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Sunday, March 13, 2016
Politics ...

[UPDATED March 23, 2016]

For political junkies, it goes without saying that the 2016 Presidential candidate nomination process has been one of the most interesting and exciting political battles ever (well, at least since 1860). Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have provided real drama to a situation that one year ago looked pretty boring. Jeb Bush was the presumed inheritor of the GOP crown, and for Hilary Clinton the primary season was supposed to be a Democratic love fest, mostly just a warm up tour for the main event in autumn. Who would have thought that a socialist senator from Vermont (originally Brooklyn) could have made life so difficult for Clinton, and on the GOP side, that a Manhattan-based billionaire developer and “branding specialist” would actually be taken very seriously by a wave of disgruntled GOP (in)activists who are suddenly demanding change? Hmmmm, when national politics get infected by New York City characters, look out.

We’re now pretty deep into the primary season, and although Hilary’s eventual nomination seems like the better bet (so long as she doesn’t get lazy), the GOP side has been full of drama courtesy of Mr. Trump. Trump is now leading the delegate count, and the big question has become, can Trump garner the requisite 1237 delegates by the end of the primaries so as to avoid continued drama at the July convention in Cleveland? Is there any realistic scenario to stop him now?

I’ve been hashing this out lately with one of the other political groupies at work, and we both think that the signs point toward an ultimate Trump victory, but not without some cliff-hangers and an interesting if long-shot scenario that could stop Trump before July 18 (start date of the convention). Five states will be key to Trump’s ultimate fate: Arizona (March 22), Missouri (March 15), Ohio (March 15), Wisconsin (April 5) and possibly California (June 7). If it all does come down to California, look out for some incredible political drama (not that what has transpired thus far hasn’t been incredible in its own right).

Here’s what the present situation tells us. Take a look at a map of the states divided into states that Trump has won and states that Cruz has won so far. Real Clear Politics provides a rather good one. Basically, you can see that Trump does well in the east and in the south, and Cruz generally does well in the west. Another factor seems to be the unemployment rate. Most of Cruz’s states have unemployment rates under the current national average (4.9%). Alaska is the only exception at 6.5%.

Trump has also won in lower-than-average unemployment states (Vermont, New Hampshire, Virginia), but most of his states have near-average rates (Massachusetts, Arkansas, Michigan) or significantly higher unemployment levels (e.g. Nevada, Mississippi, Alabama). Regionally, Nevada and Hawaii are the two westerns states that spurned Cruz for Trump; but perhaps the unemployment situation (and the fact that Trump is well known in the gambling industry which is key to Nevada’s economy) helps to explain Nevada. Hawaii is harder to fathom; perhaps the GOP there consists largely of East Coast transplants.

As to Maine, Cruz’s one eastern state, the unemployment rate is lower than the national average; but it is roughly on par with its regional neighbors (Vermont and New Hampshire), which went for Trump. Perhaps there is just something about the character of Maine people that turns them off to an urban New Yorker like Trump and attracts them to Cruz’s radical independence / distrust of government message — perhaps the same thing that helps Cruz in the west.

If these trends hold, then we would expect eastern and southern states with relatively high unemployment rates to go for Trump, and western states with relatively low rates to opt for Cruz. I will use this rule of thumb to analyze how the “winner take all” (WTA) states will turn out. But first, let’s look at the 9 proportional allocation states yet to vote or caucus, with 384 delegates at stake. I will assume that Trump will take 45% of these delegates. That would add 172 delegates to the Trump column. Here’s my logic.

Trump’s performance to date in the proportional states has been 40% of their delegates. However, I believe that Marco Rubio will drop out after losing Florida, his home state, on March 15th (as all the many Florida polls now predict by a 10+ point margin). Many of those primary voters or caucus goers who might have voted for him after that will flock to Cruz. Perhaps John Kasich will win Ohio on the 15th (current polls shows him neck-and-neck with Trump) and thus stay on through the rest of the races. If so, then Kasich might also inherit some previous Rubio support. He would sorely need it in order to be taken seriously in any end-game scenario (which is about the only reason for him to stay in the race, as he has already been mathematically eliminated from getting the needed 1,237 delegates); Kasich has only picked up about 6% of delegates from proportional states.

