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

Seven Not Looking Very Lucky for Republicans

The seventh, and last, GOP candidates' debate to be held before actual ballots are cast will take place in Des Moines tonight. Fox News and Google will co-host, and Megyn Kelly will moderate (as you may have heard). She will be assisted in that task by Bret Baier and Chris Wallace, and will be joined on stage by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Ben Carson, Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ), Jeb Bush, Gov. John Kasich (R-OH) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY). Donald Trump is also invited, but insists he will not be present, and will instead host a fundraising event for veterans, to be broadcast on CNN. This is, of course, the biggest of several story lines for Thursday night:

  • Will Donald Trump Fox? The Donald is just about the only thing anyone is talking about when it comes to the debate. This includes the other candidates—for example, Jeb Bush announced that he is betting $20 that Trump will show up after all. No $10,000 bets for cautious Jeb. Given the political instincts Bush has shown in this campaign, that's pretty compelling evidence The Donald won't be there. Ted Cruz, for his part, is selling hats that say, "Make Trump Debate Again" (an obvious play on Trump's "Make America Great Again"). A portion of the commentariat thinks that the billionaire is making a mistake by turning down free publicity right before the Iowa caucuses, by making himself look whiny and petulant, and by making an enemy out of Fox News, a key player in Republican politics that is endowed with a platform that will allow them to attack Trump 24 hours a day, every day, if they so desire. Kelly, not surprisingly, is already doing so, observing that he is used to firing people who disagree with him. In the general election, the Democrats will take this further and point out that the President can't fire Congress, the courts, or the media. For a lot of what a President does, taking your marbles and sulking back home isn't an option. Others argue that Trump's move is brilliant, as the "seven or eight or nine candidates on stage" setup has gotten stale and boring, and that if anything it is Fox that will come out of this looking weak and impotent. It is doubtful that Trump's decision was part of a carefully thought-out strategy. His supporters will love it, but his supporters would cheer if he knocked over a little old lady and a wounded veteran so that he could be in the perfect position to kick a puppy and club a baby seal. The question is how everyone else will respond. If Cruz wins Iowa, a lot of people will be saying this petulant decision was the beginning of the end for him. Whatever the case may be, it is clear that Donald Trump is going to dominate coverage of the debate even if he's not there.

  • Will Ted Cruise? If Trump is absent, then Ted Cruz will be the strongest debater and the most forceful personality on stage. As such, Thursday could be his opportunity to really shine. On the other hand, he will have a big, red target on his back, and may make a much better whipping boy than will an empty podium. As such, the other seven candidates on stage (most obviously Marco Rubio) could really let loose on the Texas Senator, who has not handled criticism particularly effectively in previous debates. So, Cruz could easily have his best debate, or his worst.

  • Carson's Last Stand? The various debate hosts have been unwilling to cull the field too aggressively, for fear of being accused of exerting undue influence on the process. That time is coming to an end, however. ABC News has already announced its criteria for the Republican debate it will host on February 6. There will be no more "undercard," and the criteria for making the main stage will get more stringent. Between that fact, as well as the results in Iowa, several candidates figure to be making their final debate appearances Thursday. But which ones? Not Cruz or Rubio, of course. Kasich, Bush, and Christie are all betting on New Hampshire, and would qualify for the next debate under ABC's tighter criteria, so they're going to be around at least a bit longer. Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee will be on the outside of the debates looking in, are broke, and are going to be rejected by the evangelicals they are counting upon in Iowa. They seem most likely to throw in the towel by next Wednesday. Carly Fiorina and Rand Paul are only slightly better off, and could also reach the end of the line next week. The hardest call is Ben Carson. His campaign is a mess, his poll numbers are dropping like a stone, he will presumably deliver another underwhelming performance tonight, and he's got no particular constituency in New Hampshire. On the other hand, he is still doing well enough in the polls to get an invite from ABC, and he has enough money to keep his campaign afloat if he really wants to. So, will he still be a candidate a week from today or not? Only he knows, and whatever he decides, he's likely to change his mind by the afternoon and claim he was misquoted.

