March 8, 2016
If you’re trying to figure out how big a day this might turn out for Donald Trump, I’ll give you an order of possibilities:
Those are the March 8 states listed from most to least likely to pick The Donald. He’s currently well ahead in a large sampling of Michigan polls. He has a big lead, but less data in Mississippi. He leads the one (somewhat dated) poll in Idaho. No polling in Hawaii.
It so happens the availability of polling corresponds to the Trump-friendliness of each state. Where I think he’ll do well, I can prove it. Where I think others have a good shot, there’s less evidence either way. Let’s start with Idaho, the first state on the #NotTrump side of the line.Ted Cruz 43.4%
Cruz was at 19% in that single poll, taken between 2/17 and 2/26. Trump registered at 30%. You might wonder how I think this translates to Ted winning by 15 points.
The answer is because this is a primary not a caucus, and Independents can change their registration to Republican at the voting location and participate.
If it was a closed caucus like Kansas or Maine, I would have expected Cruz to threaten the 50% line. While this survey was being taken in Idaho, another in Kansas had Trump up 26/14 on Cruz, with a similarly large number of undecided voters.
Cruz won 48/23. Idaho was a strong Ross Perot state in 1992. Cruz has done very well in these. Trump tends to do better with early deciders. He doesn’t lose his support, but often doesn’t gain much late.
If he only had 30% two weeks ago, he’s not likely to wind up much higher now, even if he had a much higher percentage of respondents who had chosen someone. In Kentucky, he retained his supporters from the same time period, but couldn’t add any.
That was a caucus, but it functioned like a primary, with voting open for 6 hours and no holding voters to listen to speeches from candidate supporters.
Trump does best in states that identify as Independent or Democratic or were once Democratic. Idaho is a consistently Republican state. This distinguishes it from places like Alabama, Louisiana, and Tennessee, which are conservative and plenty red, but regularly voted for Democrats in statewide elections until the last generation.
A smaller state, requiring some ground organization that is reliably Republican, conservative, and gave Perot strong results is a Ted Cruz state. Given he has momentum too, no reason to expect him to lose. Betting markets have shown him as a strong favorite since the returns started coming in this past Saturday.
Donald Trump 28.5%
Just because this is a Perot state doesn’t make it bad for Trump. He broke the 30% mark in Alaska and Maine. Those were caucuses, a primary should make this easier for him.
It’s just a more Republican state than those are. However, there’s a little more of an Independent streak than Kansas, along with a decent dose of populism. This number splits the difference between his finish in the Sunflower State and Alaska/Maine.
In most places and cases, the Mitt Romney attack probably helps Trump, at least with the sort of voters who would strongly consider voting for him. If nothing else, it motivates his supporters to get out and vote for him.
Next to Utah, Idaho is the most heavily Mormon state in the country. As the notes accompanying the poll release pointed out, Romney is popular with his fellow LDS members in Idaho.
Not enough to sink Trump by any means, but enough to peel a couple points away.
Marco Rubio 18.7%
The struggling Floridian visited Idaho on Sunday. This set up as a good state for him before momentum moved away from him. We’ve seen places that prefer Rubio hold on in the face of negative results elsewhere.
Marco still managed to win Minnesota, even with results going against him as Republicans headed out to caucus there on Super Tuesday night. Puerto Ricans didn’t seem to care that Cruz and Trump think he should get out.
There’s a difference between a pro-Rubio place and an open to Rubio place. This is the latter. He has endorsements, is conservative enough, and there are some upscale suburbs in and around the Boise area.
That’s quite a bit like Kansas. I’m expecting a very similar result for him. Kasich isn’t strong enough to pull anti-Cruz/anti-Trump voters away from Rubio, but there aren’t enough of those people to get him past 20%.
John Kasich 8.2%
Eventually Kasich will run out of states where he can’t crack 10%. There aren’t that many left on the schedule. He just needs to make sure he’s still around that long.