If some of Rubio’s supporters in upcoming states switch to Kasich, Kasich might arguably garner just north of 10% of the upcoming proportional delegates (Rubio has about 16% of the proportional delegates thus far; it seems reasonable that at least 6 of those 16 would not be able to accept Cruz and would switch to Kasich despite his ultimate non-viability). Cruz has gotten about 36% of the proportional delegates thus far; with 9 of 16 former Rubio supporters added, one could imagine him getting up around 45%. However, most of the remaining delegate states are southern or northeastern (NC, NY, CT, RI, WV — total 248 delegates). The more Cruz-friendly proportional states (OR, WA, NM, UT) have 136 delegates available. Kasich would be expected to do better in these states, so I will give him a bigger cut of the former Rubio people and take some of the pie away from Cruz.

As such, I will assume that Cruz will come in at 40%, Kasich will bump up to 15%, and Trump will get 45% of the remaining proportional delegates. Many pundits talked about a “ceiling” for Trump, and although that ceiling turned out to be a lot higher than the 25 or 30% originally anticipated, at some point I believe that Trump maxes out and thus will not benefit from former Rubio supporters. Given that Cruz isn’t strong in the east, Kasich seems poised to inherit a significant chunk of the post-Rubio spoils on the upcoming proportional side (even though he most likely will not win a proportional state outright).

As to the variously uncommitted delegates — totaling 116 by my count — I believe that Cruz would generally do better than Trump on the first convention vote. About 83 of those votes will come from potentially Cruz-friendly western states, i.e. North Dakota, Colorado and Wyoming. As such, I will assume that Cruz will get 55% and Trump will take 45% of those uncommitted delegates. That would be an additional 52 delegates for Trump. (I am assuming that few if any of the uncommitted would decide to support Kasich).

Next, how about those delegates now committed to a candidate who has left the race (or is about to, i.e. Rubio)? As to the effect on Trump, the only real benefit that Trump gets in my estimation is for Ben Carson to release his 8 delegates to Trump, given that Dr. Carson has sold his soul to the devil and come out in support of Trump. As to Rubio’s present 163 delegates, and whatever additional proportional delegates he might gain from North Carolina on March 15 (the only proportional state on that day’s schedule), I doubt if any of them will go to Trump; the whole point of supporting Rubio was to AVOID Trump. They will drift off peaceably to Cruz and maybe Kasich. More on that later. Oh, and Jeb Bush still holds 4 delegates, Carly Fiorina one, Mike Huckabee one, and Rand Paul one. I’m guessing that Bush’s four people will gravitate to Kasich, and most of the others will find their way to Ted Cruz. Let’s give Trump one of those four stragglers.

With these assumptions, Trump is up to 693 delegates (460 as of today + 172 new proportional-state delegates + 52 unbound delegate votes at the convention + 8 from Carson + 1 from Huckabee, maybe). Thus, before we analyze the critical winner-take-all states, we estimate that Trump needs another 544 delegates to go to Cleveland as the clear winner (i.e., the 1,237 threshold minus 693). Will the winner-take-all states deliver them to him?

I would guess that Trump is a shoe-in for the following WTA states, based on regional bias, unemployment rate, and current polling: Florida; Illinois; Delaware; Pennsylvania; Indiana; Maryland; and New Jersey. Those total 401 delegates. Cruz would seem a natural fit for the following: Nebraska; Montana; and South Dakota. The two “possessions” that send delegates on a WTA basis (Mariana Islands and Virgin Islands) are wildcards, it’s hard to guess which way they will go; unemployment is high in both places, but it is difficult to gauge the cultural biases in whoever considers him or herself a Republican in those far-away places. It might be best to split it down the middle and give Trump another 9 delegates. So Trump would then have 410 of the 544 that he needs from the WTA states. He still needs another 134 from the five other take-all states.

