What the electoral map looks like as we head into the general election campaign

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This is probably just the first in a series of electoral maps that will grace this page until Nov. 8. 2016 – the day likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton will face off against likely Republican nominee Donald Trump.

Based on demographics, recent polling (which, admittedly, is suspect this far from Election Day), economic data and just the basic history of recent presidential elections, this is where I would say the race stands as we head into general election mode.

A quick glance may bring you to the conclusion that this is a bit friendly toward the Democratic candidate, but even a slight shift of a few points could push some of these states from slightly blue to slightly red.

For now, out of the 50 states, there are only six I can see as pure toss-ups – Ohio (of course), Florida (duh), Virginia, Iowa, Colorado and North Carolina.

Some states, like New Hampshire and Pennsylvania, are not as solidly blue as, say, Vermont or California, but they certainly lean toward the Democrats at this point.

If Trump wants to make a play in places that commonly vote for the Democrats, he will have to overcome what are often double-digit deficits, according to much of the polling. Not to mention the fact that his numbers are unsurprisingly terrible with minoritiesmillennials, and women – all key groups that helped Barack Obama win the White House twice. Among the general population, Trump has the highest unfavorability ratings ever recorded for a potential presidential nominee.

If this map holds up, which is a big if, it would only take a Clinton win in Ohio to give her the White House. Or Florida. Or Virginia. Or even a two-state combination of Colorado and Iowa. In other words, there are many more routes for the Democratic nominee to take to get to 270 electoral votes. For Trump, he basically needs a clean sweep to have a chance.

Again, this can and will change as we see more swing-state polling, but Hillary Clinton will start the general election season as the favorite to be the 45th President of the United States.

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Don’t worry, Donald Trump will consult himself on foreign policy

Don’t worry, Donald Trump will consult himself on foreign policy

In order to explain away Donald Trump’s poor temperament and total lack of knowledge on issues, Trump voters repeatedly say that he won’t really be making the decisions if he’s elected.

They basically admit that he is dangerous and unfit to be president, but we shouldn’t care because he will consult much smarter people who will do the real adulting during his presidency.

What’s important to his supporters aren’t the minor details of judgment and thoughtful decision-making. Who needs those silly things? No, according to his loyalists, we simply need a man who will courageously shove a middle finger at the so-called establishment. As far as doing the actual work of keeping the country’s lights on, well, just leave that to the intelligent people he’ll appoint.

To the much broader group of non-insane Americans, it’s stunning and frightening that a substantial percentage of the country would knowingly elect a man who lacks the traits to be commander-in-chief, all because: A. They want to see someone “shake things up,” whatever the hell that simplistic garbage means; and B. Smart people around Trump – AKA the establishment figures that Trump supporters supposedly hate – will be advising him.

So, the question becomes not whether Trump is fit to be president; supporters and critics alike have already come to the conclusion that he probably isn’t. Instead, the question is who Trump will surround himself with so that we don’t end up bombing a country based on a tweet that the billionaire crybaby doesn’t like.

Well, after months of dodging, Trump has finally revealed the identity of one man he will consult: himself.

In a phone interview on ‘Morning Joe’, Trump was asked who he talks to about the “dire foreign policy issues” that face the country, and the GOP front-runner said, “I’m speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain and I’ve said a lot of things.”

He added that he talks “to a lot of people,” but that that his main consultant is himself, citing his “good instinct for this stuff.” Trump’s response comes after he has repeatedly refused to name who would make up his foreign policy team.

When Trump was asked previously where he gets his military advice, he said, “Well, I watch the shows.”

So, there you have it. It’s okay that Donald Trump throws public tantrums and resorts to name-calling when he doesn’t get his way. It’s okay that much of his foreign policy involves committing war crimes. It’s okay that almost 100 Republican foreign policy leaders recently said that a Trump presidency would undermine national security.

