Needed 1990
Buttigieg 23
Sanders 21
Warren 8
Klobuchar 7
Biden 6
Bloomberg 0
Steyer 0
Remaining 3914
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Sanders Won’t Release Full Medical Records
Sanders Opens Huge Lead In California
Barr Told Confidants He May Quit Over Trump Tweets
Trump Backers Seek to Raise Extra $1 Billion
TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Sanders Poised to Hit the Jackpot in Nevada
      •  Did You Hear that Obama Has Picked a Candidate?
      •  Trump Is Affecting Schoolchildren, and Not for the Better
      •  Disingenuous or Dimwitted?
      •  Today's Ratfu**ing News
      •  Loomer Is the GOP Establishment Candidate in FL-21
      •  The Bromance Appears to Be Over

Sanders Poised to Hit the Jackpot in Nevada

After about a month of radio silence, we finally have some polling of Nevada, from Data for Progress and WPA Intelligence/The Las Vegas Review-Journal. Here are the numbers, as they have it:

Candidate DfP WPA Average
Bernie Sanders 35% 25% 30.0%
Joe Biden 14% 18% 16.0%
Elizabeth Warren 16% 13% 14.5%
Pete Buttigieg 15% 10% 12.5%
Tom Steyer 10% 11% 10.5%
Amy Klobuchar 9% 10% 9.5%
Tulsi Gabbard 2% 0% 1.0%

It is pretty clear that the Silver State is Sen. Bernie Sanders' (I-VT) to lose. As to exactly how big his lead is, well, that depends on whom you trust. Data for Progress is a self-described "Progressive pollster," and has—surprise, surprise—a house effect that tends to favor strongly left-leaning candidates. On the other hand, WPA Intelligence has a fairly poor record as a pollster, and is working here for someone who dislikes progressive candidates, particularly progressive Jews, namely Review-Journal publisher Sheldon Adelson. Could they be putting their thumb on the scale a bit for non-Sanders candidates? Maybe.

It's not just the pollsters that have Sanders in the lead (by whatever margin), though. The other campaigns concede, quietly, that they are jockeying for second and third place. They must have internal polling that backs that up. And, as you can see above, the next five candidates are tightly clustered enough that anything could happen, particularly given the quirky nature of caucuses. For example, Joe Biden could finish second, which would allow him to argue that he's "righted the ship" heading into South Carolina. Or, he might finish fifth, finishing a trifecta of bad results that would likely leave him a dead man walking. From the other end, a second-place finish would help Sen. Amy Klobuchar (DFL-MN) make the case that the Klobucharge is real, while a fifth-place finish would suggest she can't win in states that are less than 90% white, even if those states are pretty centrist. There's also a version of events where the other candidates struggle to make the cutoff, and Sanders claims the lion's share of delegates. One debate and four days until we find out. Unless, of course, the Nevadans decide to do their best Iowa impersonation, in which case we might not find out until mid-March. (Z)

Did You Hear that Obama Has Picked a Candidate?

Presumably, if Barack Obama decided to endorse a candidate, that would be big, big news. After all, it would be a contravention of all the norms of presidential campaigning, as previous Oval Office occupants have remained on the sidelines during primary season (expect that custom to go by the wayside once President Trump is ex-President Trump; assuming he's still around in 2024/2028, and does not reside in a place that forbids computer access to residents, there is zero chance he sits on his hands during the GOP primaries). Beyond breaking norms, Obama is the most popular Democrat in the land, with the possible exception of his wife. His endorsement would be a huge get for any Democrat, and any candidate who was so fortunate would trumpet #44's support from the highest endorsement.

Since you have heard nothing like this, it's fair to conclude that Obama has not thrown his support behind any of the candidates. And yet, if you saw this commercial for Mike Bloomberg, you might think otherwise:

Indeed, as the spot eased its way into heavy rotation over the weekend, Facebook and Twitter were full of people talking about it, and concluding that Obama had indeed given his endorsement to the former NYC mayor.

Needless to say, Bloomberg knows that Obama isn't going to back any Democratic primary candidate. On the other hand, Bloomberg also knows that "No Drama Obama" isn't going to speak up and push back against something like this. So, either the ad is misleading and unfair, or it's exceedingly shrewd and well-timed. Maybe it is all of these things. Certainly, the candidates who have actual, strong ties to Obama have done very little to take advantage of that, which is what left an opening for Bloomberg in the first place. And if Bloomberg has made anything clear thus far, it's that if he senses an opportunity, he'll take it. (Z)

Trump Is Affecting Schoolchildren, and Not for the Better

The Washington Post has a sad, but not altogether shocking, story about schoolyard bullying in the Age of Trump. Kids, of course, model the behavior of adults. And so, very predictably, schools have noticed a pattern in the last 2-3 years of students bullying their classmates using both the rhetoric and the techniques associated with the President. More than three-quarters of the attacks are being directed at kids who are...wait for, Latino, or Muslim. There have also been a small but palpable number of attacks directed at Trump-supporting students.

