December 31, 2015
As we head into the New Year, time to look at how quickly each candidate actually needs to win. Conventional wisdom says you need to win Iowa or New Hampshire. Is this true?
Depends on the candidate. If you’re an underdog, yes, you need to win fairly early, otherwise you aren’t viable enough to continue.
For more established contestants, those with a national reputation and/or a strong base, it’s a game of knockout.
If one of your competitors bests you in a location where you were at an advantage, lights out.
If you already have wins in the bag, no problem, as long as you recover quickly. If not….
We’ll start at the beginning:
Ted Cruz would like a win here. Not necessary. Donald Trump would like a win here. Not necessary. The following candidates must win Iowa:
Huckabee and Santorum were unable to get nominated when they won Iowa. It certainly won’t happen if they don’t. Iowa caucuses on February 1. Both should be out by February 2.
The Carson campaign seems in total disarray. Not only is it the narrative, but it’s probably true. Never mind his trouble with foreign policy/national security in the wake of Paris and San Bernardino.
Forget the confusion over whether he’s making staffing changes or not, or when he might get around to it.
Ignore the falling poll numbers, moving from a national dead heat with Trump to fourth, as Cruz more than doubles his support in Iowa.
The big issue is despite solid fundraising this quarter, the campaign will end it with less money on hand than it began with. There is no mass quantity of TV ads to show for this outflow.
Either the campaign has the least efficient revenue creating system in political history (they are relying on direct mail more than Internet), or somebody is getting rich off the campaign.
Neither outcome is good. Not only were Carson’s numbers better a few months ago, but it seemed like he had the resources to compete in plenty of states after Iowa. No more.
If he doesn’t win Iowa, Trump could really use a victory here, but it’s not completely essential. Cruz will either get his first win before or after the Granite State.
A New Hampshire win would be great for Marco Rubio or Jeb Bush, but they could both survive if they didn’t. Jeb needs to finish ahead of the other governors. Rubio needs to avoid a total face plant.
However, Chris Christie and John Kasich need a win. Second to Trump won’t cut it. Either of them would continue if they finish ahead of the other governors and Rubio.
Neither of them have the resources Rubio and Bush do in the states that follow. Both have all of their hopes tied up in New Hampshire and have spent tons of time there.
If they can’t win there, they won’t win the nomination. The top governor will last for a few weeks as long as they finish ahead of Rubio in New Hampshire, but will ultimately fall short without the benefit of a surprise win.
South Carolina is the end of the road if he doesn’t win. This doesn’t mean Trump drops out if he finishes second, but there’s no way he gets the nomination without winning one of the first three states.
Trump also needs some March 1 victories, but those are only in play if he’s won at least once before. Of the first four states, New Hampshire is his best bet, followed by South Carolina, Iowa and Nevada.
He’s not winning Nevada unless he wins South Carolina (and probably one or two before that).
The good news is he’s in great position right now. The bad news is high expectations. Ted can get away with finishing behind Trump in the first few states, as long as Rubio doesn’t wind up ahead of him in Iowa.
With Cruz having a clear Hawkeye State advantage, from current polling to ground game to endorsements, if Marco should magically finish ahead of him there, the knockout principle takes effect.
If Cruz finishes behind Trump in Iowa, then Rubio wins New Hampshire, before finishing ahead of Cruz in South Carolina and Nevada, also a problem.
It would put Rubio ahead of him in three of the first four and with one or two wins in his pocket. Cruz has a more favorable beginning slate, Rubio a better finishing schedule. Ted can play catch-up with Trump, not Marco.
Assuming that doesn’t happen, Cruz can get away with winning none of the first four.
He can lose most of the March 1 states to Trump. Rubio can win a couple of them. All is ok as long as he wins Texas. That’s the must win. Lose his home state and its the knockout.
Rubio’s whole strategy is based around low expectations in the beginning rounds. He will probably get away with it.
Even if Trump and/or Cruz get out to a decent lead on him, a more than adequate percentage of the primary electorate is going to want an alternative.
As long as he finishes ahead of all the governors in Iowa and none of the governors win New Hampshire, he’s got some time.
Nevada is probably his best early opportunity, but is not a must. Rubio spent part of his childhood there and is well organized. He has contacts in the Mormon community, a large portion of the Silver State GOP.
However, Cruz will do well in caucuses and you never know about Trump. If Rubio is going to wrap up the nomination well ahead of the convention, he wins it, but there are other paths to eventual victory.
March 1 victories would look good. Rubio should do well in Minnesota, Temnessee and Virginia. If he’s going to go into the convention with a solid lead (though not necessarily all of the delegates needed) he wins a couple of these.
If Trump isn’t winning regularly, Rubio should win Massachusetts too. But if The Donald is flying high, Marco could get shut out.
His real must-win?
It’s one of the three big March 15 prizes, along with Florida and Ohio. You may wonder why this is a bigger deal than his home state.
There’s an outside chance Jeb could still be in the race at this point. If he is, they could split enough support to give Trump the win.
More likely Rubio wins Florida if he’s viable, but it’s only 95% necessary. However, he cannot have Cruz finish ahead of him at home.
Illinois is a big deal. It’s s relatively moderate state on the GOP side. Beyond the Trump International Hotel in Chicago, none of the candidates have ties in the state.
There’s really no excuse for Rubio. He can justify losing to Cruz in Southern and Border states. Trump might have an edge in the Rust Belt, along with the Northeast.
If Jeb were to beat him in the state he governed, so be it. Same goes for Kasich in Ohio if he were somehow still around. No way to explain this one unless Rubio already has multiple other victories.
A New Hampshire win would qualify as a minor miracle at this point. Just making solid progress is good enough for now.
Should he manage to scrape out a few third place finishes while Rubio struggles to win, Jeb can tread water for a bit.
Being the two-term governor of a state is different than being a freshman senator. Bush is running on his record. He would have to win Florida.
Carly Fiorina/Rand Paul
Neither of them are doing particularly well anywhere at the moment. Paul needs to win Kentucky, but won’t last that long unless he wins somewhere else first, or magically starts consistently finishing in the top 3.
Fiorina might be widely acceptable to many Republicans but has no traction at the moment. Her must-win is Virginia, a state with plenty of tech workers and a Fiorina residence.
I just can’t figure out how to keep her viable long enough to compete there. Well, I can, but I’m not sure if I can find anyone with the patience to read the 9 things that would need to fall in to place.
Every year there’s a team in the last week of the NFL season that can make the playoffs if they win, four specific teams lose and another three win.
Indianapolis Colts, meet Carly Fiorina.