March 15 GOP Primaries – To Trump Or Not To Trump?

Republicans that are wary of Donald Trump should be very wary of the Ides of March.  Today voters in Florida, North Carolina, Illinois, Ohio, Missouri, and the Northern Marianas Islands will go to the polls.  All but North Carolina are winner take all contests on the GOP side.

Depending on how Donald Trump performs today relative to his current Real Clear Politics poll averages in each state, he could either become an almost prohibitive favorite.  If the votes post Chicago protest move anti-Trump, tonight’s contest could almost certainly guarantee a contested GOP Convention in July.  Anything in between leaves us in deep murky territory.

We’re going to look at all three scenarios, and then take a look at the remaining contests and related delegate prizes on the way to the convention.  Ready?  Let’s dive in.

Trump’s Best Case Scenario:

Screen Shot 2016-03-15 at 12.33.41 PM

Donald Trump begins today having already won the 9 delegates from the Northern Marianas Islands territory.   When every delegate counts, he starts the day with a big prize.  What if he runs the table (as RCP suggests is possible – though Ohio leans Kasich) Donald Trump will end the night with over 800 delegates – depending on the split in NC with Cruz.  This would leave Trump with roughly 437 delegates needed to win the nomination.  There are 937 delegates that remain to be awarded after today, so Trump would only need to win about 46% of the remaining delegates.

What if Trump can’t close the deal:

Screen Shot 2016-03-15 at 12.34.22 PMDonald Trump has underperformed polls in many states thus far.  What if voters were turned off by the mess in Chicago this weekend, Rubio’s Florida ground game, personal appearances, and home field advantage have him win Florida.  What if Cruz over performs in a few of the closed contest states where he’s barely trailing Trump.  For at least a few more hours the #NeverTrump folks can look at math that shows a contested convention is entirely possible.

If Rubio pulls a minor miracle in Florida, Cruz splits North Carolina with Trump and wins Illinois and Missouri outright, and Kasich holds his home state of Ohio, then Cruz actually ends today with more Delegates than Trump.  This would leave either Trump or Cruz needing about 3/4 of all remaining delegates in order to reach 1,237.  Not likely.  Expect Cleveland to rock in this scenario.

My “likely” scenario:

Screen Shot 2016-03-15 at 12.34.03 PMI’m not hearing the confidence I was a week ago from my Rubio folks in Florida that he will close the gap.  Neither Florida’s current Governor Rick Scott nor former Governor Jeb Bush endorsed in this race.  Rubio is trying to win it without a lot of the state’s GOP apparatus.  There’s a lot to remember there if Trump wins this nomination.  Ohio, however, is looking better for Kasich.  Rubio has thrown his support that way and it may be enough.  We’ll assign Ohio to its Governor.  I’m going to give Trump an advantage in NC, give Cruz Missouri, and I think Trump pulls out Illinois.  In this scenario, Trump would be about 560 delegates away from the nomination.  That’s 60% of the remaining delegates.

So let’s assume that after today, regardless of the outcomes, it’s Trump vs Cruz.  Can Trump win the head to head with Cruz?  Maybe.  Ted Cruz has made his entire career fighting the “establishment”.  Thus, he has few GOP friends that control the gears of the GOP machine, and few owe him any favors.  There are also many voters that identify with the GOP that are not as conservative as Cruz and his followers believe all GOPers should be.  They may be willing to vote for Trump instead of Cruz.  Add in those already voting for Trump because they see Cruz as part of the same establishment system, and we’ve got a race.

Some big states remaining.

Arizona, Utah, and American Samoa are next up on March 22.  Trump has Sheriff Joe & Governor Jan Brewer in Arizona, and it’s winner take all.  Give him the edge for 58 delegates.  Utah is proportional.  Rubio says he’s going there and Romney hates Trump.  Still, is 1/3 reasonable for Trump?  Give him 15 of the 40 delegates.  American Samoa is a convention.  We’ll assume Cruz takes that.

Skipping ahead to NY, their primary is proportional, but how many people with “NY values” are going to vote for Cruz?  Give Trump at least 70 of their 95 delegates.  I’ll throw in 35 of 47 from the following week in Connecticut and Rhode Island for the same reason. Pennsylvania is a big prize on April 26 with 71 delegates, but Maryland (38) and Deleware (16) are winner take all contests.  Cruz should be able to compete in Penn, but doubtful in MD and DE.  Let’s say Trump runs that table.

At the end of April, Donald Trump could have 303 more delegates.  That would put him only 134 from the nomination.  Want to give Pennsylvania to Cruz (their GOP did elect Rick Santorum and Pat Toomey after all), Trump is still 205 to 328 delegates away (using Trump runs the table or the “likely” scenario).

The contests in May aren’t likely to clear things up much.  Nebraska is more socially conservative and that may favor Cruz in a head to head, or maybe not.  But it’s the only winner take all state in May with 36 delegates.  West Virginia has direct election of 34 delegates.  I’ll let the true wonks/nerds figure out how that plays here. (I’ll assume advantage Cruz).  Oregon and Washington are proportional states so we’ll just split them even and give Trump and Cruz 36 delegates each.  Trump could easily go into June needing less than 100 delegates from remaining contests to clinch the nomination.  In Cruz’s most rosy scenario Trump is less than 300 delegates from clinching going into June.

The remaining contests are on June 7th and 303 delegates at stake.  California is the big prize, with 172 winner take all delegates. New Jersey, South Dakota, Montanna, and New Mexico also vote. For fun, remember that the Democratic coronation primary will likely be long over by then. What will Democrats do in open contests in Montanna and New Jersey with open primaries? Will California Republicans back Ted Cruz’s style of conservatism? (And what is a California Republican anyway?).

Remaining, head to head.jpgLet’s make this simple.

Here are the states Donald Trump needs to win starting today in order to reach 1,237 delegates, eliminating proportional states where we assume in a toss up he splits delegates:

New Jersey

Or, Let’s put it this way,

Of remaining states, Trump can lose winner take all contests in the following and still reach 1,237:

South Dakota

In summary, tonight would likely only tell us if a contested convention is necessary, in the Trump’s worst case scenario of losing all remaining contests today. The math does get a lot easier for Trump should he pull out wins in Ohio and/or Missouri today. It gets a lot harder if he loses in Illinois and almost prohibitive if he also loses in Florida.  But assuming a decent showing today, Trump has major contests ahead in Pennsylvania and California to secure 1,237 delegates.  Advantage Trump.


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