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

News from the Votemaster

Trump Meets with Ryan, Other GOP Leaders in Washington

The long-awaited meeting between the GOP's presumptive nominee and its establishment took place on Thursday. By all accounts, the pow-wow was cordial, with everyone saying the right things afterward about how much progress had been made. It also produced this joint statement from Donald Trump and Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI):

The United States cannot afford another four years of the Obama White House, which is what Hillary Clinton represents. That is why it's critical that Republicans unite around our shared principles, advance a conservative agenda, and do all we can to win this fall. With that focus, we had a great conversation this morning. While we were honest about our few differences, we recognize that there are also many important areas of common ground. We will be having additional discussions, but remain confident there's a great opportunity to unify our party and win this fall, and we are totally committed to working together to achieve that goal. We are extremely proud of the fact that many millions of new voters have entered the primary system, far more than ever before in the Republican Party's history. This was our first meeting, but it was a very positive step toward unification.

As the statement suggests, the day did not end with Ryan formally endorsing Trump, though that seems an inevitability at this point. The Speaker's carefully-crafted position is going to be that he and Trump certainly agree on some things, and that the Democrats sure are bad, aren't they? It's not an embrace of the billionaire, more like holding him at arm's length. A lot of pundits are using the term "détente," and that seems a pretty good way to characterize it. (Z)

Trump Would Consider Cutting Social Security

Slate's Jordan Weissmann had a nice line on Thursday, writing that "Donald Trump doesn't really have policy positions these days. He has policy moods." Apparently, his latest mood—judging from the remarks of chief policy adviser Sam Clovis—is that he's willing to consider cutting Social Security if his proposals do not generate the promised boost to the economy.

The declaration is mostly of interest because it suggests that Trump is trying to meet the GOP establishment, and particularly Paul Ryan, halfway. Aggressive cuts to entitlements are at the heart of the Speaker's economic program. As an election plank, however, this is a non-starter. Older voters care a lot about Social Security and they vote. This is particularly true in Florida, which is essential to Trump's electoral map. So, expect The Donald's "mood" on this one to change again very soon. (Z)

Trump's Tariffs Would Be "Catastrophic" for the Poor

Speaking of Donald Trump's fiscal policy, the National Foundation for American Policy has taken a look at his plans to "fix" America's trade imbalance by imposing stiff tariffs upon China, Japan, and Mexico. Their conclusions are predictable: The results would be disastrous.

The study actually looked at two models. The first is that Trump just targets those three nations, which would merely cause a shift in the source of imported goods. The second is that Trump slaps harsh protective tariffs on all countries that the United States does business with. It's the latter scenario that would be particularly devastating, costing the average household about $6,000 a year. This would be like imposing an incredibly regressive income tax on the poorest Americans, and—say the study's authors—"would not seem to be a recipe to make America great again." One wonders how long a candidate whose case for the presidency is his economic expertise will get away with fiscal proposals that reflect zero understanding of economics. (Z)

Kochs Make Their First Big Move of 2016

The Koch brothers, who are perhaps the most important contributors to the Republican Party, have been signaling that they will not be investing in Donald Trump. Instead, they will be focusing their resources on the legislative branch; trying to hold the House and Senate. They've made their first major commitment of 2016, and it's a surprise: They are trying to unseat Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-NC).

The Kochs are not endorsing any of Ellmers' Republican or Democratic opponents; they are merely unhappy that Ellmers shifted from libertarian-leaning tea partier to more mainstream conservative. Still, it's an indication that the Kochs are telling the truth about their priorities. And it's a reminder that we've entered a brave new world when the Kochtopus is keeping its tentacles out of the presidential race and instead using them to squeeze the life out of a member of the red team. (Z)

Final Democratic Debate Looking Unlikely

In the computer industry, the term "vaporware" is used to describe a product (usually software) that is promised, but never delivered. The term may soon be applied to the tenth Democratic debate. The planned meeting, scheduled at the insistence of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), was supposed to take place sometime in May, in advance of the California primary on June 6. No progress has been made in locking down the details beyond that, however, and none appears to be forthcoming.

