Tentative Primary and Caucus Schedule
  March 1 (Super Tues)
  March 2-14
L blue   March 15-31
Delegates needed for nomination:
GOP: 1237,   Dem: 2242
Map explained
New polls:  
Dem pickups:  
GOP pickups:  

News from the Votemaster

Obama Addresses the Nation

President Obama spoke to Americans from the Oval Office on Sunday and laid out his plan and his vision for dealing with ISIS. Using much stronger rhetoric than he has in the past, the President made a number of key points:

  • The San Bernardino shootings were a terrorist attack, but there is no evidence of a link to ISIS
  • We are hunting down terrorists, training Syrian/Iraqi soldiers, and working with our allies to end the war in Syria
  • However, the U.S. must avoid a large-scale ground war with ISIS
  • Congress needs to take action—giving approval for use of military force against ISIS and also reining in gun sales
  • The Muslim community must help us to confront extremism
  • Americans must remember that ISIS does not speak for Islam, and that Islamophobia is counterproductive

The response to Obama was predictable; Democrats were pleased to hear the President "talking tough" while Republicans observed that the address offered no new ideas, no new strategies, and no new policies, and so branded it a failure. That includes all of the GOP presidential candidates who have weighed in on the speech.

It is surprising that Obama did not take the opportunity to announce some sort of new initiative, particularly on the gun-control front. He surely knows, by now, that demanding action from Congress achieves nothing. Further, delivering a speech from the Oval Office in prime time creates an expectation that something important is going to happen—something more important than a pep talk. It could be that the address is just the first part of a larger plan; but on its own Obama's performance tonight was a mild disappointment. (Z)

LGBT Rights Still a Wedge Issue?

One might have assumed that LGBT rights would cease to be a major issue in presidential politics, with the legalization of gay marriage and poll after poll that shows broad acceptance of LGBT Americans. However, at least three GOP candidates have decided that there is still some political capital to be squeezed from the issue.

One of those three is Ben Carson. Addressing a group of veterans on Saturday, he called for a resumption of "Don't ask, don't tell" and declared that he did not approve of, "using our military as a laboratory for social experimentation." He is apparently unaware that precisely the same arguments were made in the 1950s, when President Harry S. Truman took the "radical" step of integrating the U.S. Army, ending a century-old policy of organizing units by race.

Meanwhile, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) have both taken aim at President Obama's executive order banning anti-LGBT workplace discrimination by federal contractors. Rubio believes that faith-based businesses are being "compelled to sin" while Cruz says that Obama's order is itself a form of discrimination against "those who hold traditional values."

Cruz and Rubio have also targeted gay marriage, with Cruz giving a particularly fire-breathing address on the issue at Bob Jones University in which he declared, "It's not the law of the land. It's not the Constitution. It's not legitimate, and we will stand and fight." Of course, it actually is the law of the land, and as a practical matter it would be nearly impossible to roll back.

There can be no question that railing against gay people is still juicy red meat for the base. But as Cruz himself learned when he appeared on the Late Show to debate Stephen Colbert about gay marriage, it's not mainstream. Jeb Bush has many weaknesses, but at least he seems to understand that a candidate will eventually have to pass muster with the broader electorate. Do the other GOP frontrunners grasp this? It certainly seems they do not. (Z)

Could Republicans Bolt the Republican Party?

There has been a lot of talk about the possibility of Donald Trump running as a third-party candidate, but what about the other way around? Suppose Trump got the Republican nomination. Many Republican leaders fear that large numbers of dyed-in-the-wool Republicans simply would not vote, causing a disaster for Republicans in the Senate, House, and further down. Once way to get the missing Republicans to show up might be for an establishment Republican to mount a third-party bid just to increase turnout. Could something like that happen? This year has been so nutty than nothing can be ruled out at this point. (V)

Iowa Republican Party Will Try Hard to Prevent the 2012 Disaster from Repeating

The Iowa caucuses were a real mess in 2012, with Mitt Romney being incorrectly declared the winner due to scores of uncounted ballots. Only weeks later was Rick Santorum declared the winner, but the damage was already done to his campaign. To prevent a repeat, the party has adopted a new technology platform in the hopes of getting it right the first time, especially since in 2016, the difference between the candidates could be quite small. (V)

Kasich Comes Out for (Very Minor) Gun Control

To have any Republican come out for any form of gun control is definitely in the man-bites-dog category. Despite that, yesterday Gov. John Kasich (R-OH) said that people on the FBI's terrorist watch list should not be allowed to buy a gun. However, he also said that such a ban would tip off terrorists that they were under surveillance so he is trying to have it both ways. No other Republican has proposed any restrictions at all on gun purchases, not even after the mass shooting in California. Marco Rubio countered Kasich by saying the list is not very accurate and innocent people get on it all the time and would be thus prevented from exercising their Second Amendment rights. (V)

Cruz' Hawkish, Careless Rhetoric

Examining Ted Cruz' remarks on ISIS helps to further make clear that he is presently in the business of producing lots and lots of red meat, but not necessarily in the business of getting elected president. Speaking in Iowa this weekend, the Texas Senator declared, "We will carpet bomb them into oblivion. I don't know if sand can glow in the dark, but we're going to find out."

