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

TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Republican Debate Postmortem
      •  Clinton Leads in Iowa
      •  No Surge of New Voters in Iowa
      •  Some of Clinton's Emails Were Highly Classified
      •  What Explains the Rise of Donald Trump and Ted Cruz?
      •  Some Union Members Like Trump
      •  Koch Brothers Having a Retreat This Weekend
      •  What a President Can Do without Congress

Republican Debate Postmortem

There has been time to digest Thursday's serving of GOP debate, hold the Trump, and here's what they're saying about Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Jeb Bush, Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ), Gov. John Kasich (R-OH), and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY).

Left-leaning media:
Vox: Winners: Trump, Bush, Paul. Losers: Cruz, Rubio, Fox News. "Trump managed to pull off an aikido-esque move wherein he redirected Fox News's firepower away from himself and onto Cruz. And it worked as well as he could've possibly imagined. He's really, really good at this game."

HuffPo: Winners: Paul, Bush, Rubio, Megyn Kelly. Losers: Trump, Cruz, Kasich, Frank Luntz. "Cruz was trapped by other candidates on the immigration issue. He couldn't even effectively blast an absent Trump. Fox News hosts pointed out just how despised he is by his colleagues, not even getting a verbal second on a simple procedural motion. Cruz tried to flip it, claiming he's unpopular because the only one making tough decisions, but being unable to work with others only succeeds in a dictatorship, not a democracy. Even conservatives seem unsure where he really stands on issues."

Time: Winners: Trump, Bush, Kasich, Christie, Paul. Losers: Cruz, Bush, Kasich, Christie, Carson. "Cruz didn't suffer any fatal blows, but it certainly presented headwinds to the man once believed to be the front-runner in the Hawkeye State. Taking heat from all sides also highlighted how much many in his party dislike Cruz—an unresolved challenge that he will ultimately have to deal with."

WaPo: Winners: Paul, Kelly, Bush. Losers: Cruz, Carson, Christie. "If you had any doubt about how much Donald Trump is in Bush's head, this debate should have cleared it up. The former Florida governor was, from the get-go, more relaxed and more forceful in this Trump-less debate than he has been in the previous six debates where Trump was included."

L.A. Times: Winners: Trump, Bush, Kasich, Christie. Losers: Cruz, Carson, Rubio. "Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, vying for prominence below Trump, got the added stage time each has desired as they battle for the territory below the front-runner. But both appeared churlish at times and may have suffered from an extended fight over immigration, which included video clips in which each man contradicted his more recent statements which he then had to explain from the stage."

Right-leaning media:
The Hill: Winners: Trump, Rubio, Bush. Losers: Kasich, Carson. "The debate was simply less compelling without Trump—love him or loathe him."

RedState: Winners: Fox News, Christie, Paul. Losers: Cruz, Carson, Bush. "I try to be objective in these things, even as much as I like Ted Cruz, he did not have a good night. Somewhere, the cowardly Donald Trump is cackling... Trump's gambit today was likely not about anything other than making Ted Cruz the central target of tonight's debate, and it worked."

Fox News: Winners: Rubio, Cruz, Kelly. Losers: Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum. "The debate got off to a rough start with Cruz. The other candidates were piling on the man in the center seat. His campaign had expected it. His engagement with the moderators made him seem less likable. But the moderators, unintentionally and accidentally, solidified Cruz's support for him and got fence sitters between Trump and Cruz off the fence."

The Daily Caller: Winners: Rubio, Trump. Loser: Cruz. "Rubio didn't necessarily hit a home run in a Trump-less Fox News-hosted debate that was at times a snoozer, but he did stand out above the rest of the pack. Like always, Rubio was smooth, passionate and often substantive, but most importantly he came across as likeable. His likeability factor stood in stark contrast to the debate's main loser, Ted Cruz."

Dick Morris: Winners: Cruz, Rubio. Loser: Trump. "Trump missed a huge opportunity, Cruz consolidated himself as the front-runner."

Foreign media:
BBC: Winners: Bush, Christie, Trump. Losers: Cruz, Carson. "So this is what a Republican debate would have looked like in an alternate universe, where Donald Trump was still a reality show celebrity and a failed steak salesman. With a few notable exceptions, all the candidates kept their balance and stayed on their talking points. It's as if the unconventional Trump's absence from the hall made everyone a bit more restrained and, well, political."