Those five WTA states are all in the gray zone: California, Ohio, Missouri, Arizona and Wisconsin. Ohio would be a Trump state but for favorite son John Kasich. The latest polls show that Kasich has a chance to beat Trump on the 15th and deny him the 66 delegates that Ohio contributes. Missouri (52 delegates), which also votes on the 15th, is right on the line between east and west; its neighbors Kansas and Iowa went for Cruz, while Arkansas, Kentucky and Tennessee (and likely Illinois, per current polls) went for Trump. Missouri has a relatively low 4.4% unemployment rate, favoring Cruz; although current polls indicate Trump with a small lead. This one could go either way in my book.

Arizona (58 delegates) is another head-scratcher. Being another “true-west” state, it should be culturally biased towards Cruz. But the unemployment rate in Arizona is quite high at 5.9%, somewhat favoring Trump. Immigration is also a critical issue in Arizona, and perhaps Trump’s strident anti-immigration talk will garner more GOP support than Cruz’s equivalent but more moderately stated position. Again, it could go either way right now.

Wisconsin (42 delegates) is also right on the line. Being close to Michigan and Illinois and having some industrial base near Lake Michigan, it would initially appear to be Trump territory. But its unemployment rate is below the national average, and Wisconsin is bordered by Iowa (Cruz) and Minnesota (Rubio’s only major state).

Before we get to California, let’s say for now that the law of the coin-toss will hold and Trump will get two of these states, and some combination of Cruz and Kasich will get the other two. If Trump gets the smallest two states, i.e. Wisconsin and Missouri, he will add a total of 94 delegates. In that case, Trump will hold 504 WTA delegates (410 + 94), and needs another 40 to lock up the convention. If Trump wins Arizona and Ohio (124 total), then he is still short, but only by 10. If Trump really gets lucky and gets three of the four “toss-ups”, then the jackpot buzzer goes off and it’s on to November for Trump.

One factor that I haven’t mentioned yet regards open versus closed primaries. Cruz has had 7 of his 8 wins in closed primaries, while Trump has scored more than twice as many victories in open states versus closed states (disgruntled “lunch pail”/Bill Clinton Democrats might be something of a Trump constituency in an open primary, along with Hilary supporters hoping that Trump would be her weakest potential rival). Three of the four toss-ups just discussed (OH, WI and MO) are open, and one (AZ) is closed. If Kasich cannot stop Trump in Ohio, then, it could be game-over for the Trump-stoppers, by a hat-trick.

If the drama does go on to California, it’s hard to say who might have the advantage. California holds a closed primary, perhaps favoring Cruz. But unemployment is relatively high (5.8%), indicating Trump support. California has something of the “true west” cultural identity that favors Cruz, but also something of the cosmopolitan atmosphere that would be comfortable with Trump. The California GOP has a true-conservative streak, having given us Ronald Reagan; the conservative purists would arguably support Cruz. But there are also enough “big tent” Republicans to have given another populist celebrity, Arnold Schwarzenegger, the keys to the State House.

Of course, even if Cruz were to win California and my 2-of-4 scenario for the other four toss-up states were to hold, Trump would still go to the convention only 10 to 40 votes short (Cruz would still not be near 1,237 even with California’s 172 delegates, because of the previously selected delegates committed to Rubio and Kasich). Trump’s deficit could be made up alone from a portion of the uncommitted delegates who I am assuming would favor Cruz (but would be under intense pressure from Trump to get on his bandwagon; I’m sure they would be adequately rewarded in one fashion or another for changing their loyalties). The reality appears to be that barring a huge and unexpected swing towards Cruz on March 15th and 22nd, Donald Trump will be the Republican nominee for the 2016 Presidential election.

But . . . here’s one last-ditch wildcard possibility. Suppose Ohio allows Kasich to stay in, and by late April Cruz sees that he isn’t going to overcome The Donald in delegates. Let’s say that Rubio hasn’t released his delegates yet either, that he tries to retain some “dead-hand” influence. What if Cruz decides to give in to the dark side . . . i.e., he decides it’s time to soften his message a bit and make peace with “The Establishment” (assuming that The Establishment hasn’t yet signed a Molotov / Ribbentrop-like peace treaty with Trump).

