Bernie’s Bad Night

There are still many Oregon votes left to count, with those voters literally mailing it in, but it looks like Bernie Sanders will win just 55% of the vote there.  Hillary Clinton looks to have just edged Sanders in Kentucky on the strength of her showing in Louisville.  Lexington barely went her way, and it could still come out that Sanders wins the delegate tie there.

So a tie and 55% of the vote is a bad night? Well, kind of.  Our model had Kentucky about where it is (though we had guessed it might look more like West Virginia, where Sanders won handily), but predicted Oregon coming out closer to where Washington voted where Sanders won 73% of the vote and nearly 50 delegates more than Clinton.  Our model had him winning 70-80% in Oregon.

It looks like he’ll get something closer to 55% of the vote there, instead.

On the whole, it looks like Sanders will pull in 20 delegates fewer than we predicted.  None of that changes the outcome too much; we still have him heading into Philadelphia with a nearly 400 delegate deficit.  It does, however, possibly suggest that Democratic voters are beginning to coalesce around Clinton as the nominee and it weakens Sanders’ narrative heading into the big June 7 contests – especially California.

Right now, we have Clinton winning California 54.3% to 45.7%, but polling is several weeks old at this point. We fully expect that to be the last real day of the nominating process.  Clinton should both clinch a 350+ delegate lead and should be just 150 delegates short of the 2,383 she needs for the nomination.  To pull to a tie, Sanders would need to convince upwards of 300 superdelegates who have already declared for Clinton to switch their vote, which is not going to happen.

Sanders Will Likely Win Through June

The story in the newspapers is that Sanders’ West Virginia victory means that the Democratic race will extend until July.  This was always going to be true, as the Sanders camp has said since New York, regardless of the outcome in West Virginia.

The demographics in May 17 races suggest big wins for Sanders in Kentucky (similar to WV) and Oregon (similar to Washington, where he won in a landslide).  Those wins should net him nearly 45 delegates, and he may come close to the 70+ percent of the delegates that he needs to stay on pace to tie.

Wins will help the public narrative on Sanders’ viability, as well as his chances on June 7 primaries in California, Montana, North Dakota, New Jersey, New Mexico, and South Dakota.  Unfortunately for Sanders, polling in California and New Jersey shows Clinton with sizable leads there, and we project her heading into the convention with a 350-delegate lead and needing around 180 superdelegates to clinch the nomination.

Sanders will likely win through May, but polling in California and New Jersey portends the end for Sanders.
Sanders will likely win through May, but polling in California and New Jersey portends the end for Sanders.

None of this, of course, speaks to core Sanders supporters. Running a projection in which Sanders wins 100 percent of all votes in states where there are no state-level polls (i.e. all but New Jersey and California), we still show her heading into the convention with a 180-delegate lead.

If Sanders wins 100 percent of all votes in states where there are no polls, he still comes up short.
If Sanders wins 100 percent of all votes in states where there are no polls, he still comes up short.

Sanders will not be mathematically eliminated until June 8,  and so does retain a chance of taking more delegates than Clinton into the convention.  To do so, he needs to perform better than he did in Indiana and West Virginia, and will need Oregon-sized wins throughout.  That would represent a nearly 50-point swing in California from current polling, and a 60-point swing in New Jersey.  Winning 60% of the vote in those states and 70% in the remaining still leaves him 70-delegates short.

Bottom line:  It’s not overly dismissive to say that Clinton will be the Democratic nominee, but the news this week and next will suggest a closer race.

Indiana: Trump Wins Bigly

Donald Trump’s decisive win in Indiana on Tuesday and Ted Cruz’ suspending his campaign have effectively ended the GOP race.  We had projected him winning by two points over Ted Cruz and getting 42 of the 57 delegates in play, which would have put him on pace for around 1,210 delegates on the first ballot.  Instead, he won by 17 points and took all of the delegates.  With Cruz dropping out, we now think he will get around 1,390 delegates of the 1,237 needed.  This includes possible Kasich pickups and protest votes, so he could go higher still.

With Cruz out, Trump should easily surpass the required 1,237 delegate bar to win the GOP nomination.
With Cruz out, Trump should easily surpass the required 1,237 delegate bar to win the GOP nomination.