The Guardian (UK): Winner: Bush. Losers: Rubio, Cruz. "It was a substantive debate. Body cameras for police, Libya, Iran, Kim Davis, mental illness, Bridgegate, immigration, Isis, Obamacare, veterans' affairs, Bill Clinton's affairs—it was all in there."

The Telegraph (UK): Winners: Trump, Bush. Loser: Fox News. "Because one thing Trump has helped do is to put Fox News itself on trial. We assume too often that conservatives love conservative media—that they are as blindly loyal to the Fox brand as they are to the Second Amendment and Nascar. But Trump has exposed deep fissures in the Right-wing media. Some, like Rush Limbaugh, have spoken admirably about him out of deference to his obvious support. Others, like the National Review or Glenn Beck, say that he betrays philosophical conservative principles. By letting us know where they stand, the anti-Trump Right has risked alienating its own customer base... Conservatives are just as tired of the "politics as soap opera" style of news coverage as liberals are. Trump has his faults; his sulking great ego is ridiculous. But by refusing to speak, he landed a small blow for free speech."

Across the thirteen outlets, if we limit ourselves to the candidates actually running for president, the tally ends up like this:

Bush: 9 wins, 2 losses
Trump: 7 wins, 2 losses
Paul: 5 wins, 0 losses
Rubio: 5 wins, 3 losses
Christie: 4 wins, 2 losses
Kasich: 2 wins, 3 losses
Cruz: 2 wins, 9 losses
Santorum: 1 win, 0 losses
Huckabee: 1 win, 0 losses
Carson: 0 wins, 6 losses

Anyone who bet $10 that Bush would be the clear winner can now go and collect their $10,000. It must also be maddening to the other candidates that Trump came out on top, or nearly so, without even showing up. Unhappy evidence for them that, as Medgar Evers once observed, "You can kill a man, but you can't kill an idea." Meanwhile, outside of Fox's Erick Erickson (who just so happens to have contributed an article to the anti-Trump issue of the National Review) and Dick Morris, there is almost universal agreement (including Politco's large panel of GOP insiders) that Ted Cruz had a terrible night. His supporters cannot be happy at how he performed in his first test as the king of the hill. And Carson, of course, demonstrated yet again that he has no business on that stage.

As usual, Trump "won" the Internet, overwhelmingly the subject of the most tweets, Facebook mentions, and Google searches while the debate was underway. Of particular relevance, perhaps, is Google Analytics data showing that he was the most popular search subject in 91 of Iowa's 99 counties. An examination of the most popular questions searched on Google questions also suggests a few unpleasant truths for them and/or the GOP establishment:

Bush: Is Jeb Bush still in the race?
Carson: What happened to Ben Carson's campaign?
Christie: Is Chris Christie a Democrat?
Cruz: Why was Ted Cruz born in Canada?
Carly Fiorina: What is Carly Fiorina against?
Jim Gilmore: Why is Jim Gilmore still in the race?
Huckabee: Is Mike Huckabee still a Presidential candidate?
Kasich: Is John Kasich a Democrat?
Paul: How tall is Rand Paul?
Rubio: What does Marco Rubio believe in?
Santorum: What was Rick Santorum's childhood like?
Trump: What channel is Donald Trump on?

As to the television ratings, well, there's a fair bit of room there for spin. The debate drew 12.5 million viewers. That makes it the second most-watched program in Fox News history, and also outpaces the January 14 debate, which Trump did participate in. Further, the Donald's counter-rally drew less than 4 million viewers. Consequently, Fox News, et al. are declaring a victory. Trump and his partisans, however, observe that the January 14 debate was buried on a lower-tier cable channel and that Thursday's debate did worse numbers than each of the other five meetings, including the 25 million who tuned in the first time Fox News hosted, with The Donald starring. It seems fair to say that both sides are partly correct—Trump's absence makes for a less interesting event and fewer viewers, but debate fatigue and Trump fatigue are setting in, such that his presence would not have moved the needle all that much.