Obviously, Cruz is getting a great response from crowds when he says things like this. However, it's bad politics, for two reasons. The first is that Cruz' hawkishness on the stump is not backed up by his actions in the Senate chamber. He has been reluctant to vote in support of various military actions, and also voted to limit NSA data-gathering just days before the San Bernardino shootings. The incongruity between what Cruz says and what Cruz does creates an opening for opponents to attack him as a hypocrite, an opening that is already being exploited.

Further, there is a difference between hawkishness and outright carelessness when it comes to the use of lethal force. The American electorate can get behind the former, under the right circumstances, but recoils from the latter 100% of the time. Jokes about "glowing sand" speak to a cavalier attitude that will not play well in the general election. The remark is reminiscent of Barry Goldwater's declaration that, "Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice!" Goldwater scared off all the moderates with comments like that, and Cruz is doing the same.

If not for the presence of Donald Trump, the commentariat would be spending a lot more time trying to make sense of Cruz who, in his own way, is almost as much of an enigma. Every analysis, including this lengthy dissection from Rolling Stone, begins by acknowledging that the Princeton- and Harvard-educated Cruz is very, very intelligent. So how can we reconcile that with his seeming obliviousness to the fact that the things he says now, in pursuit of the GOP nomination, would come back to haunt him in the general election? Does he plan the classic pivot, where he suddenly reinvents himself as a moderate around June of this year? Surely he realizes that is an impossibility. Nobody would buy him as a moderate, any more than they are buying the new, "improved," archconservative Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ). Has he really convinced himself that there are enough evangelical voters out there to win an election? Maybe so—believing this would require a fair bit of self-deception, though Cruz would hardly be the first highly-intelligent politician to fall victim to drinking their own Kool-Aid. Whatever the explanation may be, they all tend to lead to the same place—that if Ted Cruz is the GOP nominee, we're looking at Goldwater, the sequel. (Z)

Rubio Trying to Out-Hawk Cruz

Part of the reason that Cruz is acting so hawkish of late is that he is feeling the hot, glowing breath of Marco Rubio on his neck. Up until now, Rubio has avoided attacking any of the other candidates, but with Cruz moving up in the polls in Iowa, Rubio has changed course and is now directly attacking Cruz. The attacks accuse Cruz, who is about as hard-line as you can get, of being weak on national security. The attacks are partly based on Cruz' intense dislike of the federal government, which translated into him voting in the Senate to end the National Security Agency's bulk data-collection program. While it is odd for a Republican—Rubio in this case—arguing for a big, intrusive government invading the private lives of all U.S. citizens (most likely in violation of the Fourth Amendment), this is where the politics of terror have brought us.

In addition to their differences on national security issues, Cruz and Rubio have very different approaches to campaigning. Rubio is trying to sway public opinion nationally in favor of him. He is on television a lot and in Iowa not so much. Cruz is largely focused on the ground game. He has lined up evangelical pastors in all of Iowa's 99 counties to help get their flocks to the caucuses and has put a tremendous amount of energy into campaigning in the seven states in the South that vote on March 1. Rubio hasn't done this at all. When the dust settles in July and we know who did better, books are going to be written about the relative value of an air-war approach (Rubio) vs. a ground-war approach (Cruz). If one of them wins the nomination, politicians are going to be studying the winner's playbook for years to come. (V)

Sanders Stays the Course

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) got into the Democratic primary as the champion of the fight against inequality. Since the attacks in Paris and the shootings in Colorado Springs and San Bernadino, the news has been dominated by gun violence and terrorism, but Sanders is having none of it. He is sticking to his guns (sorry) and continuing to emphasize inequality while barely talking about defense or foreign policy at all. He is also uncomfortable talking about gun policy since that is one of the few areas where Hillary Clinton is way to his left. She has supported strong gun control her whole life and as a representative and senator from a rural state, he has voted against gun control at various times in Congress.

Sanders' other problem on foreign policy is that many left-leaning Democrats have always held Hillary Clinton's vote to support the use of military force in Iraq against her. Due to changed circumstances, that may now help her, both in the primaries and in the general election. It won't buy Sanders much to attack her as a hawk at a time when many voters want a tough Commander-in-chief and it won't be easy for any Republican in the general election to paint her as a dove. (V)

Time to Put Horse Race Polling Out to Pasture?

