The 2016 Primaries, Round Three

Now that we are past Semi-Super Tuesday (March 15, that is; not its official designation, of course), it is time again to look ahead to the next round of the primaries, and to consider the greater context into which the primaries are playing out.  First of all, if you are new to this process, and have not read Spark!‘s earlier posts on the subject, you can see all of our blogs on the primaries (three so far) by going to the Elections 2016 Category.  We have covered thus far the process in general (in “Primer on the Primaries“); the “First Round of the Primaries” (covering the beginning of the primaries, up through Super Tuesday, March 1); and the “Second Round of the Primaries” (from late February, through March 15).

The primaries will continue into June, and of course are intended to select delegates for both parties’ conventions in July (the Republicans in Cleveland, July 18-21; and the Democrats in Philadelphia, July 25-28).  For the purpose of this blog, we are designating “Round Three” as taking us through the end of April.  May and June will constitute at least “Round Four;” and possibly more if needed to cover events as we move forward.

As of this writing (March 18), there are still some delegates yet to be apportioned from states that have voted, but which have not completed counting the votes.  Delegate counts are still somewhat unofficial, and are projections based on reports from states and voting districts.  As a result of confusion between the various state parties’ rules and other irregularities, various reporting agencies have minor differences in their delegate counts.  Real Clear Politics‘ projections of March 18 allot the following:

Democratic Race: 2,382 delegates needed to win [out of 4,763]

Hillary Clinton: 1,614 delegates (needs 33.5% of remaining delegates to win)

Bernie Sanders:  856 delegates (needs 66.6% of remaining delegates to win)

Republican Race: 1,237 delegates needed to win [out of 2,472]

Donald Trump:  673 delegates (needs 52.5% of remaining delegates to win)

Ted Cruz:  413  delegates (needs 76.7% of remaining delegates to win)

John Kasich:  143  delegates (needs more delegates to win than are uncommitted)

Marco Rubio:  169 delegates, and out.

Before moving forward, we can see, then that both Democratic candidates still have a viable path to the nomination; but that Clinton’s path is a far easier one than is Sanders’s.  On the Republican side, no candidate has yet a decisive edge for the first ballot in July.  Trump is by far the closest; but he still needs a greater percentage of the remaining delegates than he has shown himself able to secure thus far.  There is good news and bad news ahead for the Trump campaign.  The good news for Trump (and the bad news for the GOP and for the rest of the nation) is that the “winner takes all” states have now started voting.  In those states, Trump only needs to secure a plurality to get all of their delegates; and he has shown himself clearly able to accomplish that.  The bad news for Trump (and the good news for the rest of us) is that the Republicans are becoming increasingly hostile to him, and may manage to pull out enough key victories in states where Trump is weak to keep him from achieving the delegates threshold for the first ballot at the convention.  From there, things get a lot more interesting – and Trump may yet manage to secure a victory in Cleveland, so a brokered convention is not necessarily a Trump defeat.

None of the other Republican candidates has a viable path to first-ballot nomination.  Cruz needs an impossibly high percentage (over 76%) of the remaining delegates, and has nowhere been able to come anywhere close to such a victory, let alone achieving that nationally.  He would basically have to win many major winner-takes-all states to achieve that.  John Kasich, earning recently his first state victory in his home state of Ohio (a “winner takes all” state giving him the entire Ohio delegation), has so few delegates to his name that even if he were to win every single remaining delegate at this point – a 100% victory in every state, requiring nothing short of divine intervention – he would still come in 18 delegates short of a first-ballot win.  Marco Rubio, of course, has suspended his campaign, although his ghost may resurrect at the convention for second or subsequent ballots.

The next round of primary events include:

Thursday, March 10: Virgin Islands (R).  The caucus has already taken place; but no results have been announced yet.  9 Republican delegates will be apportioned, on a winner-takes-all basis.

Tuesday, March 22: Arizona and Utah will both hold dual-party events (primaries in AZ, and caucuses in UT).  The Republicans in American Samoa will hold an open convention; and the Democrats in Idaho will caucus.

Arizona is a winner-takes-all state for the Republicans.  Polls on Tuesday (March 15) showed Trump leading Cruz, 31% to 19%; but there were also 30% undecided respondents among the Republicans.  Clinton had a decisive edge on Sanders, 50% to 24; but that also puts 26% of Arizona Democrats into the undecided category and up for play.  Arizona could be a huge Clinton win; or a marginal Sanders victory.  Arizona has 58 Republican delegates to offer; and 75 Democratic delegates (plus ten super-delegates).

Utah has not been polled recently; but back in February both Cruz and Rubio had slight edges over Trump.  Bush, Carson, and Fiorina were still in play back then; and while Bush voters are unlikely to reach for Trump, Carson voters are more likely.  With Rubio gone, it may be easy to suggest that his voters support Cruz; but the two are widely different species of the Republican order, and Rubio supporters may go for Kasich or even Trump instead.  Some 42% of February’s respondents supported candidates no longer running; and so Utah has the chance to offer some nasty surprises.  February polls also showed Clinton leading Sanders 50% to 44 (with Sanders up a few points from January); and Sanders’s viability may well have been strengthened by his recent performance, so Utah is going to be a big fight for the Democrats as well.  Utah has 40 Republican delegates, 33 Democratic delegates, and 4 Democratic super-delegates.

