Needed 1990
Buttigieg 23
Sanders 21
Warren 8
Klobuchar 7
Biden 6
Bloomberg 0
Steyer 0
Remaining 3914
Political Wire logo New Jersey Governor Has Kidney Tumor
O’Brien Says ‘No Intelligence Behind’ Meddling Claims
Trump Weighs In on Nevada
Bernie Sanders Wins In Nevada
Russian Among Us
Judge Dismisses Nunes Lawsuit Against Fusion GPS
TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  It's the Silver State's Time to Shine
      •  Russians Are Trying to Help Sanders, Too
      •  Saturday Q&A

It's the Silver State's Time to Shine

Today, the good people of Nevada will get to have their say in the presidential race. Well, the Democrats will, at least. The Republicans decided to cancel their caucus and automatically award all of the state's delegates to Donald Trump.

Each of the Democrats in the race has certain goals today, though for some those goals are more critical than for others. Here's the breakdown:

  • Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is almost certainly going to "win" Nevada. However, he would very much like to overperform his polling numbers, and he would also like a commanding win instead of a close win in terms of delegates won. There is no doubt he is solid with Latino voters, who make up a sizable percentage of Nevada Democrats. However, he would like big momentum heading into South Carolina, in hopes of using that state to prove that black voters are not his Achilles' heel.

  • Joe Biden and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) are running short on funds. A strong finish—second, or maybe third place—and they will bring in at least a few million in donations and will be in OK (if not great) shape heading into Super Tuesday. A weak finish, and the donations will dry up, leaving them to coast into Super Tuesday on fumes. If they make it that far, that is.

  • Sen. Amy Klobuchar (DFL-MN) doesn't have money problems yet, and is on the rise, but she needs to show that she can do OK in a state that's not 90% white.

  • Pete Buttigieg has both of these problems; he's running out of cash and he needs to prove that he can make some inroads with nonwhite voters. If he can make the top three, it will suggest he's not a fluke, and maybe even that he's the primary challenger to Sanders.

  • Tom Steyer needs something, anything that suggests he's viable. He's bet very heavily on South Carolina, but he's also dropped a ton of money in Nevada, and has tailored his debate remarks to nonwhite voters. If he barely makes a blip on the radar, he might as well start packing up.

  • Mike Bloomberg isn't on the ballot, but he's nonetheless got some skin in the game today. Though he and Sanders disdain each other, the former NYC mayor will nonetheless be rooting for the Vermont Senator to put up a dominant performance. Why? Because that will frighten moderates into thinking that Sanders is pulling away from the pack, and that none of the moderates on the actual ballot can stop him. That's when Bloomberg swoops in to "save" the day.

  • Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) would love to collect a delegate or two, which she might just do in Fallon or in Indian Springs, both of them home to military bases. She's not going to be the Democrats' nominee, but if she has delegates, she has to be kept in the conversation, which means more publicity for whatever it is she's actually pursuing (Fox news job? Book contract? Lobbyist position? Cabinet post?).

DNC chair Tom Perez is not on the ballot, of course, but he has a pretty big goal in mind, too: Avoid a fiasco like Iowa. Nevada is using under-tested software wielded by under-trained people, so what could go wrong? If the Party manages to get it right nonetheless, and to report actual and correct results by this evening, then Iowa will just seem like a bad dream. On the other hand, if it's Keystone Kops, the sequel, then party members will be furious, and Republicans will paint the Democrats, with some evidence, as incompetent. "If they can't even run an election, how can they run the country?" will be the question. Perez would very much prefer to not have to answer that. We will know, one way or the other, around 6:00 p.m. PT tonight, which is when the first results are expected. (Z)

Russians Are Trying to Help Sanders, Too

It looks like Donald Trump is not the only candidate whom Vladimir Putin supports. He's also a Bernie Bro, of sorts. According to U.S. intelligence officials, the Russians are doing what they can to interfere in the Democratic primaries, and to secure the Party's nomination for Bernie Sanders.

