Amidst an increasingly unpredictable political season, tonight the Iowa caucuses will finally cast the first votes of the 2016 presidential campaign. It's an outsider vs. establishment war in both parties, as Republican leaders struggle to dislodge Donald Trump and Ted Cruz from the top while Hillary Clinton marshalls her endorsements and long résumé against the populist zeal of democratic socialist Bernie Sanders. The best guesses of FiveThirtyEight, BetFair, and Ann Selzer's gold-standard Des Moines Register poll all favor Trump and Clinton, but the race remains very close, and turnout in the demanding and complicated caucus events will be key. Vox provides a helpful video explainer on the process [previously]. Pass the time with FiveThirtyEight's 40-minute elections podcast, and keep an eye on the New York Times live blog of the caucuses for real-time updates once voting starts at 8:00 PM Eastern -- and don't forget to leave your two cents in the MeFi election prediction contest!
Thursday was a banner day for Bernie Sanders, whose campaign reached two million donations and won two key endorsements. So it came as a shock Friday when Sanders was hamstrung by, of all things, a Clinton data scandal. NGP VAN, the Democratic Party's main vendor for data services, mistakenly lowered the firewalls isolating each campaign's voter info -- and one Sanders staffer peeked. While the (now-fired) staffer claims they were just trying to gauge the scope of the exposure, the Clinton camp accused their rival of downloading valuable data. DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz agreed, barring the entire campaign from NGP VAN in response -- potentially crippling their sprint to Iowa. Already dinged for shielding Clinton with favorable debate schedules, the DNC dropped the ban following outcry and a Sanders lawsuit (which Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver said might expose collusion). Crisis averted, though not without adding some potential fireworks to tonight's Democratic debate on ABC.
The "National Religious Liberties Conference", sponsored by radical evangelical pastor Kevin Swanson, with featured speaker Phillip Kayser, was primarily focused on how homosexuality was destroying god-fearing people everywhere, and how gays should be executed if they don't repent and stop being so gay. Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee and Bobby Jindal cuddled up with Mr. Swanson in their quest to outcrazy the other candidates, which is a difficult task, let's be honest. Rachel Maddow (skip to minute 6:00) is the first (and so far, only) national media journalist to cover the story and show footage of the event.
Mississippi Governor Dewey Phillip "Phil" Bryant is pretty confident that he will be re-elected this year. His only opponent in the Republican primary spent less than $1000 on the campaign, and every prominent Democrat -- in fact, every Democrat who had ever run for office in the state -- declined to run. And that's how truck driver (and retired firefighter) Robert Gray won the Democratic gubernatorial primary without party backing, money, a website, or even a Facebook page. [more inside]
So what happened? In the run up to 2008, Jon Huntsman Jr. wanted to be a player in national politics, and Mitt Romney all but patted him on the head and urged him to sit on the bench. Three years later, the specter of the next presidential election would fan smoldering resentment into flaming disgust in full view of the political world. Huntsman, then ambassador to China under President Barack Obama, left his dream job for his own White House run against Romney, whom he considered an exceptionally weak front-runner. Romney, for his part, saw Huntsman as a political opportunist he would relish crushing. Members of both families deny a feud exists and instead offer polite, politically correct compliments about their counterparts. Behind the facade, though, lie two political tribes that have grown to dislike and distrust one another.
Hillary Rodham Clinton has announced (via a YouTube video and emails to supporters) she is running for the position of nominee on the Democratic Party ticket for the 2016 US Presidential Election. Her campaign website. Will she win the Democratic candidacy? Bookmakers currently say "very likely". And the presidency itself? "50/50". [more inside]
Two enjoyable chapters [PDF, 33 pages] from the book Math from Three to Seven: The Story of a Mathematical Circle for Preschoolers. "This book does not purport to show you how to create precocious high achievers. It is just one person's story about things he tried with a half-dozen young children."
