Needed 1990
Sanders 60
Biden 53
Buttigieg 26
Warren 8
Klobuchar 7
Bloomberg 0
Gabbard 0
Remaining 3825
Political Wire logo Nunes Sues the Washington Post
Begala Predicts Trump Will Dump Pence
Key Republican Will Back Trump’s Pick for Spy Chief
O’Rourke to Endorse Biden Tonight
Chris Matthews Suddenly Resigns
Trump Says Democrats Rigged Primary Against Bernie
TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Buttigieg Bows Out
      •  Sanders Raises an Incredible $46.5 Million in February
      •  Why Do the Kids Love Bernie?
      •  Would a Large Turnout Help Sanders?
      •  Super Tuesday is Tomorrow
      •  Could COVID-19 Impact the Election?
      •  McGahn Skates
      •  House Judiciary Committee Wants to Interview the Stone Prosecutors
      •  Trump Nominates Ratcliffe as DNI
      •  Americans Are Worried about Election Integrity

Note: We have updated the delegate counts based on the current Green Papers data. For simplicity, we now just give the total number of pledged delegates for each state, not breaking them down by delegate type any more. The numbers do not include the automatic delegates (formerly known as superdelegates), who get to vote only on the second and subsequent ballots. For the gray states, the pop-ups show the 2020 results, not the 2016 results.

Buttigieg Bows Out

Given that nobody outside of northern Indiana had ever heard of him nine months ago, former South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg ran a heck of a campaign. That included a win in Iowa, and a strong showing in New Hampshire. However, he was unable to connect with voters of color, at least in part due to his clashes with the South Bend police department. He was also running out of money. And so, following poor showings in Nevada and South Carolina, he ended his presidential campaign Sunday evening.

Following the announcement, Donald Trump weighed in with his opinion that this shows the Democrats are doing whatever they can to derail Sen. Bernie Sanders:

Boy, nothing gets by him. It is quite obvious that Buttigieg's withdrawal is intended to keep the moderate Democratic vote from being more divided than necessary on Tuesday (though Trump is also factually wrong, as many people have already cast their ballots, and so cannot redirect their Buttigieg votes to Biden). It is equally obvious that Trump knows that Sanders' base is susceptible to his appeals to emotion, and that by ginning up their anger, he can help assure that some of them refuse to vote for a non-Sanders Democrat.

In any event, one question that Buttigieg's withdrawal raises is: What motivated him to give up his Super Tuesday lottery ticket? It was not especially likely that he was going to have a good performance tomorrow, but he put in a long, hard year running for the White House, so why not take a chance, just in case? Maybe he decided he wanted to be a "team player," and he suspects certain rewards will come with that down the line. However, it's also possible that a deal has been struck, and that some already-agreed-upon reward is in his future.

That leads, then, to a second question: What's next for Buttigieg? If there is indeed a deal already in place, and it is specifically with the Biden campaign, then that suggests a Cabinet post. Veterans' Affairs is the obvious choice, though Secretary of State is not out of the question. After all, his degree in history, his work in intelligence, and his fluency in half a dozen languages mean that, résumé-wise, Buttigieg leaves the current holder of that office in the dust. A high-profile ambassadorship could also be in the offing.

On the other hand, if it is the DNC that brokered a deal, whether express or implied, that suggests support for a future run for office from Indiana. The governor's mansion is up this year, though the filing deadline has passed, so it would take some doing to make that happen. If it did come to pass, there would be a certain poetic justice to Buttigieg holding the same office that launched Mike Pence to the vice presidency. Presumably, that is not what Pence was thinking of when he expressed his support for gay conversion. More probable is a run for Sen. Todd Young's (R-IN) seat, which is up in 2022. From the DNC's point of view, Buttigieg is by far the best-known and tested Democratic politician in Indiana, and so is the strongest candidate to take on Young, so there may have been a promise of financial support if he challenges Young.

Undoubtedly, some readers are wondering if a Biden/Buttigieg ticket is a possibility. Never say never, especially since Biden needs a young running mate, and he could stand to shore up his support in the Upper Midwest (South Bend is only about 6 miles from the Michigan border, and about 140 miles from Wisconsin). That said, we doubt it. Two white men on the ticket likely won't get it done this year. Further, Biden plans to appeal to blue-collar Catholics (Latinos, Irish-Americans, Polish-Americans, etc.), and that's not necessarily going to go so well with a gay running mate. So, all signs continue to point to a Stacey Abrams, or a Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA). But whatever happens, we certainly haven't heard the last of Pete Buttigieg. This is what a rising star looks like. (Z)

Sanders Raises an Incredible $46.5 Million in February

The Democrats seem to have decided that what they need is a white male septuagenarian, so they have more or less narrowed the field down to three of them: Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, and Michael Bloomberg. Tomorrow night we should have a better feeling for which one they like most, but based on one metric—money raised—it's Sanders. Sanders may or may not get the Democratic nomination, but if he doesn't, it won't be because he doesn't have the cash to run a campaign. In February, he raised a spectacular $46.5 million. This is the most any candidate has raised in a single month in this cycle.