On Friday, Sanders announced that he and his campaign had been briefed and said, "It was not clear what role they're going to play. We were told that Russia, maybe other countries, are going to get involved in this campaign." To his credit, Sanders also said: "[H]ere's the message to Russia: stay out of American elections." Not so much to his credit is that it took him a month to make this information public, and he only did so the day after the story about the Russians helping Trump again became public. That timing is not the best look, and could be read as an attempt by the Senator to keep the information secret.

What is to be gleaned from the fact that Sanders is the Russians' candidate (or one of them, at least; there is also evidence they aided Tulsi Gabbard)? A pro-Sanders interpretation would go something like this: "Even the Russians know he's a disruptor, and that he'll shake things up." An anti-Sanders interpretation would go something like this: "Even the Russians know he's a weak candidate, and the one most likely to lose to Donald Trump, the man they would like to see in office for another four years." We're inclined to think that one of these interpretations is more plausible than the other, but your mileage may vary. (Z)

Saturday Q&A

Lots of interest in potential VP picks this week.

Q: Can you think of anything Trump has done that fails to fit the explanation that he is a Russian mole? D.G., Fargo, ND

A: There is sure a lot of evidence pointing in that direction, isn't there? And you sent us this message before the story broke that Russia is interfering in the elections once again.

Nonetheless, let us play devil's advocate. Trump has been something of an isolationist for decades. He was generally critical of the various wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, has never liked NATO or the U.N., doesn't see a lot of value in helping other countries to help defend themselves (even if they are allies), and so forth. His isolationism is a little strange, since he also likes vigorous trade and a large military, both of which tend to run counter to isolationism. But he's an isolationist nonetheless.

Meanwhile, Vlad Putin recognizes that the U.S. is the most powerful country in the world, and is the single biggest check on his ambitions in Europe (especially Ukraine) and in the Middle East (especially Syria). If the U.S. backs off of its commitments to NATO, the EU, Syrian Kurds, etc., then that is a win for the Russian president.

So, it may be that the two men aren't working together, merely that they are traveling parallel paths that have the same end result. If so, it would presumably also be the case that Putin foresaw what a Trump foreign policy would look like, and that is a big part of the reason he worked hard to get the Donald elected. In this scenario, Trump would not be a mole, he would be a useful idiot (to use the Russian term).

Q: Is there a path for Donald Trump to win any states he did not win in 2016? Are any states trending redder? B.M., Asheville, NC

A: As to your first question, there are four blue states from 2016 he might flip: Nevada, Minnesota, New Mexico, and Colorado. However, Nevada and Minnesota are semi-longshots, and the other two are long-longshots.

As to your second question, Ohio is the obvious one. As we recently noted, the Buckeye State was once pretty swingy, but has given its electoral votes to only two Democrats since 1976 (Bill Clinton and Barack Obama), while five of the last six governors have been Republicans. It may be that the upper Midwest (Wisconsin, Michigan, maybe Minnesota) is trending redder, but there isn't enough data yet to support that conclusion. In any case, all of the states that are or may be trending redder, excepting Minnesota, were already won by Trump in 2016.

To answer your questions in a different way: It is unlikely that Trump will win any states due merely to natural demographic and political change (the way the Democrats might just win Georgia or Florida or North Carolina this time). If the President adds any new states to his column, it will either be because he ran a better campaign than in 2016, or the Democrats nominated a weaker candidate.

Q: The Democrats won Wisconsin in seven consecutive presidential elections until Donald Trump carried it by a small margin in 2016. Now, it looks like he will easily carry Wisconsin in 2020. What has changed since the 2012 election that Wisconsin looks so strong for the President in 2020? J.P.B, Wellington, KS

A: Well, outside of the two Obama elections, where #44 won by 14% and 7%, Wisconsin has actually been very close since the year 2000. In 2016 the margin was 0.7%, in 2004 0.4%, and in 2000 0.2%. So, whatever mojo Trump has, it's apparently not quite as powerful as Obama's mojo. And even if he wins the state, it's not likely to be by much.

