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)
      •  Sarah Palin and Terry Branstad Endorse Donald Trump
      •  Glenn Beck is Backing Cruz
      •  RNC boots NBC
      •  Even if Sanders Wins IA and NH, He's Not Home Free
      •  Bush and Rubio Tied for Third Place in Florida
      •  A Growing Demographic: Latino Nonvoters
      •  Delegating the Delegates

One year to go. A year from today the new President will be inaugurated, but until then it will be an exciting time.

Sarah Palin and Terry Branstad Endorse Donald Trump

The Republican Party took a big hit yesterday when former Alaska governor and 2008 vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin endorsed Donald Trump. Virtually no high-profile Republicans have endorsed him and now one of the highest profile Republicans has jumped on his bandwagon. While the value of endorsements is in dispute, hers might actually help among evangelicals or tea party supporters torn between Trump and Sen. Ted. Cruz (R-TX). In 2012, Palin endorsed Cruz in his Senate run, so this is surely a big disappointment to Cruz, who is locked in a tight race with Trump for the nomination. A Trump/Palin ticket, anyone? After all, she can remind him that she has experience running for Vice President. She also likes Trump. The other people with experience—Paul Ryan and Dick Cheney—less so.

To make things even worse for Cruz, Gov. Terry Branstad (R-IA) said yesterday that he wants to see Cruz defeated in Iowa. It wasn't literally an endorsement of Trump, but a disendorsement of Trump's only serious competitor in Iowa is probably close enough for government work.

These developments are nothing but a headache for the Republican party. The GOP establishment really does not want either Trump or Cruz as its nominee. Trump is probably worse than Cruz, though. A Cruz nomination is just a victory of one faction within the Republican Party over the others. That can easily be repaired in 2020. A Trump nomination could redefine the party as standing for racism and bigotry rather than simply being a conservative party. It is also possible that in the event Trump is the nominee, some other Republican might run as a third-party candidate. That would certainly not happen if Cruz is the nominee.

This is what the New York Daily News, which endorsed Mitt Romney in 2012, thought of Palin's endorsement. (V)


Glenn Beck is Backing Cruz

Speaking of once-prominent conservatives whose star has faded more recently, the news was not all bad for Ted Cruz on Tuesday, as broadcaster and pundit Glenn Beck threw his weight behind the Texas senator. He also declared that Donald Trump is a "monster" and that as President the Donald would be "much, much worse" than Barack Obama.

Beck's actual endorsement came last week, but now he's made clear he will hit the campaign trail and also make full use of his website/TV channel The Blaze to promote Cruz's campaign. This is a nice boon for the Senator, but its value may be limited. Given Beck's strongly evangelical predilections, most voters who value his opinion were likely already on the Cruz bandwagon. Beck's remarks implicitly affirm this. He is a businessman, first and foremost, and if he believed a sizable percentage of his listeners/viewers were Trump supporters, he most certainly would not be lambasting The Donald. (Z)

RNC boots NBC

Still angry over the moderators' handling of the October 28 GOP debate on CNBC, the Republican National Committee has followed through on their threats, taking the February 25 "Super Tuesday" debate away from CNBC parent network NBC and awarding it to CNN.

The change is wholly unnecessary, as the relationship between NBC and CNBC does not go much beyond the name. The two channels have different staffs and very different levels of talent and resources. However, the RNC had to save face, and also wanted to send a warning to other networks to play nice. CNN has not named a moderator yet, but whether it is Wolf Blitzer or Anderson Cooper or one of their other A-listers, the Republican candidates are not likely to get the kind of softballs pitched to them by Fox Business Network, so the RNC may ultimately regret its decision. (Z)

Even if Sanders Wins IA and NH, He's Not Home Free

Charlie Cook, one of the best political gurus around, has some advice for Hillary Clinton: Don't panic. And certainly don't move to the left. Sanders might win Iowa, but polling tends to be spotty because turnout is always low and often depends on the weather. Sanders is 27 points ahead of Clinton in New Hampshire at the moment. However, New Hampshire polling is tricky because independents can walk in and request either the Democratic or Republican ballot. Republican-leaning independents might be tempted to to get a Democratic ballot and vote for Sanders because they see him as unelectable. Democratic-leaning independents might want to vote for Donald Trump because they are sure he can't win the general election. No one knows how this will play out until election day.

