State of the Campaign: Spring Break


Well, we’ve had the first four contests in February. We’ve had three Super Tuesdays! We’ve also had a smattering of other days and un-super Tuesdays, like this week’s confabs in Arizona, Idaho and Utah. Along the way, we’ve whittled things down from 22 candidates to five. From here, things take a little break. The Republicans don’t have another outing for 13 days, and after three contests this Saturday the Democrats are out too until everybody gets back together for Wisconsin on April 5th. So how are things looking on the eve of the campaign’s Spring Break?


If you look on a county-by-county basis, there’s almost a Mason-Dixon line going on the Democratic side:


Tuesday’s results reinforced that, with Hillary doing well in Arizona (probably inadvertently helped along by state Republican officials voter suppression strategies), and Bernie doing very well in Utah and Idaho. In fact, Sanders got such lop-sided margins in those two states that he actually slightly reduced his delegate gap versus Clinton, something that he stands to do again this weekend with Alaska, Hawaii and Washington. This follows up on his win by a 2/3 margin of the Democrats Abroad primary announced this Monday. Statistical analysis of where he’s done well so far would also indicate he stands a good shot in the next two states once we resume again in April, Wisconsin & Wyoming.

Does all of this improve the outlook on his possibly winning the nomination? In a word: Probably not. Okay, it was two words, you got me. My fellow Berners pretty much aren’t speaking to me at this point because of my stubborn insistence upon the existence of math. She is indeed a harsh mistress, but a fairly clear one. Based purely on pledged delegates (not those wily Superdelegates) this is where the math currently stands:


The good news for Sanders? There are no more Southern States, and while Clinton has trounced him in the South, he’s actually narrowly beaten her in total votes for all contests outside that region:


There’s also some interesting analysis out there indicating that Clinton, where she is winning, is doing so largely based on early voting that happened weeks or months ago, and Sanders is beating her on election day voting. Even given all that, though, the numbers still don’t add up. So far, he’s gotten a little over 50% of the vote in all non-Southern states. He’d need to get 69% of all remaining delegates in order to win. One can imagine circumstances where this could happen, a la major Clinton scandal. But in any vaguely status quo scenario, you would be very surprised to see his average in the remaining 25 contests jump to 69% compared to 50% for the 18 non-Southern contests that have happened so far.


The outlook here is much cloudier. Trump won resoundingly in Arizona, but Cruz meanwhile did very well in Utah.


The catch is that, unlike Democratic primaries and caucuses, which are almost all proportional to vote, Republican contests often feature some kind of rule- winner-take-all, delegate allocation based on who gets the majority in each congressional district, minimum percentage cut-offs to qualify for any delegates- that tends to magnify the lead of a front-runner. Even if you are a front-runner by virtue of only getting 30-something percent of the vote, you’ll get a much higher percentage than that of the delegates. So that works to Trump’s favor, but the field was fractured enough for long enough that it is very borderline whether he can get to the total before the convention.

If it’s hard to see how he can pull off the total in time, it’s pretty near impossible to see how Cruz or Kasich could do it. The numbers currently stand as follows:


Even if Rubio were to endorse Cruz and pledge his delegates to him (as there are some rumblings may happen), and even given that the party establishment is working its way toward supporting Cruz, despite the fact that they don’t like him much, there isn’t an easy to see scenario where he gets the percentage of delegates he’d need in order to catch Trump before the convention. Meanwhile, Kasich would actually need to win 116% of the remaining delegates, i.e. he has no path forward that doesn’t involve a time machine.

Prominent Republicans continue to say that whoever arrives at the convention with the clear preponderance of delegates should be the nominee. So, Trump. A number of them also continue to say that they’re deeply troubled by Trump’s behavior, and a surprising number hedge on whether they would support him if he is the nominee. So, maybe not Trump. If nothing else, this should be fascinating to watch!


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