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

TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Clinton Missing Some Key Endorsements
      •  Will Trump Fans Show Up to Vote?
      •  Trump Denies Connection to Mafioso
      •  Trump Isn't the Only Candidate with Dubious Claims
      •  Cruz Throws Red Meat To the Base
      •  New Hampshire Can't Make Up Its Mind
      •  The Top Ten Moments in Politics in 2015
      •  Ryan Inherits Boehner's Job, Headaches

Clinton Missing Some Key Endorsements

Hillary Clinton is winning the endorsement primary. She has 38 of the 46 senators who caucus with the Democrats in her corner, 145 members of the House, 12 governors, and 17 national unions. In contrast, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has two representatives and three unions. Despite that massive support, there are a few key players who have not endorsed Clinton or Sanders yet. They are:

  • President Barack Obama
  • Vice President Joe Biden
  • Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid
  • House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi
  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)
  • Gov. Jerry Brown (D-CA)
  • President Richard Trumka of the AFL-CIO

Each of these may have a good reason to avoid an endorsement now. A pretty good one is to avoid splitting the party. Some may be waiting for the right moment—for example, when more people are paying attention. Still, the silence from the big guns is a bit surprising. (V)

Will Trump Fans Show Up to Vote?

There is no question that Donald Trump is getting previously apathetic Americans excited about politics. But delegates and/or electoral votes are not awarded based on excitement; they require a lever to be pulled, a card to be punched, a button to be pushed, or a box to be marked. The Washington Post's Jenna Johnson wonders if the people who show up to rallies and other events will also make it to the polls and/or caucuses. Her answer: Maybe not. As an example, she cites Iowans Bonnie and Randy Reynolds, who had never been to a political event before but showed up two hours early for a Trump rally attired in "Make America Great Again" T-shirts and hats. When asked if they planned to caucus for The Donald on Feb. 1, they wavered: "With kids and grandkids and all this, it's kind of hectic...We'll look into it. If our time is available, then yeah, maybe we'll do it. Maybe. We'll have to see."

Therein lies the problem with Trump's (apparent) decision to eschew a meaningful ground game. Success in the Iowa caucuses demands a great deal of organization, with a campaign having representation in each of Iowa's 1,681 precincts. Further, it's not enough to just get people to show up—caucuses involve some fairly sophisticated horse trading, and attendees need some training (ideally) as well as regular communication from the campaign on the night of the event (Feb. 1 this year). Ted Cruz (R-TX) understands these things very well, which is why the smart money is on him to take Iowa.

More broadly, if Trump is the GOP nominee, his path to victory (if there is one) will have a very narrow margin of error. There just aren't enough Republicans out there for a landslide, which is why there hasn't been one for the GOP in nearly 30 years. If the Donald's supporters are even 5% more likely than average to stay home on Election Day, that could easily be fatal. (Z)

Trump Denies Connection to Mafioso

As a high-powered businessman, Donald Trump undoubtedly has dealings with a large number of people, some of them unsavory. Among those individuals, as it turns out, is Felix Sater—a convicted felon with ties to the mafia. Trump, who has regularly bragged about his outstanding memory, says he has no recollection of meeting Sater. "If he were sitting in the room right now," said the billionaire in a video deposition from 2014, "I really wouldn't know what he looked like." This week, The Donald reiterated his denial, claiming "I'm not that familiar with him."

If it was just Trump's word versus Sater's, then Trump would presumably win this one, since he's (probably?) more credible than a convicted felon. It is also likely that a real estate mogul might not recall every single person he has done business with. But the problem is that there are photos of Trump and Sater together, many of them, spanning almost a decade. Further, Sater has a business card and an email address issued to him by the Trump organization, with his title given as "Senior Advisor to Donald Trump."

From a political standpoint, it is not ideal for a candidate to have shady people in their past. It's not fatal, however—Richard Nixon, the Clintons, Lyndon B. Johnson, the Kennedys, and the Bushes all had dealings with some questionable characters while rising to power. But one issue for Trump is that this is just the first to be revealed—how many more are there? Another issue, and likely a more problematic one, is Trump's tendency to lie or obfuscate in the face of overwhelming evidence. As Bernie Sanders showed us just about a week ago, an admission and apology tends to kill a story. Lies, on the other hand, keep the story alive, potentially allowing it to fester into a full-fledged scandal. The Donald may want to pick up a Nixon biography and read the chapters covering 1972 to 1974 for more on this point. (Z)

Trump Isn't the Only Candidate with Dubious Claims

Most people who own a television are by now aware of the fact that Donald Trump wants to end birthright citizenship and ban Muslims from entering the U.S. But some of the other Republican candidates have also made bizarre statements that haven't gotten as much publicity. These include

