2016 Democrats, 2016 Republicans, State of the Race, Uncategorized

March 8 Preview: What to Watch For

March 7, 2016

They called March 1 Super Tuesday. Next Tuesday, March 15, is probably the most important Tuesday of all (at least until November 8). In between, we have Semi-Super Tuesday.

Democrats vote in Michigan and Mississippi. Republicans join in there and add Idaho and Hawaii. There aren’t as many contests as last week, they aren’t winner-take-all like next week. Still, we’ll learn plenty about where the candidates stand as they enter the do-or-die phase of the campaign.

Here’s what to keep your eyes open for as the returns stream in tomorrow:Michigan

This is the most consequential contest, the one the networks will follow closest. On the Democratic side, the suspense is how close Bernie Sanders will get. Trailing by 20 points on average, he’s very unlikely to win.

He can’t afford to get swept on March 15. If he can finish within 10 points, it at least gives him room to improve and perhaps do better in Missouri, Illinois, or Ohio next week.

Conventional wisdom is often wrong, but in this case, it really is all about the African American vote. Bernie needs to see improvement. Another result under 25% and Missouri is the only state he can possibly win on the 15th.

If there is some progress, if he can get to the 25 to 28 percent range, check to see if he’s improved across the board, or extended his advantage among younger voters to African Americans.

I’m not sure one outcome is better than the other. More than 25% and progress, is progress, but it will inform his path forward. If the gain is with younger voters, he may double down on his current approach of mostly ignoring individual groups.

On the GOP side, Donald Trump looks mostly safe. His poll average has him at twice any other candidate. Only two recent surveys have him below 39%, both of which had a large amount of undecided voters. He’s led all but one of the 16 polls taken in 2016 by double digits.

Most of these were taken before the last debate. Results in Kansas, Louisiana and Kentucky showed definite last-minute erosion. Aside from Florida, he’s polled better in Michigan than any other March 15 state.

Trump is hoping to make it almost impossible to keep him from the 1237 delegates needed to avoid an interesting convention. If he wins at least 4 of the 5 states on March 15, we’re done. There are a ton of fun scenarios for other candidates. All are moot if he dominates next Tuesday.

If Trump gets close to 40%, his opponents should remain very fearful. They’ve taken their best shots at him over the past week or two, and Ted Cruz has popped his bubble of total invincibility.

It means Cruz can only compete on favorable ground, that Marco Rubio and John Kasich remain contenders only in their dreams. In the fall, I thought pundits and experts were underestimating The Donald.

The past couple weeks, I’ve figured they were overcorrecting. Trump isn’t invincible with an average result in the mid-30s, just a strong front runner. Unless he gets near 40% in Michigan. Then he has a better than even chance of getting to 1237 well ahead of the convention.

Cruz is clearly ahead of Rubio in the anti-Trump derby at the moment. After Puerto Rico, Ted leads 6 states to 2 states/possessions. He’s finished ahead of Marco in 12 out of 19 contests. He has twice as many delegates.

Rubio maintains the calendar begins to favor him the longer the race continues, that Cruz has already had his best shot. Ted’s team says places like Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, all heavy with Reagan Democrats, are in play for him, now and in November.

This isn’t the ultimate Rubio state, and he can argue he’s suffered from a poor narrative/news cycle, but if Cruz finishes more than a couple points ahead of him here, how does Marco claim they are equals at worst? Even a Florida recovery would leave his prospects in question.

Cruz is ahead in the five most recent polls, by as few as four points, as many as eight. This was before voters saw what happened on Saturday. A close finish for Rubio shows more resilience than he’s being given credit for.

Then there’s Kasich. He says he’s going to win Ohio and go on to the convention, being able to compete for the trophy in places like Pennsylvania. He needs to clear 20% here. There’s an outlier poll from ARG with the governor leading at 33%.

No other survey has him over 18%. For whatever reason, ARG loves Kasich. They consistently have him higher than other pollsters. In New Hampshire, they were the first to see his potential. In South Carolina and elsewhere, they were just wrong.

If he’s north of 20%, within 10 points of Trump, he is the favorite to win his home state, and can possibly make a bit of noise afterward. If not, whether or not he wins Ohio, he’s just running as a spoiler/occasional delegate accumulator.

