We’ve already adjusted our model to account for a “Clinton ceiling,” and it’s looking like it may be the right projection. New polls from Quinnipiac and Public Policy Polling show Sanders closing the gap in Ohio, Illinois, and Missouri. Our model baked in a Missouri upset (we have him winning there by nearly 10 points on the assumptions late breakers go for him). The potential softening in Ohio, where PPP has Clinton 46-41 is a significant shift from our model’s 55-45 split (as, under our rule, this would translate to a 9-point Sanders win). PPP’s 48-45 split in Illinois is not too far from the 51.5-48.5 we’re projecting.
The GOP numbers are equally interesting in Ohio, showing a tied race there. If Kasich fails to win there, it’s hard to see a credible pathNew @ppppolls and @QuinnipiacPoll numbers show tight Dem race in OH, MO, IL with potential #Sanders upset. #Kasich #Trump tight. for him and Rubio to stay in (and for the GOP to block Trump).
Donald Trump has a good chance to effectively wrap things up on March 15. Polls show him with a 20-point lead in Florida (where early voting opened as Marco Rubio was tanking), putting him on track to take all of its 99 delegates in the winner-take-all primary. If Rubio fails to win Florida, it’s difficult to see him staying in the race. Here’s how our model sees that race playing out:
Change four variables, though, and the race takes on a different flavor:
Rubio drops out after Florida. His supporters go 75% to Kasich, 20% to Cruz, and 5% to Trump (yes, that’s a total guess).
Kasich wins Ohio. This isn’t a huge stretch; he leads Trump in current polling averages, and the 6-7% Rubio numbers may heed his strategic-voting advice.
Trump’s poll numbers are his ceiling. Until our last update, our model split the “undecided” votes (i.e. the difference between 100 and the sum of the candidates’ support) proportionally. We’ve added a number of different scenarios. The one that tracks most closely to reality is that Trump’s polls are his ceiling; the biggest difference in his favor, according to the excellent fivethirtyeight.com poll average, was the 3.3% miss in Massachusetts. On average, he comes in below his polls 1-2%.
Cruz wins Illinois. He trails Trump by 6 points in the late fivethirtyeight.com average, but when we apply the “Trump ceiling” rule, he comes within a single point.
Based on that, Trump misses. the target by about 20 votes. Still not an ideal outcome for the #NeverTrump camp, but it doesn’t require too many logical leaps.
Stretching a bit further into supposition, Rubio’s dropout could broaden the gap:
Kasich or Cruz win Pennsylvania. Rubio dropping out would put the three remaining candidates within a point or two of each other (possibly favoring Kasich, as Rubio still polls strongly here). Kasich may end up off the ballot, though.
Kasich or Cruz win Maryland. There, they really would all get a third under our polling split.
This setup would already have Cruz winning Wisconsin and Kasich winning California, based on Rubio’s support pushing them over the edge. That’s about as close to a NeverTrump dream scenario that the numbers currently bear out. It would have the weird effect of an all-out fight in California (!), but perhaps March 15 will shed a bit more light on Rubio’s future, and on Trump’s ceiling.
The story of the week on the Democratic side this week was Bernie Sanders’ impressive win in Michigan, where polls had him trailing 20%. It’s probably right to question the demographic models pollsters are using for the upper-Midwest states (including Ohio and Illinois that vote March 15 – and where Clinton holds 20-point leads).
This blog isn’t going to do that. Our model is set up to assume that the candidates’ polling averages are their “floor”. In Michigan, for example, polls showed Clinton at around 58% support and Sanders at 38%. Our model split the remaining votes proportionally (i.e. Clinton got 58% of undecideds).
In the event, Clinton’s strength was oversold by around 10%, and Sanders, in effect, won all of those plus all of the undecideds. Since polls are the only data that show likely support, changing that as a baseline for the model would put us too far into guess territory. Instead, we’ve built into the model a couple of variables to re-align how undecided votes are split.
National polls have Clinton leading Sanders 51.8% to 37.6%. So what happens if all of the undecideds vote for Sanders (i.e. if he is polling 48.2%)?
Well, the race closer, and ends with a different result from our baseline projection. Clinton would end up 150 delegates short of the 2,382 delegates the Democrats need to win on the first ballot without superdelegates. Most outlets show her with around 460 superdelegates pledged, so she would likely still win the nomination, but with Sanders saying he’s in until the convention, the backroom politicking would continue until the actual nomination.