These funds came from 2.2 million donors, of whom 350,000 were first-time donors to his campaign. The average donation was $21 last month. The average for his whole campaign was $19. The occupation most commonly listed by the donors was "teacher." If this isn't a grassroots campaign, it is hard to say what is.

Sanders will need the money going forward. Tomorrow, 14 (big) states and American Samoa will vote. The days of winning a state by personally meeting every voter three times and having tea with them are over. From now on, the air war will be critical. Although Joe Biden can't match Sanders by any means, Michael Bloomberg certainly can and is doing so as you read this. While Sanders can't level the playing field, with such a hefty bank account, at least he can compete.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) isn't going anywhere either. She has promised to stay in until the convention and her $29 million haul in February makes that promise plausible. It seems very unlikely at the moment that she will win the most delegates, but she does have an ace in the hole. If no one has a majority of delegates going into the convention, and there is potentially a massive fight between the Sandersites and the Bidenites, Warren could be a compromise candidate if she is still in the mix and has hundreds of delegates. The Sanders delegates might accept her because she is maybe even slightly leftier than Sanders, and a woman to boot. The Biden delegates might accept her because many of them don't really support Biden, they just want to stop Sanders.

Early in the cycle, a lot of people talked about how having a female president or a gay president would be historic. It is perhaps also worth noting that two of the serious remaining candidates, Bloomberg and Sanders, are Jewish, as is former candidate Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO). If one of them were to win, that would also be historic, of course. If Joe Biden were to win, it would be semi-historic, as only one Catholic (JFK) has ever been elected to the presidency. Whatever happens, this is not looking like the Protestants' year (although Warren is a Methodist). (V)

Why Do the Kids Love Bernie?

It's not hard to understand why Joe Biden and Michael Bloomberg are popular with the old folks. They are old folks themselves. What is surprising, however, is that Bernie Sanders does poorly with seniors, but millennials love him. How come?

One explanation is that younger voters came of age when the world seemed to be falling apart. Scientists are predicting massive climate disturbances in a time frame when these voters will still be alive. School shootings when they were in school were so common now that they didn't even make the news most of the time. The Great Recession pummeled millennials just as they entered the job market. Gen. Z saw the stock market crash in 2008 and came away with a deep distrust of Wall Street. Dreamers are afraid of being deported to countries they left as toddlers. Is it really so surprising that they love a guy who says the system is rigged and wants to bring radical changes to it?

The big test for Sanders is not winning the allegiance of young voters. He's already done that. The hard part is getting them to actually vote. He claims that he will bring out vast numbers of new voters who have not participated before. We don't have a lot of data on that yet, although we will on Wednesday, but here is what we have now, namely the number of votes Sanders got in the 2016 and 2020 primaries so far. The 2016 caucuses didn't release the raw data, so we can't include them in this table:

State Sanders 2016 Sanders 2020
New Hampshire 152,193 76,355
South Carolina 96,498 105,070

Sanders got far fewer votes in New Hampshire this year than in 2016, although he got a modest bump in South Carolina. Our conclusion is that it is too early to have any conclusion, but we will know soon how well Sanders did getting young voters to the polls in 14 states later this week. (V)

Would a Large Turnout Help Sanders?

Let's continue on the turnout issue for a bit, since it is crucial to guessing how that could affect a Sanders vs. Trump general election. Political analyst Ron Brownstein has examined the turnout issue in some detail and written an article with his results.

The key issue is what the demographics of nonvoters are like. Are they all lazy Democrats who need the right candidate to finally get them to the polls? If so, and if Sanders can mobilize them, he could win big. But the data suggest otherwise. The Knight foundation ran a massive study of the 100 million eligible voting-age citizens who didn't show up in 2016. What they learned from interviewing 12,000 nonvoters is that they are not a monolithic bloc. The main conclusions:

  • Many of them do not believe their votes will be correctly counted, so why bother voting?
  • Few of them pay attention to the news, so they don't feel informed enough to vote.
  • They support Trump's wall more and the ACA less than actual voters
  • The youngest nonvoters 18-24 don't care about politics and don't understand the voting process

The study's conclusion is that if turnout of nonvoters increases substantially, about a third will go to the Democrat, slightly less than a third will go to Trump, and a third will go to a third-party candidate. Of course, Sanders is not your generic Democrat (or even a Democrat at all), so he might do better than expected. But there is another problem lurking out there.

