News from the Votemaster
• Ross Douthat Tells How To Beat Trump
• Why Do Evangelicals Like Trump?
• Sanders Attacks Clinton but Clinton Doesn't Attack Sanders
• Sanders May Have a Geography Problem in Iowa
• More Endorsements for Clinton
• As SCOTUS Clerk, Cruz Crusaded for Death Penalty
• Even Snow Is Political Now
• How Iowa Hijacked Our Democracy
Two new polls suggest Donald Trump has caught up to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) in Iowa and passed him to take the top position, only a week removed from the caucuses. A Fox News poll has Trump leading Cruz by double digits. A CBS/YouGov poll puts Trump 5 points ahead of Cruz. Here are the numbers.
The good news for the Republican leadership is that Ted Cruz might not win Iowa. The bad news is that Donald Trump might. About half the leaders in the country think this is a good development. Unfortunately for the GOP, they are all Democrats. They would love nothing better than to replay his slurs about Mexicans over and over on Univision and Telemundo in the Fall. While Trump is cruising along, one thing to remember is that he has not yet been subject to really nasty attacks that hit him where he is vulnerable. In a general election against Hillary Clinton, the mud will fly (see below). (V)
In his column yesterday, conservative New York Times columnist Ross Douthat points out that Donald Trump has faced two main lines of attack so far. First, he is an unserious creep who is not suited to be President. Second, he is not a conservative. Neither has worked. What is needed is to flip his brand. Don't tell people he doesn't know the difference between the Kurds and the Quds. They don't know either. Instead:
- Tell people that he's not the great businessman he claims to be and if he had just
taken the $200 million he inherited from Dad and put it in an S&P 500 index fund, he would have as much money
as he has now (and possibly more). Tell people about the bailouts that saved him from ruin. Talk about his four bankruptcies.
If he's such a great businessman, how come he needs bailouts and goes bankrupt over and over? Find people who suffered from those
bankruptcies and get them to make ads.
- Find people who got degrees from Trump University (now known as the
Trump Entrepreneur Initiative, thanks to charges of fraud) and say people laughed
in their face when they tried to get a job.
- Republicans hate eminent domain. Find a widow whose boarding house he wanted to demolish (or did demolish) to make a limo
parking lot. Turn him into Mitt Romney. There's plenty of material to work with.
- If you really want to get his goat, have Wayne Barrett make some ads for you in which he talks about his book. You know, the one in which he reports his extensive investigative journalism, which shows that Trump worked closely with the Mafia, which was deeply entrenched in the construction industry. About his great negotating skills, "I'll make you an offer you can't refuse" becomes a bit different in this context.
Douthat says Trump's primary or general-election opponent has to hit him where it hurts. Romney was a numbers guy, so the Democrats made him out as the second coming of Ebenezer Scrooge. Trump is a salesman, so the attack is that he is an underhanded, unscrupulous con artist. Bernie and Hillary, are you paying attention? (V)
It is very hard for many people to understand why evangelicals seem to go for the thrice-married builder of gambling casinos Donald Trump. If he has any interest in Jesus, he has hidden it well. Adele Stan has written a piece that tries to understand the Trump phenomenon better. His theory is that many evangelicals are strongly influenced directly or indirectly by the teachings of John Calvin, who certainly had a huge influence on the Puritans, and through them, on American Protestants for centuries. One of Calvin's teachings was that of predestination. If you worked hard and played your cards right as a youth, you could increase your chances of getting admitted to Harvard, but nothing you did in your life had any effect on whether you would be admitted to heaven. If God "liked" you at birth, you were in, otherwise, tough luck. Calvinists justified their accumulation of wealth on the grounds they were predestined to do well. So many evangelicals believe that wealthy people have been chosen by God for subsequent upward mobility and the poor deserve it because they didn't make God's cut. It follows that a good evangelical would want someone God likes to be President. (V)
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Hillary Clinton are both in Iowa to prepare for the caucuses in a week. Sanders senses victory and is finally going whole hog attacking Clinton (and Iowa has a lot of hogs). He said that she is too close to Wall Street and he is beginning to make Wall Street nervous, and that's a good thing. To some extent he was channeling Franklin Delano Roosevelt's 1936 speech in Madison Square Garden when he said: "They [the bankers] are unanimous in their hate for me—and I welcome their hatred."
In contrast, Clinton has stopped attacking Sanders. She now refers to him as her "esteemed opponent," and limits her criticism of him to broad issues, rather than going after the specifics of his various plans. One theme that does come up repeatedly though, is electability. She claims she has been through the wringer and could better withstand the Republican onslaught in the general election. To some extent, she is adapting her campaign to avoid a lot of attacks on social media but to a larger extent she is thinking beyond the primaries when she expects to be the nominee and will need Sanders' supporters to vote for her in the general election. She would very much like to win Iowa, since it would have a huge negative effect on Sanders' campaign, but she also knows there is life beyond Iowa and New Hampshire, so there is plenty of time to go negative later on if that is really needed. (V)
In presidential elections, national preference polls are not terribly useful, as the president is chosen by the Electoral College and not the popular vote. The same is true of statewide preference polls in caucus states. Although polls of Iowa almost invariably consider the state's voters as a bloc (in large part because it's easier to do it that way), delegates are actually awarded on a precinct-by-precinct basis. And this could very well work against Bernie Sanders.
