March 19, 2016
Ted Cruz really needs a win in Arizona. He’s likely to do well in Utah, but he can’t afford to split with Donald Trump going forward. Plus Arizona has more delegates.
We have a couple of polls now, both taken when Rubio was still in the race. Trump leads in both, Cruz is second, John Kasich is third. A high percentage of voters were still undecided.
Trump is both legitimately ahead and within range. He’s got a 12 to 15 point edge on Cruz. Even if you give all polled Rubio supporters to Ted, Trump is still ahead.
Kasich is doing just well enough that Cruz needs a majority of Rubio supporters, plus a high percentage of undecided voters. Trump is very unlikely to take less than 38 to 42 percent of the vote.
If Kasich has a floor of 15% and a ceiling in the low 20s, Cruz needs everything to fall into place for him. It’s exactly what he dealt with in North Carolina and Missouri.
In those instances it was Rubio + Kasich that combined to pull those voters off the table, but it was just enough to give Trump the edge. Exit polls in both states indicated Cruz would have narrowly won a two person race.
Let’s assume for a moment that Cruz can hold Kasich pretty close to his floor and that Trump is stuck around 40% like he was in North Carolina and Missouri. Technically, Cruz could thread the needle and win very narrowly.
Only one problem. Arizona started voting a while ago. When they did, absentee/early voters had a somewhat viable Marco Rubio to consider.
The MBQF Consulting poll attempted to measure this, and as of March 10, 16% of early voters picked Rubio. He was already fading, only 7% of those who hadn’t voted were planning on supporting him, but you can’t automatically take his old numbers and apportion the voters to Cruz or Kasich.
Most voters will vote on primary day, or sent in absentee votes after March 10. Most. Cruz lost North Carolina by 4 points. It will probably have less impact than that. But he lost Missouri by a couple thousand votes. Rubio definitely got that many.
You may think Ted Cruz only is dealing with Kasich, but the Ghost of Marco Rubio still haunts him. It may well prevent Cruz from catching up in Arizona