  • The minimum wage law is unconstitutional (Carly Fiorina)
  • I will defy Supreme Court rulings I think are incompatible with God's law (Mike Huckabee)
  • Islam is not protected by the First Amendment (Rick Santorum)
  • I will shoot down Russian planes in Syria (Chris Christie)
  • The U.S. should return to the gold standard (Ted Cruz)
  • I will repeal Wall Street reform in its entirety (Marco Rubio)

All of these thoughts were expressed in public, on national television, in one or more of the five Republican debates. Absent Trump, each one would have gotten more attention. Such outrageous statements have now become normal, though. Academics call this "shifting the Overton window," which is the range of ideas that are politically acceptable. It is inconceivable that businessman Mitt Romney would have ever claimed the minimum wage law was unconstitutional, for example. He might have argued that it was too high or that it destroyed jobs, but unconstitutional? No. And the same goes for a large number of other statements the candidates have made this year. (V)

Cruz Throws Red Meat To the Base

Ted Cruz really wants to win Iowa, so he is running a new TV ad in Iowa full of yummy red meat for his base. It features a cross in the Mojave desert, the Ten Commandments outside a state legislature, hunters with rifles, and girl pledging allegiance to the flag. It doesn't explain what Cruz had to do with any of these things, but he does have a tenuous connection to them all. For example, he drafted an amicus brief signed by the attorneys general of 31 states opposing D.C.'s handgun ban. The ban was struck down although Texas was not involved in the case.

The ad is completely emotional rather than factual, and is intended to cement his standing with Iowa voters as a bona fide conservative, not some Johnny-come-lately who has suddenly discovered conservative ideas. (V)

New Hampshire Can't Make Up Its Mind

In the last two election cycles, a social conservative the Republican leadership didn't like at all has won the Iowa caucuses. New Hampshire usually rectified the situation by going for a mainstream candidate. This time that may not happen as there are four potentially acceptable candidates and they are all polling around 10% in the state. They are Jeb Bush, Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ), Gov. John Kasich (R-OH), and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL). If they end up with a few points of each other in the primary, the battle for the "establishment lane" may go on for weeks or months. What the party wants is a clear winner and a message to the others to drop out. The nightmare scenario is that Donald Trump and Ted Cruz come out as #1 and #2, in either order, with the four establishment candidates far behind and roughly tied. For Cruz, New Hampshire is a tough sell, but if he wins Iowa, which is very plausible, he will come into New Hampshire with a lot of momentum and publicity, especially if he wins Iowa by a wide margin. (V)

The Top Ten Moments in Politics in 2015

This is the time of year for "top 10" lists and McClatchy has a list for you:

  1. Donald Trump announces that he is running for President to stop rapists from entering the country from Mexico
  2. The focus of the campaign shifts to terrorism after the Paris and San Bernardino attacks
  3. Donald Trump proposes prohibiting Muslims from entering the U.S.
  4. Hillary Clinton withstands all attacks and shines in 11 hours of grilling over her email server
  5. Vice President Joe Biden says he is not running for President
  6. Bernie Sanders says the American people are sick and tired of hearing about Clinton's emails
  7. Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) falters badly and drops out the race
  8. Jeb Bush is unable to answer whether he would have invaded Iraq
  9. Black Lives Matters injects itself into the campaign
  10. Carly Fiorina does surprisingly well in the kiddie debate and temporarily zooms up

It has certainly been an eventful year. (V)

Ryan Inherits Boehner's Job, Headaches

When new Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) took over from John Boehner, he insisted on the endorsement of all three Republican factions in Congress, including the tea partying House Freedom Caucus. He got what he wanted—kind of—and there was a sense that the three factions might actually fall into line behind the new Speaker. Seven weeks in, we've now learned that probably won't be happening.

Ryan's "crime," of course, is the $1.1 trillion spending bill that Boehner negotiated and Ryan shepherded to completion. It kept the government from shutting down during the holidays and included some boons to the GOP—lifting a ban on crude oil exports, and renewing hundreds of billions of dollars in tax breaks. However, it also increased spending overall and even (gasp!) contained some concessions to the Democrats. The Freedom Caucusers all voted against it, but generally were willing to let the matter drop there, since they recognized that much of the "blame" belonged to Boehner.

The conservative commentariat and the Republican base who are their audience have been much less forgiving. Laura Ingraham, for example, asserts that Ryan should be, "regarded as a declared enemy of the base" and Rush Limbaugh says he sold the country "down the river." A tea party election challenge to the Speaker is being bandied about, though it is unlikely to go anywhere as the district that Ryan represents is fairly moderate (R+3). Much more importantly, if the voters who keep the Freedom Caucus members in office are not happy, then the Freedom Caucusers will not be giving him any further leeway. Ryan says that he knows his "honeymoon period" as the new Speaker won't last long. The truth is, it just ended, and now we are going to see if he handles a fractured GOP delegation better than his predecessor did. (Z)

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---The Votemaster
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