What is it that allowed Trump to eke out a victory in the Badger State, and may allow him to do so again? We will present you with three possibilities. First, Wisconsin has a fair number of farming- and manufacturing-related jobs, and Trump is the candidate who is telling folks in those industries that everything is gonna be ok and we can eventually go back to where we were in 1955 (even if that is not true). That's usually a more electable message than "the way of life you knew and your ancestors knew is finished, time for you to find something else." Second, Wisconsin has a history of supporting rabble-rousing politicians from all parts of the spectrum. The most prominent member of the Progressive Party was Robert M. La Follette, a Wisconsin governor and senator. The only city in America to thrice elect a socialist mayor is Milwaukee. The loudest voice during the Red Scare of the 1950s was Wisconsin senator Joseph McCarthy. If nothing else, Trump is certainly a rabble-rouser. Third, as home to several of the most prominent GOP operatives of the last 20 years, including former Speaker Paul Ryan and former RNC chair Reince Priebus, Wisconsin Republicans have built very impressive electoral infrastructure and get out the vote operations in the last 10-15 years. Trump's apparent success in Wisconsin could be due to any or all of these things.

Q: Might the Coronavirus (COVID-19) become Trump's Hurricane Katrina? COVID-19 has been spreading out in Asia from Japan to Korea to Iran. It might reach the USA before November, and the Trump administration has been cutting funding for the World Health Organization (WHO). Perhaps with proper funding, the WHO could have stopped COVID-19 before it left Wuhan. R.M., Pasadena, CA

A: We think this is extremely unlikely.

To start, Trump is bulletproof, and so there may be nothing in the universe that could become his Hurricane Katrina. Beyond that, however, a hurricane inflicts vast damage pretty much all at once, and is more likely to trigger a strong emotional response from voters, who will then look for someone to blame. A disease progresses more slowly, is considerably less likely to generate such a response, and is vastly less likely to be traced back to a president's policies.

Indeed, we struggle to think of any example where the occupant of the White House was blamed for an epidemic of disease. For example, AIDS was first properly identified during the Reagan administration, and emerged as a palpable public health crisis while the Gipper was still in office. Not only did Team Ronnie do nothing about it, they were cavalier in joking about it as a "gay plague," hinted that the whole thing might be overblown, and quite pointedly refused to fund research for many years. The Reagans also turned their back on longtime friend Rock Hudson when he reached out to them in his final days, as he died from the disease. You can read a rather scathing indictment here, if you'd like. In any event, there is no evidence that the spread of AIDS on Reagan's watch hurt him at the polls, or in terms of his historical reputation. Hard to see how Trump would be different.

Q: I've seen lots of articles about what the Democrats need to do to win control of the Senate this year, but none seem to address what happens if and when one of the Democratic senators wins the Presidency. Can you comment? H.J.P., Fletcher, NC

A: We've addressed this once or twice, but it's important, and so worth mentioning again. If Amy Klobuchar were to be elected, then it falls to Gov. Tim Walz (DFL-MN) to pick a replacement, who would serve until November 2022. If Bernie Sanders were to be elected, then Gov. Phil Scott (R-VT) would be required by law to schedule a special election within three months of Sanders' vacating the office. If Elizabeth Warren were to be elected, then Gov. Charlie Baker (R-MA) could pick an interim senator but is also required to schedule a special election within 145-160 days of Warren vacating the office. If Sanders or Warren were to win, they would probably leave the Senate a few days after the election to start the clock.

In short, none of the three would automatically cost the Democrats a Senate seat, if elected. It's possible a Republican could swoop in and win a special election, particularly in Vermont, but not especially likely because Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT), Vermont's sole representative, has been in politics for decades and is very well known in the state. He would be close to a shoo-in unless Scott ran against him.

Q: Last night, I watched Rachel Maddow and she read a bit from the transcript of the Roger Stone sentencing. Judge Amy Berman Jackson was pretty strident in what she had to say about Stone and his defense. The prosecutor also did a great job of apologizing for the actions of AG William Barr and strongly supported the original sentencing memo of 7-9 years. The judge then said that she would sentence Stone based on his actions and not hold the AG's and President's actions against him. And then she gave him a sentence that was "far less" than the guidelines suggest. My question is, do you have any ideas why? R.J.C., Salem, OR

A: If you are suspicious that Jackson was influenced by Trump/Barr, we think that is exceedingly unlikely. In fact, she was almost certainly tempted to make the sentence a little harsher in order to send the President and his AG a message to back off. Her remark about not punishing Stone for their actions should be read as communicating that message.

