March 1, 2016
This was the dog that didn’t bark. Bernie Sanders never got close to Hillary Clinton. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio never challenged Donald Trump. I (and a few others) expected a very competitive Tennessee primary on both sides.
Rubio had some upscale suburbs to target. Cruz had plenty of evangelicals. Sanders had Democrats who don’t easily fall in line. It’s hard to measure exactly what each campaign is doing strategically. All these states are voting at once.
It feels like both Rubio and Sanders could have done more to make this interesting before Trump and Hillary had the state locked down. Cruz did make an effort, but it didn’t seem to work real well, so who knows.
On to the picks:Democrats
Hillary Clinton 59.3%
Think this is the closest contest of the SEC primary part of March 1. Hillary wins easily, but Bernie gets closer than anywhere outside of Oklahoma and places that get a bunch of snow.
Organization really matters during primary season. It’s a big deal in the fall too. Karl Rove and David Axelrod will tell you how elections are won by getting your voters out. The Clinton campaign was completely prepared to slug this out if necessary. They weren’t getting caught twice.
Bernie didn’t have the resources to push outside of Iowa and New Hampshire until a couple/few months ago. They didn’t contest this the way they did some of the others. With Bernie struggling with African Americans and investing relatively lightly here, he couldn’t capitalize on a state he could have captured.
Bernie Sanders 41.1%
Despite all of the above if Bernie had won Nevada, momentum would have created a close contest anyway. He’s now trailing nationwide by up to 20 points, so even if I think this is a good spot for him, it’s still not getting close.
Donald Trump 41.6%
Many observers have noted that Trump is running as a Jacksonian Democrat. If there was such a thing as not PC almost 200 years ago, it was Andrew Jackson. He was militaristic, belligerent. He defended his friends and attacked his enemies.
Instead of worrying about illegal immigrants streaming across the Mexican border, Jackson spent time removing Native Americans from Florida. No comparison is exact, Trump went to military school but avoided Vietnam. Jackson was the most famous American military leader of his generation.
The contest between Jackson and John Quincy Adams in 1824 tore the Democratic Party apart. Jackson won more votes, but Adams triumphed when the election went to the House. In 1828, Jackson got revenge, winning a dirty campaign by a wide margin.
He was the first president from Tennessee and was most popular in Appalachia and adjacent areas, often populated by Scots-Irish immigrants and their descendants. Though there are plenty of upscale areas with transplants from up North, along with university towns, there’s still a Jacksonian core.
That’s how Trump built this margin. In thinking Rubio could win here, I focused on the new Tennessee, the one centered around Nashville that has attracted multiple corporate headquarters.
Since The Donald does just fine among upscale voters, the Jacksonians put him well over the top.
Marco Rubio 21.1%
This is one of the several very tight contests for second place between the dueling senators. It looks like Cruz is making progress in Alabama, Rubio here. Most of these are coin flips.
Ted Cruz 20.1%
Remember Scott Walker? He was on the Goldilocks Plan. Conservative enough for the Tea Party, stable enough for the establishment. For a couple of months in the first half of 2015, polls indicated this was working well.
The problem with that strategy is the ease of falling through the cracks. You can wind up too mainstream for one audience, to limited for the other. Cruz wanted to pull together the new and old Tennessee and spent time in the fall/early winter to this end.
Instead, it appears Trump will best him with the Jacksonians, Rubio with the newer upscale Sun Belt Republicans. Instead of both, he’ll get neither, but isn’t going to fall too much below 20% in a place where he’s invested heavily.
Ben Carson 9.1%
Another place that’s great for Trump and better than average for Carson.
John Kasich 7.7%