February 27, 2016
We know Donald Trump is favored virtually across the board on Super Tuesday. We know he’s the favorite to win the nomination. Still, there are a variety of possible outcomes. We’re going to look at three sets of states.
The only question is by how much. Can The Donald get to 50%?
Trump is well ahead. Can Cruz or Kasich finish ahead of Rubio?
Up for grabs, or at least within reach, or lacking data
In this piece, we’ll attack the Definitely Trump states. Here they are in order of strength:
None of the polls were taken after the debate, but we already know Trump voters are more locked in than anyone else’s, and that his supporters think he did just fine. Never mind The Donald shifting the post-debate narrative with the Christie endorsement.
If you take the lower poll, and pull 5 points away, that still leaves Trump at 35%. With Rubio and Kasich basically knotted (19/19 and 16/13), you’d have to assume one candidate would suddenly grab 90% of the combined support, plus take those voters abandoning Trump.
That’s already wildly implausible. Add to that Rubio and Kasich not being direct substitutions for each other. Data from Alabama indicates Kasich voters are as likely to prefer Trump as Rubio for their second choice. Rubio voters are more likely to prefer Cruz than Kasich.
WBUR asked voters which candidate would handle various issues better. Trump was the winner in each category, yet another indication of his support. Kasich was in second place on things like creating jobs and working with Congress. Rubio was runner up with foreign policy/national security stuff.
As such, not only is Trump safe, but you can make any argument you’d like for who finishes second. Nobody is going to the polls thinking they’re going to prevent The Donald from winning the state.
Those who prefer Kasich may want to make sure he survives to fight another day, so the consolidation arguments don’t really apply. Perhaps a few Cruz voters shift to Rubio for viability issues, but he’s already in the 10% range. Not sure how much support he has to give.
Ben Carson is at 5% in one poll 2% in the other. Not much available there either. The Katich-Rubio battle is potentially important. If Trump can’t virtually shut things down on March 1, it’s an indicator of how they’ll do on March 8 and in non-Ohio Midwest states.
Only one poll since December. It was taken all day Thursday and Friday morning (2/25, 2/26), so it partially takes the debate into account. Trump is at 36%. It’s tempting to concoct a scenario where he loses.
A last minute loss of 4 to 5 points isn’t unprecedented. That would leave him in the low 30s. If Rubio or Cruz could consolidate enough support….
Not likely. The two senators are planning on visiting Alabama before Super Tuesday, but schedules are subject to change and it’s not like they are going to announce they’re there to try for second.
Next problem. Rubio was at 23%, Cruz at 16%. That’s great for Marco in terms of forcing Ted out of the race, but they combine for barely more than Trump has by himself.
Ben Carson is at 11%. It’s tempting to think of this as another pool of voters. Not buying that. The poll was taken entirely after Nevada. If they were going to abandon him, they would have before the survey. This is possibly his strongest state in the whole country.
He’s virtually tied with Rubio as the most common second choice. There’s more chance of him winding up third, ahead of Ted, than losing the bulk of his support to Marco. What about borrowing from Kasich?
Not going to work either. He’s the second choice of twice as many voters as he is a first. This is another way of saying he’s more likely to gain support than lose it. Again, this is a very recent poll, so voters have no illusions about his current position.
If he does bleed voters, the cross tabs indicate they are at least as likely to go to Trump as Rubio. While Trump does not have the dominant numbers he boasts in Massachusetts, building an anti-Donald coalition is mathematically difficult.
Side Note: In a poll where 77% of voters described themselves as evangelical, Cruz pulled 16% support. This is not how Team Ted’s blueprints read. He’s moved from parity to a deficit with his core group.
At this point, Cruz is only competitive with very conservative voters, religion isn’t enough by itself.
These numbers look a lot like South Carolina. The Real Clear Politics average has:
Anytime Rubio + Cruz = Trump, it’s an enormous stretch to try to figure out how The Donald loses.
These surveys were taken between South Carolina and Nevada. The Silver State results only help Trump’s bandwagon effect. If you want to deduct a little for the debate, Marcomentum, whatever, that pulls you mostly even with the numbers.
Given that Trump’s smallest advantage was 9 points, it would require a total Cruz collapse, with all of his support moving to Rubio to close the gap. In that same poll, Ted was at 19. He’s not going to wind up below 10%.
If he loses 9 points, assigning 7 to Rubio and 2 to Trump is already pushing it. That would still leave Trump ahead. Kasich and Carson are both in the 8% range. We’ve already seen elsewhere that Kasich voters aren’t guaranteed to prefer Rubio next.
He’s not going to wind up below 4%. Not enough to close the gap. Carson has done an excellent job holding his polling numbers. Again, you’d also have to assume Rubio was the beneficiary, when at best it appears he would get his share.
If you want to bet Rubio will finish ahead of Cruz, that’s probably safe. If you think Marco can get within 10 points of The Donald, I’m not going to argue. Winning is another matter.
There are several other states where Trump is a clear favorite. However, either data is limited to nonexistent, or there’s a path for someone else (usually Rubio). We’ll get to the Probably Trump group of states next.