April 15, 2016
We know Ted Cruz is doing well at delegate harvesting. He doesn’t need to gloat about his successes in Colorado, North Dakota, Wyoming and elsewhere. Donald Trump’s discomfort is more than enough to confirm the results. Whether you think the process is fair or foul, Cruz is mastering it, Trump fumbling.
More analysts than not think Trump will fall at least a little short of earning the magic 1237 delegates by the end of primary voting on June 7. Those same thinkers and pundits figure Cruz has a decisive edge on a second or third or fourth ballot at the convention.
The Donald hasn’t won anywhere since Arizona on March 22. He’s leading big in New York, but it’s his home state. Reviewing this combination of thoughts and events can easily convince you Cruz is making progress. He won Wisconsin by double digits. John Kasich is still floundering. Paul Ryan just said no way, no how.
Cruz is running roughly even with Hillary Clinton in general election match ups. Though plenty of Republicans still question his electability, it gives him more than a fighting chance. Also way better than Trump’s numbers.
His funding numbers are up. Bernie Sanders isn’t the slightest bit jealous, but Cruz set a monthly record for March, pulling in about $12 million for his campaign. His PACs are pulling in money separately. The anti-Trump PACs are at least indirectly helping him too.
For whatever it’s worth, the media is framing this as a Trump v. Cruz race. The Donald gets the most coverage, but Cruz is a clear number two. He’s done the round of late night shows, gets partial coverage of some events and speeches. Kasich is a clear number three.
All of this should help. In July, maybe it will. For now it isn’t yet. Fox News ran a national poll from 3/20 to 3/22. Marco Rubio had recently suspended his campaign. Respondents rallied around Ted. Trump 41, Cruz 38, Kasich 17.
Since then, Trump has struggled with the narrative and Kasich failed to break 20% in any primary or caucus. Fox polled again from 4/11 to 4/13. Trump 45, Cruz 27, Kasich 25. Huh? It’s one poll. But he’s going the wrong way. Trump raised his support level, while Cruz bled adherents to Kasich.
If you expand the sample size a bit, three weeks ago, they were roughly 40/30/20. Now they’re roughly 40/30/20. Cruz hasn’t closed the gap with Trump or expanded it with Kasich. If Ted can’t make progress when The Donald is prompting self-sabotage articles and Kasich has failed to win a single delegate after Ohio……
National polls aren’t necessarily predictive. New York is up next, followed by five Eastern states on the 26th. Not home turf for Cruz. Trump has an advantage, while it’s the latest place (after the Midwest) where Kasich’s voters are supposedly hiding.
If Cruz is gaining in nomination plausibility (which the betting markets are indicating), Trump is offending undecided voters, and Kasich is showing weakness, we should see a little improvement here. Perhaps not enough to get Ted a win, but at least to prevent him from finishing behind Kasich in 6 consecutive contests.
Zero progress in New York. Eight of the last nine polls have Cruz in third place. If the numbers are correct, he may steal delegates in a congressional district or two, but is doing nothing to consolidate anti-Trump support.
Optimus polled from 3/22 to 3/24. Trump 50, Kasich 24, Cruz 16. They tried again from April 11th to the 14th. Survey says: 49/23/14. In Wisconsin, Cruz was able to combine polling momentum with key endorsements and a group of voters who were determined to block Trump.
Here, Trump is facing less opposition, and those who are inclined to endorse another candidate are picking Kasich. Strategic voters in the upscale/highly educated communities where the governor thrives (does less poorly), have no reason to throw in with Cruz to stop Trump.
On average he trails Kasich by 4 points. Cruz is the better closer, so it’s still possible he could “win” second place by a narrow margin. If that happens, it will help his cause by further marginalizing Kasich, but the numbers say the odds were at least as good in March.