We deliberately placed this item after the one on Bloomberg's realpolitik Obama commercial because we wonder if Democrats see an opportunity here and are willing to seize it. There are three things that nearly every American voter has a soft spot for: pets, veterans, and children. That's why pretty much every SOTU features some sort of homage to a kid and to a veteran, and also a reference to the presidential pets if one can be snuck in (doesn't work for Trump because he has no interest in pets that aren't of the Penthouse sort). In any case, one can imagine a spot, sad music in the background, featuring children recounting incidents of Trumpian bullying. This is not something a specific campaign would want to do, for fear of being attacked as mercenary and opportunistic, but a Democratic-affiliated super PAC with a name like "Save the Kids PAC"? It could be pretty powerful, and an obvious counterpoint to First Lady Melania Trump's flaccid "Be Best" campaign.

And as long as we're on the subject of anti-Trump ads that hit hard, and somewhere south of the belt, we should mention this hypothetical ad put together by the staff at "Real Time with Bill Maher" (it starts at 2:33):

For those who don't care to watch, the would-be ad, which spread like wildfire as a meme in the last couple of weeks, cuts together various clips of the President stumbling badly over his words, interspersed with third-party comments, so as to make the argument that Trump is not well, neurologically.

Again, an actual Democratic campaign probably can't get away with an ad like that, but some sort of affiliated super PAC? There's no question that the GOP is going to get down into the gutter during the general election; the only question is if the Democrats are going to respond in kind. Indeed, should Mike Bloomberg fail to become the Party's candidate, and if he sticks by his plan to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to defeat Trump, an ad featuring bullied children or one highlighting Trump's neurological decline seem exactly like the kinds of things he'll pursue. (Z)

Disingenuous or Dimwitted?

In the last week or so, a pair of prominent Republicans have sent tweets that are...interesting in a very similar way. Let's start with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who tweeted this:

And then there was Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who tweeted this:

What do these two tweets, one referencing "The Simpsons," and the other about an Alabama lawmaker, have in common? Well, they both actually illustrate the exact opposite point of the ones that the Secretary/Senator intended to make. In Pompeo's case, he meant to mock Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), and her public tearing up of Donald Trump's State of the Union address. However, the plot of that particular episode has Lisa Simpson writing a glowing pro-democracy essay that wins her a trip to Washington, then discovering that the entire city is corrupt, and finally destroying her essay in protest. "The city of Washington was built on a stagnant swamp some 200 years ago, and very little has changed. It stank then and it stinks now—only today it is the fetid stench of corruption that hangs in the air," she explains. The message that Lisa Simpson was sending with her act of defiance, and that Pelosi was sending with hers, are so similar that one wonders if the Speaker has seen this particular episode (it's one of the series' most famous, and first aired back in 1991) and was specifically trying to reference it.

Meanwhile, the legislation that State Sen. Rolanda Hollis "proposed" would require men to get a vasectomy after having three kids or turning 50. The reason we put "proposed" in quotations is that Hollis has no intention of seeing the measure become law. It's a stunt meant to make a pro-choice statement about how the government should not be involved in telling people what to do with their reproductive systems. And so, when the pro-life Cruz says, "A government big enough to give you everything is big enough to take everything...literally!" he's helping make Hollis' point.

We spent a fair bit of time on Monday trying to figure out what is going on here, and were unable to come up with a satisfactory answer. One possibility, of course, is that Pompeo and Cruz both knew full well that they were appropriating things that run contrary to their public positions, and that they naively believed that nobody would notice. We are entirely willing to accept that one or both men could be that disingenuous, but could they possibly believe that nobody would be aware of the plot of one of the most popular episodes of one of the most popular TV series of all time, or that nobody would read about Hollis' bill and figure out what's going on?

The alternative here is that Pompeo and Cruz really didn't understand what they were tweeting. We can certainly believe that a stuffed shirt like Pompeo is not exactly up-to-date on any pop culture that came along after Lawrence Welk stopped making new episodes. But did Cruz really not get what was going on? He's supposed to be sharp as a tack. After all, he went to Princeton and Harvard, and...he has Princeton and Harvard degrees, we mention his time at Princeton and Harvard? And in any event, Hollis' message was designed to reach a broad audience, and presumably doesn't require an Ivy League degree to parse. The upshot is that we can't quite figure it all out, excepting that these are apparently the kinds of things that happen when other Republicans try to emulate the black-belt level Twitter jiu-jitsu of Donald Trump. (Z)

Today's Ratfu**ing News

As we note above, it's going to be an ugly campaign in 2020, on every level. We think it's fair to say that while both parties have tried their share of dirty tricks over the years, the modern GOP is the one that is currently much more comfortable with the "anything it takes to win" approach. Certainly, the Republicans are the ones who have a greater need to play defense this cycle. And so, it is not a surprise that reports of GOP ratfu**ing are already coming in, fast and furious.