The likely explanation here is that federal sentencing guidelines are a little rigid, and don't necessarily fit neatly in every situation. The prosecutors undoubtedly followed the guidelines closely, and pushed for the maximum, because that is what prosecutors do. Jackson undoubtedly took note that Stone's lies were intended to provide political cover for Donald Trump and not to hide his own underlying crimes, that Stone is a first-time offender, and that his crimes were non-violent. More than three years in the slammer is actually a pretty hefty sentence under those circumstances, even if it's below the minimum that was asked for by the prosecution.

Q: Can you explain the etymology of the term "ratf**king"? How did that specific term originate? P.M., Currituck, NC

A: The public became aware of the term in the 1970s thanks to reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. However, its origins date back at least as early as the 1950s. By then, for reasons lost to the mists of time, ratf**king was a common slang term among Southern California college students as slang for a prank (usually a harmless one). Eventually, fraternity brothers at that noted paragon of integrity and straight shooting, the University of Southern California, began to use the term to refer to the dirty tricks they used to win student government elections. A lot of USC frat boys (Ron Ziegler, H. R. Haldeman, Donald Segretti, Dwight Chapin, etc.) ended up in the Nixon administration and brought the term along with them.

There is also a story, possibly apocryphal, that "rat" is derived from "ration," and refers to soldiers on the battlefield opening unused prepackaged meals ("rations") and stealing the candy, leaving the rest untouched for some poor unsuspecting soldier to wonder where his candy is.

Incidentally, we've had multiple readers propose that we should skip the asterisks and just write the word out. We understand that sentiment, since everyone knows what the missing letters are anyhow. However, slurs and curse words come off more harshly in written form than spoken. If you ever watch the subtitles of a movie with lots of four-letter words, you will see that the captioner almost always tones the language down. Anyhow, our gut feel says that "ratf**ing" and "pu**y grabbing" would be just a little too abrasive if written out properly.

Q: Does a presidential pardon wipe that conviction away from a person's record? Or can a court still take it into sentencing consideration if that person commits another offense later on? I'm thinking some of those Trump just pardoned may not have had their last encounter with the justice system. Could they be sentenced as repeat offenders in that event? K.H., Ypsilanti, MI

A: The presidential pardon power is quite expansive; the president can wipe out a prison sentence, or a fine, or can forestall a prosecution from taking place. It can be used on behalf of people accused of and/or convicted of violating any federal law (but not state laws, and not folks who have been impeached).

What a pardon does not do, however, is wipe the person's record clean. They remain convicted, and must reveal that information on job applications, requests for security clearances, and the like. If convicted of future crimes, they are subject to being treated as repeat offenders. In all of these scenarios, the person is allowed to point out that they were pardoned, but again, that does not change the fact of the original conviction.

You may ask why some of the folks who were favored by Trump this week wanted or needed a pardon, since some have already served their sentences. The first reason is that they may still have fines due (e.g., Bernard Kerik) or they may try to recover money they already paid (e.g., Michael Milken). The second reason is symbolic; they can tell themselves and others that a "wrong" has been "righted." Sometimes, that's quite apropos. In other cases, well, it's hard to argue that someone like Milken or Kerik was wrongfully convicted.

You didn't ask this, but we'll throw in that there is one other limit on the pardon power: The recipient has to agree to be pardoned. It's not common, but on rare occasions the pardon has been declined. And, per the 1833 Supreme Court decision in United States v. Wilson, that means the pardon is null and void.

Q: I have a simple question for you: What do you think of Bernie Sanders' chances of winning against Donald Trump in the general election, should he become the nominee? M.N., Ithaca, NY

A: We have a couple of items on this subject coming up, but for now we will say that—under current circumstances, and with the information currently available—we think that Sanders is probably the most vulnerable of the six leading Democrats, and that a Trump-Sanders matchup would be close to a coin flip.