In the three formerly blue-wall states that Trump picked off in 2016 (Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania), things are different. A clear majority of the eligible nonvoters are whites without college degrees—that is, Trump's base. So getting more turnout in those key states is like waking up a sleeping lion. He might come over and give you a nice lick, but maybe not. In short, in the rust belt, Trump has more potential to harvest new voters than the Democrats. Sanders will no doubt argue that white noncollege voters are also his base, so it could be the battle of the bases—assuming one of them finds the key to actually getting them to vote. One bright spot for Sanders is that in Arizona, nonwhite nonvoters outnumber white nonvoters, so a high turnout there unquestionably helps the Democrats.

Another issue that is relevant is Newton's third law as applied to politics: Every action generates an equal and opposite reaction. A candidate as polarizing as Sanders is likely to drive many Republicans to the polls, whereas a moderate Democrat might not get much of a reaction from Republican-oriented nonvoters. Brownstein's conclusion is that if Sanders is the Democratic nominee, he will have to convince swing voters that he is their man, and not just bet on increased turnout from people who didn't vote in 2016. (V)

Super Tuesday is Tomorrow

For a long time, Super Tuesday was like a mirage in the desert: A much-longed for distant entity that seemed impossibly far away. Now it is within range. In fact, tomorrow 14 states will hold primaries and American Samoa will hold a caucus. If your geography is a bit rusty, American Samoa is a U.S. territory that is north of Niue but south of Tokelau and east of Wallis and Futuna but west of Roto. About a third of all delegates will be chosen tomorrow. By Wednesday, we may have a smaller Democratic field than we had three days ago. Pete Buttigieg and Tom Steyer are already out. Barring a very unexpected upset, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (DFL-MN) is unlikely to win any states except her own, and will likely drop out on Wednesday or Thursday. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) long ago ceased to be a serious candidate. If Michael Bloomberg has a really bad day, it's not impossible he could jump ship (though it's not too likely).

It is widely expected that Bernie Sanders will win the most delegates tomorrow. Of course, sometimes the voters have surprises in store for everyone, as they did in New Hampshire and South Carolina. Up until now, the votes have all been about winning the spin cycle and getting momentum. Tomorrow it is about winning actual delegates. If Sanders comes out on top, will he have an insurmountable lead or will it be close enough that he could be overtaken? Also, by Wednesday, we should have a better idea of whether a brokered convention, where the automatic delegates get their say, is a possibility.

One factor that should be kept in mind is that many of the primaries tomorrow are open or semi-open, meaning that independents can vote in them. Most of the ones after tomorrow are closed, meaning that only Democrats can vote in them. Independents are among Sanders' strongest constituencies and they won't be allowed to vote in many of the primaries after tomorrow. Also, in closed primaries, Republicans can't do any ratf**king easily, since they would first have to re-register as Democrats and (1) some of the deadlines have already passed and (2) for some Republicans that is just too much trouble.

Another factor is the weather. Storms and rain are expected in Texas and the Southeast. This could affect turnout in Texas, Arkansas and Alabama. Snow and cold could affect Minnesota. Rain could affect Virginia and North Carolina. In short, it's going to be interesting, and anyone who says they know for sure what's going to happen is telling a whopper. (V)

Could COVID-19 Impact the Election?

Remember the Y2K problem? Probably not, unless you are an elderly COBOL programmer. COBOL is an ancient programming language that has decimal numbers as a data type, even though all computers store numbers internally in binary. In the 1950s and 1960s, many COBOL programmers represented the year as two decimal digits, so in 1999 there was great fear that next year when a computer saw that people were born in 00, it would start sending Social Security checks to newborns, along with a special message congratulating them for making it to 100. Many people said the sky was going to fall as a result, with electricity power plants automatically shutting down because no maintenance had been done in 100 years, etc. Through a lot of hard work by many people, catastrophe was avoided and most of the software was patched on time.

Is COVID-19 (known colloquially as the coronavirus) going to be a vague distant memory (like the Y2K problem) by November, or are we facing the 2020 equivalent of the 1918 Spanish flu, which infected 500 million people and killed somewhere between 40 million and 100 million? We don't know, but if the virus keeps spreading, it could have a huge impact on the election campaign. Think about rallies no one dares to attend. Think about selfie lines with no one in them. Think about national political conventions that the delegates are scared to go to. Think about restrictions on air travel that make normal campaigning impossible. Think about the mood of the voters.

