Clinton 2257
Sanders 1518
 Needed   2383
Trump 1128
Cruz 564
Rubio 166
Kasich 153
Needed 1237

News from the Votemaster

Trump Won't Release Tax Returns Before the Election

Throughout the primary season, Donald Trump has consistently said that he would not release his tax returns until his current IRS audit is complete. On Wednesday, he announced that the audit is—conveniently—not going to be complete until after the election. So, sorry, voters! He was promptly blasted from both sides of the aisle, most prominently by Hillary Clinton on the left, and Mitt Romney on the right.

Needless to say, Trump's position is entirely at odds with the current custom, when it comes to presidential politics. It's also rather nonsensical, since it's entirely legal to release a return under audit (indeed, Richard Nixon did so in 1973). Clearly, Trump—despite his insistence to the contrary—has something (or several somethings) that he would prefer not see the light of day. What might we be talking about here? Well, the most likely possibilities are:

  • He's paying a very low effective tax rate
  • He's using trickery of various sorts to (legally) game the tax system
  • He's not as wealthy as he claims to be
  • He's not giving much (or anything) to charity
  • He's been giving money to Democratic candidates

These are not mutually exclusive, so it could be any or all of the above. Whatever it is, Trump has decided it would do him more harm than just keeping the returns to himself. Undoubtedly, he's hoping the issue will go away, but Hillary Clinton just might have something to say about that. (Z)

Trump Rejects the Use of Big Data

One of the biggest factors in Barack Obama's two victories is not widely known or understood: big data. Obama's data operation had dozens of computer scientists, statisticians, and other tech whizzes holed up in an office building in Chicago managing a database with a record on almost every voter in America listing everything they could possibly find out about the person. This data about every voter drove the entire operation. If, for example, they knew a voter owned a pickup truck, was a member of the National Rifle Association, and was once arrested for picketing an abortion clinic, they already knew enough and weren't going to bother sending a volunteer to knock on his door. On the other hand, if a voter owned a Prius, was a member of the Sierra Club, and was once arrested for picketing a Ku Klux Klan rally, the voter might well receive a letter explaining how much Obama loved the spotted owl. Big data drove the whole show.

Donald Trump has no idea how modern campaigns are fought. Yesterday he said: "Obama got the votes much more so than his data processing machine." Data processing machine? Does he mean the massive array of servers in the cloud along with the dozens of experts poring over the data continuously? It probably doesn't matter because he is not going to run a data-driven campaign as Obama did. He is going to base his campaign on big rallies, saying that is the path to victory.

Trump's insistence that data is overrated is just whistling past the graveyard. He doesn't have a data operation, whereas Clinton is going to inherit Obama's. There is no evidence that big rallies have much effect on the actual voting. If they did, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) would have locked up the Democratic nomination months ago. Trump is likely to be in for quite a surprise about the importance of data. (V)

Ryan Is Caught in a Trap

Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) has spent years trying to build a reputation as a friendly policy wonk with new ideas. Now he is in a bind. If he endorses Donald Trump, either shortly after their meeting this week or a while down the road, he will tarnish his brand as a serious politician interested in governing. If he rejects Trump as a clown, he will anger the Party's base. Either way, he loses.

Furthermore, this year they have different goals. Trump wants to be elected President. That's all he cares about. Ryan is only really interested in keeping his job as Speaker, which means keeping the House majority he has now. The two goals may not be compatible and Ryan knows it.

It is like they are from different planets. Ryan wants to come up with a detailed plan about how the Republicans will govern if they capture the White House and Congress. With Trump, it is not about governing at all. It is all about Donald Trump. This is a very difficult gap to bridge. (V)

Gingrich Reportedly Favorite in GOP Veep Sweepstakes

Speaking of Speakers, the right-leaning site NewsMax says it has the inside scoop on Donald Trump's VP thought process, and that the current strong favorite is former Speaker Newt Gingrich. Reportedly, Trump wants a Washington insider, and he also likes Gingrich personally and thinks they would make a good team.