The fundamental dynamic of 2020 is that the Democrats need to win a couple of medium to big states that they did not win in 2016. And it's pretty tough to find states like that where Sanders is more likely to pull off the feat than his rivals. The Vermont Senator is not polling especially well in Florida, Pennsylvania, or North Carolina compared to his Democratic brethren, while he's middle of the pack in Nevada and Arizona. All of the Democrats, including Sanders, are polling poorly in Wisconsin. Outside of Michigan, maybe, and possibly Iowa, we're not seeing states where Sanders currently has a leg up on the other members of the blue team. And even if he did flip those two (and Iowa's a longshot), it's not enough (284-254 for Trump).

That said, we will also add that the difference between the strongest Democrat (whoever that might be right now) and the most vulnerable is not enormous. Also, though we would guess Sanders is most vulnerable among the top six Democrats, we would also seriously entertain the possibility that Pete Buttigieg deserves that "honor."

But once again, we emphasize that in politics, a week is a long time. Stuff happens. If the economy goes south, Trump will lose his strongest argument for another term. If the Supreme Court orders the Treasury Dept. to turn Trump's tax returns over to Congress and it turns out that he is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Moscow-based Alfa Bank, which is run by one of Vladimir Putin's cronies, that could hurt Trump with independents. Trump or Sanders could have a health scare. And then there are the unknown unknowns. Anybody who claims to know who the next president will be is making it up.

Q: Who would Bernie Sanders pick for a running mate? He can't choose a moderate, as his supporters would feel betrayed. Who is a prominent lefty who would run with him? Elizabeth Warren? She might refuse. D.K., Iowa City, IA

A: First of all, we're going to offer the standard caveat about VP picks: The numbers show they don't matter nearly as much as people think.

Now, with that said, we are going to push back at the notion that Sanders can't pick a moderate. In fact, he will almost certainly have to do so if he's the nominee, to do what he can to shore up his centrist support. It would probably need to be a person of color. And we doubt that the Democrats can get away with a ticket that has two Y-chromosomes, given their desire to keep making inroads with suburban women, so it will likely have to be a female VP if the presidential candidate is male.

However, far and away the most important consideration of all, should Sanders get the nod, will be this: The VP will absolutely have to be relatively young and healthy. The Senator is a man in his high 70s who just had a heart attack. He's gotta have someone who could plausibly take over if the worst comes to pass.

Much of this points to Stacey Abrams, and she could very well be the pick, as she checks a lot of good boxes. That said, it's hard to argue that service as a state legislator is adequate preparation for the most powerful job in the world. Possibly Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), who has run a large bureaucracy (the California Dept. of Justice), and has at least served on the federal level. That said, she didn't make much of a case for her campaign skills before she dropped out of the race.

Anyhow, if you made us bet money, and required us to place our bets right now, we'd have to go with Abrams or Harris. However, let's also give you a pick out of left field: Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL). She's a woman of color, a combat veteran, a working mother, fairly centrist, has both executive and legislative branch experience, and is a Midwesterner. Oh, and she's only 51. We haven't seen anybody seriously talking about her as a possibility, and she's got some liabilities like any politician, but she sure does seem to make a nice pairing with Sanders or with several of the other Democratic candidates.

Q: I agree with your statement that Barack Obama will try to unify the party during and after the convention. And I suggest that the surest way to unify Team Blue is for Obama to run as vice president. The 22nd amendment states that no person may be elected more than twice as president. This would allow Obama to run as VP and even become President if, for example, Bernie Sanders had a debilitating heart attack.

Two questions: 1) Am I misinterpreting the 22nd amendment? and 2) Would Obama be willing to make the personal sacrifice of getting back into the fray?
J.A., Woodstock, VA

A: There are two key passages from the Constitution here. The first, which you mention, is from the 22nd amendment:

No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice, and no person who has held the office of President, or acted as President, for more than two years of a term to which some other person was elected President shall be elected to the office of the President more than once.

And the second is from the 12th Amendment:

But no person constitutionally ineligible to the office of President shall be eligible to that of Vice-President of the United States.

As you point out, it is clear that Obama could not be elected again. However, it's not clear that he is ineligible to serve. And there is the rub, because if he is eligible to serve, then he is eligible to be vice-president. You will sometimes see websites/articles/pundits that say that this question has a clear answer, and the answer is X. However, they are talking out of some part of the body other than their mouths. Nobody really knows the answer for sure, nor will they know until the matter is put to the test in the courts.

