Clinton 1,687
4 Donald Trump 828
5 Ted Cruz 737
  All others 4,413

The ads have cost $6.5 million, or about $23 per voter. (V)

Trump Calls for Christians to Unify

In a speech at Liberty University on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Donald Trump called for Christians to band together and unify because other religions are doing so. He didn't go into the details. Does he want Presbyterians (which he is) to merge with Seventh Day Adventists (which Ben Carson is and which he mocked earlier in the campaign)? Was he thinking of the Catholic Church engaging in a hostile takeover of Lutherans? No explanation. And what about competing religions banding together? If he had been following religion in the Middle East at all, he might have noticed that Sunnis and Shiites don't seem to be getting along any better now than they have in the past 1000 years. Or maybe he saw this story about Hindus and Jews combining to form Hinjews. It is far from clear who he expects to convert by this speech. (V)

British Parliament Debates Banning Trump from Entering Britain

A petition to ban Donald Trump from entering the U.K. gathered over 500,000 signatures. Petitions with over 100,000 signatures are debated in Parliament. This one was debated yesterday. Suffice it to say that Trump is not wildly popular in the U.K. and many M.P.s would be quite happy if Trump sold his golf course in Scotland and never came back. However, the authority to ban someone from the country for hate speech rests with the home secretary, not with Parliament and the current home secretary, Theresa May, doesn't appear inclined to do so. (V)

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---The Votemaster
Jan18 Democrats Dance in Charleston
Jan18 Clinton Ahead of Sanders by 25 Points Nationally
Jan18 Is Rubio Using Giuliani's Strategy?
Jan18 Court Strikes Down Two-Tiered Voting System in Kansas
Jan18 Former RNC Chairman Michael Steele Says Trump Will Be the Nominee
Jan18 What Happens If Trump Loses Iowa?
Jan18 When Will Candidates Stop Saying They Can Bring Us All Together?
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