News from the Votemaster
I have been agonizing for months about running this site for another cycle. I know from the many emails I have a lot of fans out there but running the site is a huge amount of work. Lots of things in this world look easy, but take a great deal of hard work and time. For the data collection part, I have had great help (thank you Sally). Also, for technical maintenance of the site (thank you John) and graphical software (thank you Grumpy). But for the blog part, I'm on my own and that's where all the time goes. Every wonder why newspaper columnists typically write only one or two columns a week? The job is harder than it looks.
That said, I'll make a start here but no promises about the future. I certainly won't be posting every day. Maybe not every week. More likely when there is interesting news AND I also have time. If you don't want to check back every day, the headlines are posted to the Twitter feed (@votemaster) as an alert.
Barring something very unexpected, such as a major medical issue, Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee for President in 2016. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has inherited the Elizabeth Warren fan club but that won't be enough. The "Democratic wing of the Democratic Party" isn't big enough to take him all way. Sanders doesn't have a lot of support among blacks, Asians, other minorities, union members, moderates, blue-collar the poor, or voters in red states. Clinton does. Sanders may win a few caucuses and primaries in small states where retail campaigning matters a lot, including Iowa and New Hampshire, but he will be badly outspent in places like California and New York, where the motherlodes of delegates are. Still, he may influence Clinton's positions on many issues and make for interesting debates. Finally, it would be truly historic for a rumpled 73-year-old Jewish socialist from Brooklyn to be the Democratic nominee, but it would be a lot more historic for a woman to grab the brass ring. And among Democrats, there are more women than socialists.
Former Maryland governor Martin O'Malley is also in the race although you would never know it. He made an enormous blunder doing so. Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) is retiring and all O'Malley had to do was file the paperwork and he would be a senator from Maryland for the next 30 or 40 years. Nobody could beat him. Why he entered the presidential race is a mystery. There are two plausible explanations. First, he thinks of himself as Plan B. Suppose something happens to Clinton. Maybe a medical problem, an actual scandal comes to light, or she unexpectedly stumbles. Then the party turns to him.
Second, he is really running for Vice President. He figured that if he runs a decent, positive campaign, showcasing what he achieved as governor and rarely attacking Clinton, she might pick him as her running mate. It's possible, but he is an Irish Catholic and Clinton may decide she needs help with Latinos, especially if the Republicans nominate somebody with a Mexican-born wife (Jeb Bush) or a Cuban-American (Marco Rubio). In that case, Clinton might well prefer a Latino running mate such as Julian Castro, the former mayor of San Antonio and current Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. If he were to serve 8 years as Vice President, in 2024 Castro would be (at 50) the front runner for the Democratic nomination. Castro has degrees from Stanford and Harvard and is seen as a rising star within the Democratic Party. So if O'Malley is running for Veep, it is a long shot.
For the sake of completeness, two turncoat Republicans are also running in the Democratic primary. Lincoln Chafee is a former governor and senator from Rhode Island. His term as governor ended this past January and apparently he didn't like governing Rhode Island and decided governing the whole country would be more to his liking. He's going nowhere.
A former Democratic senator from Virginia, Jim Webb, is also in the race, but he probably made a small mistake when filing his paperwork with the FEC. Instead of checking the box "Republican Party" he accidentally checked the box "Democratic Party." He is far to the right of Hillary Clinton and the party members unhappy with her are not clustered over there. As a Republican candidate, he would be one of the few grownups in the room and the only one who could claim an endorsement from Saint Ronald himself (he served in the Reagan administration as Assistant Secretary of Defense and later as Secretary of the Navy).
Vice President Joe Biden's son, Beau, just died, and although most people do not normally include running for President in the grieving process, it certainly keeps you busy. While Clinton probably truly welcomes Sanders into the race since it makes it look less like a coronation and besides, she gets to have some practice debating a skilled opponent, she won't be happy with Biden. She might just spread the word quietly that anybody donating to Biden's campaign can forget about any favors later from Madame President. Biden's challenge will then be fundraising. Biden (72) is even older than Clinton (67) and his age is likely to be an issue, but unlike Sanders, he has an outside shot at the nomination.