 

Mississippi

There isn’t much to think about with the Democrats. Hillary will win by at least 50 points, quite possibly 60. It’s the last state where she’ll have this type of edge, but it will give her one more strong news cycle, even if Michigan winds up fairly close.

The drama is on the GOP side. Trump led Cruz by 24 points in the most recent poll, taken a week ago. Normally, you’d call it good and move on, but he made up a similar deficit in Louisiana. Only absentee ballots prevented a Cruz win.

That was a closed primary, this one is open, which favors Trump. If Cruz can defeat Trump in an open primary in one of The Donald’s strongholds, it augurs very well for Ted going forward.

Although Michigan is a far more important indicator, Rubio would like to avoid finishing a super-distant third again. If he can break 20% it’s a moral victory, albeit at a time where he increasingly needs actual ones.

 

Idaho

No polling. No reason for that to prevent us from building a few assumptions. Kasich should wind up in single digits here. If he’s anywhere much over 10%, if he gains delegates, it’s a surprise.

This was a strong Ross Perot state in 1992, something we are beginning to notice is favorable to Ted Cruz. He was in Idaho on Saturday, Rubio on Sunday. If Cruz is a true contender to get to 1237 ahead of the convention, or enter it mostly even with Trump, he needs a strong win.

It’s a primary, not a caucus, so his chances of finishing over 50% for the first time are more limited. Should he get there, it’s a very good sign for his campaign.

Prior to the results of the past week, I’d figured this as a good Rubio opportunity, along with several other Western states. Given the seriousness of his fight in Florida, I’m assuming he wouldn’t have travelled here unless he thought he could still do relatively well.

So far, Trump has only finished third once, in Minnesota. There’s a fairly good chance it could happen again here. If Rubio wants to retain support moving forward, even after a Florida victory, it’s important he not seem like a spoiler.

Third place finishes for Trump help Marco argue he’s collecting delegates and looking forward to his best places on the calendar, rather than merely acting as a spoiler. In a world where Trump can finish third every so often, it’s less of a zero-sum game.

 

Hawaii

Another place with no data. It’s a caucus. Not a good combination for forecasting. Most Americans won’t know what happened until they wake up on Wednesday. Depending on how strategic Hawaii voters are, events earlier in the day may have influence.

Voting begins at 6pm local time. That’s midnight in Michigan. Participants will know how things went in the most important contest of the day. Puerto Ricans gave Rubio about three quarters of their vote even after he imploded the day before, so there are no guarantees.

Still, the participants would prefer a good narrative going in. I’m assuming Cruz has some ground presence, because he does everywhere. This feels like a Rubio state. One of those, if he can’t win here, then where type of places.

Minnesota and Puerto Rico were the others like that. There was limited to no polling in those places too. He won both. Any semi-credible Rubio nomination scenario includes a win here.

If Cruz wins, it gives him the potential to win his first multi-state day. He’s the favorite in Idaho and possibly within reach in Mississippi. Winning 3 of 4 and getting close in Michigan would propel him towards March 15 with tons of energy.

Trump hasn’t held one of his trademark rallies in the Aloha State. You’d think his message wouldn’t resonate as well as on the mainland. A victory for The Donald and you can start thinking the sun never sets on the Trumpian empire.

Any less than two Tuesday victories for Trump counts as a setback. Any more than two and he’s had a very strong day. March 8 does not set up as well for him as Super Tuesday or Semi-Super Saturday did. Three wins would reinforce his heavy front runner status.

One win for Cruz is the price of admission. Two ratifies his status as a true nomination contender. Three and Trump could find himself trailing after March 15.

Rubio needs a win in Hawaii, a second place in Idaho, a decent third in Mississippi, and to wind up in the non-Trump pack in Michigan. Less than this and Florida probably can’t save him. Less than this and the Sunshine State may not want to.

Kasich is Michigan, Michigan, and Michigan.

It’s mathematically possible for each candidate to get what they need tomorrow, heightening the drama for Extra Super Tuesday. I’ve now sufficiently hyped myself up for tomorrow. Game on.

 

 

 

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One thought on “March 8 Preview: What to Watch For

  1. Looks like early voting helped Trump in LA. I don’t believe that Michigan has early voting, which I think plays to Cruz’s advantage.

    When you wrote, “If he wins at least 4 of the 5 states on March 15, we’re done,” did you mean, “We’re fucked as a country?” That’s how I read it, but it could just be my mood.

    Like

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