Modern art generator Suitable for framing! /via boing boing
California begins its "top two primary" runoff. Called a blanket primary, open primary, jungle primary, the top-two primary seeks to end partisan gridlock by having one primary for all voters in June, where the top two candidates face off in November, regardless of party affiliation. Said to favor moderates while hurting small parties, Arizona votes on a similar measure next week. [more inside]
Battleground is hulu's first exclusive scripted original series. A mockumentary drama/comedy depicting a Senatorial campaign in Wisconsin, the show has a run of 13 episodes this season, 12 of which are already available on hulu (the season finale will be released May 8). Happily, the first six episodes are also available on YouTube. 1: The Pilot, 2: Who Is Claire Villareal, 3: Hold The Whipped Cream, 4: The Comment, 5: They'll Burn Your Eyes, 6: Polls Close At Six [more inside]
Artist Bas Van Oerle presents a series of propaganda posters for the 2012 Republican presidential contenders. Ron Paul For The Youth Vote. Fields of Santorum. Love Me Romney. Join The Cosmonewts.
Depressed/frightened/disheartened about the GOP primary race? Here's Bad Lip Reading doing Rick Santorum and the rest of the GOP roster: Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Michelle Bachmann, Herman Cain, Rick Perry. [more inside]
After interminable months of campaigning, debates, and roller-coaster polling, the first official vote of the 2012 presidential race is in -- and boy, is it a doozy. Ames straw poll winner Michele Bachmann placed second-to-last, while former juggernaut Rick Perry performed so badly he's canceled upcoming events and is said to be on the verge of dropping out. Meanwhile, perennial laughingstock Rick Santorum, consolidating the support hemorrhaging from Perry, Bachmann, and an ad-blitzed Newt Gingrich, rocketed past the youth- and independent-backed Ron Paul and, with 99% of the vote counted, is separated from Mitt Romney by four votes out of ~120,000 -- by far the closest result in caucus history. As the shaken field contemplates the path ahead through Romney firewall New Hampshire, conservative South Carolina, Florida, Super Tuesday, and beyond, President Obama staged a quiet redux of his own dramatic caucus win four years ago, a dry run for the looming general election. And as for powerhouse Buddy Roemer? Don't worry -- his team is ready to do battle with evil.
Santorum surges from behind in Iowa. With the countdown to the Iowa Caucuses entering its final hours the GOP race remains in a dead heat. Polls show the unlikely campaigns of social conservative Senator Rick Santorum and libertarian leaning Representative Ron Paul in surprisingly strong positions to challenge Governor Mitt Romney for the opening victory in the Republican primary season. Both Paul and Santorum have focused heavily on traditional retail politics in the Hawkeye State.
Is Newt really going to be the nominee? As Romney collapses and Newt surges in the polls, the party establishment is worried. Libertarians are panicking. Can the establishment stop him? What about Ron Paul? Can Huntsman save the party from catastrophe?
Texas Governor and GOP presidential candidate Rick Perry is booked on all the major morning shows tomorrow, and with good reason. After two months of gaffes, impolitic stands, and bizarre speeches that quickly waned his once-strong odds of winning the Republican nomination, Perry went into Wednesday's CNBC debate sorely needing a win... only to deliver a tortuous, cringingly forgetful attempt [video] to recall just which three cabinet departments he'd vowed to abolish, a stunning failure political scientist Larry Sabato deemed "the most devastating moment of any modern primary debate" in his memory. While Perry's slow-motion flameout has boosted the fortunes of dark horse candidate Herman Cain, the unlikely challenger is facing troubles of his own in a volley of sexual harassment claims -- an oddly ineffective scandal Cain is doing his best to (somewhat dubiously) disavow. If Cain collapses, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich may reap the benefits, but his moribund campaign has issues of its own. Pawlenty, Bachmann, Perry, Christie, Cain, Gingrich... the base is loathe to rally round him, but after so many failed, flawed, or forfeited challenges, can anyone topple Mitt Romney?
Rep. Michelle Bachmann has won the Ames Straw Poll. Rep. Ron Paul came in a close second. This poll, though undemocratic, has a fairly good predictive track record. Since 1979, the winner or runner up has gone on to win the Iowa caucuses each time. [more inside]
Gospel singer Herman Cain's album "Sunday Morning" is now available online. In the fifteen years since the album was originally released the singer and baptist preacher has also found success in the business world, broadcasting, and politics.
Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor of the lefty Jewish magazine Tikkun, wants to save Obama -- by primarying him from the left.