  • Will It Matter? For months now, everyone has been asking whether one of the candidates will be able to use the debates to separate themselves from the field. The answer, over and over, has been "no." Bush and Kasich are terrible debaters, Paul's ideas are too unorthodox, Carson is always on the verge of falling asleep, Christie's "angry guy from Jersey" act isn't connecting with voters, and Rubio stumbles when he gets off his scripted talking points. There's simply no reason to expect anything different at this point. Further, even if a candidate does deliver a masterful performance, it still may not matter. Fox's Greta Van Susteren did an insta-poll of her viewers, and 87% said they would not tune in. Not a scientific survey, of course, but that number likely contains a lot of truth, because Trump the ringleader won't be there to entertain, and because fatigue is setting in.

The JV debate gets going at 7:00 EST, with the varsity taking the stage at 9:00. It will be broadcast on Fox News and on the channel's streaming platforms, while Google is providing an experimental platform that will allow the campaigns to post materials in real time. There's no link for that project yet; the search engine is instructing users to search for "debate" Thursday afternoon/evening. Once the debate is over, it's 90 hours and counting until Iowans head to the caucus locations. (Z & V)

Clinton Wants a Debate before the New Hampshire Primary

On a taped interview on Hardball, Hillary Clinton said yesterday that she would be willing to participate in the New Hampshire debate proposed by MSNBC provided that DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz changed her mind and approved it.

Sanders responded to Clinton late yesterday by saying that he is OK with the New Hampshire debate under certain conditions. First, there must be debates in March, April, and May. Second, no more debates on Fridays, Saturdays, or holidays. Third, all debates must include Martin O'Malley. Sanders, who is always a bit grumpy, is now becoming a bit trumpy as well, insisting it is his way or not at all. We'll soon know if it works. (V)

Cruz super PAC Offers $1.5 Million to Veterans if Trump Will Debate Him

Donald Trump talks about veterans so much that you would think (1) he had once served in the Armed Forces and (2) he, rather than Bernie Sanders, was a member of the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs. Neither is true, of course. In lieu of debating tonight, he is going to raise money for veterans. Now the Ted Cruz super PACs are calling his bluff. They are offering to donate $1.5 million to veterans charities if Trump will debate Cruz one-on-one. or "mano y mano" as Cruz put it. As to the moderators of the proposed debate, Cruz suggested conservative radio hosts Mark Levin, Sean Hannity, and Rush Limbaugh. Cruz also said that if Donald is scared not only of Megyn Kelly, but also of Mark, Sean, and Rush, he was OK with a town hall meeting in which ordinary Iowans asked the questions. He also said Trump would get half the tickets to distribute to his supporters and he would get the other half for his supporters.

This is another example of Cruz's razor-sharp mind in action. If Trump accepts, it will define the race as a two-man contest between Cruz and Trump, basically wiping out all the competition in one fell swoop. If Trump refuses, Cruz is going to taunt him for months about being a coward and afraid of women and even conservative talkers. (V)

Iowa Isn't about Winners, It Is about Losers

If you are a Democrat (and old enough), do you remember Jimmy Carter, Michael Dukakis, and Bill Clinton? If you are a Republican (and old enough), do you remember Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, John McCain and Mitt Romney? Guess what? All of them lost the Iowa caucuses yet went on to grab their party's nomination. So if Iowa isn't very good at picking winners, why does it get so much attention?

Well, it is first, of course, but it actually has an excellent—no, make that a perfect—track record at showing who the losers are. No candidate who finished below fourth has ever gone on to get the nomination and only twice (Clinton in 1992 and McCain in 2008) has a fourth-place finisher ever gotten the nod. Since the Democrats have only three candidates left, none of them have to worry about finishing fourth or lower. But the Republicans have 11 or 12 candidates (depending on whether Jim Gilmore has quietly dropped out and no one noticed). Seven or eight of those are going to finish fifth or lower. Those seven or eight would do the Republican Party a great favor if on Wednesday morning they all called it quits since they have virtually no chance after such a poor showing. But politicians' egos being what they are, many will soldier on until their last penny has been spent. Later on, if Trump or Cruz is the nominee, they may wonder how it happened. A good part of the explanation will be that people who clearly had been rejected by the voters refused to give up. (V)

Clinton Still Has A Large Lead Nationally

A new ABC/WaPo poll shows Hillary Clinton leading Bernie Sanders by 19 points. Here are the numbers.