Some candidates would weather a pandemic better than others. The less Michael Bloomberg appears anywhere in person, the better he does. But Donald Trump, Joe Biden, and Bernie Sanders need to hold big rallies and get people to show up.

Another huge factor is how the virus affects the economy. Trump has tied himself to the economy so tightly that if it tanks, the Democrats' slogan is going to be: "Are you better off now than you were under Obama?" That could be devastating for Trump. There are many reasons the virus could tank the economy. Here are four of them:

  • Commerce could be disrupted: Global supply chains could be broken, making it impossible for manufacturers to get needed parts, so they might have to lay off workers. The tourism industry could crater. Airlines could take a beating. People could avoid stores and buy less. A sick economy would not be good for any incumbents.

  • The usual recovery tools won't work: Normally, governments have tools for fighting a recession, but those bullets have already been shot. Is another massive tax cut feasible, given the amount of debt the 2017 one created? Congress might balk. Can interest rates be lowered? They are already very low in the U.S. and zero or negative in Europe, so monetary policy won't come riding to the rescue. Also, giving people more money isn't going to get them to Disneyland if they are afraid of crowds (or if Disneyland is closed). Nor can the Chinese government get factories humming by giving the owners loans while at the same time ordering their workers to stay at home.

  • Iffy loans could collapse: Chinese banks have made billions in loans that might go into default if factories are shut down for months. Some might go under, with serious consequences. In the U.S., low interest rates have led to a junk bond boom, especially in the energy sector. The entire house of cards could collapse if the virus threat mushrooms. Unemployment rates could soar. Do the Republicans want to be campaigning on the economy if it is in the toilet?

  • Markets fear uncertainty: The stock market is usually able to price in things that are predictable. If investors know that oil will be $150 a barrel in October, they can figure out who wins and who loses and get on with it. The virus situation is so uncertain that no one can price anything in, and the markets tend to panic when there is uncertainty.

If the economy goes south, you can bet your bottom dollar that Democrats will blame it on the Republicans. They will say Trump fired everyone who might have been able to deal with the virus or its effects and replaced them all with incompetent toadies. That argument could easily win the day as the Republicans don't really have anyone else to blame except God, and that will not sit well with the evangelicals. (V)

McGahn Skates

Despite all the news about South Carolina and Super Tuesday and COVID-19, this may actually be the biggest news story of the month or year, even though it has flown under the radar so far. On Friday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for D.C. overruled a lower court decision, and said that former White House Counsel Don McGahn didn't have to obey a congressional subpoena to appear before the House. House Democrats subpoenaed him because they want to find out what he told former Special Counsel Robert Mueller

The 2-1 ruling, written by Thomas Griffith, a George W. Bush appointee, basically says it was not up to the judicial branch to referee a food fight between the legislative branch and the executive branch. Actually, many people think that the judiciary is precisely the entity that has to settle disputes between the other branches of government. Griffith suggested that if Congress wants the president to allow his former staffers to testify, it can negotiate with him or use its other powers, such as cutting off funding, holding up confirmations, or even impeaching him. Of course, when the president's party controls the Senate and is in lock-step with him, all those weapons are moot.

The case will next go to the Supreme Court. If the High Court rules, even 5-4, to sustain the appeals court ruling, that means that Congress has basically lost its subpoena power forever. No future House will be able to investigate any future president, even when it suspects the president has committed an impeachable offense.

The Founding Parents are no doubt all rolling over in their graves. They clearly envisioned Congress as the primary branch of government, giving it the sole power to pass laws, to levy taxes, to appropriate government funds, to impose tariffs, and to ratify treaties with foreign nations. The president's job was to see that the laws Congress passed were carried out. If Congress loses the subpoena power, and with it much of its ability to be a check on the executive, it will be a shadow of its former self. (V)

House Judiciary Committee Wants to Interview the Stone Prosecutors

Maybe Congress hasn't lost everything, although if the appeals court decisions stands, it will lose a lot. It can still politely ask people to testify and if they are willing, the president doesn't really have a (legal) way of stopping them. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) is very concerned about AG William Barr's interference in the sentencing of Roger Stone. This interference led the four prosecutors on the case to drop off it. One of them even quit working for the government.

