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.


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.

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.

Wisconsin primary results: Trump, Clinton less likely to clinch

Sanders exceeded our pre-primary delegate estimate, picking up 48 instead of the 47 we projected to net a total of 10 delegates.  Cruz also exceeded expectations, hauling in 36 delegates instead of the 30 we projected.  The error there was all Kasich underperforming; our estimate showed him performing stronger in the 2nd and 3rd Congressional districts, where it look like he will have actually come in third.

The results don’t alter our convention projections much, which point to a likely contested convention for the Republicans.  On the Democratic side, it remains unlikely that Sanders will catch Clinton in pledged delegates, but it does look like superdelegates will have to get the winning candidate over the nomination threshold:

Sanders win cuts Clinton's lead to around 250. She has a chance on April 19th and 26th to extend the lead in such a way that make it nearly impossible for Sanders to catch her.
Sanders win cuts Clinton’s lead to around 250. She has a chance on April 19th and 26th to extend the lead in such a way that make it nearly impossible for Sanders to catch her.
GOP race post Wisconsin
Trump’s growth is stunted, but a winner-take-all for New York’s 95 delegates could have him on his way.

Sanders will likely do well in the small, western caucus state of Wyoming this weekend, but with only 14 delegates in play (and notable differences between the electorate in Wyoming and New York), it’s hard to see that contest changing the race considerably.

Instead, all eyes turn to New York.  On the Democratic side, our model projects a 10-point Clinton victory to net 23 delegates (winning 135 to Sanders’ 112).  State-level polls from Maryland and Pennsylvania also show her leading in those big April 26 states where we project her to pick up another 28 delegates.  Those two weeks would erase Sanders’ impressive rally over the past few weeks.  With Sanders’ big Wisconsin win and the age of the data in the upcoming states, it’s easy to see those numbers changing – and with them the completion of the race.  New York is, in essence, Sanders’ last shot to change the race.

On the Republican side, our baseline projection has Trump, who’s polling at 51.4%, picking up all 95 delegates.  New York awards 81 of its delegates at the Congressional district level, and the remaining for the statewide winner.  In 2014, 14 of the 27 Congressional districts elected a Democrat to the House of Representatives by more than a 10-point margin.  It’s difficult to see those districts giving over half of their vote to Trump to trigger the winner-take-all rules there, so it’s likely that Cruz (or Kasich, about whom we’ll have to write a more-speculative column) chip into the 95-delegate haul.  Our most-generous projection predicts Trump getting 1,192 of the 1,237 delegates he needs before the convention, with 122 delegates unbound on the first ballot.  A 44-delegate margin may put him in striking distance, but losing delegates on some blue districts in New York (and, in June, in California) could put him just out of reach.

Trump needs New York, California, and Unbound Delegates

Our model takes into account the state-specific delegate selection rules and the state-specific poll averages (if they’re available).  In roughly half of the plausible scenarios we run, Donald Trump comes up around 100 delegates short of the 1,237 he needs to win on the first ballot. In real life, this probably requires more strategy than #NeverTrump actors have heretofore realized, but makes Cook Political/FiveThirtyEight’s “two-front war” look like what the electorate is already planning.

If Trump fails to exceed his poll numbers and Kasich wins districts in which a Democratic representative won by more than 10 points in 2014, Trump gets 1,147 pledged delegates.
If Trump fails to exceed his poll numbers and Kasich wins districts in which a Democratic representative won by more than 10 points in 2014, Trump gets 1,147 pledged delegates.

The chart above is a reasonably likely outcome:  Trump fails to exceed his poll averages and John Kasich wins congressional districts in which the House member won by over 10 percentage points in 2014.


Above is the math behind that projection.  A couple of notes:  Colorado is just a guess for delegate outcomes, the state will be a black box.  The model has Trump winning 100% of the Congressional districts, in New York’s district winner-take-all contests based on the strength of his state-wide polling (he’s a good 35 points ahead of Kasich), but it’s hard to imagine Ted Cruz and Kasich failing to pick up. That’s probably balanced by Katich’s stronger showing in California, where the model shows him picking up 3 delegates in 30 of the 53 House districts.

