March 22, 2016
As the segment of Arizonans who are waited for primary day go to the polls today, they’ll carry images of the terror attack in Belgium with them. Once again, terrorists have hit a major European capital, in this case the home of the EU itself. Once again, President Obama is overseas, this time in Cuba.
When Paris happened, the polls moved, but nobody was voting yet. The most recent survey on the GOP side indicated most voters were already set on their choice. Short of a domestic attack, a foreign one is the most likely thing to re-orient priorities.
Do voters shift towards Trump as they seemed to in November? Do the #NeverTrump forces make sure to get to the polls? Either way, this can’t help Bernie Sanders. While voters in some states think he’s better on the economy, and others think Hillary Clinton is, she’s considered stronger on national security by Democrats everywhere.
Donald Trump 43.4%
I’d figured Trump was on track to win Arizona well before any bombs went off at the airport in Brussels. There isn’t a ton of data, but his Real Clear Politics average is +13. His average support was 38%, but with plenty of undecided voters.
Normally the simplest expectation is for Trump to get pretty close to his average polling margin. In a place where another candidate is closing strong, you can assign most undecided voters elsewhere.
In this case, even without the attacks, it looked like Trump was closing stronger than Cruz. Combined with The Donald’s advantage from early voting, a win is close to guaranteed. Should we see an upset tonight, it would mean voters reacted to the news from Europe by moving away from Trump.
That doesn’t match how they’ve acted so far.
Ted Cruz 32.2%
Marco Rubio got enough early voting support to make Ted’s job very difficult. It looks like the margin will wind up wide enough not to change the outcome. Yesterday, Cruz was already conceding Trump was likely to hang on due to his banked votes.
None of the GOP candidates were in Arizona yesterday, having decided to attend the AIPAC event and take advantage of the platform to give speeches. They also appeared individually on the CNN set in Washington D.C. for interviews.
Extra exposure is generally a good thing, but it prevented Trump’s challengers from going all in. If you’re an underdog and want to pull an upset in a given state, it’s necessary to completely commit to that location.
The candidates were focused on the March 15 states, leaving only a week to camp out in Arizona. With Cruz trying to break 50% in Utah and take advantage of endorsements there, the push never happened.
When he spent some, but not total attention in Missouri last week, he fell short. Arizona was a harder mission for Cruz. If he wasn’t going to win there, it was going to take more here.
John Kasich 19.6%
Kasich has a lengthy foreign policy background and is very willing to take interview or debate time going around the world discussing the various pitfalls. His AIPAC speech yesterday was very well received.
We don’t know if voters look at him as the type of leader they want in times of trouble. Kasich is many things, but overly presidential isn’t one of them. On the other hand, he’s theoretically a steady hand.
I’ve given him a number a couple points higher than I would have if Brussels didn’t happen, but not a major adjustment. We don’t know a huge number of GOP voters will pick someone else, many have already voted, and there’s no evidence Kasich is the recipient of second thoughts.
Should he break 20%, it’s an indication voters are open to him as a leader in a time of terror. If his final result is shy of 15% it’s a sign they don’t have the patience to think about convention chicanery and want to settle on a candidate sooner.
Hillary Clinton 57.7%
Bernie needed this one to resume any conversation about a contested nomination. Utah and Idaho simply don’t count the same way a closed primary in an ethnically diverse state does.
While every other candidate was in D.C. for AIPAC, Sanders remained out west, campaigning in Arizona and Utah. He dumped a pile of advertising money, outspending Clinton on TV.
Raul Grijalva, one of the few House members to endorse Sanders, participated in the ads. I was in Arizona over the weekend, and you couldn’t watch March Madness without seeing a Bernie ad. I can only imagine how frequent they appeared on other programming.
With all of that, it appeared Bernie was going to fall short. Now Brussels. March polling had Hillary over 50%, Sanders pulling about a quarter. If the surveys were accurate, he’d need to pull a few Clinton leaners his way, plus convert virtually all of the undecided.
Absent the terror, we would have still predicted a Hillary win, particularly after Bernie fell short in Missouri and Illinois. Not so much because of momentum, but because those states were probably a bit easier for Sanders. If he wasn’t going to win those, he’d need to have something break his way to take Arizona.
Instead, the type of event most likely to help Hillary occurred.
Bernie Sanders 41.5%
He’s likely to hold on in Utah and Idaho. If so, we move forward to the next batch of Democratic events on March 26 without a real change in the script. Sanders can point to a couple victories as a reason to continue, Clinton will add to her delegate advantage. Stop me if you’ve heard this before.
With the exception of Oklahoma, Bernie hasn’t won a single state that wasn’t on my January list of places he needed to in order to contend. Michigan was the one victory I thought was necessary, though not easy.
He dropped Tennessee, Virginia, Ohio, and Illinois, four states I viewed as difficult, but necessary if he was going to contend. Only Illinois was truly close. Arizona fits in the same group.
You can look at recent polling in Arizona, you can look at Bernie’s performance in a group of similarly difficult states, you can think about the effect Brussels will have on voters. None of those factors point to a Sanders win today.