As we have noted, the closer the caucuses and primaries get, the fiercer the beatings that the truth seems to take, on both sides of the aisle. USA Today, Politifact, FactCheck, the AP, and the Washington Post have all taken a long look at Thursday's contest, and found plenty to criticize, with the vast majority of their analysis targeted at just three candidates: Cruz, Rubio, and Christie. The two Senators both tried to thread the needle regarding their immigration policy very carefully, and were not successful, contradicting past actions and on-the-record statements. The two also earned scrutiny for their repeated assertions that Barack Obama has "downgraded" the U.S. military, a dubious description of a process that, in any event, began 25 years ago under a Republican president (and then-Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney) and continued through through three subsequent administrations. Christie, for his part, blurred the truth about Bridgegate, made some questionable assertions about entitlement reform, and told an outright fib when he declared that "neighbors" were aware of the San Bernardino shooting in advance.

The next debate takes place on February 6, and will be aired by ABC. By then, Iowans will have registered the preferences, and some of the chaff (hopefully) will have been cleared. Will the number of candidates on stage finally drop below seven? Will Donald Trump rejoin the fray? Will Ben Carson see the writing on the wall? And, if so, will he stay awake long enough to read it? These are good questions that should begin to get a lot of attention starting sometime Wednesday afternoon. (Z)

Clinton Leads in Iowa

In a PPP poll of Iowa released late yesterday, Hillary Clinton is back in the lead. Here are the numbers.

Rank Candidate Pct
1 Hillary Clinton 48%
2 Bernie Sanders 40%
3 Martin O'Malley 7%

Nevertheless, there is good news here for supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). Under Democratic Party rules, candidates in any precinct who get under 15% of the vote are declared nonviable and caucusing begins all over without the nonviable candidates. Martin O'Malley is likely to be nonviable in almost every precinct and his supporters are much more likely to caucus for Sanders than for Clinton in the second round, which could put Sanders and Clinton into a statistical tie. On the other hand, the distribution of Sanders support across the state is rather uneven. He is very strong in university towns, and might win all the delegates there, but Clinton is stronger elsewhere, and may end up with more delegates, even if she loses the statewide vote. In short, on the Democratic side, it is a real horse race.

The key to victory is turnout. Many of Sanders' supporters have never caucused before. If they do so and swell turnout, he could win. If they stay home, she will win. The current weather forecast is for cloudy weather Monday with a high of 39F but a snowstorm is expected Tuesday. If the snowstorm comes early, it will certainly depress turnout and help Clinton. (V)

No Surge of New Voters in Iowa

Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump have quite a few things in common, including having a lot of angry supporters, although they are not angry about the same things. Even more important, is that both of them are hoping to win the Iowa caucuses by drawing in thousands of new voters who have never caucused before. Both need large turnouts at the caucuses to win; large turnouts at rallies don't count. But the statistics on registration of new Democratic voters aren't encouraging for Sanders. It is much slower than it was in the run-up to the 2008 caucuses. On the Republican side, new registrations are consistent with a bigger turnout than in previous years. (V)

Some of Clinton's Emails Were Highly Classified

Hillary Clinton's email travails seem to go on and on. The State Dept. announced yesterday that 22 of her emails were top secret and cannot be released to the public. However—and this is very important—none of those emails were marked classified at the time they were sent or received, so Clinton could not have known they shouldn't have gone through her private server. The classification as top secret came later. It is not known if she wrote the emails herself, received them from others, or was cc'ed by subordinates. (V)

What Explains the Rise of Donald Trump and Ted Cruz?

Most experts have long held with "The party decides" model of primaries. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012 are textbook examples. There were a bunch of fringe characters who ran against them but in the end, the establishment got what it wanted. It most definitely does not want Donald Trump or Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX). How did they even get this far?

Fareed Zakaria in the Washington Post has an interesting theory. He maintains that there are two distinct revolutions going on at the same time in the Republican Party. For 60 years, conservative politicians have been promising that they would repeal the New Deal, the Great Society, and Obamacare. They never did, and the reason is pretty clear: Americans like the welfare state. Social Security has always been called the "third rail" of American politics for good reason: if you touch it, you get electrocuted instantly. Also, most of the benefits go to the middle class, not the poor. Just as one example, the tax exemption for employer-provided health care (which is really income in-kind) costs the government three times as much revenue as the food stamp program. Now Ted Cruz shows up and acts like he really means ending big government (by which he means these programs). True conservatives, who have never accepted any social legislation since the 1930s, are his base. They want lower taxes and less government.

