Tentative Primary and Caucus Schedule
  March 1 (Super Tues)
  March 2-14
L blue   March 15-31
Delegates needed for nomination:
GOP: 1236,   Dem: 2242
Map explained
New polls:  
Dem pickups:  
GOP pickups:  

News from the Votemaster

Clinton, Sanders both Winners in First Debate

Two former Republicans, a socialist, and two Democrats got together in Las Vegas to debate on Tuesday. The event was a rather more grown up affair than what we've seen on the Republican side, with fairly limited sniping and only a few brief (and very toned down) personal attacks. Credit goes, in part, to host Anderson Cooper. He had clearly done his homework and was generally willing to ask tough questions himself, as opposed to using Jake Tapper's device of asking Candidate X to respond to the nasty things said about them by Candidate Y. Some of the credit also goes to Donald Trump for not being there, though he did live-tweet the debate as it unfolded.

The main subjects covered in the debate, in approximate order of how much attention each got:

  1. Wealth inequality/Wall Street/The 1%
  2. Foreign policy
  3. Guns/Gun control
  4. The Environment/Global warming
  5. Healthcare
  6. Gender issues/Planned Parenthood
  7. Race/Racism

All five candidates proved much more willing than expected to associate themselves with President Obama, with Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) being particularly effusive in recognizing or honoring his accomplishments. The trio who are not recent Democratic converts were also willing to blast the GOP in no uncertain terms, focusing particularly on obstructionism, management of the economy, and the war in Iraq.

Clinton walked off the stage a clear-cut winner. She avoided serious mistakes (and, on the whole, minor mistakes as well.) She was smooth while also being commanding, and seemed both passionate and knowledgeable. Her biggest areas of weakness—whether she's governed by political expediency rather than any value system, Benghazi, and the e-mail server—mostly came up early in the debate, and she was able to address them without taking any real body blows. She delivered a number of very well-received soundbites—"It's time the entire country stood up against the NRA," "I'm a progressive. But I'm a progressive who likes to get things done," "The economy does better with a Democrat in the White House," and, "They [the Republicans] don't mind having big government to interfere with a woman's right to choose and to try to take down Planned Parenthood. They're fine with big government when it comes to that." The latter remark got a standing ovation from the crowd.

Bernie Sanders also delivered a winning performance. In his de facto national television debut, he unequivocally confirmed that he is a serious candidate. He generally answered questions clearly and convincingly and showed broader command of the issues than has previously been the case. Indeed, he came off as something of a latter-day Harry Truman: crusty and a bit rough around the edges, but deeply committed to his views and willing to speak his mind. There were a couple of stumbles—the portion of the debate that covered gun control definitely put Sanders on the defensive (Hillary Clinton could not hide her brief smile at that point), and he hemmed and hawed through one of Cooper's questions on foreign policy, as if he hadn't actually heard what was asked. However, the senator also had the unquestioned line of the night, "Let me say—let me say something that may not be great politics. But I think the Secretary is right, and that is that the American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn e-mails." This, along with the congratulations and thanks he offered to Jim Webb for his military service, was magnanimous and very appealing.

Speaking of Jim Webb, he had the worst night by a fair margin. It was oddly apropos that CNN's frontal camera view caused Webb's podium to appear blue but their side view caused it to appear red, because the former senator sometimes seemed unable to recall which party's nomination he was running for. His answers were often rather right-leaning; much of the rest of the time they were off-topic, rambling, or—on a couple of occasions—outright bizarre. In the latter category, the most egregious example was surely his answer to the question, "Which enemy are you most proud of?" The other candidates answers' were the coal lobby (Chafee), the National Rifle Association (O'Malley), the Republicans (Clinton), and Wall Street and the pharmaceutical industry (Sanders). Webb's answer, by contrast, was, "the enemy soldier that threw the grenade that wounded me, but he's not around right now to talk to." It's unclear if Webb's goal was to highlight his military record (again), or make a joke (he did smirk a bit while saying it), but the deadly silence that followed the remark was deafening.

Martin O'Malley had a mediocre night, which is far, far short of what he needed. His responses to questions were largely forgettable, and he relied too much on his ambiguous record as mayor of Baltimore and governor of Maryland as selling points. He also chose to spend much of the night standing at an angle, so that he was addressing himself to Hillary Clinton rather than the viewers. Someone should have told him that her vote is probably not available.

Like O'Malley, Lincoln Chafee did not do nearly as well as he needed to do. His answers were also nondescript, and he spoke less than any other candidate, often spending 10-15 minutes in silence. Also, fair or not, looking presidential matters, and he did not look presidential. If Sanders was a latter-day Harry Truman, Chafee looked more like a latter-day Stan Laurel. Within a half-hour of the debate commencing, a joke that Chafee's Secret Service code name would be "Surprised Kitty" was making the rounds on Twitter.

Another loser, one who wasn't even in Las Vegas, is Joe Biden. To the extent that he has a case for the presidency, it is as a more electable moderate/establishment alternative to Hillary Clinton. If Clinton had stumbled tonight, particularly if she had stumbled badly, it would obviously have helped that case. Now, she's going to be on an upswing at a time when the clock is ticking for Biden 2016.

