Clinton 1235
Sanders 580
 Needed   2383
Trump 460
Cruz 370
Rubio 163
Kasich 63
Needed 1237
New polls:  
Dem pickups:  
GOP pickups:  

News from the Votemaster

Rundown of the Democratic Primaries Today

Democrats have primaries in five large states today with 780 delegates at stake. After Super Tuesday, this is the biggest batch of delegates available on a single day. It could go a long way towards determining who the Democratic nominee will be. Here is a rundown of the five states in play today.

Florida (246 delegates). This is the big one today, but it is not even close. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) knew from the start that Hillary Clinton would win big here and didn't even campaign much in the Sunshine State. The state is full of blacks, Latinos, and elderly women. What else could Hillary wish for? Furthermore, both Clintons have campaigned heavily in Florida many times over a period going back decades. Bill is one of the most popular Democratic politicians in the state. Clinton could end up with 2/3 of the vote and 2/3 of the delegates. It will be brutal for Bernie.

Illinois (182 delegates). Illinois is the state where Clinton was born and grew up and it is the state where her hug-bunny, President Obama, is from. But Sanders is fighting hard here, in part because Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who is close to the Clintons, is very unpopular in the black community due to his mishandling of the shooting of Laquan McDonald. Latino politicians in the state are split. Polls show that the state is close. If Sanders wins by a few points, he will get great headlines but barely any more delegates than Clinton and what he needs now are delegates, not headlines.

Ohio (159 delegates). Like Michigan, Ohio is a rust-belt state where Sanders' economic message could play well, as it did in Michigan. Clinton is not going to be caught by surprise this time, though. Husband Bill has campaigned hard for her here as has popular progressive Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH). One piece of good news for Sanders is that over the weekend an Ohio judge ruled that 17-year-olds who will be legal voters on election day may vote in the primary today.

North Carolina (122 delegates). While it is not Mississippi, what with the Research Triangle full of high-tech and financial companies, North Carolina is still the South and has a large number black voters, the vast majority of whom are unshakable Clinton supporters. Clinton could get over 60% of the vote here. There is nothing much Sanders can do about it, although he did sink serious money into TV ads to try to limit the bleeding.

Missouri (71 delegates). Although this is the smallest prize, it is also Sanders' best shot at a clean win. Clinton has some advantages, including support from the governor and Democratic senator, but that may not be enough. Clinton lost the state to Obama in 2008 and Sanders has been campaigning heavily here both on the ground and on the air. It is likely to be close, but again for Sanders, a small win and a net gain of half a dozen delegates doesn't really help much.

So look for massive Clinton wins in Florida and North Carolina, with closer votes in the other three, with a possible Sanders win in Missouri. When the delegates are added up for the day, expect Clinton to have a large net gain, no matter how many states Sanders wins. (V)

Rundown of the Republican Primaries Today

Republicans vote in the same five states as the Democrats today, plus one territory. They have 367 delegates at stake because (1) the Republican Convention is much smaller and (2) Republicans give bonus delegates to heavily Republican states and none of these five get Texas-sized bonuses. Here is a quick rundown.

Florida (99 delegates). This is the big fish with 99 delegates for whoever gets the most votes. Unlike the Democratic primary here, where a close second gets you almost half the delegates, a close second here gets you 0 delegates. This is the home state of Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), so it ought to be a slam-dunk no-brainer for him. Trouble is, Donald Trump has led in every poll here for months. Not that it matters except for the amount of embarrassment it generates, but Trump could win by 20 points. In a way, maybe it does matter. Losing your home state by 20 points doesn't make you everybody's first choice for Veep. It is hard to imagine Rubio getting crushed here and still being in the race tomorrow evening. Bye, Marco. It was fun having you. Suggestion: Next time you run, try to figure out in advance why you are running and tell people about it. Hint: "I'm pretty and talk fast" isn't quite good enough.

North Carolina (72 delegates). This is the first time North Carolina has held a March primary. Usually it was in May. Unlike Florida, this is not a winner-take-all state. A candidate gets one delegate for each 1.39% of the statewide vote. Trump has been leading in the polls, but the state has many evangelicals and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) is fighting hard for them. The other candidates are down in the weeds. This is Cruz's best chance to scoop up delegates. If he can't do it here, life going forward is going to be tough because this is the last of the "easy" states for him.