I'm Basil Marceaux dot com, the Republican candidate for Governor. I like to recall all permit, and registration, for guns. Everyone carry guns. If you kill someone though, you get murdered, you go to jail, and uh, I'd like to put... plant grass or vegetation across in the state on any vacant lot, and sell it for gas, so we can use it for our expenses. Also, I'm gonna remove all gold fringe flags from the state and fly the real flag with three stripes. I also wanna stop traffic stops; set it up like the Supreme Court ruled in Knowles v Iowa: you can't find innocent car, you can't look. I want you all to vote for Basil Marceaux. I want to say the Pledge of Allegiance to a Republic in the morning when you come out... and we all pray to God and say Amen and everyone... have a nice day. And I'll see you all at the polls. Thank you... have a nice day. [more inside]
Vic Rawl has filed a protest against the man who beat him in the South Carolina Democratic primary for the US Senate. The official reason is election irregularities, however at the core of the protest is the fact that the winner Alvin Greene is a complete unknown with no prior experience. He won the primary despite the fact that he has no campaign headquarters or material and in fact did not seem to campaign at all. Also curious is the pending criminal case in which he is accused of showing a pornographic website to a college student. Mr. Greene does not come across particularly well in interviews and CNN interviewer Don Lemon even went so far as to question his mental health and called it one of the most bizarre interviews he's ever had. So is this Republican tampering as many observers are accusing? (FiveThirtyEight weighs in) Did South Carolina voters give him the (59%-41%) victory because they thought he was Al Green, soul music's most insinuating singer? Or perhaps these are the wrong questions and we should be focusing on Alvin Greene's platform: jobs, better education for children and justice.
Largely overshadowed by the Republican gubanatorial primary (relevant portion starts at the 4:25 mark), last night South Carolina Democrats chose a nominee to face incumbent Republican Senator Jim DeMint in November. On the ballot were former judge and state legislator Vic Rawl of Charleston and a 32-year-old unemployed black Army veteran named Alvin Greene. Mr. Greene first attempted to pay his filing fee by personal check, had no campaign funds, no signs, no website, never attended a South Carolina Democratic party meeting, never held a public event, never met his opponent, and has repeatedly been described as somewhat incoherent. Mr. Greene also just beat his opponent by a whopping 16-point margin to become Jim DeMint's dream opponent.
Do you feel disappointed in government? Does Obama seem a little too meek for the Presidency? Do you wish he'd make larger structural reforms? Maybe, suggests Matt Taibbi, there's an answer. [more inside]
"The First Gaze" - Armed with a rudimentary portable movie camera, Robert Drew captured JFK's presidential campaign with unprecedented candor. The resulting film, 1960's Primary, helped introduce cinéma vérité to American journalism. [more inside]
Party Like It’s 2008 [SLNYTOE] Almost every wrong prediction about this election cycle has come from those trying to force the round peg of this year’s campaign into the square holes of past political wars. That’s why race keeps being portrayed as dooming Mr. Obama — surely Jeremiah Wright = Willie Horton! — no matter what the voters say to the contrary. [more inside]
"Bitter" harvest The week started off in classic campaign form: a report of remarks made by Obama percolated through the media and came to dominate the news cycle. In typically circular fashion, the exhaustive coverage came to provide its own justification, as journalists covered the controversy that they had largely created... [more inside]
Last year, as McCain's campaign seemed stumbling into the grave, it applied for federal matching funds for the primary season. After Super Tuesday, McCain withdrew from the system. Or did he? If he didn't, he's capped at $54 million to spend till September -- and he's already spent $50 million of it. Former FEC Chairman Brad Smith tells, in bravura detail, the whole whirling story. (via Election Law Blog) [more inside]
Michigan Democrats for Romney is an effort by mischievous Michigan Democrats to take advantage of the uncompetitive January 15th "beauty contest" primary on the Democratic side by encouraging Democratic voters to vote for Mitt Romney in the Republican primary so that Romney won't drop out of the primary race after making his last stand in Michigan. Similar hijinks by Michigan Republicans in 1972 led to George Wallace's victory in the Democratic presidential primary that year.
