Beware the Ides of March: Candidate Targets

There will be a new narrative in each race after tonight’s primaries.  If Trump takes all of the winner-take-all states, it’s more likely than not John Kasich and Marco Rubio will drop out.  Establishment types will likely view that a Hobson’s choice, and rumors of a third-party candidate may grow. Below is the Donald Trump worst-case scenario, in which his poll numbers represent  ceiling.  This is not our projection, but rather a baseline to measure Trump’s performance against tonight (and we left the “force Cruz win in IL” flag on):

Trump still wins the day, even if his poll numbers are a ceiling, but Kasich wins Ohio and Cruz pulls out a surprise in Illinois.
Trump still wins the day, even if his poll numbers are a ceiling, but Kasich wins Ohio and Cruz pulls out a surprise in Illinois.

The biggest surprises above are Ted Cruz’ strength in Illinois and Missouri. Western Illinois’s not all that different from Eastern Iowa (nor, for that matter, is Northern Missouri), so Cruz doing well in those regions won’t be too big of a surprise. Chicagoland has a lot of hard-over ex-union voters, and south of Springfield, IL it’s basically Kentucky (ditto Jeff City). Our “status quo” projection, on which our current overall projection (Trump wins on first ballot, but by a nose) is based looks like this:

A more likely outcome.
A more likely outcome.

GOP Rule of Thumb:  Measure against Trump.  If he gets fewer than 150 delegates (winning only Florida and North Carolina[1]As of this writing, he already won the Northern Mariana Islands’ nine delegates. There’s zero data there, but we wonder how much the Islands’ strange history and current legal framework for immigration affected the thoughts of the (likely) couple of dozen voters.), he had a rough night, and the likelihood of a contested convention grows; between 150 and 300, the status quo is preserved; over 300 he had an outstanding night, and he likely wins outright sometime in May.

On the Democratic side, it’s increasingly likely Bernie Sanders will upset Hillary Clinton in some key states, but due to the proportional manner in which delegates are allocated, her delegate lead will still grow.  Below is the math if her poll numbers represent her ceiling:

Close States + Hillary ceiling = tough night for the frontrunner?
Close States + Hillary ceiling = tough night for the frontrunner?

It’s much more likely that Illinois and Missouri will look more like Ohio, with the winner taking a smaller delegate lead than the above chart suggests.  Still, it shouldn’t be a huge surprise if Bernie takes 3 of 5 states.  If the numbers above hold, Sanders is on track to finish just 250 delegates shy of Clinton, but she would still com out on top with superdelegates.

Democrat rule of thumb:  Measure against Clinton delegates. States won means very little to the math [2]Though admittedly a lot for narrative, which affects future states..  If Clinton  wins fewer than 340 delegates, she’s in real trouble, and Bernie may well overtake her in delegate counts by June; if she gets between 340-365 delegates, the Michigan momentum swing is real; if she nets between 365-385, the status quo is maintained; anything above 385 is a pretty good night for her.  If Clinton gets more than 400 delegates, the tightening over the past week is mostly erased and she’s back on track to win without resorting to superdelegates.

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. As of this writing, he already won the Northern Mariana Islands’ nine delegates. There’s zero data there, but we wonder how much the Islands’ strange history and current legal framework for immigration affected the thoughts of the (likely) couple of dozen voters.
2. Though admittedly a lot for narrative, which affects future states.

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