Illinois (69 delegates). Like North Carolina, this is a proportional state, so coming in second or third is worth something, although coming in first statewide gets 12 delegates. In addition, each congressional district is worth 3 delegates. Trump had been leading, but his rally in Chicago Friday was canceled due to fear of violence. How that will affect the race is unknown. Gov. John Kasich (R-OH) is a Midwesterner and has been campaigning hard here. This is a big chance for him to score a big pile of delegates. Cruz has also been targeting the state, Rubio not at all.

Ohio (66 delegates). This is the most important race of the day in either party. If Kasich wins here and Rubio drops out, Kasich will be the establishment's last hope. It will then be a three-way race between Trump, Cruz, and Kasich from here on out. Money will pour in to Kasich's coffers as will endorsements. His strategy will have worked. If, on the other hand, Trump wins (and gets all of its delegates), probably both Kasich and Rubio will drop out and we will have a two-man race between Trump and Cruz, the worst-case nightmare for the GOP honchos. Needless to say, they are doing absolutely everything possible to help Kasich. We'll know tomorrow if it was enough.

Missouri (52 delegates). This is also a proportional state with each congressional district delivering five delegates to the winner. There has been little polling. What there has been suggests Trump and Cruz are the leading contenders. Cruz has been campaigning hard here, and since he runs a very data-driven operation, his internal polls no doubt tell him he has a good chance to pick up delegates. Note that Cruz cares about winning delegates, not winning states. On the other hand, Missouri has an open primary, which means the half dozen or so Democrats in the state who find the Clinton-Sanders race boring can vote in the Republican contest. In general, open primaries help Trump.

Northern Mariana Island (9 delegates). The territory's governor, Ralph Torres, has endorsed Trump and that is probably enough to carry most of the nine delegates at stake here. Cruz didn't send Torres a birthday cake on his birthday last August (as he did for the governor of Guam) because Torres wasn't governor then. He took over only after governor Eloy Inos died in December. Bad luck, Ted.

So the bottom line is watch Ohio and see who drops out in the next day or so. (V)

Sanders Moving Up in Ohio, Illinois, and Missouri

New PPP polls of Ohio, Illinois, and Missouri show Bernie Sanders catching up to Hillary Clinton in the first two states and passing her in the third one. All the results are within the margin of error, so all three could be close. Here are the results.

Rank Candidate Pct.
1 Hillary Clinton 46%
2 Bernie Sanders 41%

Rank Candidate Pct.
1 Hillary Clinton 48%
2 Bernie Sanders 45%

Rank Candidate Pct.
1 Bernie Sanders 47%
2 Hillary Clinton 46%

A possible painful outcome for Sanders would be to win a majority of the states today but have Clinton run off with a majority of the delegates due to her expected blow-out wins in Florida and North Carolina. (V)

Could A Kasich Win in Ohio Help Trump?

Here's an odd, but plausible theory: A Trump win in Ohio over Kasich could be the worst outcome for Trump. Why? Simply because if Trump wins Ohio and Florida, Kasich and Rubio will drop out, causing all the anti-Trump votes to go to the sole remaining contender, Ted Cruz. Trump's ceiling so far has been about 40% and if the other 60% all goes to Cruz, he could start winning lots of delegates. If Kasich wins Ohio, he will certainly stay in the race, expecting money to fall out of the sky into his outstretched hand. Trump might do better in a three-way race than in a two-way race. Unfortunately, we can't run the experiment with both outcomes to see which works better. (V)