It's hard to say how this will play with the voters if it comes to pass (and since Trump doesn't do internal polling, he presumably has no idea either). On one hand, the two men are similar in personality, and also agree on many issues (including the Islamophobia). Gingrich is popular with a certain part of the base (hence his brief run at the head of the pack in 2012), he would be an excellent attack dog, and he might help some in the South (particularly if his home state of Georgia really does become a toss up). On the other hand, he got run out of Washington on a rail, is wildly unpopular with independents and Democrats, has some skeletons in the closet, and mostly duplicates The Donald's strengths (rather than adding new dimensions to the ticket). A Trump-Gingrich ticket would also have six current or former wives in total, and more adultery than you can shake a stick at. Both women and evangelicals might not be too happy about those things. Likely, the story is a trial balloon, and if the possibility doesn't get some positive buzz going pretty quickly, we will hear that someone else has moved to the top of the list. (Z)

Time Looks to Be Growing Short for Sanders

It would be a shock of Cruzian proportions if Bernie Sanders dropped out of the presidential race before last-in-line California gets a chance to vote. But while he will be making it to the finish line, it looks very much like he will be limping to get there, as the wheels are starting to come off the Bernie Express. He just lost his state director for California—Michael Ceraso, who gave no explanation for his abrupt resignation. The money has also started to dry up: The campaign took in $42 million in February and $46 million in March, but only $26 million in April. Not enough, given his burn rate (Bern rate?). Consequently, Sanders' staff announced that they would not be purchasing advertising in California, and that they might not be producing any more commercials at all. This is dangerously close to a surrender, particularly since several of the Senator's biggest victories have been powered, in part, by massive media buys.

Meanwhile, the White House is also signaling that the end is nigh. Joe Biden declared on Tuesday that he expected Hillary Clinton to be the nominee, while President Obama has dropped a number of hints that he feels the same way. Meanwhile, both men are already doing what they can to help Clinton—attacking Donald Trump, and planning campaign stops for the general election season. Obama will be hitting the college circuit to shore up the millennial vote, while Biden will be going to the Rust Belt to appeal to blue collar workers. So the hall is rented, the orchestra is engaged, and soon it will be time for Hillary to dance. (Z)

Florida Senate Race Turns Ugly

Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL), who is gunning to be his Party's nominee to replace Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), has quite the profile. He's outspoken to the point of often being impolitic, he's very wealthy, he's very liberal, and he's currently facing an ethics probe for allegedly running an offshore hedge fund out of his Congressional office.

Other than the wealth, these are not things that the establishment likes. And so, they've lined up behind Grayson's main competition, the much more moderate Rep. Patrick Murphy. That includes President Obama, Joe Biden, and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV). Grayson's not too happy about that, so on Wednesday he decided to confront Reid in front of several dozen staffers and members of Congress. After he yelled at Reid for a bit, and was told to shut up by Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), the Minority Leader bluntly told Grayson, "I want you to lose. It's true."

So what we appear to have here, then, is a Democratic version of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX). We will see if the Democrats are better at getting rid of their version than the Republicans were at getting rid of theirs. (Z)

Cruz Will Run For Re-Election in 2018

Speaking of Ted Cruz, he announced on Wednesday that he will be running for reelection in 2018. The very early announcement serves as a warning to forestall potential challengers, and also lets the Texas Senator get to work on his fundraising immediately. He's well-liked enough in his home state that he should win in a walk, particularly given that it will be a midterm election.

Some pundits are suggesting that the move closes the book on Cruz running for president in 2020, but there's really no reason to think that. By staying in the Senate, he maintains his visibility (and his paycheck). Meanwhile, recent senators-who-would-be-president have shown no particular compunction about abandoning their constituents for a year or so while pursuing their ambition. That includes Cruz himself, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul (R-KY), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Bernie Sanders, Chris Dodd, Evan Bayh, and even the guy currently in the White House. So, declaring Cruz 2020 to be dead sounds more like wishful thinking than anything else. (Z)

Liberal Democrats Becoming Less Friendly to Israel

In a result that Bernie Sanders previewed by embracing the Palestinians during the sixth Democratic debate, a new Pew poll shows that liberal Democrats are becoming less enchanted by Israel and more sympathetic to their Palestinian opponents. This appears to be primarily a response to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has feuded with President Obama, mucked around in American politics, and been generally rather antagonistic and blustery.