This week, the big story on that front comes out of North Carolina. The Democratic establishment's preferred candidate in this year's Senate race is Cal Cunningham. As a moderate and a veteran who nearly won a Senate race in 2010, he checks a lot of boxes. The Republicans know this, and a murky super PAC called the Faith and Power PAC has been running lots of ads on behalf of Cunningham rival Erica Smith. The ads appear to be pro-Smith, touting her as "the only proven progressive" in the race. What they are trying to set up, however, is a nasty primary between Cunningham and the poorly funded Smith. And if Smith somehow wins, then the Faith and Power PAC and other North Carolina Republicans will spend the entire general election presenting her as being so far left that she makes Bernie Sanders look like Ronald Reagan.

Smith has disavowed the ads, although she's not dropping out, so she apparently isn't too bothered. In any case, that North Carolina Senate seat, which Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) is trying to defend, is likely going to be key to controlling the upper chamber. And the Tar Heel State has a long history of rough and tumble politics. So, expect this particular contest to be an ongoing soap opera. (Z)

Loomer Is the GOP Establishment Candidate in FL-21

Speaking of ugly campaigns, here's one that's ugly in an entirely different way. Ultra-right-wing pundit/activist Laura Loomer is in the running for the title of "most hateful woman in America." She is notoriously Islamophobic, and has called for a complete ban on Muslim travel to the United States, while also suggesting that the Muslims already in the country should be expelled. She's also got a taste for conspiracy theories; in particular, she is more than happy to declare that most or all mass shootings are "false flag" operations staged by actors. In short, she's a young, female, Canadian-born version of Alex Jones, except without the business selling wacky supplements. She's been banned by pretty much every major social media platform. She's also banned by Lyft and Uber, due to her habit of leaving scathing "reviews" of drivers she believes to be Muslim.

Anyhow, Loomer now has a justification for her "activism," beyond raising money for her Patreon account. She's running for the House from FL-21, and is the preferred candidate of the Republican establishment, particularly Florida GOP chairman and State Sen. Joe Gruters. FL-21 is D+9, and is currently represented by four-term incumbent Lois Frankel, who is running for reelection. So, Loomer isn't going to win. Still, anyone who thinks that the more unsavory elements of Trumpism are just coming from him, and will disappear from the GOP once he's out of office, would do well to reconsider that conclusion. Loomer isn't just a random person on the fringe who managed to steal a nomination because nobody else bothered to file, like Arthur Jones. She is the person the Florida Republican Party has publicly supported as its preferred candidate. (Z)

The Bromance Appears to Be Over

There is a presumption that Donald Trump and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson should be the best of friends. After all, their personal and political styles are similar, they rose to power on waves of right-wing populism, and they've been buddy-buddy in the past. However, for months there have been signs of trouble in paradise, dating at least as far back as the time when Johnson was caught on camera mocking Trump. Now it would appear that the honeymoon is entirely over. This weekend, news broke that Trump and Johnson had a shouting match on the phone last month that ended with the President hanging up on the PM.

The broad issue here is that Trump has a view of international relations that mirrors the approach he took to "partners" during his business career. When the President wants something, he says "Jump!," and he expects a response of "How high?" At the same time, he thinks of these things as a one-way street, and has no interest in reciprocity or in living up to any obligations of his own. That sort of one-sided relationship will barely get it done with the smaller nations of the world, and it certainly won't get it done with the Brits, who are themselves a world power, and who don't take too kindly to bullying from a nation that was once their colonies.

The specific issue that soured the Trump-Johnson relationship is Huawei. Trump, for his part, insisted that Johnson support the trade war and refuse to do business with the Chinese conglomerate. Johnson, for his part, said "No, thanks!" They argued loudly, the President hung up, and the PM canceled a planned diplomatic trip to the U.S. Now, he says he won't visit until he absolutely has to, which means the June meeting of the G-7. Developing a tense relationship with, say, Iran or North Korea is no trick. Many presidents have managed to do that. On the other hand, messing up the United States' relationship with the country that is, arguably, her closest ally? It's been several generations (at least) since a president managed to pull that off. (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Feb17 Over 1,000 Former Dept. of Justice Officials Call on Barr to Resign
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Feb14 Nevada Unveils New Caucus Procedures
Feb14 Nevada Polling Update
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Feb13 The Accidental Rivals Face Off
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