April 8, 2016
Ted Cruz is currently ahead of John Kasich. Safe statement right? Cruz has many more delegates. Kasich doesn’t even have as many as Marco Rubio yet.
Cruz won Wisconsin by double digits. Kasich finished a distant third and earned zero delegates. Supposedly the Midwesr is a strength for the governor, but so far he’s only finished ahead of Cruz in Ohio.
National polls all have Cruz well ahead of Kasich. He’s usually closer to Donald Trump than Kasich is to him. The Real Clear Politics average shows 40/33/21.
It’s possible California will decide whether Trump reaches the magic 1237 ahead of the convention. Once again the RCP polling average shows a two person race. Trump leads Cruz and Kasich 36/28/16.
Cruz has received five endorsements from presidential candidates no longer in the race. They’re a fairly diverse group. Rick Perry took the side of his fellow Texan. Carly Fiorina chose a fellow outsider. Scott Walker and Jeb Bush picked Ted instead of a fellow governor. Lindsey Graham detests Cruz, making his nod a comment on the alternatives.
Kasich has zero candidate endorsements. Whether they aren’t that impressed with him or just want to avoid a losing horse, he’s flying solo without any former peers for surrogates.
Cruz has a stronger delegate wrangling operation. His team began working on this before Kasich even decided to run. In many states, the grass roots party volunteers who go to regional and state conventions are more comfy with Cruz anyway.
While neither challenger gets more than a fraction of the media Trump does, Cruz is getting far more exposure than Kasich. Rightfully so. The guy who wins sometimes gets more coverage than the guy who doesn’t.
The guy who’s wife got attacked by Trump gets more coverage than the candidate who’s personal life isn’t discussed. Then there’s the whole Cruz in New York thing. Despite the better part of a decade he spent at Princeton and Harvard, having Cruz in the citadel of eastern power and finance is a fun contrast.
What’s a better story? Kasich trying to set a record for Italian deli food consumption or Cruz making Matzoh with several orthodox kids in Brooklyn? Add Ted’s attacks on New York values and the general scorn the elite media has for him and its no contest.
Cruz has several likely victories remaining on the calendar. Nebraska, Montana and South Dakota are almost sure things. Indiana is looking somewhat likely. New Mexico is possible.
California is his if he can just take the majority of undecided voters and close well. He’s not going to get anywhere near 1237 before the convention, but there are plenty of potential bright spots.
Kasich has no guaranteed wins. He has no likely wins. He isn’t ahead in the polling average in a single remaining state. Cruz almost always beats his polling average on primary/caucus state. Kasich almost always falls short.
I’m guessing you already realized Kasich isn’t in the strongest position. I’m assuming you already figure Cruz is more likely to win on a second ballot at the convention. So why the lengthy preamble?
Because Kasich is more popular than Cruz in the next batch of states to vote. On average, he’s ahead of Ted in New York. The most recent survey from Maryland has the normal 40/30/20 split between the candidates, but Cruz is the one trailing.
Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Delaware likely favor Kasich also. Pennsylvania’s feelings depend on the survey. If you ask Franklin & Marshall, the governor is a real contender. Other polls put Cruz in second with Trump leading by plenty.
A significant segment of GOP primary voters are choosing strategically. At least a third of voters are all in with Trump. Kasich has his small core of supporters who can’t stand either of his opponents. Cruz holds a solid 20%, which plays up or down depending on the state.
Many of the remaining voters are in play. In Wisconsin they broke for Cruz. It wasn’t a great Trump state so that led to a big victory. Where he’s stronger, the result is different. In New York, this means trying to pull delegates from individual congressional districts.
In the April 26 states, it could mean a couple/few actual wins, but only if one candidate takes all of the strategic votes. Kasich is the candidate these Eastern voters prefer. Cruz is the one who appears more viable. It may prevent voters from consolidating.
Wisconsin voters preferred Kasich too, but not by much. The big favorability gap was between Cruz and Trump, not Kasich and Cruz. As soon as it became clear Ted was ahead, the combination of momentum, talk radio support and the Walker endorsement pushed voters off the fence and on to Cruz’s side of the yard.
Conservative talk radio is far stronger in Wisconsin than these upcoming states. There aren’t a ton of valuable endorsements for Cruz in blue states. If Kasich had done better in Wisconsin, he’d have a clear advantage.
But he didn’t and the next round of polls may show Cruz even with or ahead of him in New York and the April 26 states. If he can advance enough, all but the most anti-Cruz, anti-Trump voters will break free.
If Cruz beats Kasich in these states, a convention miracle becomes even more implausible. If they split support, it works very well for Trump. He’s a threat for 1237 again. If Kasich finishes ahead of Cruz several times, and steals Pennyslvania, it’s like Wisconsin didn’t happen.
The media will focus on Trump and the increasingly pungent Hillary-Bernie contest, but the real intrigue is between Cruz and Kasich. Their ability to monopolize the anti-Trump voters on the 19th and 26th will control the next round of scenarios.