In any case, we think it's unlikely that Obama would be willing to be a part of this sort of stunt casting. He's done his duty, and will help try to get another Democrat elected, but he also has his limits.

Is Obama through with being in government? Probably, but we should note that after William Howard Taft served a term as president, he was later appointed to the Supreme Court. Obama was once a professor of constitutional law, so an appointment to the Supreme Court would not be totally out of left field, if he were interested.

Q: I would appreciate your take on something that Thomas Friedman recently wrote: "[Mike] Bloomberg—paired with a progressive vice-presidential candidate who can appeal to [Bernie] Sanders' voters—has the best chance to carry the day."

(Z) recently wrote: "[Bloomberg] could try to handle [the stop-and-frisk issue] by (1) apologizing profusely and saying what he did was wrong, and (2) backing this up by picking a black woman as his running mate, most likely Stacey Abrams or Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA)." I would argue that Abrams is too green (and didn't win her election), while Harris is the better choice due to her standing as the highest ranking elected black woman in America today. But a Californian brings no new electoral votes, and Harris never really caught on with the black voters. Unless Michelle Obama (or another billionaire, Oprah) steps up to save the day, there really are no great black, female choices.

So, I wonder if you could seriously examine Friedman's suggestion and consider this: A Bloomberg-Keith Ellison ticket. Ellison was the first member of Congress to endorse Sanders in 2015, and he endorsed him again this time around. While in Congress, Ellison was Vice Chair of the Progressive Caucus as well as the LGBT Caucus. He served as Deputy Chair of the DNC for nearly two years.
K.A., Key Largo, FL

A: Let us begin by saying that we have not been overwhelmed by the quality of Friedman's recent political analysis. Maybe once you've got a third Pulitzer in your pocket, you put it in cruise control. In any event, Bloomberg's name has yet to appear on a presidential ballot, and he's already deeply wounded. Maybe he will recover, maybe he won't, but one cannot seriously declare at this moment that "Bloomberg + X is the Democrats' best hope."

As to a Bloomberg-Ellison pairing, your message also contained a thoughtful list of reasons why this makes sense. We did not include it, though, because this is never, ever going to happen. Not in a million years. As we note above, the Democrats will probably have to have a woman on the ticket. And if they do not, there is simply no way they can go with one man who has paid off a bunch of sexual harassment lawsuits and another who has been accused of domestic assault. And yes, we know an investigation cleared Ellison, but that doesn't matter. The optics are just too poor.

Q: In your item about Florida's voter law drama, you mentioned that the judges in the latest episode were two appointed by Jimmy Carter and one from Ronald Reagan. This had me thinking. Are there still judges serving from even older administrations? Gerald Ford or Richard Nixon? Maybe even an LBJ or JFK appointment? Who is the longest serving federal judge on the bench currently, and who appointed them? A.D., Charleston, WV

A: Well, that depends on your definition. As you may know, federal judges can assume "senior status" if they are at least 65 years old, and their age plus the length of their service equals at least 80 years. Senior status is semi-retirement; such judges no longer have a regular docket or courtroom, but they sit on the bench when asked, or when they feel like it.

Anyhow, if we count "senior status" judges, then there is still one LBJ appointee kicking around. That's Jack B. Weinstein, who was appointed in 1967, and so has been a federal judge for close to 53 years. There are about a dozen Nixon appointees remaining, about the same number for Ford, and about two dozen Carter appointees. The folks who heard the Florida case, incidentally, have all assumed senior status.

Among judges who are still on the bench full time, the longest serving is Pauline Newman, appointed by Reagan in February 1984. Remarkably, she's 92 years old, and apparently decided that even semi-retirement was too much retirement for her. Close behind is Juan R. Torruella, appointed by Reagan in October 1984. At 86 years of age, he's practically a young whippersnapper next to Newman.