All of this is okay because Trump will be consulting the best people and getting the best advice, from himself and “the shows,” before making any major decisions as president.

Phew, what a relief.

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Donald Trump’s campaign is not even close to a movement

Donald Trump’s campaign is not even close to a movement

Donald Trump’s campaign has certainly received the lion’s share of media attention in 2016. Whether it’s his bigoted comments, violent rallies, or obvious lack of knowledge on the issues, he always finds a way to seize control of the spotlight.

And, after winning 15 states this primary season, he is officially the Republican front-runner. If he can pull off wins in Ohio and Florida on Tuesday, we may have to start calling him the presumptive nominee.

His success in a crowded field of candidates, though, does not mean that his campaign is a movement that has swept the nation. It’s not.

In total, Trump has only received about 35 percent of the Republican vote this primary season, and he’s actually pretty unpopular with those in his own party who haven’t been foolish enough to vote for him. In a new ABC News/Washington Post poll, almost half (48 percent) of GOP-leaning voters wouldn’t be satisfied with Trump as their nominee.

And Trump likes to boast that he can win over Reagan Democrats in a general election, but the same poll shows that likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton would receive a greater percentage of Republican voters (15 percent) than Trump would with Democrats (9 percent) if they were to face off against each other in November.

His supporters may be loud and loyal – and they may occasionally sucker punch anyone who doesn’t subscribe to Trump’s bigotry – but they don’t remotely represent the opinions of the vast majority of Americans. In fact, a whopping 67 percent of voters have an unfavorable opinion of Trump, according to the same ABC News/Washington Post survey. That would put the billionaire businessman in the biggest pre-general election hole of any presidential nominee in decades, if not history.

In virtually every area, from the economy and immigration to trust and experience, Clinton beats Trump comfortably. And, in general election polls, Trump often loses to both Democratic candidates by double-digit margins.

Sure, there is plenty of time left for Trump to get those negatives down and make it a tight race. He could even win, God forbid. But this is not a normal election. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are two of the most well-known candidates to ever seek the presidency, and opinions about each of them are already pretty ingrained. The odds of a major shift in public sentiment are probably low.

So, no, Trump’s campaign is not a movement, as the candidate himself likes to claim at his primary night ramblings/press conferences/infomercials. At best, he is a terribly weak front-runner. At worst, he will destroy the Republican Party.

If you ask me, both of those scenarios bode well for the country.

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While no one is watching, Obama’s approval ratings are up and the economy keeps rolling

While no one is watching, Obama’s approval ratings are up and the economy keeps rolling

In February, a solid 242,000 jobs were added to the U.S. economy, and the unemployment rate held steady at 4.9 percent – half the rate it was at the peak of the Great Recession.

In December and January, the number of jobs added was also revised up by 30,000, bringing the average number of jobs gained in last three months to a healthy clip of 228,000 per month.

February’s gains make 72 straight months of uninterrupted job growth, the longest streak ever recorded. Over that span, the economy has created 14.3 million jobs, most of which are full-time positions. Factoring in the huge job losses that President Barack Obama inherited in his first year, we’ve seen a net gain of over 10 million jobs since the president was sworn in.

Perhaps relatedly, we’ve also seen Obama’s approval ratings tick up in recent months, with today’s Gallup tracking poll showing the president with a 51 percent approval rating (and 44 percent disapproval rating). This number is consistent with other polls showing a positive trend in the public’s view of the way Obama is handling his job.

No one is really paying attention to these numbers, particularly since so much of the media’s attention has been focused on the dumpster fire Republican primary race, but they may become more important as we get closer to the November general election.

Campaigns may be exciting – and this one certainly has a can’t-look-away vibe to it – but at the end of the day, the job approval of the incumbent president and the direction of the U.S. economy play an equally important – maybe even larger – role in determining which party will win the presidency.