Undoubtedly, debate prep is rather exhausting for the candidates, and so that alone gives them motivation to cancel. At this point, Hillary Clinton has little to gain from another two hours of yelling at Sanders, particularly since she's trying to make nice to his supporters and to turn her attention to Donald Trump. There's also not much upside for Sanders; he knows that whatever he achieves in the next six months is not going to come through campaigning, but through negotiation and bargaining with the Clinton campaign and the Democratic establishment. While it's certainly still possible that a debate could materialize in the 19 days left in May (the last one came together in less than a week), the smart money is on its not happening. (Z)

Another Win for Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders' campaign for the White House appears to be winding down, but his impact on Hillary Clinton has been undeniable, most obviously in her shifting position on the minimum wage. Now, he's scored another victory, as the Democratic frontrunner has embraced Sanders' views on the management of the Federal Reserve Bank.

The Fed, a mysterious and shadowy institution to most Americans, is led by a group of seven governors (chosen by the president and approved by the Senate) and a dozen regional bank presidents (who are primarily chosen by the banking industry). It's the latter group that Sanders is not happy about, arguing—with some justification—that they make the relationship between the Federal Reserve and the banks it regulates just a bit too cozy. Now that Clinton is on board with that thinking, changes seem likely if she wins, particularly if Sanders has a voice in choosing her Secretary of the Treasury. (Z)

Biden Already Had His Running Mate Picked Out

Vice-President Joe Biden opted against a White House run, of course. But that doesn't mean he didn't give it serious consideration, and spend a fair bit of time doing some of the legwork. Now, we learn that as part of that legwork, he had meetings with his preferred VP candidate. And who was it? Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). She never told Biden "yes," but she also did not tell him "no."

There has been much speculation whether or not Warren would accept the second slot on the Democratic ticket. On one hand, it would increase her visibility and would set the stage for a possible presidential run in 2024 or 2028. On the other hand, the vice presidency is the "most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived" (according to John Adams), and Warren has been setting herself up to be a real power broker in the Senate. For these reasons, the general presumption is that VP Warren will not be happening. But Biden's talk of "what could have been" suggests that maybe we should not be so quick to reach that conclusion. (Z)

Obama Wants Election Day to Be a Holiday

The Rutgers University student newspaper managed to finagle an interview with President Obama. And during the course of that sit-down, the President embraced, apparently for the first time, an idea that is standard practice among most other industrial democracies: Election Day should be a national holiday.

It's a nice idea, but you can file this one under "not happening, ever." The business interests who foot many of the bills for the GOP dislike few things more than they dislike the idea of paying their employees for yet another day of not working. Recall the tooth-and-nail fight over MLK, Jr., day, for example. And beyond that, anything that made it easier for working people to vote would be an enormous boon to the Democrats, perhaps even enough to overcome all the gerrymandering. So, don't be making any plans for your Election Day party anytime soon. (Z)

Beware of Professors Bearing Prediction Models

We are at the time in the election cycle where the news is a bit slow, since the primary drama is winding down, while the general election drama hasn't yet heated up yet. One excellent way to fill column inches/light up pixels while we are in the doldrums is with "prediction" columns, whether about the VP, or the turnout on Election Day, or the results of the presidential race. And a distinct sub-genre within this category is the scholar who has "predicted every election" since nineteen-whenever, weighing in with his or her projection. The Washington Post published a specimen of this sub-genre on Thursday, interviewing historian Allan Lichtman, who says he has gotten every election since 1984 correct.

Lichtman's track record may sound impressive, but really, it's not so much. "Since 1984" covers a total of eight elections. In six of those, the gap between the winner and runner-up was 5% of the vote or more, which is generally the standard for declaring a blowout. Just about anyone could have predicted those; it's like "predicting" that Ohio State will defeat Upper Northeastern Arkansas State University and Barbers' College in football. That leaves us with 2012, which was decided by 4% of the vote and wasn't particularly dramatic either, and 2000 where, technically, either answer would have been "correct."

So, while Lichtman is a fine historian, his model doesn't actually have a track record that means anything. Further, he hasn't yet been able to make a prediction for 2016 (perhaps he will be waiting until November 7). And if he, or any other scholar, does make a pronouncement, there's simply no way that history-based models can project an oddball election like this one. (Z)

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---The Votemaster
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