It’s close, but it looks like Donald Trump will win Missouri, getting the 12 bonus delegates that go with it. We have some model updating to do in the coming days, including adding elements that help lean low-count delegate states to the right candidate.
In the meantime, now that some of our projections are now fact, we ran a few versions of the model to see what the future might hold. We think a three-way race probably hurts Trump the most, with blue states (like Pennsylvania and Maryland) giving Kasich a good chance and “values” states (like Utah) helping Cruz. We don’t know what to make of Indiana, home to many religious conservatives (but also Kokomo).
Here is our (rough) look ahead. It doesn’t factor in momentum, or states that don’t have local polls but may deviate from national based on past voting patterns. It does suggest, however, that Trump winning 1,267 delegates is far from a lock.
We made an error in our model. Because of the early assumption we made that congressional districts would break, on average, as the statewide total did, we may miss (and miss big) on Illinois delegate counts. As a shortcut, our model made it a GOP winner-take-all contest. In fact, it’s winner-take-all for the 12 statewide delegates, and winner-take-all in each Congressional district. We still think Trump will get the majority there, but Cruz and Kasich may chip into his count.
This will be corrected when results come in, and shouldn’t have too big of an impact on the overall projection. Apologies for the error.
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):
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:
GOP Rule of Thumb: Measure against Trump. If he gets fewer than 150 delegates (winning only Florida and North CarolinaAs 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:
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 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.
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.
Though admittedly a lot for narrative, which affects future states.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The delegate math for the Republicans is difficult, with each state having its own rules down to the Congressional district level. More than 30 hours after polls closed, the majority of the states are still figuring out how to apportion the delegates. We have updated our projections in a simple way: the leading candidate in the state gets the balance of the delegates still on the table. This rough math generally favors Trump, but also gives Cruz a boost in Texas.
Based on those numbers, Trump fell short of our delegate projection by 71 (we saw him winning 358, but now see that coming out to 277). Cruz overshot: we see him winning 237 against the 165 we projected. While the news cycle for Rubio is certainly negative, he slightly overshot based on stronger-than-projected showings in Minnesota and Virginia.
The biggest deltas in our projection are Oklahoma, Minnesota, and Alaska. The latter two are simply because there weren’t any good polls, so the model defaulted to the national polling numbers, which benefited Trump. Hard to call those an upset. Oklahoma, though, is a big win for Cruz. The bigger prize for him, though, is probably the Carson dropout, which should boost him 5-10 points in states with strong evangelical populations (too bad most of those have already voted).
Does this change the outcome? Right now, not according to our model. We’ll have another post before the Saturday votes, but playing with the numbers still shows a high likelihood that Trump wins outright in the May/June timeframe. Florida and Ohio will be absolutely critical to the “block Trump” faction of the party…and, of course, whatever it is that Romney has to say may still have an impact.