Should Cruz have dropped out?

After last week (and, really, after March 15), Cruz was never running to win.  He was just the last candidate running against Trump.  Were he more of a player within the GOP establishment, the correct answer would probably be that he should have stayed in through the convention.  We expected him to win Nebraska (36 winner-take-all delegates), Montana (27 WTA), and South Dakota (29 WTA).  He had a slim chance of blocking a Trump nomination through California, which would have been the ultimate determiner.  Here’s how we thought that might work:

Should Cruz have stayed in? Yes, if his goal was to block Trump. No, if his goal was to become president.
Should Cruz have stayed in? Yes, if his goal was to block Trump. No, if his goal was to become president.

However, without an even-more-impressive showing in California than we predicted, the #NeverTrump crowd likely would have lost on the first ballot, with the unbound Pennsylvania delegates putting Trump just over.  As it stands, Trump should easily win the nomination in Cleveland, as basically the whole world is now reporting.

A Note On Democrats

Sanders got a nice win in Indiana to keep his campaign hobbling along through the convention, as he has pledged to do.  We had projected him losing by two points and getting 41 delegates to Clinton’s 42.  Instead, he won by 6 points and pulled in 44 to Clinton’s 39.  Ultimately, the 6-delegate swing will do little to alter the math; we think he needs about 69% of the remaining delegates to pull even.  We’ll do a full post on the Democratic race later this week, and will focus exclusively on that race until the delegate math, like in the GOP race, no longer matters.

Will GOP have a contested convention? They already are.

After Donald Trump’s big day on Tuesday, he’s the only GOP candidate with a chance of getting the 1,237 delegates before the July 18-21 convention in Cleveland.  There’s very little polling in the remaining states, so most of our model is based on national polling. There’s additional uncertainty, as California is essentially 54 separate winner-take-all contests, and we only have polling for one of them.

With all of those caveats aside, we see Trump entering Cleveland with 1,206 pledged delegates.  This number assumes he loses Indiana (he currently leads), but wins Nebraska (which could be Cruz country).  It does not include the unbound delegates that he is likely to woo from Pennsylvania and others that he could patch together to get 1,237.  We think it is more likely than not that Trump gets 1,237 votes on the first ballot.

The question everyone will be asking before that first convention ballot is cast is whether the Republicans will have a contested convention.  Answer: they already are.  With Trump the only candidate that can win outright, the fact that there are still candidates running against him – and that he could still lose states to those candidates – is a form of contested convention.  Any non-Trump vote from now until June 7 is a vote for a contested convention. The fact that Trump can’t get Cruz and Kasich to drop out, even when (in a traditional year), he has already won, suggests strongly against party unity in July and August.

Does the #NeverTrump crowd have a chance? Sure, but not a strong one. They essentially need a shutout for the next two weeks in order to keep a blocking action in play.


Trump on pace, Sanders needs a miracle

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are now almost certainly the major-party candidates for president.

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton both exceeded expectations in the April 26 Acela primaries.  Trump couldn’t have had a better night, beating his polls in almost every state and picking up an extra 12 delegates by triggering winner-take-all rules.  He also did extremely well, as Huffington Post points out, in getting his voters to pick his slate of delegates.  Assuming that slate is loyal, we now think Donald Trump will reach 1,237 delegates on the first ballot.

After April 26, we project Donald Trump to have 1,206 bound delegates at the convention.  With the 29-31 delegates from his slate in Pennsylvania, it now looks like Donald Trump will win on the first ballot.
After April 26, we project Donald Trump to have 1,206 bound delegates at the convention. With the 29-31 delegates from his slate in Pennsylvania, it now looks like Donald Trump will win on the first ballot.

Indiana is the the #NeverTrump crowd’s last hope.  If Trump wins that state, even by a few points, Cruz and Kasich would need miracle numbers in California to block Trump from reaching 1,237 delegates.  Polls show him ahead, but our model suggests he might still be vulnerable there.  However, our model failed to account for Trump beating his polling numbers – sometimes significantly – in the last six contests…something he had not done thus far.