But Cook makes another, even more important point. Sanders won't be able to reproduce the Obama map of 2008 because Obama swept all the Southern states in the primaries and there is no way an old leftist white guy can do that. Sanders might win all of New England and all the caucus states (where a few thousand passionate voters can make a big difference). However, all these states combined provide only 36% of the needed delegates. To get the nomination, he will have to do well in the big blue states where Clinton beat Obama in 2008. He need not win them, since all the Democratic primaries are proportional, but he needs to come close in a decent number of them. If Clinton tries to hug the center, she will do better in the big states like Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio, and California, all of which she won in 2008. These states have many more centrists than New England and being big, getting a few thousand very passionate voters to the polls won't be enough.

Another piece of evidence suggesting that Sanders still has his work cut out for him is an NBC poll released yesterday giving Clinton a 16-point lead over Sanders nationally, 52% to 36%. Two polls we reported Monday put her up 25 points nationally. So her lead is probably in the 16-25 point range, still quite a bit no matter which is a better measure. In other words, as we have seen in the past, Iowa and New Hampshire are very unrepresentative states and neither has a stellar track record. (V)

Bush and Rubio Tied for Third Place in Florida

We haven't had a lot of polling of Florida, but the state is interesting for several reasons. First, its 99 delegates, chosen on March 15, are winner-take-all. Second, assuming Jeb Bush is still in the race then, he and that other Floridian, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), will meet head to head in their home state. For either one, being beaten in your own state would be very embarrassing. Currently they are essentially tied:

Rank Candidate Pct
1 Donald Trump 31%
2 Ted Cruz 19%
3 Jeb Bush 13%
4 Marco Rubio 12%
5 Ben Carson 7%
6 Chris Christie 4%
6 Carly Fiorina 4%
8 John Kasich 3%
8 Rand Paul 3%
10 Mike Huckabee 2%
11 Rick Santorum 0%

Finishing third behind Trump and Cruz in his home state would be bad enough for Rubio, but being fourth behind Bush could be fatal. (V)

A Growing Demographic: Latino Nonvoters

Democrats may be counting on Latinos to save them, but there is a problem here: Many eligible Latinos don't vote. About 27 million Latinos will be eligible to vote in the November elections, but a majority probably won't. A new report from the Pew Research Center shows that Latino turnout was just under 50% in 2008, 48% in 2012, and 27% in 2014. There are various theories why Latino turnout is well below that of whites and blacks. One is that the Latino population skews young, and young people are notoriously poor voters. Another is that they are concentrated in states that aren't contested in presidential elections, with 52% living in California, Texas, or New York. A third theory is that many of them don't think voting will help them personally. Finally, a fourth possibility is that laws intended to suppress minority voting (such as a photo ID requirement) are having the intended effect. (V)

Delegating the Delegates

Earlier this month, we had a table breaking down the Republican caucuses and primaries, including dates, delegates at stake, and method by which delegates are awarded. The latter point deserves a bit more elucidation.

There is a widespread perception that after March 15 the Republican process enters a "winner-take-all" phase, so as to give the frontrunner/ultimate nominee some momentum going into the convention and the general election. This is not the case. The choice of how to award delegates is (mostly) left to each state party committee, and the state committees' top priority is not to serve the needs of the national party, but instead those of the state committee. That means, first of all, getting as many voters involved as is possible. Involved voters donate money and time, and also may show up for the midterms. Further, the committee wants their state to be "valuable" to the candidates, in hopes that campaign visits will be scheduled, promises will be made, and—in the event of a victory—some nice, juicy pork will come down the turnpike (or the freeway, out west).

As they try to best advance their goals, the state committees have a tactical decision to make. The ideal situation, from their perspective, is to be a sort of primary "swing" state, where it is unclear as to the overall direction the state's voters might take. In that case, the state committee can choose a winner-take-all allocation, which means that they are holding out as big and juicy a prize as is possible, while still being able to count on a good turnout.

But what if a state's overall predilections tend to be pretty clear? For example, if California's Republicans were left with a choice between Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, they would certainly bestow the majority of their votes on Rubio. If California were winner-take-all, many social conservatives would stay home for the primaries, and might sit out the general election as well. Cruz would have no particular reason to visit the state, or to try and curry favor with California Republicans. As such, California divides its delegates, so there could be a prize for everyone.

