March 8, 2016
We have one question and one question only to answer. Can Ted Cruz catch Donald Trump? The one semi-recent poll we have is from Magellan Strategies on 2/29. Trump led Cruz and Marco Rubio 41/17/16.
On March 1, the same pollster surveyed Louisiana and found Trump leading Cruz and Rubio 41/21/15. The final result was 41/38/11. Cruz finished percentage points ahead among non-absentee voters.
It sure seemed Ted might have won if only he’d had another three days. Guess what? In Mississippi he has another three days. Is it enough?A few final considerations. Louisiana was a closed primary, Mississippi is an open. This favors Trump, who is more likely to get Democrats to cross over. However, polls should pick at least some of this up. It only matters if it was unforeseeable earlier.
Absentee ballots are likely a factor again. Even though Cruz caught up in Louisiana, he would have needed an advantage to make up for his absentee deficit. Trump voters are the ones who have their minds made up early. It’s going to cause Rubio problems in Florida too.
Even on the day of, Trump still pulled 40% of voters, winding up at 43% overall. It doesn’t appear The Donald has slipped any over the past couple of days. Newer Michigan polls have him close to where he was a few days ago, which is the best we have to go on.
To get a victory for Cruz, you either need to assume Trump will fall noticeably below 40% on votes cast today, or that Ted will wind up noticeably above, leaving almost no remaining support for Rubio and Kasich.
A Cruz victory is a good story. It would mean he broke Trump’s hammerlock on this part of the country. It would indicate he might win more delegates than The Donald for the second straight multi-event night.
Data doesn’t care about stories.
Donald Trump 41.8%
Alabama shares a border. Trump got 43% there. Louisiana is on the other side. Trump got 43%. Tennessee is above, Trump got 39%.
The only bordering state exception is Arkansas, where The Donald only made it to 33%. One side of the state is Texas adjacent, giving Cruz a bit of an edge. Rubio had some strength there too. It was never a Trump state the way the others were.
We know Mississippi is a Trump state. The other poll we have is from early August. Even then he was running ahead of his national average. Trump does not underperform his polls in states that favor him.
As it is to hold him to this number, I’m assuming the entire amount of Carson and undecided voters from the Magellan poll go elsewhere. I’m also assuming he does no better than 40% on non-absentee votes.
In a Southern open primary, where he’s done well in the surrounding states, is not dropping terribly elsewhere, he’s getting to 40%. He did a masterful job pitching Saturday as a victory, even though Cruz really had the better day. There’s no reason for his core to abandon him and he doesn’t need leaners to win.
Ted Cruz 36.9%
This is still a good number for Cruz in an open primary. Sure, he’d definitely like to win. A loss ruins his chance to unequivocally win a primary night. If he winds up here, Missouri and North Carolina are very much in play for him next week.
With Trump hanging in, as long as Rubio and Kasich combine for about 20% of the vote, there isn’t enough left for Cruz to work with. As badly as Marco drifted in Louisiana, Kasich was the beneficiary of some of that abandonment.
Unlike Alabama and Georgia, Kasich got a higher percentage of votes than his final poll average. Rubio only had 16% to start with in the poll here. I’m giving Cruz almost all of the undecided voters and a few Rubio supporters. That seems like plenty.
Marco Rubio 12.0%
There’s probably a downward limit on how far he can slip. This doesn’t strike me as the place where most voters are strategically trying to block Trump by making sure to team up with Cruz. I’ve already given him almost two-thirds of the non-Donald vote.
It’s doubtful the Rubio team was planning on needing to say “hey, at least we finished ahead of Kasich” when they drew their plans up, but it is what it is.
John Kasich 8.7%
There’s some world where a bunch of Democrats, horrified by how much Bernie Sanders pushed Hillary Clinton to the left, stream across to vote for Kasich instead of one of their party’s candidates.
I don’t think Mississippi is that place. He’ll get a few, but Trump is the more likely receptacle for these defectors.
Hillary Clinton: 77.2%
Bernie Sanders: 21.3%
While there are several more stops where one candidate or the other is at an extreme advantage, this should be the last contest where someone fails to get a quarter of the vote.