March 3, 2016
Michigan is the most important contest for both Democrats and Republicans between now and March 15. It’s Bernie’s opportunity to use economic issues to finally peel a few African American voters away from Hillary.
It’s the anti-Trumps chance to make their final case before the winner-take-all contests a week later. Each party is holding their next debate in Michigan. For the next few days, it’s the center of the political universe.
But a few other places are voting on Saturday 3/5, or Sunday 3/6. Time to take a glance at these and see what we should look for. At a minimum it’s a chance to win delegates and claim victories. They may also have some predictive purpose.Kentucky, March 5 (GOP only)
Rand Paul gave Donald Trump a gift. This is a state he should do well in (the one poll has him up 13 points.) Originally, the GOP was going to vote in May with the Democrats. The catch was Kentucky law does not allow a candidate to appear on the ballot for two offices at once.
Rand is up for Senate re-election and he wasn’t willing to follow Marco Rubio in going all in on the presidential race. So he paid for a separate presidential contest. Caucuses are cheaper to administer than primaries, so it’s a caucus.
Nevada proved Trump can win a caucus state, but he doesn’t do as well in them as primaries. The Donald won 9 of the first 11 primaries, but only 1 of 4 caucuses. The benefit of a favorable state probably outweighs the format disadvantage.
He visited the state for a large rally on Super Tuesday, so this is definitely a Trump target. His poll number (35%) was just under Rubio and Ted Cruz combined (22% + 15%.) He’s won every other state that had a similar distribution.
There is a bit of room to make this interesting. Ben Carson was at 7% and undecided 15%, so there’s potential for volatility. Depending on how you look at it, Trump is either within range if Rubio closes well (he was further away in Virginia), or The Donald has well over 40% of the voters who have chosen someone and is on his way to a big win.
Kasich is at 6%. So what? Well, Kentucky borders Ohio. Though Michigan is the most important test of his Ohio Strategy, this is an indicator too. The Cincinnati airport is in Northern Kentucky, an upscale suburban extension of the city. If he can’t do well against Rubio here, the dream isn’t viable.
Nebraska, March 5 (Democrats only)
No polls. Few voters of color. Caucus. Sounds like a place for Bernie. The Clinton campaign isn’t expecting to win this one. Lead strategist Robby Mook has already pointed out that Hillary’s delegate margin in Louisiana should exceed what Sanders can do here and in Kansas.
Maine, March 5 (GOP), March 6 (Democrats)
No polls since 2014. Back then, Chris Christie was not the guy glowering behind Donald Trump at a press conference, he was leading the field with 27%. Trump wasn’t part of the survey. If you’re looking for any clues, Cruz was well ahead of Rubio.
Maine has a bit of an independent streak. Ross Perot did very well there in 1992. Perot also did well in Alaska, a place that preferred Ted to Marco by a better than 2 to 1 margin on Super Tuesday. It was the only place outside of Texas where this was the case.
Kasich and Trump should both do relatively well. Given his wins in New Hampshire, Vermont, and Massachusetts, The Donald is the favorite. But it’s a caucus instead of a primary, and Kasich will pull moderates away and Cruz conservatives.
If Rubio is going to finish fourth somewhere, it’s probably here.
On the Democratic side, it’s a Bernie State. The question is if Sanders can run up a big margin. So far, only Iowa, Nevada, and Massachusetts were won by fewer than 10 points. Most contests are blowouts one way or the other.
Louisiana, March 5
It’s a Hillary State. If any of the Democrats’ weekend contests aren’t called by the networks within a few minutes of polls closing and results being reported, it’s an upset.
It’s also a Trump state. The home of Huey Long, Edwin Edwards, and yes, David Duke isn’t voting for anyone besides The Donald. Regardless of what he did or didn’t say, or how many times he renounced and repudiated the KKK, Louisiana loves colorful politicians.
The state has a definite populist streak too. This is a cant-lose state for Trump. The two new polls back this up, both putting him over 40%. In one, he leads Cruz + Rubio, in the other he ties them.
It’s his best opportunity in the next couple weeks to attempt to hit 50%..
Cruz leads Rubio by 5 to 10 points. Marco has the endorsement of two-term Governor Bobby Jindal. A nod from the Bubonic Plague might help more. Jindal was hugely popular for the first 5 years of his tenure. Then things quickly went downhill. He’s now in year 8.
Kasich isn’t likely to make much of an impact.
Kansas, March 5
Bernie should have this one in hand. He only grabbed 23% in a poll taken from February 19th to 26th. Normally, that’s a bad sign. But this is a caucus, the state is pale, there are a couple big university towns, and Hillary only got 33% herself.
Lots of undecided voters. If Oklahoma is any indication, that’s good for him.
On the GOP side, total toss-up. Trump leads like usual, and has managed to equal the combined Cruz/Rubio support. Normally, that’s a done deal for The Donald.
However, he’s also only at 26% and approximately 40% of voters are undecided. Either Kansas really doesn’t know who it supports, or the pollster isn’t counting anyone other than locked down voters.
Rubio has plenty of in-state endorsements, and the largest population concentration is the upscale part of metro Kansas City. Places like Lenexa and Overland Park, KS will allow Marco to follow the same strategy he did in Ankeny, Iowa.
Kansas is also more Republican than rigidly conservative, which should favor him too compared to his opponents. This is Rubio’s best opportunity on the mainland over the weekend. However, he was at 13% in the poll, so he will need his customary strong close and then some to deliver on the state’s promise for him.
If he’s unable to convince voters he’s still viable, there’s an opening for Cruz. Meanwhile, Kasich could act as a spoiler for Rubio in Eastern Kansas the way he did in Northern Virginia.
Puerto Rico, March 6 (GOP only)
No polls. You would think the more Cuban of the two Cuban senators has an edge here. The betting markets agree, giving Rubio about an 80% chance of victory. It’s not a sure thing. The island is in complete financial turmoil and the current leadership is trying to declare bankruptcy.
In the last debate, Rubio was asked about this and gave a fairly detailed answer about why he though allowing this default/write-off was a bad idea. Perhaps the citizenry agrees with him, perhaps not.
Though Puerto Ricans might want to see a Latin president, Puerto Rico and Cuba are kind of like Michigan and Ohio. There’s a bit of a rivalry. Anyway, this is one of those situations where a loss harms Rubio more than a win helps him.
If everything goes well, he wins Puerto Rico easily, Kansas narrowly, and at least makes Trump worry a bit in Kentucky. Rubio has a couple of good targets on March 8, so he could go into the week before Florida with a whole different narrative.
If he gets shut out for the weekend though….
At the same time, Cruz doesn’t have any easy victory opportunities, but could finish ahead of Rubio everywhere except Puerto Rico. Though these aren’t the highest profile contests, they should make a difference.