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

Ann Selzer: It's Clinton and Trump

Polling guru Ann Selzer released her final poll of the Iowa caucuses yesterday evening. She has the best track record of anyone in the business in polling the tricky Iowa caucuses because she is much better than the rest at trying to determine who will actually caucus. Here are her numbers for both parties.

Rank Candidate Pct
1 Donald Trump 28%
2 Ted Cruz 23%
3 Marco Rubio 15%
4 Ben Carson 10%
5 Rand Paul 5%
6 Chris Christie 3%
7 Jeb Bush 2%
7 Carly Fiorina 2%
7 John kasich 2%
7 Rick Santorum 2%
7 Mike Huckabee 2%
12 Jim Gilmore 0%
Rank Candidate Pct
1 Hillary Clinton 45%
2 Bernie Sanders 42%
3 Martin O'Malley 3%

If Selzer is right, Trump will have overcome the big lead Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) had only a few weeks ago. This could be an important victory for Trump. If he also takes New Hampshire and then South Carolina, he will be well on his way to the nomination, something no one believed possible 3 months ago.

The poll also has some takeaways about the Republican race other than the raw numbers:

  • Nothing in the poll suggests many new caucusgoers
  • If evangelicals turn out like in 2012, it will be closer
  • Is Trump's lead rock solid? Pretty much so
  • It bothers 60% of caucusgoers that Trump is a big fan of eminent domain
  • Cruz peaked too early; he keeps spiraling down
  • Cruz is well respected and liked, even by Trump supporters
  • Trump is not going to be punished for skipping the last debate
  • Gov. Terry Brandstad's opposition to Cruz doesn't matter to anyone
  • Everyone's strategy of feeding the alligator (Trump) in hopes of being eaten last, failed
  • If voters change their minds today or tomorrow, Cruz benefits most

The Des Moines Register, Iowa's biggest and most influential newspaper, has endorsed Marco Rubio for the Republican nomination, saying he will define the Republican Party as one of hope and optimism, not one of fear and anger.

The Democratic race is also crucial. Hillary Clinton has been giving it her all to avoid her 2008 fate when Barack Obama stole her crown and messed up her coronation. If she wins Iowa and then Nevada and South Carolina, where she has large leads, it will be very difficult for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) to catch up, even if he wins New Hampshire, as expected since he is a neighbor.

In the Democratic race, the three key factors are turnout, turnout, and turnout. If it is normal turnout, Clinton wins. Sanders needs a surge of new caucusgoers, especially in rural precincts far from universities. Clinton's supporters are older than Sanders' supporters, have caucused before, and are more certain they will caucus this time. Amazingly despite being subject to millions of dollars worth of ads, endless polls, and numerous visits from volunteers from multiple campaigns, 9% of Democrats haven't made up their minds yet. This is where the caucus system really differs from a primary. People go to the caucus and spend an hour talking to their neighbors about the candidates, which can give them new insight and help them make a decision. Republicans love to say that everyone hates Clinton but by "everyone" they mean Republicans. Among Democrats, 73% say they are enthusiastic about Clinton, just slightly more than the 69% who are enthusiastic about Sanders. Clearly most Democrats like both of them, meaning there won't be a lot of PUMA (Party Unity My Ass) voters in the Fall.

Like the New York Times, the Des Moines Register has endorsed Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination, saying the presidency is not an entry-level position and whoever gets the job had better know the ropes on day 1 and Hillary certainly does. (V)

The People Who Don't Love Trump, Hate Trump

If the polls are right, and Iowa proves to be the first step toward a Trump-Clinton matchup in the general election, then a new report by Gallup suggests Americans will have a "lesser of two evils" election of the sort that has not been seen in a generation (or more).

The main finding of the study is that Donald Trump is viewed unfavorably by 60% of voters, the worst recorded number for a presidential candidate since Gallup began keeping track 25 years ago. With this result, the billionaire takes over first place from George H. W. Bush, who pulled a 56% unfavorable rating in 1992, in the middle of a recession during his unsuccessful reelection campaign. This has to be worrisome for The Donald and his supporters, as it is much easier to win over the voters who have no idea who you are as opposed to those who know you and don't like you. Indeed, a little quick math suggests that to win the presidency, Trump would need to hold on to all of his current supporters (12% of the population), lay claim to all of the people who currently like him or have no opinion but are not yet voting for him (+25% of the population), and then win over roughly 20% of those who have an unfavorable opinion (+13% of the population). That's a tall order, and even if he pulled it off the election would be very, very close.

The silver lining for Trump is that Hillary Clinton has just laid claim to the third-worst rating of all time, with a 52% unfavorable rating. Also not good, obviously, though slightly less troublesome than the Donald's rating. As a candidate with broader support in the larger party, she could get to a winning number by holding on to her current supporters (20% of the population), attracting three-quarters of those who currently like her or have no opinion but aren't voting for her (+23% of the population), and winning over roughly 12% of those who currently view her unfavorably (+7% of the population). Not easy, but not nearly as tough as what Trump needs to do. And whatever happens, it is likely that a lot of voters in 2016 will be casting their ballots on the basis of which candidate they find least objectionable. (Z)

How about a Trump/Sanders Ticket?