On Election Day in November, it is far better to have one's supporters distributed evenly around the country rather than concentrated in just a few states, since any votes beyond 50.01% are essentially wasted. The same dynamic will be in play in Iowa's caucuses, and Sanders' supporters tend to be hyper-concentrated in just a few areas. Most obviously, polls indicate that 27% of Sanders voters are located in three counties that are home to universities, and that award only 12% of the state's delegates. The Sanders campaign knows they have an issue, and are encouraging students who are Iowa natives to return home to caucus, even going so far as to help arrange transportation. Whether or not this will work is yet another question pollsters have no way to answer, so we will just have to wait until the votes are cast to see.
This uneven distribution of votes also means we may get a split decision in Iowa. It could easily happen that Sanders gets the most votes but Clinton gets the most delegates. Then both of them would go into New Hampshire crowing that they had won Iowa. We might also have a situation in which the delegate count isn't known for some time. In 2012, Rick Santorum won the most delegates to the county conventions, but this wasn't known until weeks later. (Z & V)
The Boston Globe and the Concord (NH) Monitor have issued forth with their primary endorsements, and both have given the nod to Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders and Martin O'Malley. The Monitor's statement was particularly glowing:
Clinton's performance during her four years as President Obama's secretary of state during tumultuous times and terrorist attacks led former secretary of state Henry Kissinger to say that she "ran the State Department in the most effective way I've ever seen." He was not the only senior Republican with foreign policy experience to feel that way. In contrast, Clinton's chief rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders, despite his quarter-century in Congress, is a foreign policy naif, albeit one who made the right call in opposing the war in Iraq...Clinton has visited the Monitor many times over the years and we've come to know her pretty well. Sure, she's tough as nails when she needs to be, but we've found her to be warm, funny and without the arrogance displayed by so many high-level politicians.
These two papers likely have more sway than any others in second-to-vote New Hampshire. While newspaper endorsements don't carry the weight they once did, as we noted yesterday, they certainly don't hurt. And perhaps most important for Clinton is not that she got the endorsements, but that Sanders did not. Coming from Vermont, he is essentially a native son in New Hampshire, and so has the upper hand in their primary. If he'd gotten the newspapers' support, he might have been unbeatable, but the fact that he did not means that Clinton at least has a puncher's chance. (Z)
For nearly his entire life, Ted Cruz has been building the resume he thought necessary to run for president, from his time in a youth group that traveled around Texas reciting the Constitution verbatim, to Princeton University and Harvard Law, to service in the U.S. Senate. Also in there were stints as an appellate and Supreme Court clerk, during which time he had a reputation for being fanatical about the death penalty. This included (inappropriately) working the gory details of violent crimes into legal briefs, invariably pressing for capital appeals to be denied, and even giving the appellate judge he worked for a rather macabre gift—a caricature that showed Cruz and his fellow clerks pulling a stagecoach, the judge steering, and tombstones with the names of all the people who had been executed on the judge's watch.
What is the electoral relevance of this? Maybe nothing. But this is just another reminder that Cruz's theology is rooted entirely in the Old Testament, with its vengeful God and its "eye for an eye." There seems to be nothing of the New Testament in his worldview—no charity, no forgiveness, no turning the other cheek. Undoubtedly, a portion of the GOP electorate finds an old-fashioned, fire and brimstone version of Christianity to be satisfactory, but if Cruz gets the nomination he is eventually going to need more votes than that, including a sizable portion of all Americans who identify as Christian. There's a reason that millions of people favor more liberal denominations of Christianity, centered primarily on the New Testament, and it is fair to wonder if the bomb-dropping, execution-loving, non-tithing Cruz will pass muster with that segment of the community. (Z)
Yesterday Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) commented on the ongoing blizzard in the Northeast, saying:
[It is] probably one of the best things to happen to the republic in quite a while because it temporarily prevented the federal government from issuing new regulations and President Obama from signing executive orders.
Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) didn't think that was funny at all, pointing out that 14 people had died as a result of it and many were freezing as their homes lost power. He went after Rubio for being immature and said that as a senator he has never been responsible for anything whereas a governor is responsible for everything that happens in his state. (V)
At Politico, Jeff Greenfield has a piece about the Iowa caucuses that is a barely disguised hit piece on the media. Iowa is a decent state, with good government and congressional districts that aren't gerrymandered. If it wants to choose its delegates to the nominating conventions first, sure, go ahead. But the media blows Iowa up all out of proportion. It is a small and very unrepresentative state, with 94% of the inhabitants being white. On the Democratic side, it is more liberal than the country as a whole. Furthermore, the Democratic electorate after Iowa and New Hampshire is 54% white, not 94% white. This fact seems to be lost on reporters who think that a Sanders win in these two very unrepresentative states means he's home free.
On the Republican side, Iowa is more conservative than the country as a whole, with 57% of Iowa Republicans being evangelicals. That explains why Rev. Pat Robertson finished ahead of a sitting Vice President of the United States in 1988, why ordained minister Mike Huckabee defeated Mitt Romney in 2008, and why Rick Santorum grabbed the brass ring last time. For the Republican caucuses since 1976, Iowa has been wrong more often than it has been right. When was the last time you read an article that said: "Trump is leading in Iowa, but don't forget, Iowa is usually wrong"? (V)Email a link to a friend or share:
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Jan20 Delegating the Delegates
Jan19 Democratic Debate Postmortem
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Jan18 What Happens If Trump Loses Iowa?
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