Idaho’s caucus is currently presumed to be a modest Sanders win, giving both candidates roughly half of its 23 delegates.  Idaho and the other primaries and caucuses that day will give the Republican candidates a total of 107 more delegates; and the Democrats a total of 131 more, not including 18 super-delegates.

Saturday, March 26:  Democratic caucuses in Alaska, Hawaii, and Washington state.  Polling on these states is meager at best, and not up to date.  Together, they will allot to the candidates some 142 delegates, and 30 super-delegates.

April 1-3:  Republican state convention in North Dakota, which will nominate delegates to the July convention in Cleveland.  28 Republican delegates will ultimately be sent to Cleveland from North Dakota.

Tuesday, April 5Wisconsin open primary for both parties.  Wisconsin has no recent polling, but Trump held a significant advantage in February, when the field had more players.  Although the “middle states” have been forming a strong Cruz bastion, it seems unlikely that Trump’s advantage will have lessened; and it is a winner-takes-all state offering Trump (or whichever Republican wins it) all of its 42 delegates.  On the blue side, Clinton and Sanders were running neck and neck at the beginning of the year; so its 86 Democratic delegates make it a significant battleground state.

Saturday, April 9: Wyoming‘s Democratic caucus for its 14 delegates. Following this caucus, from April 14 through the 16th, Wyoming Republicans will hold a state convention to select the 15 remaining delegates selected by the party (there was a caucus on March 12; but it only had 11 delegates selected by that process). Three more Republican delegates from the state are super-delegates, as every Republican state party is allotted three such slots.  Polling data on Wyoming is lacking; but Ted Cruz blasted Rubio and Trump out of the water there last Saturday, taking 9 of the 11 selected delegates.

Tuesday, April 19: New York‘s closed primary for both parties.  The most recent polls showed Clinton with a whopping advantage (71% to Sanders’s 23) for its massive allotment of 247 Democratic delegates; however previous polls showed far less of an advantage (55% to 34 at the end of February), so either the recent Emerson poll is skewed, or Clinton’s success on March 12 has helped to shift New York more substantially in her favor.  Trump has a similar advantage there by the same polling firm (64% to Cruz’s 12; Kasich has a mere 1%), but previous polls by other firms had his numbers in the mid-40s.  The Republican party allots New York’s delegates as “winner takes most”; so as long as he has the plurality, he gets the bulk of delegates, but Cruz could still come out with delegates.  The trick to New York, however, is that it also has a 20% inclusion threshold; only candidates gaining at least 20% of district votes get any delegates from them.  Neither Cruz nor Kasich have been approaching those numbers in New York, so it is looking like an almost automatic Trump victory.  Cruz will likely rue the day he criticized “New York values” on April 19.

Tuesday, April 26: “Mini-mini-Super Tuesday” (I presume that only I am calling it that). Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island will all hold dual-party closed primaries, a huge battle for the Old Colonies.  Some 172 Republican delegates and 384 Democratic delegates are up for grabs.  While there is useful polling data  for Maryland and Pennsylvania, the other three states have not been adequately polled since November, 2015 (when almost all of the original 17 Republican candidates were still running).  A lot of voters have shifted to Sanders from Democratic undecided respondents since then, so only relatively recent polls are useful.  However, the entire region has been continually found to be more favorable to Trump than to other Republicans; and is largely more favorable to Clinton.  Delaware and Maryland have winner-takes-all Republican primaries; and Connecticut has (like New York) a 20% inclusion threshold as well as a 50% winner-takes-all threshold, so it may be a full Trump victory as well.

Total delegates, Round Three:  444 Republicans; and 1,004 Democrats (plus 184 super-delegates to be decided separately).

Based on the polling data available, Spark! projects the following for Round Three:

Hillary Clinton will gain another 520 delegates, giving her 2,134.  At that point, Clinton will need only 18.3% of the remaining uncommitted delegates to win the nomination.

Bernie Sanders will gain 417 delegates, giving him 1,273.  He would then need 82% of the remaining uncommitted delegates to win the nomination.  If our projections come anywhere close to the events, then by the end of Round Three, while Sanders will have come even closer to Clinton’s numbers, Clinton will have achieved enough superiority to take the nomination at the first ballot of the convention with ease.

In the meantime, Donald Trump will gain another 346 delegates, for a total of 1,019.  He would need to get 34.1% of the remaining delegates to win the first ballot in July.

Ted Cruz will gain 71 delegates, bringing his total to 484.  He would need more additional delegates than are available; and therefore could not get a first-ballot nomination.

John Kasich will get another 18 delegates, bringing him up to 161.  He already has no chance for a first-ballot nomination.

The key states to watch during this process are Arizona (for both parties), Washington (for the Democrats), Wisconsin (for both parties), and New York (for both parties).  Collectively, the statistically uninformative Old Colonies battling it out on April 26 will also host a major contest for substantial delegates and for new numbers.

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