They were polite to us. They were more than happy for us to come to the rallies and stand in lines for hours to cheer on the candidates.... But when they got elected, behind closed doors, they would laugh at us and speak with scorn and derision that we were, as one article I think once said "the easily led." So there's been almost this sort of, it's okay if you guys get a seat on the bus, but don't ever think about telling us where the bus is going to go.[more inside]
The times, they are a-changing? [pdf]: A Survey of Iowa State University Students' preferences in the presidential primaries. [spoilers inside] [more inside]
Tag-clouds for the first debates of the Democratic and Republican primaries. via the kreat orange satan
The Great War: "People at the time experienced it differently. We may think they were misinformed and deluded, and perhaps they were, or maybe we have become incredibly cynical and mistrusting. What were once considered to be civic virtues are now thought to be quaint anachronisms at best or grand delusions at worst. Things change." The site proffers an incredible variety of popular-press articles and imagery concerning the unfortunate European events of 1914 to 1918.
Ned Lamont responds to accusations of hacking the Lieberman website. In response to a reported issue with the Lieberman campaign websites, Ned Lamont claims to have nothing to do with it. In Lamont's blog you'll notice, however, that someone has divulged the real reason behind the websites not being available: "Perhaps Joe should contact Diana Fassbender, fassbenderw (at) yahoo (dot) com, the billing contact for joe2006.com at “Friends of Joe Lieberman.” She can ask their host, www.theplanet.com, how to reconcile the account and restore service. It’s 1-800-377-6103—we’re here to help. It looks like a simple case of non-payment. Pretty sloppy by the Lieberman folks."
Spin, exposed live and wriggling. In 1995, Brian Springer released an hour-long documentary film comprised of incredibly revealing moments caught from raw satellite feeds. Not only do we get to hear the spin-doctor coaching candidates received during various commercial breaks, there are also some amazing moments such as Larry King suggesting to Clinton that Ted Turner could "serve him," an anchor suggesting to her expert that during the L.A. riots his frank diagnosis of inner-city hope is "too obtuse," and the exclusion and exclusion of Larry Agran from the 1992 Democratic primaries — and, really, there's much more.
Whatever happened to Howard Dean?
"He was assassinated by Bill and Hillary with the assistance of Chris Lehane, the political hit man who first worked for Kerry and now backs Clark.caveat: I'm not trolling, but as a democrat I find this interesting. Ok, nauseating.
Desperate to keep control of the Democratic Party, the Clintons used their negative researchers and detectives to the ultimate and generated a story-a-day savaging Dean. The Vermont governor, not ready for prime time, cooperated by being thin-skinned, surly and combative. "
Dean in for Bush-Whacking? A new poll shows President Bush would clobber Democratic front-runner Howard Dean by nearly 2-1 in politically potent New Hampshire - even though Dean has a giant lead over Democratic rivals in the state. Bush gets 57 percent to Dean's 30 percent among registered voters in the American Research Group poll.
No winner in MoveOn primary... but Dean places first, with 4387%. No candidate getting over 50% means no endorsement for now. But more people voted in this virtual Democratic primary than voted in the New Hampshire, Iowa, and North Carolina Democratic primaries/caucuses in 2000.
Howard Dean is closing in on the lead in New Hampshire, with 16% to Kerry's 17%. Dean is appealing to voters by being outspoken in an environment in which many of his fellow democrats are submissive to Bush's approval rating, and due to anticipation of his universal health care plan, which he is soon to unveil. Already established as the most net-savvy candidate, Dean has hundreds of real-life meetups planned for today.
Another election debacle in Florida. One year and $30m in technology later, the Reno/McBride primary is marred by late openings and other assorted and sundry glitches. I know, it's a CNN link, but I can't resist anything that includes someone delivering the grade "F-minus-minus-minus" (later determined to be merely an "F-minus-minus" and some Drambuie). Any personal voting horror stories from our Florida contingent? Will the state become a case study in how "throwing money at the problem" never works?
Georgia Republicans Attempt to Derail Democratic Primary "Overzealous staffers" signed affidavits of identity for candidates in eight Senate seats to pose as primary opponents to more established Democratic candidates. Dirty pool or legitimate tactic?
If you're in Arizona, you'll be able to vote online for your Democratic Primary candidate this year. Nuts! I can't wait to see how this works out. All I can think is that it will be a security nightmare and hell on server resources to do that many writes to a database in a short period of time. I hope it's a success, and spreads to my state, so I won't have to go through the trouble of finding my polling place, waiting in line, and getting to work on time. You want voter participation to go above 20%? Make it easier.