The next Democratic debate is just over a month away, to be held on Saturday, November 14, with CBS News as host and John Dickerson as moderator. For that one, considerably fewer than five podia may be needed.

Here are the headlines from some major publications:

  • "Clinton turns up heat on Sanders in a sharp debate" (New York Times)
  • "Clinton, Sanders clash in first Democratic debate" (Washington Post)
  • "Hlllary Clinton plays to her strengths, Bernie Sanders to his base" (Los Angeles Times)
  • "Experience pays off for battle-tested Hillary Clinton" (USA Today)
  • "Clinton scores big in first debate" (The Hill)
  • "Insiders: A runaway victory for Clinton" (Politico)
  • "Grading the Democratic debate: Hillary Clinton schools her rivals" (Bloomberg)
  • "Clinton shows relentless efficiency at debate" (Wall Street Journal)
  • "Biden needed Hillary to stumble—instead she finally shined" (New York Post)
  • "Clinton comes out fighting in face-off" (Boston Herald)

Politico has seven takeaways from the debate:

  1. Hillary awakens and looks like a winner
  2. Bernie defended Hillary on her emails—and came off as a magnanimous mensch
  3. O'Malley fell through the cracks between an increasingly progressive Clinton and an electrifying socialist
  4. A Trump-less debate is a smarter debate where drug laws, Glass-Steagall, and college tuition were discussed
  5. Clinton did OK on emails but not on breaking up big Wall St. banks
  6. Sanders flubbed gun control; Clinton won that one clearly
  7. Chafee and Webb were subatomic
(Z & V)

Democrats Have Detailed Policy Statements

The Republican nominating contest has largely been about personalities and style. For example, the fact that Ben Carson says many of the same things as Donald Trump, but more politely, has gotten a lot of attention. On the Democratic side, personalities have hardly played a role at all, and all five candidates who appeared on stage yesterday have detailed Web pages with their views on the issues. You can sometimes get an idea of what a candidate's priorities are from their Websites, so here are the issues they list. Click on the "On the issues" links to go to each candidate's issues page.

Hillary Clinton On the issues

She lists 23 items of concern to her, each with a link for a full page describing her position on the issue. Many pages include professional videos. Her list is given in alphabetical order, as follows.

  1. Campaign finance reform
  2. Campus sexual assault
  3. Climate change and energy
  4. College
  5. Criminal justice reform
  6. Disability rights
  7. Early childhood education
  8. Economy
  9. Gun violence prevention
  10. Health care
  11. Immigration reform
  12. K-12 education
  13. Labor
  14. LGBT equality
  15. National security
  16. Rural communities
  17. Small business
  18. Social Security and Medicare
  19. Substance use disorder and addiction
  20. Voting rights
  21. Wall Street and corporate America
  22. Women's rights and opportunity
  23. Workforce and skills
Bernie Sanders On the issues

He lists 17 items, presumably in priority order. Each item is clickable and goes to a page with detailed policy prescriptions, many of which have charts and graphs illustrating his points.

  1. Income and wealth inequality
  2. It's time to make college tuition free and debt free
  3. Getting big money out of politics
  4. Creating decent-paying jobs
  5. A living wage
  6. Climate change & environment
  7. Racial justice
  8. A fair and humane immigration policy
  9. Fighting for women's rights
  10. Fighting for LGBT equality
  11. Caring for our veterans
  12. Strengthen and expand social security
  13. Fighting to lower prescription drug prices
  14. Reforming Wall Street
  15. Real family values
  16. War and peace
  17. War should be the last option: Why I support the Iran deal
Martin O'Malley On the issues

His issues page has a matrix of 13 items, each with a short summary and a "READ MORE" link to a detailed explanation of his position. No videos or graphs.

  1. Trade policy
  2. National service
  3. Homeland security
  4. Financial reform
  5. Clean energy future
  6. Addiction treatment
  7. Campaign finance reform
  8. Gun reform
  9. Expand Social Security
  10. Criminal justice reform
  11. Immigration reform
  12. Debt-free college
  13. Foreign policy
Jim Webb On the issues

He lists only five items, each of which links to a page with one to eight paragraphs of text explaining his position.

  1. Economic fairness
  2. Foreign policy
  3. National infrastructure
  4. Criminal justice reform
  5. Good governance
Lincoln Chafee On the issues

His issues page is the most minimalistic of the bunch. Each of the 10 items has a paragraph under it except immigration reform, which for some inexplicable reason has a summary of the McCain-Kennedy bill. Nothing on the page is clickable and there is no longer explanation of each item, as the other candidates have. The page gives the impression that an intern put it together in an afternoon.

  1. Prosperity through Peace
  2. Strengthen economic opportunity
  3. Minimum wage
  4. Elementary education
  5. Paycheck Fairness Act
  6. Paid leave
  7. Environmental stewardship
  8. Ensure Freedom for all Americans
  9. Immigration reform
  10. Money out of politics

What is Hillary Really Thinking?