On the Democratic side (and, insert GIF of us tooting our own horn here), our projections were pretty right on (nailing Pennsylvania) with the exception of Maryland, where Clinton had her most unexpected showing.  The polls missed her margin by nearly 18 points in the spread, netting her 20 “extra” delegates.

We now think Sanders needs 64.5% of the delegates, on average, in the remaining states.  That number will likely increase to nearly 70% by June 6.  He is likely to get that in Oregon, and maybe even Washington, D.C., but our model has him losing the June 7 primary in California 245-230.  The math is grim for Sanders, but with a big war chest, there’s no reason for him to withdraw.

Where he and his supporters can hold on to hope, though, is that Clinton is extremely unlikely to hit the 2,383 convention majority with bound delegates alone.  We project she’ll enter the convention with 2,176 elected delegates to Sanders’ 1,875, meaning he won’t ever be mathematically eliminated until the 712 superdelegates vote on the first ballot.  That said, Clinton’s 470-25 lead in that unofficial count is unlikely to dwindle, absent a major political shock.

Acela Primaries Preview: Trump sweep, Clinton ahead (just)

There was news this week: a possible Cruz-Kasich coordination, the possibility Sanders would shift after today’s primaries, etc. None affected the delegate math, hence the quiet week here.  After tonight’s results, we’ll put in state-by-state benchmarks into the model to give a better preview of where we expect the races to be at each state.  Tonight looks fairly straightforward on the Republican side, with the possibility for some surprises on the Democratic side.

Republican race

Trump should win each of the states up for grabs, approaching 50 percent of the vote in each of them.  Wildcards will be how individual high-income CDs in Connecticut vote, but overall we expect 90 of the 117 delegates up for grab tonight.

Trump looks for an April 26 sweep, keeping him close to on track for 1,237.
Trump looks for an April 26 sweep, keeping him close to on track for 1,237.

This performance keeps Trump close to hitting the magic 1,237 mark.  Pennsylvania has 54 unbound delegates up for grabs, and a strong showing there can help Trump make the case that they should go his way, keeping him just on track to win on the first ballot.  Much depends on Indiana, and, of course, California.

Democratic Race

After the strong showing in New York, the narrative has been that Clinton would effectively finish Sanders off during the Acela primaries.  Don’t count on it. Our model has her losing Rhode Island, and Delaware and Connecticut are too close to call.

While her more-comfortable leads in the more-important Maryland and Pennsylvania races should give her around a 30-delegate pickup on the night (Clinton should win around 208 to Sanders’ 177), the media narrative has been that she will sweep. Failure to do so may sustain the current competitive narrative.

Sanders may win three states on April 26, but Clinton will likely win the delegate count.
Sanders may win three states on April 26, but Clinton will likely win the delegate count.

At the end of the night, we expect Clinton to have 1,660 pledged delegates to Sanders’ 1,376. There are still 1,016 delegates at stake following tonight, but Sanders would need nearly 64% of them to tie Clinton before the convention. That’s an increase from the 60% he needs before these primaries, and we don’t expect him to hit that mark in any of the five contests.

New York: Big Trump, Clinton wins don’t change Delegate Math

Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump had big nights in New York, both getting around 60% of the vote.  They both needed the big wins, and they got them.  Clinton won 139 of 247 delegates, and Trump will get around 90 of the 95 on the GOP side.

They didn’t, however, deviate too much from our projections (although, and we admit it, we went on the conservative side on both, the mid-point part of our model would have had us closer, at Clinton 105 and Trump 85. Oops.)

Republican Race

With Trump’s big win, we now estimate he will get 1,160 of the 1,237 delegates he needs to lock up the nomination on the first ballot.

New York handed Trump his biggest step up since March 15, but he still looks to finish short.
New York handed Trump his biggest step up since March 15, but he still looks to finish short.

There are a lot of caveats to this analysis. Most importantly, there’s vanishing little polling in the upcoming states.  While he should get 40% or so of the votes in Maryland, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Rhode Island on April 26, the big outstanding tests are Indiana and California. Our model currently has Trump losing New Jersey.  This is almost certainly wrong, and would hand him 51 delegates (or 1,211 of the 1,237 he needs), but is based on now 2-month-old polling.