And speaking of prizes, there are actually three different types of Republican delegates: (1) Each state gets three "RNC" delegates that are usually (but not always) unbound by how their state votes in the primaries; (2) Each state gets three "district" delegates for each Congressional district; (3) Each state gets bonus "at-large" delegates based on whether they have a Republican governor, whether the state went for Mitt Romney in 2012, etc. Here are the three basic approaches to how these delegates are allocated:

  • Winner-take-all (9 states/territories, totaling 384 delegates—AZ, FL, MT, NE, NJ, Northern Marianas, OH, SD, and the Virgin Islands): For most of these states and territories, whichever candidate wins the statewide vote gets both the district and at-large delegates but not the RNC delegates. In Arizona, Florida, and New Jersey, the winner gets the RNC delegates, too.

  • Proportional (33 states/territories, totaling 1422 delegates—AL, AL, AR, CT, GA, HA, ID, IA, KS, KY, LA, ME, MA, MI, MN, MI, MO, NV, NH, NM, NY, NC, OK, OR, Puerto Rico, RI, TN, TX, UT, VT, VA, WA, and Washington, DC): There are a number of proportional approaches in use, some of them very complicated. The general idea, however, is that delegates are awarded proportionally to any candidate who clears a certain threshold, often 20% of the statewide vote. So, if Donald Trump gets 25% and Ted Cruz gets 20%, then Trump gets 25/45 of the delegates, or 55%, and Cruz gets 20/45, or 45%. All others get no delegates. In some states, this prize includes all three kinds of delegates. More commonly, it includes only at-large delegates, with RNC delegates left unbound, and district delegates awarded either proportionally or winner-take-all based on each individual district's results.

    Proportional awarding of delegates has something of a weakness, in that two candidates who happened to finish right on either side of the threshold would earn delegates far out of proportion with their support in the state. For example, if Trump took 21% of the vote and Cruz 19% in a "20% threshold" state, Trump would get all of the state's at-large delegates and Cruz would claim none despite having nearly equal support. As such, most proportional states' committees decree that if fewer than two candidates reach the threshold, then the top two finishers receive the proportional award. This also avoids the problem of no candidate meeting the threshold.

  • Split Decision (14 states/territories, totaling 661 delegates—American Samoa, CA, CO, DE, Guam, IL, IN, MD, ND, PA, SC, WV, WI, and WY): These states and territories are often labeled "winner-take-all," but that label is misleading. In some of these states/territories, the at-large delegates (and, sometimes, the RNC delegates) are winner-take-all, while district delegates are awarded based on whatever candidate wins each district. For example, if Donald Trump won the statewide vote in Maryland, along with MD-01 and MD-02, while Ted Cruz won MD-03, MD-04, MD-05, and MD-06, then Trump would get 14 at-large and RNC delegates and six district delegates, for a total of 20, while Cruz would get 12 district delegates.

    In the remainder of these states/territories, the decision is split in a very different way. Voters cast their ballots at the district level for local party members pledged to a particular candidate; the local party members who "win" are then required to support that candidate at the state convention (where the at-large delegates are allocated) and at the national convention (as a district delegate). So, for example, a voter in Denver (CO-01) may cast his ballot for Mary Johnson, who is pledged to Donald Trump. If Mary Johnson finishes in the top three in C0-01, she goes to the state convention and supports Trump-pledged at-large delegates, and she also goes to the RNC convention and casts one district delegate vote for Trump, at least on the first ballot.

    California, Delaware, Indiana, Maryland, South Carolina, and Wisconsin, with their 375 delegates, use the former approach. American Samoa, Colorado, Guam, North Dakota, West Virginia, and Wyoming, with their 146 delegates, use the latter approach. Illinois and Pennsylvania, with their 140 delegates, use a hybrid in which at-large delegates are chosen by statewide vote, but district delegates are elected personally.

If this all seems very complicated, it is because it is. But the upshot is that Mitt Romney and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) both piled up the delegates because, by the time the calendar turned to May, they were essentially unopposed. This turned a lot of proportional and split decision states into de facto winner-take-all states. In a circumstance where two or three candidates remain viable deep into May or June, however, it is entirely possible that most states will split their delegates fairly evenly, increasing both the chaos and the chances of a brokered convention. (Z)

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---The Votemaster
Jan19 Democratic Debate Postmortem
Jan19 Sanders Releases His Healthcare Plan
Jan19 Democrats Preparing for a Long Battle
Jan19 Report: 62 People Own as Much as Bottom Half of World's Population
Jan19 A Record 12,900 Ads Have Run in Des Moines
Jan19 Trump Calls for Christians to Unify
Jan19 British Parliament Debates Banning Trump from Entering Britain
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