Now Nadler wants the four to testify before his committee. If they are willing, neither Barr nor Trump can legally stop them, although they could fire the ones still working for the Justice Dept. (which would lead to a lawsuit, of course). The prosecutors haven't indicated yet if they are prepared to testify, but it seems safe to guess that at least one of them will be willing. (V)

Trump Nominates Ratcliffe as DNI

In July, Donald Trump wanted to nominate Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-TX), one of his strongest supporters in the House, as DNI. The reception on Capitol Hill was extremely negative, so Trump didn't go forward with it. On Friday, the President announced that he was now going to nominate Ratcliffe for the job. If confirmed, Ratcliffe would replace acting DNI Richard Grenell, who has no qualifications for the job whatsoever. Unfortunately, neither does Ratcliffe, but since he is a Republican member of Congress, Trump is hoping that all the Senate Republicans, and maybe three or four Senate Democrats, will vote to confirm him. Under Ratcliffe, any negative reports from the intelligence community could be quashed and kept from the public.

But maybe Trump doesn't even care if Ratcliffe is confirmed. Under current federal law, Grenell, also a loyal Trump supporter, can stay only until March 11—unless Trump formally submits a nomination to the Senate for confirmation. If he does that, which he will soon do, Grenell can continue as acting DNI until October. If Ratcliffe is rejected by the Senate, Trump can make another nomination and Grenell gets another 7 months. Either way, Trump ends up with a loyalist in the job. (V)

Americans Are Worried about Election Integrity

A new AP-NORC poll shows that many Americans are worried about the integrity of the upcoming elections. About a third have high confidence in an accurate count, a third have moderate confidence, and a third have little confidence. Among Democrats, only 28% have confidence in the vote counting. Among Republicans it is better (46%), but still less than a majority. Having only a third of the population having faith in elections isn't a good sign for democracy.

There was a huge split between the parties on what the biggest problem is, with 65% of Democrats saying that voter suppression is a major problem and 67% of Republicans saying that voter fraud is the big problem (despite there being virtually no evidence to support the latter position).

Republicans and Democrats also differ greatly on their views about foreign interference in elections. More than 60% of Democrats are worried about foreign actors tampering with election systems, influencing voters, and influencing candidates. Only a quarter of Republicans are worried about any of these things. The breakdown along racial lines is also sharp, with two-thirds of black voters having little confidence that their votes will be counted. Among white voters, fewer than 40% are worried.

It should be remembered that the Mueller Report unambiguously stated that the Russians interfered with the 2016 election, but right-leaning media have greatly downplayed this, with evident success. (V)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Mar01 Biden's South Carolina Firewall Holds—and Then Some
Mar01 Sunday Mailbag
Feb29 Saturday Q&A
Feb28 Coronavirus Gives Trump Administration a Headache
Feb28 Prepare for Another Trump 2020 Photo-op
Feb28 A Candidate Like No Other, Part II: Bernie Sanders, Socialist
Feb28 Polls Have South Carolina Results All Over the Map
Feb28 Today's Ratfu**ing News
Feb28 Buttigieg Is Still Your Winner in Iowa
Feb28 Trump May Not Be Able to Pardon Stone
Feb27 Takeaways from the South Carolina Debate
Feb27 Clyburn Endorses Biden
Feb27 Poll: Biden Has a Huge Lead over Sanders in South Carolina
Feb27 Schumer and Pelosi Would Be Comfortable with Sanders as Nominee
Feb27 Five Thirty Eight's Super Tuesday Predictions
Feb27 He Hasn't Been Here
Feb27 Are Primaries Being Done Wrong?
Feb27 Schumer Meets with Bullock
Feb27 Trump Asks for the Wrong Recusals
Feb27 Court Rules that Trump Can Withhold Money from "Sanctuary Cities"
Feb27 Trump Campaign Sues the New York Times
Feb26 Democrats Do the Charleston
Feb26 A Candidate Like No Other, Part I: Bernie Sanders' Base
Feb25 Trump Administration Fears Coronavirus
Feb25 Nevada Results Are Final...
Feb25 ...And Now It's South Carolina's Turn
Feb25 But First, a Debate
Feb25 Sanders Gives Florida Democrats Conniptions
Feb25 The Hill Closes the Henhouse After the Fox Already Had His Way
Feb24 Takeaways from the Nevada Caucuses
Feb24 How Did Sanders Do It?
Feb24 Never-Trump Republicans Are in Full-Blown Panic Mode
Feb24 New National Poll Has Sanders on Top
Feb24 Downballot Democrats Move to Distance Themselves from Sanders
Feb24 How Democrats Can Manage a Brokered Convention
Feb24 Caucus States Aren't the Only Ones with Complicated Rules
Feb24 National Security Adviser: Russians Aren't Trying to Help Trump
Feb24 Steyer Will Be on Stage Tomorrow
Feb23 Nevada Has Spoken
Feb23 Sunday Mailbag
Feb22 It's the Silver State's Time to Shine
Feb22 Russians Are Trying to Help Sanders, Too
Feb22 Saturday Q&A
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