Suppose Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders wins his primary but the other one loses. Might the winner pick the loser as a running mate? They have more in common than you might think. And remember, Trump was a Democrat most of his life. He only recently became a Republican and many people think he doesn't actually believe much of what he is spouting and wouldn't try to enact it as President. Here are some points where they are surprisingly similar. Both:

  • Appeal primarily to people who are disenchanted with politics as usual
  • Decry how much influence wealthy donors have over the political process
  • Support campaign finance reform
  • Oppose corporations that move jobs overseas to get cheap labor and avoid taxes
  • Are against trade treaties that favor multinationals over workers
  • Are in favor of more government involvement in the economy
  • Believe that the way politicians think about jobs and the economy is fundamentally bad for workers

Of course, the two differ on many things, too, but Trump claims he is a great negotiator, so maybe he could strike a deal with Sanders. (V)

Is the Bloom off the Ted Cruz Rose?

As they say, a week in politics is a lifetime. And it was just about a week ago that Ted Cruz was flying high—he got good reviews for his performance in the first GOP debate of the year, his strategy of building an evangelical network in Iowa seemed to be working, and National Review had just released its anti-Trump issue.

At the moment, those halcyon days must seem like they were a long time ago. By nearly all accounts, Cruz bombed this week's debate. He's stumbling as he hits the home stretch in Iowa, not only looking up at Donald Trump (if the polls are correct), but also worrying about Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) nipping at his heels. His favorability ratings are dropping almost as fast as Ben Carson's. Cruz-affiliated super PACs are struggling to bring in new donations.

This weekend has brought an additional pair of high-profile, damaging incidents. The first came at a rally, when a member of the audience told the story of his hardworking brother-in-law's battle with cancer, noted that Obamacare allowed the man to get insurance for the first time (albeit too late), and asked Cruz what his alternative was. The candidate hemmed and hawed, incorrectly expressed condolences for "your father-in-law," and was unable to do much of anything except repeat his oft-used declaration that Obamacare kills jobs (a statement that Politifact has rated a "pants on fire" falsehood). Those in attendance felt that Cruz lost the room at that point, while the pundits are saying that the incident puts a human face on the Senator's sometimes draconian policy positions.

The other misstep involved a mailer sent by the Cruz campaign to voters in Iowa. Designed to pass for an unpaid bill or a parking ticket, the mailer accused the recipient of a "voting violation." Inside the envelope was a personalized notice with letter grades comparing the voter's attendance record at the polls to that of specific neighbors. The goal, of course, was to encourage voters identified as pro-Cruz to show up to the caucuses, but many recipients regarded the ploy as dishonest or as an invasion of privacy. Iowa Secretary of State Paul D. Pate, a Republican, blasted the maneuver, declaring that, "Accusing citizens of Iowa of a 'voting violation' based on Iowa caucus participation, or lack thereof, is false representation of an official act."

Cruz took a slash and burn approach to his career in the U.S. Senate, which is why he is almost universally reviled by his current and former colleagues. He's taken that same basic approach in his campaign, cozying up to evangelicals and social conservatives, burning bridges with nearly all other constituencies, and adopting a distinctly Machiavellian "the ends justify the means" style. That can work, but it leaves little margin of error, and is nearly impossible to sustain for the length of a modern presidential campaign. We may soon learn that it's not even possible to sustain for the length of a modern primary season. (Z)

How Will Christians Vote?

Not surprisingly, Christians are not a monolithic voting bloc. Black Baptists in the South don't vote like white Baptists in the South, for example. The Charlotte Observer has an interesting piece dividing Christians into six categories based on their political inclinations, as follows.

Type of Christian Hero Political icon Some key Issues 2016 Favorite
Conservative Protestant Billy Graham Ronald Reagan Abortion, gays, Israel Cruz
Conservative Catholic Pope John Paul II Antonin Scalia Abortion, gay marriage, O'care Rubio/Bush
Angry Christian Franklin Graham Sarah Palin Immigrants, trade, PC-ness Trump
Liberal Catholic Pope Francis The Kennedys Social justice, death penalty Clinton/Sanders
Liberal Protestant Dietrich Bonhoeffer Elizabeth Warren Inequality, LGBT rts, climate Sanders
Black Protestants Martin Luther King, Jr. Barack Obama Jobs, poverty, police brutality Clinton

What about other religions? Most Jews are Democrats and despite the fact that Sen. Bernie Sanders is Jewish, most Jews support Hillary Clinton. due to her deep involvement in the Middle East as secretary of state. There isn't much data on who Muslims support, but given the rhetoric of nearly all the Republican candidates, it is certainly a Democrat and probably Clinton because she has so much expertise on foreign policy. (V)

Guide to Help You Pick a Candidate

Suppose you don't fit into any of the above categories and with so many candidates, can't figure out who you should support. Fortunately, there is a Website that can sort it all out for you. The site will ask you a few demographic questions and then some issue questions. When you are all done you can see which candidate you are closest to. You can also indicate which issues are most important to you and let it overweight them. (V)

Clinton and Sanders Agree to Have More Debates

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have agreed in principle to have four more debates but they differ somewhat on the details. In particular, Clinton wants one of the debates in Flint, MI, to emphasize how the Republican governor had no problem with providing a majority-black city with toxic water in order to save money.