Joel Benenson Is Not Sweating Trump

One of the smartest things Hillary Clinton did this election cycle compared to 2008 was dump her pollster, Mark Penn, who basically cost her the nomination because he didn't understand the proportionality rules and thought she would clinch the nomination on Super Tuesday. She replaced him with Obama's pollster, Joel Benenson. Although many people in Clinton's campaign, especially her notoriously jelly-kneed donors, are scared of Donald Trump's winning angry blue-collar workers all over the rust belt and costing her the general election, Benenson is unfazed. He pointed out that if you look at the states the Democrats have won at least five times in the past six presidential elections, the Democrats have a base of 257 electoral votes. They need only 13 more. Virginia, Ohio, and Florida all have 13 or more. So do Colorado plus Nevada. Benenson doesn't think Trump can win any of the states in the 257 electoral-vote group. Furthermore, he thinks that North Carolina, which Obama won in 2008 and didn't compete for in 2012 would be winnable in 2016. While the media act like Trump has a real shot at the White House, remember that Obama's campaigns were the most numbers-driven campaigns in history and Benenson was the guy who produced all the numbers. (V)

How to Steal a Nomination in Five Easy Months

Sasha Issenberg at Bloomberg News has a very interesting piece: on exactly how the machinations needed to deny the Republican nomination to Donald Trump may play out (and, indeed, are already playing out). Here's the executive summary:

March—The Search for Double Agents: The great majority of delegates to the RNC are required to vote for the candidate to whom they are pledged. But that only lasts for one to three ballots, then nearly all are free agents. There's nothing stopping the non-Trump forces from recruiting Trump delegates (many of whom may not actually be Trump supporters) to defect as soon as they are able. Indeed, Trump delegates who are not Trump supporters can help undermine him even before ballots are cast with their votes on procedural rulings and the like. Ted Cruz's organization is already hard at work on this angle.

April—The Party Bosses Strike: In most states, the choice of Republican delegates lies with the state party. And in the 31 states with GOP governors, it is effectively the governor who picks them. He/she can fill the slate of delegates with cronies and use patronage and other powers to maintain discipline. So, for example, South Carolina governor Nikki Haley—who, you may recall, endorsed Marco Rubio—could choose 50 delegates who would be stuck voting for Trump on the first ballot (since he swept South Carolina), but otherwise would take their marching orders on the second ballot and on crucial procedural matters from her.

May—Dealing for Delegates: Whether dealing with governors (or other party officials) who choose delegates, or dealing with the delegates themselves, there will surely be votes for sale. At the highest levels, a juicy patronage position may be needed (how does "Attorney General Chris Christie" sound, Mr. Governor?); at lower levels it may be enough for the Party to cover the cost of the delegate's plane ticket and hotel room (which the delegate would otherwise pay out of pocket). This may seem venal and corrupt, and it is, but it's not illegal, since it's internal party business.

June—Who Can We Disqualify?: When Trump won Nevada, there were reports of irregularities at caucuses across the state. These irregularities were quickly forgotten when he won the Silver State by 20 points, but they could quickly be recalled, if need be. In fact, irregularities may be discovered in many other states, particularly ones where the vote was close. And in those cases, the question would be sent to various Republican Party committees to adjudicate in the weeks before the convention. If Republican Party rules are found to have been violated—and a finding that there was "disorganization and confusion" is enough—then a whole slate of delegates may be overturned, with the decision on a new slate to be made at the convention. Credentials fights have happened before. One of the most famous was in 1964 when representatives of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP) took a bus to Atlantic City, eating only cheese, crackers, and bologna, and showed up at the Democratic National Convention and demanded to be seated instead of the regular Mississippi delegation, which was elected by whites only. The committee, afraid of offending white voters, offered the MFDP two at-large seats, which it rejected, but the Credentials Committee could have replaced the Mississippi delegation with the MFDP had it been politically expedient.

July—Rewrite the Rulebook: The GOP's Standing Committee on Rules has unlimited latitude to rewrite convention rules in any way it sees fit. For starters, if its goal is to stop Trump, it will modify Rule 40, which currently requires that a candidate "win" at least eight states or territories to have their name placed into nomination. If the preferred nominee is Mitt Romney or Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) or someone who wasn't part of primary season, then "eight" will be reduced to "zero." Another possible rule, with precedents dating back to the 1950s, would be that any state whose results were disputed would be barred from voting on the resolution of that dispute. Thus, a slate full of actual Trump supporters could only sit and watch as the rest of the convention decided its fate.

The bottom line is that the people who run political parties are professionals for a reason. Even if Donald Trump sweeps miniTuesday today, the pros still have many tools at their disposal, such that one should not assume that The Donald will be the nominee until he actually is the nominee.