How likely is this outcome? The polls suggest Clinton is holding/gaining nationally and in most states where there is polling. Obviously, that’s not how things played out in Michigan. The key states to watch for assessing both whether the polls are overplaying Clinton’s strength and whether late deciders are breaking to Sanders are Florida, Illinois, and North Carolina, and Ohio (there just isn’t good polling in Missouri). Until then, the current polls are the best information we have.
Big nights for both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. The former grew his delegate lead (though not by quite as much as our model projected, mostly because there wasn’t any polling in Idaho somewhat because Cruz/Kasich had a stronger-than-expected night). Sanders, though, still lost ground overall to Hillary Clinton.
Clinton still leads by over 200 pledged delegates, and our model still shows her getting a majority of delegates without dipping into her (substantial) super delegate reserve – but only just. The big caveat here is that Sanders will almost certainly get a national bounce from Michigan, and the result there may suggest that polls in other states are under representing his strength:
On the GOP side, the thing to watch is if Rubio drops out. He’s widely thought of as the “establishment” candidate, but, as we’ve reported before, he’s not necessarily loved by GOP insiders. We’re speculating here, but Rubio’s best hope may be to do what he can to help Kasich survive in the hopes he could win points with insiders for a potential Kasich ticket emerging from a brokered convention. It’s a risky strategy: for Kasich to win at the convention, he would need to wheel and deal considerably, possibly abrogating whatever primary deal he strikes with Rubio. Oh, and Trump is still on target to win:
There are 234 winner-take-all delegates on March 15 in Florida, Ohio, and Illinois. Polls show Trump winning all of them. If he does, we project him winning in early May. Kasich appears to have a better shot at winning his home state than Rubio does in his. If Kasich pulls it off, the #NeverTrump movement’s only hope – and slim one at that – is to get Rubio to drop out and full-throatedly endorse Kasich.
Hillary Clinton led by about 20 points going into Michigan’s primary. Even if she squeaks out a win, it’s impossible to deny that Bernie Sanders had a huge night there. With 74% of districts reporting, Sanders is up around 4%. From a delegate math perspective, though, Sanders said it himself “the delegates are going to get split up because of proportional representation.”
Based on the 20-point lead, we projected Sanders would leave with a 30-delegate lead. If the current numbers hold, Sanders will probably walk away with a 6-delegate lead. Regardless of what happens, Clinton will widen her gap overall, as she will probably get around 30 more delegates than Sanders in Mississippi. So, in the short term, Sanders win is big and unexpected, but doesn’t matter much.
In the long term, well, Clinton is still has a 200-delegate lead, and the March 15 states look pretty favorable to her. But if Sanders’ result in Michigan is an indicator that the national numbers are tighter than the current 13-point spread, Bernie could start chipping away, possibly preventing Clinton from getting a majority without having to use Superdelegates.
Donald Trump will almost certainly win Michigan; he has a 16-point lead in the latest polls. Ted Cruz and John Kasich both come in around 20%. A story to watch for tonight will be whether Rubio, who is polling around 11%, breaks the 15% delegate threshold. Doing so will give him around 9 delegates in Michigan, of which four will come from Trump and 3 from Cruz. Not a huge swing, to be sure, and fourth-place is already going to be hard enough, but a delegate goose egg will be a tough thing.
There’s a lot of talk from Bernie Sanders supporters about the super delegate race, and it’s pretty clear that Clinton currently holds a commanding lead with 460 of the 712 on the board. They argue, though, that those delegates will start flipping to Sanders when he builds a pledged delegate lead. Based on our projections, however, Clinton is likely to earn the 2,382 delegates she needs to win without using any of her pledged delegates.
Based on our count, Clinton holds a 699 to 458 lead in pledged delegates. Based on current polling, that lead should expand considerably on March 15:
Of the above, only Missouri lacks state-specific data and is therefore based on Clinton’s nationwide 51%-37.6% lead. If those numbers hold, Clinton will hold a 1244-776 lead following those votes.
Is that impossible to make up? Well, mathematically, no. But the path to get there is highly improbable. To make up a 480-delegate deficit, Sanders would have to win every single delegate in Pennsylvania AND New York, for example.
Does that mean Hillary has it locked up? Well, no. After March 15, we see Sanders basically keeping pace with her. Our projection sees her building her lead a bit on April 22, but mostly that’s just big-delegate states that are relying on the national poll. Unless things change, she won’t actually wrap it up until the last day of voting on June 7:
Sanders is now on record saying he won’t drop out before the convention. That probably makes sense. There’s not much that Clinton can offer him now that will make him back down, and it probably helps her general-election campaign to have the come-together moment happen at the convention. That will probably happen: it’s hard to see Sanders losing the political revolution fight and then letting Trump take the White House.