Sanders need more exposure to catch up to the much-better-known Clinton. Clinton has been an exceptionally strong debater and probably has agreed for two reasons. First, to get more practice debating for the case that she is the nominee. Second, to convince Sanders' supporters that she is taking his challenge very seriously. The deal requires the approval of DNC chairwoman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a good friend of Clinton. Since the candidates are in agreement, Wasserman Schultz is likely to wipe the egg off her face and go along. (V)

Clinton Turns to Gabby Giffords to Help Her Campaign in Iowa

Hillary Clinton will appear today in Iowa with former Arizona representative Gabby Giffords, who was shot in the head in January 2011. After a slow and painful recovery, Giffords managed to appear on the floor of the House in January 2012 to formally resign from Congress to focus entirely on her health and was given a standing ovation by the entire House. After her resignation, she became a forceful advocate for gun control, which is why Clinton wants to attach herself to Giffords. Gun control is one of the few issues important to liberal Democrats where Clinton has a long track record well to the left of Sanders. (V)

Sanders Lists the Top Ten Corporate Tax Dodgers

Bernie Sanders is spending today campaigning alone in Iowa. Rather than use surrogates, as Clinton is, he will emphasize how he would deal with corporate tax dodgers, naming the top 10: GE, Boeing, Verizon, Bank of America, Citigroup, Pfizer, FedEx, Honeywell, Merck, and Corning. He also listed the measures he would try to enact into law to crack down on corporate tax avoiders, including:

  • End the rule allowing U.S. corporations to defer taxes on profits from off-shore subsidiaries
  • Prevent corporations from renting a post-office box in some tax haven and calling it home
  • Eliminate special tax breaks for oil, gas, and coal companies
  • End inversions, in which a big U.S. company buys a small foreign one and then claims to be a foreign company
  • Close loopholes that allow corporations to artificially inflate foreign tax credits

To carry out his program, however, he would need Congress to pass laws to that effect, which seems unlikely if the Republicans continue to control the House in 2017. (V)

New York Times Endorses Clinton and Kasich

While newspaper endorsements mean less and less as people get their news from more and more sources, for liberal Democrats, the New York Times is still a voice that is to be taken seriously. Yesterday it endorsed Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination. The editorial board said: "Voters have the chance to choose one of the most broadly and deeply qualified presidential candidates in modern history." For the Republican nomination, the paper endorsed Gov. John Kasich (R-OH), saying of him: "Gov. John Kasich of Ohio, though a distinct underdog, is the only plausible choice for Republicans tired of the extremism and inexperience on display in this race." While Clinton has a better-than-even shot at her party's nomination, Kasich has little to no chance to get his. (V)

No Loyalty Oath in Virginia

Virginia does not require voters to register a party preference. So, the state's GOP committee decided late last year to require voters who submitted a Republican primary ballot to sign a loyalty oath declaring that they really are a member of the Party. This maneuver, with its rather ominous Cold War-era overtones, was justified as a means of keeping Democrats from "making trouble" with crossover votes, but was really just a transparent attempt to block Donald Trump supporters from casting ballots.

Now, the Virginia GOP has backed off the plan. The official reason for the change of heart? Those meddlesome Democrats, of course. Republican officials claim that the state's Democratic leadership, including Gov. Terry McAuliffe, tinkered with the language of the oath so thoroughly as to make it no longer worthwhile. McAuliffe called the suggestion laughable, and he's likely telling the truth, since the text of the oath was good enough to be sent to absentee voters (some of whom have already voted, creating a potentially serious problem, now that ballots will have been cast under two sets of rules). More probably, the Virginia GOP decided that alienating Trump voters, while also making it easier for Ted Cruz to claim the nomination, would probably not be in the best long-term interests of the Party. (Z)

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---The Votemaster
Jan30 Republican Debate Postmortem
Jan30 Clinton Leads in Iowa
Jan30 No Surge of New Voters in Iowa
Jan30 Some of Clinton's Emails Were Highly Classified
Jan30 What Explains the Rise of Donald Trump and Ted Cruz?
Jan30 Some Union Members Like Trump
Jan30 Koch Brothers Having a Retreat This Weekend
Jan30 What a President Can Do without Congress
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