Closer examination shows a big gap in Pennsylvania’s delegates.  That’s because voters select unbound delegates on the district basis.  West Virginia follows a somewhat similar model, where delegates may or may not declare their intention on the ballot.  There are already 75 unbound delegates heading to Cleveland, and another 174 bound to candidates who have “suspended” their campaigns.  That’s a big wildcard:  enough to push Trump over the edge if a majority break for him.

This outcome actually requires Kasich to stick around and remain viable through June.  Kasich can’t win the 1,237 needed on the first ballot; there just aren’t enough points left on the board, so a vote for Kasich is just a “none of the above” vote.  Sure, he beat Trump in Utah, but he lost to Rubio – who had dropped out a week earlier – in Arizona due to the prevalence of early voting.  It isn’t too big of a stretch to see the “mathematically unviable” argument swaying enough voters in Pennsylvania, New York, and California to make his spoiler status not that big of a deal.

It’s also not a sure thing that this is the direction late-deciders break.  The  models above show Trump picking up 0% of undecided voters.  If Cruz picks up 60% and Trump picks up just 20%, the race looks a lot different:


In that projection, Trump falls just 3 delegates short, and it’s easy to imagine him picking those up among the unbound delegates.

If, based on that slightly weaker projection for Kasich, he loses more of the Democrat-heavy congressional districts in California, with Trump and Cruz picking up a proportional share, Trump wins outright:

Cruz Momentum with no Kasich CD bonus

None of this takes into account the political realities that govern the later elections and a brokered convention itself.  As Trump has picked up some endorsements (and Cruz only some half-hearted ones), GOP leaders could fear the “riots in the streets” outcome, or fear that by suppressing Trump the party could permanently lose the voters he’s won. It also assumes that almost no delegates jump on the Trump bandwagon in subsequent ballots.  Nevertheless, it shows there’s still a reasonable set of outcomes in which Trump fails to secure 1,237 delegates before Cleveland, if the GOP plays its cards right.

Model updates

We’ve completely overhauled the projections spreadsheet on the Republican side to narrow in on the variables that are likely to matter in the 18 contests before the convention.  The updates also allow for more-granular control to adjust the remaining states on both sides, which will be especially useful due to the lack of state-level polling data for the upcoming states.  That granular control is not user-editable (yet), but we’ll be using the scenarios to help make predictions in the coming weeks.

We’ll have a series of posts in the coming days, but the updated model suggests that Donald Trump’s path to 1,237 delegates requires strong shows in California, New York, and Indiana.  Our projection still shows him falling short, needing to pick up a significant portion of the unbound delegates (and Marco Rubio’s soon-to-be unbound delegates) to avoid a second ballot.

Quick take: Another Tuesday

We’re updating the underlying model to tune it a bit and allow a little bit greater variable control, but it won’t be ready until after the March 22 primaries.  These may end up being relatively straightforward.


Surprisingly, this side works out pretty easily.  Arizona is winner-take-all.   Trump is leading Cruz by over 10 points, and should all 58 delegates.  Utah offers a bit of excitement.  Cruz is polling just over 50%.  Our model has him taking nearly 55%.  If he gets above 50, he gets all 40 delegates.  If not, he has to split them proportionally with Kasich (who would get 10-12) and Trump (who’d get 5).


The next week should be good for Bernie Sanders.

Sanders should take at least 50% of the next week's delegates...but that does little to close his gap.
Sanders should take at least 50% of the next week’s delegates…but that does little to close his gap.

That’s a bunch of caucuses in states that should favor him.  The one where he might come out behind is Arizona.  There’s simply no state-level data in most of the states though.  One big pickup for him could be Washington, where a 10- or 20-point gap could help him chip into Clinton’s delegate lead.  In the best-case scenario, though, it’s hard to see him making up more than 30 delegates all in, which is less than 10% of what he needs to get even.  April may help, but new polls in New York show Clinton building a big lead there.

Does Trump get 1,237 delegates?

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.

Depending on how Rubio voters break, it's far from a lock that Trump gets 1,267 delegates.
Depending on how Rubio voters break, it’s far from a lock that Trump gets 1,267 delegates.