I've said it before and will say it again: "Be careful what you wish for; you might get it." When the Supreme Court decided in the Citizens United case that the Constitution protects unlimited campaign spending, the Republicans were ecstatic since most billionaires are Republicans. Now that decision may come back to bite them in the behind. In every cycle, a bunch of candidates head for Iowa in the Fall, but few make it past April. It isn't the polls or losses in primaries that do them in. It is the lack of money. Campaigns are expensive; there are planes to charter, staff, consultants, and pollsters to pay, TV ads to run, and much more. When the money is gone, you're toast. This year some of the candidates have their own private billionaire propping them up, just as Sheldon Adelson did for Newt Gingrich in 2012. As a consequence, RNC chairman Reince Priebus' hope for a nominee in the early Spring is unlikely to come true. We are in for a long and bitter primary season. It might even stretch close to the Republican National Convention to be held in Cleveland in June 2016.
The nominal front runner is John E. Bush, sometimes known as Jeb! He has a lot going for him. First, he is the establishment favorite and the establishment usually gets what it wants, but not always (see Giuliani, Rudolf, 2008). New Jersey governor Chris Christie used to be the favorite, but now he is a bridge too far. Bush has a famous last name, a Rolodex like no other, and a massive fundraising network. He already raised $100 million and probably could top $500 million before the show is over. After the 2012 election, Priebus ordered an autopsy of the election and the coroner said the Republicans need an injection of Latinos. Bush's wife, Columba, was born in Mexico and Bush speaks fluent Spanish. No doubt his advisors are already working on ads to be broadcast on Univision and Telemundo with Bush speaking directly to a Latino audience in Spanish explaining that he loves immigrants so much he even married one.
Despite these enormous advantages, Bush also has a few minuses. For starters, all those companies that have stocked up on "No dynasties" bumper stickers are going to find them hard to sell. Also the "Time for a new generation" bumper stickers aren't going to do well, either. He's also going to have to defend his brother regularly, especially with Clinton constantly pointing out that during her husband's administration 23 million jobs were created (vs. 1 million during George W. Bush's and 8 million during Obama's so far). In addition, Bush hasn't run for public office since 2002 and is undoubtedly rusty. He could easily do something marking him as out of touch, like his father's surprise upon seeing a supermarket scanner. A couple of dozen oppo research teams are no doubt trying to learn in detail what he has been up to for the past 10 years and if some of it can be exploited to hurt him. Finally, while the donor class loves him, conservatives don't on account of his positions on immigration and support for the Common Core educational standards.
Next is probably Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI). In the past six presidential elections, 18 states (and D.C.) have voted Democratic every time. Together they have 242 of the 270 electoral votes need to win. Either the Republicans are going to have to win nearly all the swing states or they will have to chip away at the blue wall. A governor from a Midwestern state, such as Walker [or Gov. John Kasich (R-OH)] might be their best bet to wield the chisel. Walker has won three consecutive elections in blue Wisconsin, although none of them with a presidential-year electorate. He fought the unions and beat them, which gives him a lot of credibility among conservatives. He is also young (47), telegenic, and a Washington outsider at a time "Washington" is not popular. On the other hand, he is untested on the national stage and didn't graduate from college. People are going to raise the issue "If he's not smart enough to graduate from college, is he smart enough to be President?" Still, he is acceptable to the establishment, the tea party, and the evangelicals, so if Bush stumbles, he might make it.
Probably #3 is Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL). He is young (44), telegenic, loaded with charisma, from a key swing state, and attended four colleges, obtaining degrees from two of them, including a law degree from the University of Miami. Unlike Bush and Walker, he is also an excellent public speaker and has a great biography about how he is the son of poor immigrants (although exactly when and why they immigrated has been a source of controversy). He also attends both a Catholic church and a Southern Baptist church, which could help with voters for whom church attendance is important.
Also going for Rubio is that he has a personal billionaire, auto dealer Norman Braman, who could play the same role for Rubio that Sheldon Adelson did for Newt Gingrich in 2012.