This may be only a blip on the radar, particularly if Netanyahu chooses to forge a more cordial relationship with the next president. But if this becomes a long-term trend, well, Israel-Palestine could become the mother of all wedge issues in American politics, making things like LGBT bathrooms and brain dead women in the hospital look like child's play. (Z)

The Decline and Fall of the Evangelicals?

Is the alliance between the GOP and evangelical voters, a partnership that dates back about 40 years, reaching the end of its natural life? Sarah Posner, writing in the New York Times, thinks it's certainly possible.

The crux of the argument is that neither side seems to be getting much out of the arrangement any more. From the perspective of the party, yes the evangelicals vote and they canvass and they donate money, but they also demand unelectable candidates far out of the mainstream, and they insist on no compromises (not a very practical position to take in politics). Meanwhile, the two things the evangelicals have cared most about in the last two decades have been gay marriage and abortion, and the GOP hasn't exactly put a stop to either of those (pending SCOTUS rulings might change that, but it's not too likely.)

The conclusion is not so much that evangelicals will be moving en masse to the Democrats or to a third party, but that perhaps they will cease to function as a distinct interest group, and will gravitate towards other factions of the party—the newly-emerging nativist wing, for example. This is certainly possible; the GOP is primed for a realignment, and this outcome seems as good a guess as any. (Z)

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---The Votemaster
May11 West Virginia and Nebraska Vote; Nothing Has Changed
May11 Clinton Moves Towards Sanders on Health Care
May11 Cruz Declines to Support Trump
May11 Armageddon May Be Upon Us
May11 Maybe the Republicans Need a Better Voting System
May11 Democrats Are Using Trump to Hurt Republicans with Latino Voters
May11 Biden Says He Expects Clinton to Become President
May11 App May Help Some Democrats Survive a Trump Victory
May10 West Virginia Votes Today
May10 Rubio Doesn't Want To Be Trump's Veep
May10 It's Trump Versus Warren
May10 Trump Fatigue Setting In
May10 Time's Running Out for a Third-Party Alternative to Trump
May10 Cruz Not Going Away Yet
May10 Facebook Raises Conservative Ire
May10 Get Ready For a Lot of Endorsements Like These
May09 Suppose Sanders Got What He Is Asking for
May09 Trump Is Now Starting to Win Delegates
May09 Trump Now Wants to Tax the Rich
May09 Palin Is Going to Try to Cantor Ryan
May09 Trump May Try to Stop Ryan from Serving as Convention Chair
May09 Hillary Clinton Is Actually a Progressive Democrat
May09 The Fight Is on for Married Women
May09 Obama Is Chomping at the Bit
May09 Nevada May Be Demoted in 2020
May08 Republican Party Rejects Trump's Unity Appeals
May08 Trump Is Previewing His General Election Strategy
May08 Trump Quite Unpopular with Foreign Leaders
May08 Media Hosts Never Challenge Trump When He Lies
May08 How Did the Media Miss So Badly on Trump?
May08 Clinton and Trump Tied in Georgia
May08 Clinton Wins Guam
May08 Warren May Remake the Senate in Her Image
May07 Trump Shakes the Etch-A-Sketch Very Gently
May07 Trump's Financial Operation Is Already in Disarray
May07 Where Trump Needs to Win
May07 Charlie Cook Shifts Ratings in 13 States
May07 Whom Are You Voting Against in 2016?
May07 Trump Dodges a Bullet on Fraud Trial
May07 Trump is McCain's Fault
May07 Trump May Have Some Explaining To Do--To His Wife
May07 Sanders Walks Both Sides of the Street
May07 Could Merrick Garland Be Confirmed After All?
May07 Trump Shakes the Etch-A-Sketch Very Gently
May07 Trump's Financial Operation Is Already in Disarray
May07 Where Trump Needs to Win
May07 Charlie Cook Shifts Ratings in 13 States
May07 Who Are You Voting Against in 2016?
May07 Trump Dodges a Bullet on Fraud Trial
May07 Trump is McCain's Fault