Hillary Clinton has had so many run-ins with the media over the years that she is famously tight-lipped with them now, and it is very difficult to know what she is really thinking. Nevertheless, Mark Halperin at Bloomberg.com has written a brilliant piece in the first person purporting to be Clinton thinking out loud. While he clearly doesn't know for sure, he has had numerous conversations with her confidants over the past few weeks and it really rings true. A repeated theme in it is if she is letter perfect in everything but makes one mistake anywhere, that is the only thing that will be reported, which makes her extremely cautious. She has been in the public eye for over 20 years and pretty much the only thing about her in the news right now is her email server. Other candidates can make a mistake, but eventually it goes away (outside of the occasional Watergate). For example, then-governor Jeb Bush's ordering a feeding tube inserted into Terri Schaivo, even though CT scans showed that her brain had liquified. (V)

Rubio Gaining with Megadonors

Sheldon Adelson, the gambling magnate who spent $100 million on Republican candidates in 2012, is warming to Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL). If Adelson decides that Rubio is his man, he too could get $100 million. And Adelson is especially easy to please—all he cares about is your position on Israel. Abortion, same-sex marriage, taxes, immigrants, he could care less. (OK, being against Internet gambling that would compete with his casinos is a plus.) Gambling aside, candidates are measured by how much advanced military equipment they will give to Israel. It's like a poker game: I see your 100 tanks and raise you 50 jet fighters. If Rubio gets $100 million from Adelson, he'll be in the race until the very end, no matter what else happens.

But Adelson is the not the only megadonor who is giving Rubio a second look now that Bush is collapsing. Charles Schwab, Paul Singer, and the Ricketts family are also up for grabs. If they all bet on Rubio, he suddenly becomes the overwhelming favorite for the nomination, no matter what the polls say now. None of these big players want to back a clown—they want someone who can beat Hillary Clinton. With Bush declining and Kasich not moving up much, Rubio is well positioned to get their extremely generous support. Rubio is the guy to watch now. (V)

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---The Votemaster
Oct13 Democratic Debate Preview
Oct13 Clinton Donors Worry about Biden
Oct13 O'Malley Is Fourth in His Home State
Oct13 Fringe Candidates Sometimes Pop and Sometimes Fizzle
Oct13 What is going on at Quinnipiac?
Oct13 Carson's Inflammatory Remarks Help Him
Oct13 Senate Republicans May Weaken the Filibuster
Oct12 Another Day, More Speaker Drama
Oct12 Koch Opposes Special Interests
Oct12 Obama May Issue Executive Order on Gun Sales
Oct12 Benghazi Inquiry Now Focused on Emails
Oct12 Part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Leaked
Oct12 Chris Christie Doesn't Get It
Oct11 Recent Speakers and Why They Stopped Being Speaker
Oct11 Half the Campaign Money Comes from Only 158 Families
Oct11 Julian Castro Expected to endorse Hillary Clinton Next Week
Oct11 Ex Benghazi Committee Staffer: It is a Partisan Investigation
Oct10 Paul Ryan Is between a Rock and a Hard Place
Oct10 Biden Is Also Between a Rock and a Hard Place
Oct10 GOP Fundraising Suffers from House Chaos
Oct10 The Resurrection of Chris Christie?
Oct09 McCarthy Out of the Speaker's Race...Probably
Oct09 Congressman Writes Job Ad for Speaker
Oct09 Boxer Wants to KO Fiorina
Oct09 Bush Opposes a New Voting Rights Act
Oct09 Democrats Speak English Gooder than Republicans?
Oct08 If Trump is the Hare, Cruz is the Tortoise
Oct08 Gallup Pulls the Plug
Oct08 Democratic Focus Groups: We Love You Joe, but Don't Run
Oct08 Export-Import Bank Causes Problems for Republicans
Oct07 Supreme Court Likely to Move to Center Stage
Oct07 Biden May Have Leaked Son's Dying Wish to Help His Campaign
Oct07 The Case For and Against Rubio
Oct07 Trump Sends Rubio a Case of Bottled Water
Oct07 Emailgate May Show that Clinton Would Be an Effective President
Oct07 Jindal Spins Out of Control
Oct06 States Change Primary Dates and Rules
Oct06 Democrats Get Nearly All the Senate Candidates They Wanted
Oct06 Fiorina took 4 Years to Pay Off Campaign Debt
Oct06 Freedom Caucus Growing More Unified
Oct06 Clinton's First Ad Focuses on Benghazi
Oct06 One Issue Where Hillary Clinton is to the Left of Bernie Sanders
Oct05 Hassan Will Run for the Senate in New Hampshire
Oct05 Clinton Gets A Big Endorsement
Oct05 What is Biden's Actual Deadline?
Oct05 Tomorrow's Polling...Today?
Oct05 Is Hyperpolarization the Real Reason Outsiders Are Doing Well?
Oct05 McCain Tells Republicans to Be Nice To Each Other
Oct05 Bush's List of Unfortunate Comments Is Growing
Oct05 Hillary vs. Bernie