Suppose then that The Establishment brings Cruz together with Rubio and Kasich; Kasich, having Ohio in his pocket, gets the VP spot on Cruz’s ticket (making the deal a bit more palatable to The Establishment). Rubio can’t deliver Florida, but he still has enough delegates together with Kasich to get Cruz over the top, assuming that 54 of the 64 uncommitted delegates presumed loyal to Cruz can be convinced to stay that way. Rubio would get some high-visibility spot in a Cruz administration (Secretary of State, quite likely — which worked out pretty well for Hilary!). Suppose this happens before the California primary on June 7, with an unholy alliance of Cruz, The Establishment, and its lackeys (Rubio and Kasich) doing a fully court press against Trump in the Golden State. That would be the GOP version of Armageddon — the final battle to stop Trump.

Oh well, we shall see Tuesday night if any of this is possible. If Trump takes Ohio, then this scenario falls apart. In that case, even if Trump winds up a little bit short of the 1,237 goal, he would probably be in a good position to swab up some combination of uncommitted delegates and delegates formerly committed to Rubio and Kasich, just enough for him to take the convention on first ballot. Without saying, this could still get very interesting — we shall see if my “California Dreamin” is becoming a reality . . .

[MARCH 21 UPDATE: My “California Dreamin” scenario is still alive. Kasich took Ohio, but Trump took Missouri. Arizona will be determined tomorrow — polls give Trump a solid lead. Wisconsin follows in 2 weeks, and initial polls there favor Trump. But the GOP Establishment is putting a lot of money into anti-Trump ads in Dairyland, so my 50-50 split scenario for the “head-scratcher” states might still hold up. As to the two 9-delegate possessions, the Marianas went for Trump, and the Virgin Islands went for no one (for whatever arcane reason involving local rules, its 9 delegates will go to the convention officially uncommitted). Sounds like Trump thus pulled ahead of my assumptions, but countering that is the fact that Missouri and Illinois were “winner take most” situations; since Cruz did pretty well in both states, he picked up at least 24 delegates from them. So, assuming that Trump takes Arizona tomorrow, there is one chance yet to deny Trump a controlling if not entirely decisive lead before California — i.e. Wisconsin. So far there is no sign of negotiation between Cruz and Kasich. Kasich continues to campaign as if he is a credible alternative in himself (thus amplifying the possibility that he and Cruz will split the majority anti-Trump vote and thus hand most of the remaining states over to Trump; case-in-point, an Arizona poll released today shows Trump with 46 percent, Cruz with 33, and Kasich with 17). But if Trump can be beaten in Wisconsin (presumably by Cruz, if Kasich will just stay out of the way), then there are two months for a last-ditch stop-Trump unity ticket to emerge. Stay tuned!!!]

◊   posted by Jim G @ 9:25 pm      

  1. Jim, The “figuring out” of all the numerical “stuff” regarding the primary elections in the states and who will probably get what and from where, etc., is thoroughly and well done. Yet, I think you have left out one important thing. I don’t know if you’ve noticed but a great deal of the “business” regarding the GOP election (less so in the Dem election) is emotional. For instance, the “sucker punch” that was all over the news here in the Midwest was an emotional reaction to an “I don’t like what you think” between two people on different sides of the issue of who liked or did not like Trump.

    It also occurs to me that many of those in favor of Trump are young people; I haven’t seen too many “older” people in the crowds favoring Trump. While I myself was a “radical” when I was young, I find that as I have aged my approach to various topics (particularly politics) has mellowed.

    I find myself wondering how many of all those people listed in the statistics of the states are young people who, while their intentions may be very good, have little experience in the consequences of life and one’s approaches to choices in life.

    It may be true that we should just get used to the idea of Donald Trump as a GOP nominee in 2016. But we also have to consider that it’s a “who’d’ve thunk” Trump would ever have gotten this far. Anything and everything can yet happen regarding Donald Trump and his run for presidency.