We’ve updated our spreadsheet that the latest numbers on the delegate projections, based on polling aggregates from fivethirtyeight.com and Real Clear Politics. These are run on a state-by-state basis, with each state’s delegate allocation rules factored into the math. The poll numbers are up-to-date through March 6, and we’ve added options for Rubio dropping out, as well as forcing new winners in the big winner-take-all states to see what that does to the numbers.
How might our numbers still be off? Well, first off, if the polls are. Some big states, like Florida, haven’t had new poll numbers for nearly two weeks. National polls don’t yet seem to reflect Super Tuesday (and certainly Super Saturday) voting.
They’re also probably off a few delegates per state, as we use state-wide polling numbers for each congressional district, which favors the state winner by allocating a handful more delegates to them than real life.
A third way it’s probably off is that it apportions undecided voters proportionally among those that make the threshold. This has no effect on the Democratic side, but does favor Trump on the GOP side for two reasons: it probably undercuts finishers who are polling near the delegate threshold, and the latest results show that late deciders are voting against Trump by large margins.
With those caveats, it’s useful for running scenarios to see what might happen March 15 and beyond.
The press narrative is basically right: Ted Cruz had a great night Saturday, somewhat at Donald Trump’s expense but much more at Marco Rubio’s. However, neither Maine nor Kentucky had good polling there, so all you can say is that they didn’t reflect the national polling average – which isn’t saying much at this point. Here’s how they did:
Note that Louisiana didn’t post its rounding rules for congressional districts, so you have to wait on the state GOP to assign the remaining 11 delegates. The same rounding problems are why our projection doesn’t add up to the actual.
All in all, though, Trump comes out about 15 delegates below projection, Rubio 8 below, and Cruz 33 above. That’s a pretty big deal for Cruz, if for no other reason than it gives him some momentum ahead of March 15 and now makes him look like the main anti-Trump.
It’s still a long road, and there’s probably no way that Rubio drops out before Florida (though there, remarkably, hasn’t been a poll there since February 24), but his strong second to Trump in delegate count (coupled with Rubio’s bad press night) could change the narrative. If Rubio wins Florida and Kasich wins Ohio, it’s hard to see either dropping out to clear the path for Cruz, but if they did, here’s what the math might look like:
Prior to Super Tuesday, we thought there were no scenarios in which Donald Trump didn’t go on to get the 1,237 delegates needed to win on the first ballot at the Republican National Convention. Trump had a slightly weaker than expected delegate haul than we expected, and there are a few glimmers of hope for the #NeverTrump crowd.
It turns out that Mitt Romney is probably right: the most likely way for Trump to not win is for Marco Rubio and John Kasich voters to vote strategically. Our latest projections, which include Trump taking the big winner-take-all states of Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Illinois shows Trump taking the majority in after April 26. This is mostly on the strength of a huge March 15 haul for the candidate, where we see him picking up over 500 delegates to reach 881 of the 1,237 needed.
There is no world in which the non-Trumps get block his first-ballot nomination without a Rubio victory to claim Florida’s 99 delegates. Trump leads leads Kasich in Ohio 30.2% to 26.6%. There’s no polling for Puerto Rico’s 23 winner-take-all delegates, but we’ll assume for the sake of argument that Trump doesn’t win that one. Move those to the other side, and Trump’s victory moves all the way to the final day, but he still wins.
So what’s the most-likely non-Trump path? Polling beyond March is spotty, but if Trump loses Florida, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Ohio, Puerto Rico, and California, you’ve got a contested convention. He currently holds double-digit leads in PA (April 26) and NJ (June 7), and Cruz may be within a few points in California, but there haven’t been any good polls there forever (probably because most normal nomination contests would be wrapped up by the final day.
A simpler take is this: If Trump wins Florida and Ohio, there is virtually no option to stop him. If he loses those, there’s a possibility to block him. If he also loses Illinois on March 15, that would suggest the numbers we’re using to project are too high, and Trump may fall several hundred delegates short.
Of course, all of this assumes that Trump loses a contested convention; it’s hard to imagine what policy concessions the other candidates can offer true Trump delegates. Trump has between 250 million and 10 billion (depending on your source) convincing reasons to persuade other delegates to break camp if he needs to.