A consistent theme of 2016 election coverage has been the increasing unreliability of polls. For a host of reasons, it is getting harder and harder to gather a proper sample of voters, while at the same time it is also getting harder to predict what the electorate will look like on any given Election Day. Both issues are huge headaches, with the result that Gallup and other prominent polling organizations are not doing horse race polls in primary season, and may not do so for the general election.

There are actually two concerns in play here. The first is the issue of accuracy—recent, high-profile polling failures in the UK general elections, the elections in Israel, the Scottish independence referendum, and the Canadian elections have made clear that pollsters are in a brave, new world. Screw-ups undermine a polling house's brand, and thus affect all of their output.

At the same time, Gallup and others are concerned that their inaccurate polls can be, and are, self-fulfilling. Not only do they shape perceptions of a candidate's success (Donald Trump) or lack thereof (Jeb Bush), but the polls are actually being used to make significant decisions like who gets to be on the main stage for the GOP debates. Like most journalists, pollsters want only to report the news, not make the news.

The presumption, as it became clear that cell phones and other factors were undermining traditional polling, has been that eventually Gallup and the other houses would figure it out. Now, they may be signaling that they are unable to do so. (Z)

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---The Votemaster
Dec06 NYT Analyzed Trump's Speeches
Dec06 WaPo Analyzed Mass Shootings
Dec06 Gun Control Is Becoming a Hot Partisan Campaign Issue
Dec06 Are Trump and Cruz Like Goldwater?
Dec06 Is Rubio Scandal Brewing...Or Just Half-Baked?
Dec06 Bush Backers Are Sticking with Their Man
Dec05 Trump Has Massive Lead in New Poll
Dec05 Is Trump's Lead Deceiving?
Dec05 A Jeb Bush Premortem
Dec05 Clinton's Favorability Is Up Compared to Sanders
Dec05 Economy Added 211,000 Jobs in November
Dec05 Miami Healthcare Magnate Will Run Anti-Trump Campaign
Dec05 Anti-Trump Protestors Are Getting Louder
Dec04 Could Trump Run as an Independent?
Dec04 Trump Addresses Jewish Republicans and Gets Mixed Reaction
Dec04 New Information Turns Up on Rubio's Personal Finances
Dec04 Thursday Saw Lots of Posturing on the Hill
Dec04 Trump Will Debate After All
Dec04 Karl Rove is Worried about the Senate
Dec04 Where We Stand on Gerrymandering
Dec03 Poll: Trump, Rubio, and Cruz Rising, Carson Falling
Dec03 Another Day, Another Mass Shooting
Dec03 Secret Memo Advises Republicans How to Behave if Trump is the Nominee
Dec03 TV Ad Spending Is Not Delivering Results
Dec03 Everybody Hates Ted Cruz
Dec03 Cruz' Assertion about Violent Criminals Doesn't Hold Up
Dec03 Alan Grayson's Key Staff Members Quit
Dec03 Our December Ranking of the Republican Candidates
Dec02 Cruz Says Rubio is Like Hillary Clinton
Dec02 Marco Rubio Starts Retail Campaigning
Dec02 New Jersey Newspaper Dissents from the Union Leader's Opinion
Dec02 All the Female Democratic Senators Have Endorsed Clinton, Except One
Dec02 Clinton Campaign Misfires with Rosa Parks Logo
Dec02 Bush on His VP: She Will Be a Great Partner
Dec02 The Politics of Climate Science
Dec02 Zuckerberg Organization To Take Aim at Trump
Dec01 The Idea of Cruz as Their Nominee Scares Republican Senators
Dec01 Cruz Says Most Violent Criminals are Democrats
Dec01 GOP Candidates Continue to Chip Away at Trump
Dec01 Trump wants $5M to Debate
Dec01 How Many Trump Supporters Are There, Actually?
Dec01 Kevin McCarthy: No Government Shutdown over Planned Parenthood
Dec01 Hillary Rodham Clinton is Now Hillary Clinton
Dec01 State Department Releases More of Hillary's Damn Emails
Nov30 Republican Field Reacts to Planned Parenthood Shootings
Nov30 Trump Campaign Showing Some Signs of Weakness
Nov30 New Hampshire Union Leader Endorses Christie
Nov30 Trump Scores Much Better in Online Polls than in Live-interviewer Polls
Nov30 Cruz and Rubio Plan to Divvy Up Jewish Bush Supporters
Nov30 Fewer White Voters Expected in Swing States