Rank Candidate Pct
1 Hillary Clinton 55%
2 Bernie Sanders 36%
3 Martin O'Malley 4%

Sanders is catching up to her. In the previous poll he was at 28%. However, on every issue except bank regulation, Democrats trust Clinton more than Sanders. On bank regulation, Sanders edges her out 48% to 42%. But keep in mind that there is no national primary, so where the votes are distributed matters a lot. (V)

Rand Paul Will Face an Openly Gay Opponent

No, Bernie Sanders is not gay and Paul isn't going to be facing Sanders in the presidential race in November. Paul is going to drop out soon, probably after New Hampshire, and go back to the fight to keep his Senate seat. Unlike Marco Rubio, who clearly hates being a senator and doesn't bother to vote there much, Paul likes his job and has missed only 1% of the votes as of October.

Paul's opponent in his Senate reelection race is almost certainly going to be Lexington Mayor Jim Gray, a wealthy businessman-turned-politician who is openly gay. Before attaining elected office in 2006, he was CEO of the family construction business, which specializes in designing and constructing extremely large buildings, such as automotive plants and distribution centers. It is in the top 20 design-build companies in the country. Gray has a long track record of creating jobs, which will be the focus of his campaign against Paul, a former ophthalmologist. Gray was elected mayor of Lexington in 2010 and reelected in 2014. (V)

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---The Votemaster
Jan27 Trump Tops 40% for the First Time in a National Poll
Jan27 Trump Likely to Sit Out Thursday's Debate
Jan27 Democrats May Participate in Unsanctioned Debate
Jan27 Is the GOP Really Resigned to Trump as the Nominee?
Jan27 And Justice for Obama?
Jan27 Turnout in Iowa May Break Records
Jan27 Kasich Racking Up New Hampshire Newspaper Endorsements
Jan27 Candidate Hacks into Elections Office in Florida
Jan27 Seda Officially Climbs on O'Malley Bandwagon
Jan26 Trump Victories in Iowa and New Hampshire Could Seal the Deal
Jan26 Trump Says He May Skip Next Debate
Jan26 Bill Clinton To Campaign in Iowa This Week
Jan26 Why Sanders Can't Crack the Black Vote
Jan26 North Carolina Voter ID Law on Trial
Jan26 Senator, You're No Jack Kennedy
Jan26 Makers of Doctored Planned Parenthood Video Indicted
Jan26 Cruz's Insurance Tale Doesn't Stand up to Scrutiny
Jan26 Sanders Has His Own Ice Cream
Jan25 New polls: Trump is Leading in Iowa
Jan25 Ross Douthat Tells How To Beat Trump
Jan25 Why Do Evangelicals Like Trump?
Jan25 Sanders Attacks Clinton but Clinton Doesn't Attack Sanders
Jan25 Sanders May Have a Geography Problem in Iowa
Jan25 More Endorsements for Clinton
Jan25 As SCOTUS Clerk, Cruz Crusaded for Death Penalty
Jan25 Even Snow Is Political Now
Jan25 How Iowa Hijacked Our Democracy
Jan24 Des Moines Register Endorses Clinton and Rubio in Primaries
Jan24 Could a New York Billionaire Be Elected President?
Jan24 Obama Aides Favor Clinton
Jan24 Castro Jockeying for the #2 Slot
Jan24 Glenn Beck Endorses Ted Cruz
Jan24 Megyn Kelly Will Be the Moderator in Thursday's Debate
Jan24 Voting from the Grave is Popular This Year
Jan24 What If Trump Shot the Sheriff?
Jan24 Cruz Never Lost His Health Insurance
Jan23 National Review Eviscerates Donald Trump
Jan23 Cruz's Father, Not His Mother, Determines His Citizenship
Jan23 O'Malley Supporters Could Determine Which Democrat Wins the Iowa Caucuses
Jan23 The Only Jewish Candidate in the Race Probably Won't Get Much Jewish Support
Jan22 Sanders and Trump Lead in Iowa, but with a Footnote
Jan22 Republican Leaders Are Arguing About Whether Trump or Cruz is the Biggest Threat
Jan22 National Review Tries to Take Down Trump
Jan22 Is Palin Not All She's Trumped Up to Be?
Jan22 Thanks, Obama!: Ted Cruz Edition
Jan22 GOP Establishment Not Yet Sold on Rubio
Jan22 Clinton Tweaks Approach to Sanders
Jan22 Democrats Want A Debate Between Iowa and New Hampshire
Jan21 Thanks, Obama, Sarah Palin Edition
Jan21 Republican Donors Beginning to Accept Trump as Nominee