The only thing the Party has to keep at the back of its collective mind is that unlike the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, which had no power, no money, and no Twitter account, Donald Trump has all of those plus an ego the size of the Republican Party symbol. He might react poorly to having "his" nomination being taken away by Party hacks. (Z)

How an Obscure Committee Could Decide the Republican Nomination

Politico also has a piece today on how the Republican Party might try to wrest the nomination from Donald Trump at the convention. It is all about the 112-member Rules Committee, which has one man and one woman (just like a Republican marriage) from each of the 56 states and territories in the RNC. By majority vote, the committee can do just about anything, including throwing out the chairman, House Speaker Paul Ryan. Tom Lundstrum, an Arkansas Republican who served on the 2012 committee said: It'll be a bloodbath.

The committee hasn't been chosen yet since its members must be delegates and half the country hasn't chosen its delegates yet. There will be hand-to-hand combat to get onto the Rules Committee. Once the committee has been chosen, it will only get worse. One anonymous source reported: There might be things like in a mad scientist's laboratory where you could screw with the rules for the convention. One cataclysmic rule change would be one that unbound all the delegates on the first ballot. It would cause an uproar but the Rules Committee has that power—although in a few cases a delegate who didn't vote as he or she was supposed to would be violating state law. Last week, RNC member Curly Haugland supported such a change under the slogan: "Every delegate is a Superdelegate." While this is far fetched, this year it doesn't take long for the impossible to become the inevitable. (V)

Rubio Apparently Not Much More Popular than Cruz

The Tampa Bay Times has a lengthy profile and takedown of Marco Rubio, just in time for the Florida primaries. In it, they throw everything but the kitchen sink at the Florida Senator.

One of the major themes of the profile is that Rubio is lazy, from his lackadaisical 2.1 high school GPA to his longstanding habit of not showing up for committee meetings, press conferences, and legislative sessions unless absolutely necessary. He's also portrayed as a backstabber whose opportunism rivals that of Ted Cruz. One early ally, Hialeah mayor Raúl Martinez, says that he "wouldn't support [Rubio] for dog catcher" now. Another, GOP official Tony DiMatteo, says he's supporting Donald Trump specifically to derail Rubio.

Undoubtedly, it's hard to be a career politician without making some enemies. But to make this many enemies, and have them be this vociferous, is not a good look, particularly on a day when you need every vote you can get. (Z)

Trump Could Be Charged with Inciting a Riot

At a Donald Trump rally in Fayetteville, NC, last week, an older white man punched a young black man who was in the process of being removed from the rally for protesting Trump. Now the sheriff of Cumberland County, where the incident happened, is investigating whether Trump incited a riot, which is a misdemeanor under North Carolina law. In previous rallies, Trump has suggested that supporters "knock the crap" out of disruptive protesters. The sheriff, "Moose" Butler, an elected Democrat, has not yet decided whether to press charges against Trump. If he does, it will certainly bring the violence at Trump's rallies onto the front pages for quite a while. On the other hand, Trump will dismiss the whole thing as a stunt by a partisan Democratic sheriff.

The possible misdemeanor charge by a Democratic sheriff aside, the Black Lives Matter protestors may be helping Trump. None of them are old enough to remember the 1968 Democratic National Convention, but a bit of reading might serve them well. Antiwar protesters swarmed Chicago during the convention and were beaten back by a violent police response. Then-senator Abraham Ribicoff denounced the police's "Gestapo tactics" and many Democrats spoke of a "police riot." But Republican candidate Richard Nixon read the country better. He realized that a majority of the country supported Mayor Daley and the cops, so he campaigned on a "law and order" theme, a thinly veiled suggestion that blacks were causing all the crime and he would get tough with them. It worked and he won. Then, as now, a majority of the country supports the police, which are outranked in public confidence only by the military and small business. As a political strategy, disrupting Trump rallies is probably an extremely bad one. So far, it has happened on a small scale, but if starts to happen nationwide all the time, it could swing a lot of votes to Trump. (V)

Update: Sheriff Butler has decided not to charge Trump with inciting a riot.

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---The Votemaster
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