You didn't ask, but the longest serving federal judge in American history was Joseph William Woodrough, a Woodrow Wilson appointee who lasted 61-1/2 years on the bench. The longest serving judge never to assume senior status was Henry Potter, a Thomas Jefferson appointee. Inasmuch as senior status did not exist back then, Potter was a full-timer for all of his 56-plus years on the bench. And back then, judges rode circuit, so that meant that even at the ripe old age of 91, he was getting on his horse and riding out to the boondocks of Virginia and North Carolina.

Q: What was the purpose of sharing your nightmare vision? As part of your regular readership, I must protest. I'm approaching 70, but still out canvassing like my kids' world depends on it. And so far this year I'm being rewarded by seeing a lot of enthusiasm. You guys are so good at reporting the facts. I'm just asking you to please not venture into these depressing conjectures. They don't inform particularly well in my view. And most of us are perfectly capable of constructing our own nightmares. C.W., Los Angeles, CA

Q: What do you think of the idea that, if the Democrats get to a brokered/contested convention, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) might be put forward as the one to unite the party and be the nominee. And if he were to be drafted as the nominee, how do you think he'd fare against Trump? R.P., Northfield, IL

A: In response to the former question, we try to stay away from wild conjectures, unless we specifically label them as such (for example, in our year-end predictions item, or our tinkering around with the idea of Tammy Duckworth as VP, above). A scenario where Bernie Sanders wins a plurality of delegates only to lose the nomination at the convention is not a wild conjecture, though, it is now well within the realm of possibility.

The reason we point something like this out, unpleasant as the thought may be to some, is that it is the job of people like Tom Perez to make reasonable conjectures and to act accordingly. If we can foresee that as a possible outcome, then certainly Perez & Co. can see it. And that, in turn, is going to inform their behavior. We think it's very possible that if Sanders exits Super Tuesday looking like he's pulling away, that some serious Democratic muscle (Barack Obama? The Clintons? Perez? Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)? All of the above?) are going to pull strings behind the scenes harder than they have ever pulled before in order to clear out the field and get it down to one non-Sanders alternative. Maybe this won't happen, but we would be remiss if we didn't point out the possibility.

As to the latter question, it is certainly possible that if a brokered convention does not want to choose Sanders, but also does not want to send his base into a fit of rage, that they set aside all of the Democrats who ran this year and they go with a surprise draftee. That's not especially likely, but it's possible (and was, of course, somewhat common in the years before the primary/caucus system took hold). If it does come to pass, then sure, Schiff could be tapped. He's young and charismatic and won rave reviews as the face of impeachment. Plus, he would drive Trump batty. That said, we could easily come up with a dozen others that could be the pick, if this somehow comes to pass. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV)? Al Gore? Former AG Eric Holder? Former Iowa governor and Obama Sec. of Agriculture Tom Vilsack? And if we want to get really wild: Michelle Obama doesn't want to run for president, but would she turn down the party's nomination if they bestowed it upon her against her wishes? Who knows?

Q: On your Presidents' Day quiz. you said that George Washington was the second richest president behind Donald Trump. But isn't it true that Trump's net worth isn't publicly known? News organizations have made estimates of his wealth but that's what they are, just estimates. For all we know, Trump might not even be a billionaire, which seems likely considering his history of bankruptcies and business failures. People have speculated that one reason Trump doesn't want his tax returns released is he doesn't want people to know that he's not as wealthy as he claims to be. J.B., Forest Hills, NY

A: It's true that Trump's true net worth is not known. In fact, it cannot really ever be known in the way that (Z) could figure out his net worth down to the dollar or (V) could figure out his. Trump's fortune is so complicated, and is so tied up in things whose value can only be estimated (What's the value of his "brand"? How much is Trump Tower in New York actually worth?), and is so enmeshed with complex debt obligations that any figure placed upon it is necessarily a very crude estimate. That said, most outlets who have tried to take a stab at it (Forbes, Business Insider, etc.) have come up with a figure in the billions, usually something in the ballpark of $3 billion. Even those who are more bearish have pegged it in the high 9 figures ($800 million or so). And so, the odds are very close to 100% that he ranks above Washington's $600 million.