As statistics guru and election forecaster Nate Silver often points out, it’s not so much the unemployment rate that matters so much as the trend does. If the jobless rate is steady or falling, like it was during Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign, that bodes well for the incumbent political party. If it’s going up, as it was in 1992 when George H.W. Bush failed to win a second term against Bill Clinton, it’ll hurt the party in power.

If the unemployment number continues to hold steady, or even falls closer to 4 percent, that will certainly be a boon to Hillary Clinton’s campaign going into the November election. The same applies to Obama’s approval ratings, especially given the fact that Clinton is essentially running for a third Obama term.

Personal attacks, presidential debates and Donald Trump’s penis jokes may get all the buzz, but economic indicators and incumbent presidential approval ratings will likely play a large role in determining who gets sworn in on Jan. 20, 2017.

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The Republican Party is in total crisis mode

The Republican Party is in total crisis mode

Holy crap, this is fun to watch.

In the much-anticipated Super Tuesday voting, Donald Trump won the night. The self-centered billionaire pulled off wins in 7 states – Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Virginia and Vermont. The victories gave him a nice chunk of delegates and solidified his status as the party’s front-runner.

If the party wasn’t already in a panic, Tuesday’s results and Trump’s big leads in upcoming voting states are surely sending them into one.

It’s why establishment figures within the party are quickly mobilizing to figure out how they can possibly prevent Trump from winning the nomination. Even former GOP nominee Mitt Romney gave a major speech today with one purpose: to bring down Trump.

In the speech, Romney called Trump “a phony,” a “con man,” and a “fake” who is “playing the American people for suckers,” a guy “whose imagination must not be married to real power.”

I can’t say I disagree, of course, but it’s certainly rich coming from a guy like Mitt.

The former Massachusetts governor also ticked off a substantial list of Trump’s business failures, like Trump Mortgage and Trump University, saying of Trump: “A business genius he is not.”

Romney added that on foreign policy Trump is “very, very not smart.”


The effort to take Trump down has greatly intensified since Tuesday when, according to CNN, more than 50 GOP donors and bigwigs spoke on a call with the head of an anti-Trump super PAC and discussed strategies for how to take down the billionaire businessman.

Today, in an open letter, more than 70 conservative foreign policy thinkers bashed Trump’s dangerous foreign policy as “wildly inconsistent and unmoored in principle.”

His actual primary opponents – Marco Rubio in particular – spent the days leading up to Super Tuesday going hard after Trump, even making fun of the color of his skin and the size of his hands (and other things). 

Voters didn’t seem to care, though, and Rubio only pulled off a win in one state, Minnesota. Trump came out of Tuesday with the wind at his back.

At this point, high-ranking Republican officials seem to have conceded that there are only two possible outcomes going forward: 1. Trump will win the GOP nomination fair and square, and they’ll have to deal with the consequences; 2. Enough candidates will remain in the race, thus dividing up the delegates in a way that denies any candidate the sufficient number to become the Republican nominee.

If the second outcome comes to fruition, we will likely see a contested convention when Republicans meet in Cleveland. In this case, primary wins and delegate counts go out the window and choosing the nominee is an exercise carried out by party insiders. This is when guys like Paul Ryan or Mitt Romney could swoop in and be handed the nomination.

Of course, if that happens you can expect the New York billionaire and his supporters to revolt in a way that could damage the party even more than if Trump becomes the nominee. Either Trump wages a third-party candidacy, which would ensure victory for the Democrats, or he just tells his supporters to stay home on Election Day, which is also likely to guarantee a GOP loss.

In short, this is insanity to a degree we haven’t seen in American politics for some time, and it’s not about to go away anytime soon.

As a left-leaning voter, it’s fun to watch. For Republicans, it’s probably nothing short of cringeworthy.