Money could also play a role in Rubio's campaign, but not for lack of it in his campaign warchest. His personal finances are a mess. When he left the Florida House of Representatives in 2008, his net worth was $8,000 and he had $115,000 in student debt and multiple mortgages. In 2013 he reported liabilities of $450,000. Braman has kept him afloat, but his inability to handle his own finances well is bound to become an issue (as well as the $80,000 luxury boat he bought while deep in debt). He also was for the Senate immigration bill before he was against it, something not likely to play well with conservatives. Still, if Bush and Walker stumble, he could be a compromise candidate. If he campaigns well, he is going to be on everyone's short list for Vice President. A Bush-Rubio ticket could really make a dent in the normally Democratic Latino vote that the Republicans so dearly need. Of course, that pesky Constitution frowns on having the President and Vice President from the same state, but Bush is a multimillionaire and could easily buy a nice house somewhere else and register to vote there, just as former Vice President Dick Cheney did in 2000.
Everyone else is tied for last place (except Donald Trump, about whom more below). Most of them will drop out fairly quickly when the money runs out, except Sen. Rafael "Ted" Cruz (R-TX). Cruz raised $51 million in the first 3 months of his campaign. That's more than Hillary Clinton ($45 million), who is definitely not going to drop out quickly for lack of money. Cruz is a favorite of the "Angry old white men" wing of the Republican Party, although with degrees from Princeton and Harvard he is definitely not one of them. His problem is too many other candidates are also fishing in his pond, and we may easily get a rerun of 2008 and 2012 with the conservative votes being splintered among multiple candidates, thus allowing the establishment favorite to win. Cruz' job is to convince all the conservative voters that only he has the will and resources to challenge the establishment, and while the Ben Carsons of the world make nice fiery speeches, none of them has a shot at the nomination.
On paper, Gov. John Kasich (R-OH) and former governor Rick Perry of Texas ought to be doing well, but they are not. Kasich could be the Jon Huntsman of 2016--a sensible moderate beloved by the pundits but not enough of a firebrand to excite the base. James "Rick" Perry, the longest serving governor in Texas' history, looks good on paper (and with his new glasses looks more intellectual on television), but he is never going to live down his Oops! moment in the 2011 debate when he couldn't name the three government departments he wanted to shut down.
Carly Fiorina is interesting because she neutralizes the gender issue ("You want a woman President? Vote for me!"). Her problem is that her resume consists largely of two things: being fired from one of the most prestigious companies in America (Hewlett Packard) for incompetence and being crushed by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) in the 2010 California Senate race. She is worth at least $100 million, but didn't pay her campaign debts for four years. Bad optics there. She should learn Excel.
Several candidates, including Mike Huckabee, Piyush "Bobby" Jindal, and Rick Santorum, are going after the evangelical vote. They will probably split it and it isn't as important as it used to be anyway. None of them are going to raise anywhere near enough money to seriously compete.
Finally, we come to Donald Trump. It is hard to figure out what to make of him except he is not going to be the Republican nominee is 2016. Reince Priebus will personally saw off his own right arm before he will let this happen. He well understands that a Trump-Clinton contest will make the 1964 Johnson-Goldwater race look like a near tie. If need be (and it is unlikely), Priebus will get the RNC to magically create a whole bunch of new superdelegates to be named by the state parties if that is what it takes to stop Trump. In 2012, we had a whole series of candidates-of-the-month (remember Herman Cain?) all of whom eventually fizzled. Trump won't run out of money, but just wait until the oppo researchers get through with him ("If you are such a great businessman, how come you went bankrupt four times?") Early polls don't mean a lot and a lot of voters are indeed angry and express this by telling pollsters they are for Trump. But when actual voting starts, especially in the big blue states, which send lots and lots of delegates to the Republican National Convention, many will stop and think whether they want Bush, Walker, or Rubio to be the actual candidate.
One unknown at this point is what happens when Trump finally realizes that he is not going to be the Republican nominee. Option 1 is go off and sulk on one of his golf courses. Option 2 is run as an independent to spite the Republican party. If he chooses option 2, we could well have a rerun of 1992: a Clinton, a Bush, and a nutty billionaire. For the Republicans this is the worst of all possible nightmares, but there is little they can do to prevent it if this is what Trump wants.
If you collect the candidates' logos, here are all the Republican ones in one place.
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