Another caveat: one important outcome for the evening is that Ted Cruz held steady with 546 pledged delegates, by our count. With just 618 left on the board, he joins Kasich in becoming mathematically eliminated.  However, Kasich’s reasonably strong performance in New York shows that’s not necessarily a killer, but our model has Cruz cleaning up in states like Montana (and winning Indiana), which could be more difficult if he’s having to wage a Kasich-like battle for relevancy.

Democratic Race

With California at the end (well, DC) of the calendar and 714 super delegates able to change allegiances through the convention, Sanders will never face mathematical elimination. New York, as expected, made his case much more difficult.

Clinton's win in New York all but assures her of the nomination, but the race stays tight through the convention, where she'll need superdelegates.
Clinton’s win in New York all but assures her of the nomination, but the race stays tight through the convention, where she’ll need superdelegates.

Like Trump, Clinton now enters a slate of states that should be favorable.  Our model has her picking up between 20-30 delegates over Sanders in next week’s primaries, which look a lot like New York in terms of polling (10-20 in Maryland and 10 in Pennsylvania).  It’s not enough to clinch the nomination with pledged delegates alone.

The Democratic race should stay close, but Sanders should remain around 300 delegates behind Clinton.
The Democratic race should stay close, but Sanders should remain around 300 delegates behind Clinton.

For Sanders, we show him getting around 48% of the remaining delegates.  He needs 59% of the 1,400 remaining delegates to work this to a tie.

His campaign is sending mixed messages on his way forward.  Sanders’ campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, told MSNBC that Sanders would “absolutely” try to flip superdelegates if he remained behind in the popular vote and delegate count.  They would need to win 500+ of the 714 superdelegates to do so.

At the same time, campaign strategist Tad Devine left open an exit, telling the AP that the campaign planned to “sit back and assess” the campaign’s chances after next week’s contests.



New York Primary Baseline: Clinton 130, Trump 80

New Yorkers vote today in what the press is selling an electoral pivot.  We think next week’s elections are bigger in terms of the delegate math, and there’s sufficient (and pretty good) polling predicting what will happen today.

Republican Primary

Our model predicts that Donald Trump will get 52.1 percent of the vote, John Kasich 26.7 percent, and Ted Cruz 21.2 percent. New York is winner-take-all if a candidate hits 50% of the vote, so Trump’s final number matters a lot.

Why, then, do we have him at 80 delegates? Well, only 14 delegates are assigned given the statewide vote.  The remaining 81 are allocated by races in the 27 individual Congressional district races.  Again, win 50% of that vote, and you collect all three delegates.  If you win with less than 50%, you get 2 delegates and your closer competitor gets 1.

Only Optimus appears to have strong CD-level polling.  Their poll from last week shows Trump winning ALL of the CDs, but missing the 50% threshold in 14 districts.  In one district, NY-12, Trump polls around even with John Kasich.  Put this together, and 80 delegates appears to be the most-conservative estimate (Kasich is on pace to pick up 12 of those that Trump misses, according to the same poll).

Our blind spots are legion. Our model incorporated Kasich doing particularly well in the 14 CDs that voted a Democratic house member in in 2014 by more than 15 points, but the polling data doesn’t match this 1 for 1. While Trump rarely exceeds his poll numbers, in New York it may be easier for him to do so, which could push him over the edge.  We’ll know more at night’s end, but for now, it’s safe to say anything under 80 delegates is a bad night for Trump, and it’s still possible for him to get all 95.

Democratic Primary

Our model shows Hillary Clinton winning 54.6% to Bernie Sanders’ 45.4%.  This tracks with most recent polls, which show Clinton with a 10- to 18-point lead.

Running that prediction straight would give Clinton a 135-112 delegate haul.  However, only 84 of the 247 delegates will be allocated based on the state-wide vote.  The remaining delegates are elected based on the proportion of Congressional districts each candidate wins.  18 of the 27 districts have 6 delegates each up for grabs, 5 CDs have 7 delegates, and the remaining 4 CDs have just 5.

For the districts with an odd number of delegates, if the candidate wins 50% + 1 vote, they collect the “bonus” delegate.  For the 18 CDs with 6 delegates, however, the winner needs to get 58.34% of the vote in that district to take 4 delegates; anything below that threshold will result in a 3-3 tie.