Q: Why did you say that Sheldon Adelson particularly dislikes "progressive Jews," beyond merely progressive candidates generally? I don't understand the context that led to that. D.C., San Francisco, CA

A: When (Z) was in grad school, he had a professor who was an outspoken feminist, and who was rather notorious for her ill-treatment of male students and colleagues. Had the dynamic been reversed, with a male faculty member cultivating that reputation, or had it been 15 years later, there would have been lawsuits. That said, it wasn't the men who occupied the lowest basement of this professor's doghouse. It was women whom she deemed to be insufficiently committed to "the cause." She saw them as, in effect, traitors. Folks like this are not uncommon in academia, even if their particular group/cause varies.

Adelson has been particularly harsh in his criticism of Jews who do not see things as he does, and in particular do not support Israel as staunchly as he, sometimes saying or implying that they are not "real" Jews. Conservative pundit Ben Shapiro often says similar sorts of things. It's the same basic dynamic, utilizing the same sort of verbiage, as with (Z)'s professor.

If you have a question about politics, civics, history, etc. you would like us to answer on the site, please send it to, and include your initials and city of residence. If you have a comment about the site or one of the items therein, please send it to and include your initials and city of residence in case we decide to publish it. If you spot any typos or other errors on the site that we should fix, please let us know at
Email a link to a friend or share:

---The Votemaster and Zenger
Feb21 Russians Are Back for Another Go-Round
Feb21 Takeaways from the Debate
Feb21 Bloomberg Isn't the Anti-Trump Juggernaut He Seems to Be
Feb21 Warren Raises Almost $3 Million on Debate Night
Feb21 Wisconsin May Be the Democrats' Toughest Hill to Climb
Feb21 What about Arizona and North Carolina?
Feb21 Unicorn Sighted Far in the Distance
Feb21 Stone Wins
Feb21 Republicans Will Spend Millions to Fight Democrats' Lawsuits about Voting
Feb20 It May Have Been Paris, But Nobody Surrendered
Feb20 Is High Turnout Actually Bad for the Democrats?
Feb20 Florida Republicans Lose In Court, Again
Feb20 Assange Claims Trump Administration Tried to Bribe Him with a Pardon
Feb20 The Stone Pardon is Coming
Feb20 Obama Will Keep His Cards Close to the Vest
Feb20 Another Election, Another Challenger for Lipinski
Feb19 Scales of Justice Grow Even More Unbalanced
Feb19 Will Candidates Go All-In on Vegas Debate?
Feb19 Sanders Is Definitely Your Frontrunner Now
Feb19 Sanders Won't Release Any More Medical Records
Feb19 Latest Iowa Results: It's a Tie
Feb19 An Unfamiliar Position for California Voters
Feb19 Collins Is in Danger
Feb18 Sanders Poised to Hit the Jackpot in Nevada
Feb18 Did You Hear that Obama Has Picked a Candidate?
Feb18 Trump Is Affecting Schoolchildren, and Not for the Better
Feb18 Disingenuous or Dimwitted?
Feb18 Today's Ratfu**ing News
Feb18 Loomer Is the GOP Establishment Candidate in FL-21
Feb18 The Bromance Appears to Be Over
Feb17 Over 1,000 Former Dept. of Justice Officials Call on Barr to Resign
Feb17 Democrats Are Worried about a Possible Meltdown of the Nevada Caucuses
Feb17 Kellyanne Conway Slams Bloomberg for Sexist Remarks
Feb17 Bloomberg Is on the Cusp of Making Wednesday's Debate
Feb17 Cracks Are Appearing in Biden's South Carolina Firewall
Feb17 Klobuchar Has Raised $12 Million Since the New Hampshire Debate
Feb17 Trump Does the Daytona 500
Feb17 California's Newest Export: Blue Voters
Feb17 Presidents' Day Quiz
Feb16 Sunday Mailbag
Feb15 Saturday Q&A
Feb14 Barr Lashes Out?
Feb14 Donald Trump, Man of Steel
Feb14 Senate Pushes Back
Feb14 It's Crunch Time for Bloomberg
Feb14 Nevada Unveils New Caucus Procedures
Feb14 Nevada Polling Update
Feb14 Doug Jones Is in Deep Trouble
Feb14 Virginia Assembly Approves NPVIC
Feb13 Who Supported Whom in New Hampshire?