Donald Trump has a completely different base. These are white working-class people who didn't like dirty smelly hippies in the 1960s, and blacks, Muslims, and Latinos becoming more numerous and important since then. To put it bluntly, they are racists. They have no problem with Franklin Delano Roosevelt or Lyndon Johnson. Deep down, they are Democrats who are afraid of all these newly empowered groups taking their jobs. They certainly don't want to repeal the New Deal. They just want to return America's ethnic composition to what it was in 1840.

So one way of viewing the Trump-Cruz battle is which of these groups, the true conservatives or the frightened workers (many of them Democrats or one-time Democrats), will take over the Republican Party. (V)

Some Union Members Like Trump

Although union members are generally staunch Democrats, union leaders fear that possibly as much as a quarter or even a third of their membership might support Donald Trump in a general election match-up with Hillary Clinton. Many of them have a deep economic anxiety and Trump speaks to that by being against foreigners coming into the country and by being against trade agreements that ship jobs abroad. His open racism is the icing on the cake. These are people who are strongly against globalization in all its forms. Many would gladly support high tariffs of products made abroad.

Possibly also a factor is that since Trump has been in the construction business for decades, he has had a great deal of contact with the building trades unions. In general, his relationship with them has been cordial. In New York, he usually hires union workers although there have been labor disputes in Las Vegas. (V)

Koch Brothers Having a Retreat This Weekend

The big money from secret donors has not started to flow yet, but the plumber is gripping the faucet. This weekend, the Koch brothers are holding one of their fabled retreats in Palm Springs, CA. Admission is by invitation only, and invitees are expected to bring their checkbooks. Politicians who are invited often leave with an envelope full of large checks, as now-senators Tom Cotton (R-AR), Joni Ernst (R-IA), and Cory Gardner (R-CO) can attest. The Koch brothers have said their goal is to collect and spend about $900 million this election cycle. No doubt Topic A at the retreat will be who to spend the money on. (V)

What a President Can Do without Congress

A newly elected Democratic President is unlikely to get any legislation through the Republican-dominated House. A Republican President with a Republican Congress might be able to get some things, like tax cuts, through Congress, but there are a lot of things Republicans are split on, such as immigration, so action there is unlikely. We have pointed out that a President is not powerless, however, even with a recalcitrant Congress. In addition to having a free hand in foreign policy, a President can issue executive orders and tweak federal regulations. This is an area where Hillary Clinton would appear to have the edge among the Democrats, because she knows where the levers of power are.

However, in an op-ed in the New York Times, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) has brought up another area in which Bernie Sanders would have the edge, namely vigorously enforcing existing laws. A President can appoint cabinet and lower officials who are determined to bring corporate criminals to justice. The choice of attorney general is especially crucial. For example, when Novartis paid kickbacks to pharmacies to push certain drugs—in violation of existing federal law—it got off with a slap on the wrist. Existing law allows the government to punish companies that defraud Medicare by removing them from the program. The Obama administration chose not to exercise that power.

When the Education Management Corporation signed up tens of thousands of students and saddled them with huge debts in return for useless degrees, under existing law, the government could have banned it from receiving any more federal funds, which would probably have forced it into bankruptcy. It didn't. There are scores of other examples where seeking the maximum penalties allowed by existing law would not only crush corporations that broke the law, but change the tradeoffs for other corporations contemplating doing so in the future.

While Warren didn't explicitly endorse Sanders, it is clear that she wants a President who will fully utilize the many powerful tools already available to the President for punishing corporate criminals, and it is also clear that Sanders is the only candidate in either party who might just do that. (V)

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---The Votemaster
Jan29 The Song Remains the Same in Iowa
Jan29 It is All about Expectations
Jan29 Rural Iowans Rule
Jan29 The Real Difference between Sanders and Clinton
Jan29 Governor of Guam Endorses Cruz
Jan29 Obama Doesn't Want To Be on the Supreme Court
Jan28 Seven Not Looking Very Lucky for Republicans
Jan28 Clinton Wants a Debate before the New Hampshire Primary
Jan28 Cruz super PAC Offers $1.5 Million to Veterans if Trump Will Debate Him
Jan28 Iowa Isn't about Winners, It Is about Losers
Jan28 Clinton Still Has A Large Lead Nationally
Jan28 Rand Paul Will Face an Openly Gay Opponent
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