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Ohio Democrats should vote for PG Sittenfeld in the March 15 primary

Ohio Democrats should vote for PG Sittenfeld in the March 15 primary

At the beginning of 2016, as the country’s gun debate once again heated back up, I decided that I would not cast my ballot for any candidate who rates higher than a ‘C’ from the National Rifle Association (NRA). Until gun safety voters decide to make gun violence prevention central to their votes, nothing will change on this issue.

This pledge most certainly includes candidates that happen to be Democrats, and it didn’t take a whole lot of time to find a primary race I could apply it to.

In Ohio, former Gov. Ted Strickland, age 74, is seeking to reignite his political career in a U.S. Senate primary campaign against 31-year-old Cincinnati councilman PG Sittenfeld.

I have nothing personally against the former Ohio governor, but his ‘A’ rating from an organization that continues to hold Congress hostage on such a critical issue should give pause to any Democrat thinking of voting for him in the March 15 primary.

But it’s more than a meaningless rating; Strickland earned it.

When the former Ohio governor was in Congress, he opposed a ban on semiautomatic weapons and supported granting immunity to gun manufactures and dealers. He has also voiced support for preventing local governments from creating their own laws that aren’t uniform with state laws that can often be lax and ineffective.

In 2010, during his unsuccessful re-election bid against Republican John Kasich, Strickland won the endorsement of the NRA and proudly accepted it in a public campaign event. He’s also been happy to take over $40,000 in contributions from the organization.

Strickland’s current campaign for the Senate has given him plenty of opportunities to renounce this support and offer a tougher stance on an issue that needs bold and courageous action. Instead, the former governor has spent the campaign waffling and shying away from even participating in debates with his opponents.

Strickland’s Democratic primary opponent, PG Sittenfeld, has rightfully made gun violence prevention a main component of his campaign platform and has offered meaningful proposals to tackle the problem.

Sittenfeld has also shown the willingless and depth of knowledge to discuss all the issues that face the state of Ohio, whether it’s an economy leaving too many people behind or quality education that too many students can’t afford. He has has practically begged – to no avail, I might add – for the opportunity to debate these issues with the former governor. Unfortunately, Strickland hopes to coast to victory using his long history and high name recognition among Buckeye State Democrats.

As the Plain Dealer put it in their major endorsement of Sittenfield, “Ohio needs to debate its future, not rehash its past,” and the Cincinnati councilman is the best candidate to lead that debate.

Sittenfeld gives Democrats eager for bold action and new leadership a real choice. In November, he would also give voters a clear contrast in a race against Republican incumbent Sen. Rob Portman. Strickland may be a good guy and a decent enough candidate, but Democrats can do better by choosing Sittenfeld to carry their torch this fall.

He’ll be my choice in the March 15 Democratic primary. He should be yours, too.

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Predicting the winner of every Super Tuesday primary/caucus

Predicting the winner of every Super Tuesday primary/caucus

On March 1, voters from both parties will head to the polls — or caucus sites — to choose who they believe should be their party’s nominee in this fall’s general election.

Each party will hold primaries/caucuses in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont and Virginia. In Alaska, only the GOP will hold it’s caucus, and only Democrats in Colorado will be choosing a candidate. The Democrats will also be holding their caucus in American Samoa.

Below are my predictions for the winner(s) of each contest, and, as you’ll see, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are the heavy favorites.

Hillary Clinton wins: Alabama, American Samoa*, Arkansas, Colorado*, Georgia, Massachusetts*, Minnesota*, Oklahoma*, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia

Donald Trump wins: Alabama, Alaska*, Arkansas*, Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota*, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Vermont and Virginia

Bernie Sanders wins: Vermont

Ted Cruz wins: Texas

Some of these states, with a slight shift of just a point or two, could fall to another candidate, but it still looks like Super Tuesday will belong to Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump — unless, of course, Trump’s KKK controversy and the slew of Rubio/Cruz attacks will give voters a change of heart as they go to the polls tomorrow. But I wouldn’t count on it.

*These states either have little polling on which to base my prediction, or the polling that does exist shows a very close race. 

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