What does this mean for the delegate math? Should Clinton win statewide, and in each CD, by a 56-44 margin, that would be an absolutely huge electoral victory and news story, but would net her only 19 delegates over Sanders because they will have split 18 CDs 3-3.  However, should she poll 58.5-41.5 (this is in no way likely), she would net 46 delegates over Sanders, winning an extra delegate in all but 4 CDs.

Back to the model:  we show Clinton picking up 46 of the 84 statewide delegates (8 net).  We’ll assume a tie in each of the 18 CDs (0 net), and that she picks up a net delegate in the 9 “odd” CDs, to net a total of 17 delegates over Sanders.  This would result in a 132-115 delegate result.  Since this is a “good night/bad night” calculation, we’re flipping one CD to a Bernie blowout, given the huge crowds he’s collected in the state and to account for missed polls.  If Clinton pulls in 130 delegates or more, it’s a good night.  If she gets fewer, she had a bad night.

If she loses the state, the race might not be over next week.

Clinton Likely To Net 25 in New York

Ten polls in the past two weeks show Hillary Clinton maintaining a double-digit lead over Bernie Sanders in New York.  With our model set to Sanders winning 80% of the undecided vote, we predict Clinton will win the New York primary with around 55 percent of the vote.

It will likely take weeks to get the final delegate count, in part because New York is proportional by Congressional district, and the district maps in the city cross all kinds of political boundaries. In CDs that have six delegates available (18 of 27), a candidate needs to exceed 58% of the vote to avoid splitting the delegates 3-3.  This likely helps Sanders by around 10 delegates statewide.

Since we don’t have CD-level polling, and our model doesn’t account for demographics in any meaningful way, it’s not possible to drill down into how each of the 27 CDs may split.  Nevertheless, our estimate shows Clinton netting roughly 25 delegates in the night, which would extend her pledged-delegate lead over Sanders to around 240. The win is what will set the narrative for the remaining races, but a 20+ Clinton delegate victory will come close to sealing the deal.

Our model shows Clinton netting an addition 42 delegates in the April 26 contests, mostly on the strength of an 18-point win in Maryland and a 6-point win in Pennsylvania, based on recent polls.  Even were she just to net 30, she would have a 270-delegate lead.  While not mathematically impossible to overcome until June 7, Sanders would need to post 50-point victories in each of the remaining contests to work the race to a tie.  He will likely do so in Oregon, but in California, our model predicts a 4-point Clinton win, meaning Sanders has a lot of ground to make up in the next two months.

The “good” news for Sanders, though, is that the polls also show him keeping Clinton around 200 delegates short of what she needs to win the nomination on pledged delegates alone.  It’s very likely that she has the super delegates needed to carry her over on the first ballot, but without Clinton hitting the 2,383 magic number in the primaries, Sanders can legitimately fight through the convention.


Sanders’ Magic Number: 70

We were going to start doing a state-by-state countdown to make it clearer when it was mathematically impossible for Donald Trump to clear the 1,237 delegates he needs to clinch or where Bernie Sanders might overtake Hillary Clinton in pledged delegates.  Turns out, Ted Cruz is right: “California will decide“.  There’s simply too many delegates there; as unlikely as it might be, if Trump or Sanders win 100% of the vote there, they win.

A lot of folks are talking about how Sanders needs to win 57% or more of the remaining delegates to tie. That number doesn’t incorporate the polling that shows her with 10-point leads in New York, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and California (there is polling for New Jersey, but it’s really old).

Using a very simple model that assumes a Clinton “ceiling” (i.e. all undecideds go to Bernie, so if Clinton is polling under 50 percent as she is in California, Sanders actually wins) using the current poll averages, Sanders would need to pull in 70 percent of the vote in all other jurisdictions to pull ahead of Clinton by June 14.

Based on past results, that seems doable in Oregon, but unlikely in, say, Puerto Rico (which has basically the same number of delegates).

Later this week, we’ll add calculations to show how much of each vote the candidates need in each state to hit their targets, but with the states with polling representing around 70 percent of the outstanding delegates, Sanders must lower Clinton’s ceiling substantially in New York, Maryland, and Pennsylvania to have a realistic shot of catching her.