    I find myself wondering where all the very rich people went, whom Romney initially started to speak for and then suddenly disappeared. What happened to the former mayor of NYC who said he would run as an independent and then suddenly disappeared from view? I doubt these people are only counting up votes from states. I also doubt that they will quietly sit by and watch Trump take the nomination. These very rich people are very quiet but also very influential. I wonder what their plans are.

    Lastly, should Donald Trump become the GOP nominee, I find a certain satisfaction in voting for Hillary Clinton and having no quandaries about a vote for her. MCS

    Comment by Mary S. — March 15, 2016 @ 5:38 pm

  2. Jim, Another tho’t re Donald Trump–and I must add for what it’s worth, which may not be a lot: I don’t know if you’ve noticed the negative non-verbal behaviors Donald Trump has/had. Initially, almost all of his behavioral patterns were negative; someone must have mentioned it as I now notice he has “tamed” some of them down. I think it’s those negative non-verbal behaviors that have bothered me the most; they say a lot about what he thinks without his actually using words to convey his tho’ts.

    There are also a great deal of negative behaviors from his followers. Somehow or other it seems that Trump’s own non-verbal behaviors have spread to his followers.

    I’ve heard yet again that if Trump gets the nomination there will be a contested convention. (Do I have that right?) Somehow that seems like a sad thing to say about the GOPs. This brings to my mind the question of whether the reality shows have begun to influence real life–and real life in such an important aspect as who will be president of our country. While it will be a pleasure to vote for Hillary, it would be much better to have a real life vote for/against a woman who really knows what she’s talking about when it comes to a presidential level. Donald Trump is hardly presidential material. Can you impagine Putin manipulating Trump quite easily? I can. MCS

    Comment by Mary S. — March 16, 2016 @ 5:27 pm

  3. Jim, Recall how Ron Paul came in fourth in Louisiana in 2012, yet eventually received almost all of the delegates in that state. This happened to a lesser extent in other states too. With the two GOP leaders being Trump and Cruz – neither of which plays by the rules – shouldn’t we expect much more of the same in 2016? If Trump cannot win on the first ballot, I’m willing to bet we’ll find out that some of his delegates are actually stealth establishment Republicans.

    Comment by Zreebs — March 23, 2016 @ 4:47 am

  4. Steve, good thought. So, if Cruz wins Wisconsin (I see that the Predictwise site is currently favoring Cruz there) and the battle for California goes against Trump, and thus we go past a first ballot at the GOP convention, then we could expect significant apostasy on the part of Trump-committed delegates. If they indeed are crypto-establishmentarians, that would be Kasich’s dream-come-true. But that dream then prevents Kasich from selling short for VP in a pre-California deal with Cruz, and thus increases the possibility of Cruz-Kasich fratricide (e.g., California comes out Trump 34, Cruz 33, and Kasich 33).

    For now, on to Wisconsin, the next drama. PS, I did a Trump vs Hilary Electoral College scenario (yea, I know that all the head2head’s give Hilary a comfortable popular vote margin), and it all comes down to Pennsylvania or Michigan. Trump would need to steal one of those two from the Democratic column. And that ain’t impossible, IMHO. Jim G

    Comment by Jim G — March 23, 2016 @ 7:59 pm

  5. In a Trump v Hillary race, I would give Hillary 1:3 odds. I agree Trump can win, especially if Hillary gets into a new scandal. I also agree that Trump could win MI or PA, but he will likely lose both.

    Comment by Zreebs — March 23, 2016 @ 9:17 pm

  6. I see that there are some Trump-Clinton head-to-heads for Michigan; Hilary maintains the edge, around 8 points. Haven’t seen any PA head-to-heads yet. Ironic from the GOP perspective that the most likely primary candidate (Trump) does the worst overall in the head-to-heads (loses most of them to both Clinton and Sanders), while the one least likely (Kasich) does the best, and even seems to have an edge over Clinton. If all this holds (this election cycle is pretty wild, nothing seems like a good bet anymore), then the GOP is sinking its own ship. As such, it obviously is a ship that deserves sinking. Jim G

    Comment by Jim G — March 26, 2016 @ 10:44 am

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