You can argue New York is unique. Cruz didn’t make a big deal out of Maryland values. Nobody is going to run ads suggesting he impugned the very essence of Rhode Island. Trump and Hillary aren’t talking about outsiders failing to understand how Delaware rallied to bounce back from 9/11.
We don’t have any recent data from Connecticut, Rhode Island or Delaware. There isn’t any old data from Delaware either. Once again, people have ignored the first state to ratify the constitution, the place where most big American companies incorporate. Joe Biden is the only thing standing between the state and complete invisibility.
Sorry about the digression. Maryland and Pennsylvania are more regularly polled. In both states, Trump has led for some time. He’s stronger now. In March, he was in the mid-30s. Now he ranges from the high 30s to high 40s. With forty percent almost guaranteeing a win in a three-way contest, it’s a crucial distinction.
Cruz leads Kasich in 4 of the 5 surveys taken in the past couple weeks. They split the two polls from March. You can argue he’s a couple/few points better off against Kasich than he was a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, Cruz also trails Trump by more than he did. At best that’s a net neutral.
In order to finish a strong second, or give Trump any concern whatsoever, Cruz needs to pull the vast majority of anti-Trump voters without a clear preference between him and Kasich. To do that, he needs a clear polling/viability edge over Kasich. There are still 11 days to make this happen.
But he’d need to move sentiment further his way after doing badly in New York than after he did well in Wisconsin. There’s more chance of Kasich finishing ahead in the Empire State, getting a couple favorable polls in Pennsylvania (Franklin & Marshall is due for another survey and he was at 30% in their last one), and pulling those swing anti-Trumpists from Cruz.
That’s supposition and guessing. What’s clear is Cruz has work to do. Maryland is more of the same. The one survey from March (taken early in the month) had Cruz ahead of Kasich. They’ve split the four polls taken in the past two weeks, with Kasich having a thin overall edge.
Once again, Trump is ahead of where he was in March. After spending the first quarter of 2016 in the low 30s, his average is now just over 40. A Trump sweep increases the odds Kasich wins nowhere outside of Ohio. That helps Cruz argue he’s the only alternative. That’s great, but not if Trump winds up back on pace for 1237 in the process.
Winning out on April 26 is just part of what Trump needs. Indiana, voting on May 3 is important too. Polling is limited to non-existent, but both Trump and Cruz have reason to think they could do well. As another Ohio-bordering state, it’s Kasich-friendly too, in a world where he stops wearing essence of loser as a cologne.
Ted’s best path is finishing ahead of Kasich in New York, making it likely he winds up ahead of him in at least a few of the April 26 states. That knocks him out as an anti-Trump alternative for Indiana, helping Cruz get a big win.
Grab Nebraska on May 10, get some delegates in Oregon on 5/17 and Washington on 5/24. Win Montana and South Dakota on 6/7. Combined with a California win on the same day, Cruz would hold Trump below 1200 delegates and have a real case for himself with friendly delegates at the convention. It’s the most simple victory scenario.
But that was based on the idea that he’d make a little forward progress from Wisconsin. It didn’t happen. Now he’s at risk of finishing third in New York, helping him finish third in all the April 26 states. Those defeats could well cost him Indiana.
Depending on how things shake out with Trump and Kasich, either the governor would continue as a non-entity, making a Trump first ballot win more likely, or Kasich could replace Cruz as the anti-Trump for Oregon and Washington, calling Cruz’s viability further into question.
The difference between the Cruz victory path and a possible nightmare for his team is a few percent of the vote in New York on Tuesday. Welcome to the 2016 GOP race, where every candidate disqualifies themselves for one reason or another.
Raise your hand if you woke up on the morning of April 6 thinking Cruz would find himself worse off today without making any obvious errors or Trump doing anything noticeably correct, while Kasich continued to flounder.
If nothing else, this indicates the Trump narrative of a corrupt/illegitimate/insider process for grabbing delegates is probably registering with the voters he most needs it to. Just add this to the list of times the consensus was wrong and The Donald was right.