February 16, 2016
Yesterday, we took a look at March 1 by state. Now it’s time to organize by candidate. Admittedly, the data is thin. In several states, the most recent polling is from 2015. In a couple instances we have nothing at all.
The combination of two weeks to go and limited information, with South Carolina and Nevada weighing in first, means we need to leave our minds open to a range of outcomes. Below, you’ll see the strongest and weakest states, and what best and worst case scenarios look like.
For now, I’m ignoring Jeb Bush and Ben Carson. Unless their South Carolina results exceed their current polling, neither has any hope of registering a strong second-tier finish on March 1, never mind a victory.
I reserve the right to re-evaluate either or both if/when they outperform on Saturday. Meanwhile, check out the rest:
Stronger: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Virginia, Texas, Minnesota
Weaker: Vermont, Alaska, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Massachusetts, Colorado
Best Case: Wins everywhere except Vermont and Alaska. Sanders defeats in Massachusetts, Colorado, and Minnesota lead to questions about his viability where he was supposed to have sympathetic voters.
Oklahoma and Tennessee proved a tease for Bernie, while the southern states stay with Hillary by large margins. Bernie does no better in any of these than he did in South Carolina.
Worst Case: Only wins the six states she has a clear edge in. Winds up barely ahead in delegates for the day.
Stronger: Vermont, Alaska, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Massachusetts, Colorado
Weaker: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Virginia, Texas, Minnesota
Best Case: Wins Vermont easily, Alaska by a decent margin. Pulls off narrow victories in Oklahoma, Tennessee, Massachusetts, Colorado. Closes to a small margin in Minnesota, does well enough in Texas to grab a decent amount of proportional delegates.
Avoids embarrassment in Virginia, and gets within 20 points in Alabama, Arkansas and Georgia. Hillary’s states have more total delegates, but with everything assigned proportionately would have at least 40-45% of them.
Splitting the states 6 to 6 and winning Tennessee and Oklahoma would give Sanders good momentum. March 1 favors Hillary, so a split and he has an excellent chance of keeping the suspense going all the way to California.
Worst Case: Wins Vermont easily. Barely wins Alaska. Loses Oklahoma, Tennessee, Massachusetts, and Colorado somewhat narrowly. Falls 15 points short in Minnesota, showing he’s not guaranteed in a relatively liberal, very white state.
Loses Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, and Virginia by at least 20 points, in some cases closer to 30. Loses Texas by 25 points and does even worse in the delegate allocation. It becomes practically impossible for Sanders to catch up in delegates without sweeping the remaining large states.
Stronger: Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Massachusetts
Weaker: Minnesota, Colorado, Arkansas
Best Case: Sweeps every state. Narrowly wins Minnesota, Colorado, Arkansas. Gets 40% of the vote or more in Vermont, Massachusetts, Alabama and Georgia. Wins Virginia and Tennessee. Beats Cruz narrowly in Texas, finishing him off as a contender. Wins Wyoming and North Dakota caucuses despite limited organization.
His average result for the day is double that of any other candidate, and more than any two combined. Exit polling indicates he would have won over 50% in a two-person race.
Worst Case: Only wins Massachusetts and Alabama, both narrowly. Loses a close battle in Georgia, as Cruz and Rubio both surge. Loses Arkansas and Tennessee to Cruz and Virginia to both Cruz and Rubio. Kasich beats him in Vermont. Cruz holds Texas and wins Wyoming and North Dakota.
Cruz, Rubio and Kasich all finish ahead of him in Minnesota, dealing The Donald his first fourth place finish. He winds up third in Colorado. Questions about field organization lead observers to wonder how he will do in caucuses to follow.
Stronger: Texas, Arkansas, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee
Weaker: Vermont, Massachusetts
Best Case: Wins home state of Texas easily. Wins Arkansas, and either Georgia or Alabama, finishing a close second in the other. Wins Tennessee and gets very close in Virginia. Sweeps the caucus states of Wyoming, North Dakota, Minnesota and Colorado. Wins Oklahoma.
Trails in Vermont and Massachusetts, but Trump wins them easily, setting up a Trump/Cruz battle on March 15, as the others have faded.
Worst Case: Rubio finishes ahead of Cruz almost everywhere outside of Texas. Trump gets close to sweeping the day or actually does.
Stronger: Minnesota, Colorado
Best Case: Wins Minnesota and Colorado by a few points, Oklahoma narrowly. Winds up no worse than 18 to 20 percent anywhere else. Finishes ahead of Cruz or Trump in Tennessee, Virginia, Arkansas and Georgia. Stays at least even with Kasich in Vermont and Massachusetts. Wins or gets pretty close in Wyoming and North Dakota.
Worst Case: Loses to Cruz in the caucus states of Colorado, Minnesota, Wyoming and North Dakota. Finishes third in Arkansas, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Oklahoma and Virginia, sometimes by a decent margin. Kasich and Trump both well ahead of him in Vermont and Massachusetts.
Stronger: Vermont, Massachusetts
Weaker: Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia
Best Case: Wins Vermont. Gets very close in Massachusetts. Relies on Democrats and Independents in the open primaries of Alabama, Arkansas, and Georgia to draw a respectable 15-20% of the vote and outperform expectations.
Rubio struggles to finish better than third in any state. Observers conclude Kasich has the best chance of any establishment-certified candidate to break the Trump/Cruz stranglehold on the campaign. Funding begins to pour in ahead of the crucial March 15 winner-take-all contests.
Worst Case: He can’t compete with Trump in Vermont or Massachusetts, struggling to keep up with Rubio. Winds up in the 10% range in Wyoming, North Dakota, Colorado, Alabama, Texas. Struggles to reach 15% in Minnesota, Arkansas, Georgia, Virginia, Tennessee.
Is the clear fourth place candidate in a three contender race. Appears as more of a Rubio spoiler than establishment-friendly contender. Crossover votes do not materialize as planned and he struggles in open primaries almost as much as closed.
As you can see, there are a wide range of possibilities here. While it looks as though South Carolina is beginning to settle into a pattern, with distinct tiers and consensus expectations, almost anything can happen on March 1.
John Kasich isn’t going to win Texas. Donald Trump isn’t going to finish fourth in the majority of states, but anyone could greatly exceed or fall short of expectations on the GOP side. Even if polling begins to pick up in the next week, the gaps in coverage won’t give us much confidence they are accurate until the voters show us for themselves.
If this exercise proved anything, it’s how up in the air the contest still is. Donald Trump can effectively win the nomination with a good enough day. Enough of a split decision, and a brokered convention becomes a very likely outcome.
The Democrats have a more binary situation. This is the day where we find out if Bernie has good odds to take this all the way to the convention, is destined to become a heavily funded irritant to Hillary, or something in between.
With far less ground coverage and less data than the early states, surprises are more likely. We knew what New Hampshire looked like on voting day. Nobody finished more than a few points off of their polling averages. This won’t repeat itself with a much larger group of states and less information.