April 22, 2016
Believe it or not, some Republicans haven’t made up their mind about The Donald just yet. We know about his legion of supporters. We know about #NeverTrump. Neither of those factions will determine the nominee. It’s the smaller group of leaners and undecideds who will.
This is true on the voter level, the delegate level, and the endorser level. Depending on the state, we’ve seen what happens when they move in the same direction and when they can’t make their mind up.
There’s a bit of a chicken and egg thing going here. When popular elected officials get behind a non-Trump candidate, it seems to matter. Scott Walker helped Ted Cruz in Wisconsin. Nikki Haley and Tim Scott didn’t get a win for Marco Rubio in South Carolina, but they clearly helped him get back off the mat after New Hampshire.
Mike Lee helped Cruz in Utah. In other states, potential endorsers were relatively silent on anti-Trump candidates while others supported The Donald. In Arizona, ex-Governor Jan Brewer endorsed Trump. Rudy Giuliani said he would vote for his fellow New Yorker.
Are the endorsers moving the voters or are the polls moving the endorsers? Walker didn’t jump in until a week before Wisconsin voted. Lee waited until Rubio was out of the race and Cruz was leading in Utah before weighing in. Haley made sure Marco wasn’t completely flatlining before making a decision in the final week.
Not every state has popular GOP leaders, either current or retired. Some have already endorsed one or more extinct candidates. They naturally worry about betting on another losing horse, and the impact of their endorsement is muted after having already anointed someone else first.
Eventually this will trickle down to the delegates. Not those who are strongly for Cruz, Kasich, or a white knight. Not those who are actually for Trump, not just committed to him on a first ballot by rule. As we’ve seen recently, many are chosen in state conventions and campaigns actively (especially in Ted’s case) campaign to get their favorites seated.
But plenty of delegates are RNC people or elected officials at the state level. They aren’t the majority of a given delegation, but two here, three there, and all of a sudden, you have enough people to swing a nomination to Trump on the first ballot if he gets reasonably close to 1237.
Once upon a time, state delegations, controlled by a powerful figure, often voted as a unit. Not anymore. A few votes here, a few votes there, and we have Nominee Trump. Many of the delegate estimators have him in the 1180 to 1220 range right now. It wouldn’t take much.
In both Pennsylvania and Connecticut, the Real Clear Politics average has Trump about where Cruz and Kasich are combined. One lonely poll from Gravis Marketing has him at 55% in Delaware with the other two combining for 33%. Rhode Island was last surveyed around Valentine’s Day. Trump was in the 40s there too.
Maryland is the closest, with The Donald clinging to a mere 41% in the RCP average. He leads each of his pursuers by 15 to 20 points. Again, this is the most competitive race, and it points out the challenge Cruz would have if Kasich weren’t around. You would have to assume 70-75% of his votes would go to Ted instead of Trump or just staying home.
Given how overly conservative Cruz is for some Maryland Republicans, that strikes me as fanciful. With or without Kasich around, Trump was set for the 26th. As such, he’s going to wake up next Wednesday morning in good shape.
He won’t grab the same percentage of delegates he did in New York. Rhode Island is proportional. Trump won’t clear 50% in Maryland, forcing him to share statewide delegates. Kasich should win a congressional district or two, possibly even three. The governor is in Connecticut today, trying to keep Trump under 50% up there.
Cruz is pushing in Pennsylvania. This won’t keep Trump from winning, but only 17 of the 71 delegates go to the statewide winner. The remainder are officially uncommitted, but are actually voted on during the primary. A solid amount of these delegate candidates support Cruz and plan to vote for him at the convention even if Trump wins the state primary.
These details are important for how close Trump gets to 1237. They won’t change perception very much when the returns roll in on Tuesday. After Wisconsin, many voters had an image of a contested convention. After New York, more were able to picture a Trump win. After the 26th, it will get even easier.
Before Wisconsin, politicians, voters, observers, any sentient humans understood a Trump victory would lead to a Trump nomination. Indiana will feel this way too. While a win wouldn’t clinch 1237 delegates, it would make 1180 to 1200 extremely likely. If Cruz can’t win Indiana, expecting him to win California, or enough congressional districts in the Golden State to keep Trump in the 1100s is pushing it and then some.
Cruz can line up as many delegates as he wants for a second or third ballot, but there’s a huge difference between ending the primaries with momentum and trailing Trump by 150 delegates and crawling to the finish line with a 400 delegate deficit. The bigger the gap, the more delegates need to abandon the result their state’s primary voters picked.
The more distance, the less explainable it is. Not only is Cruz now mathematically eliminated from reaching 1237 before the convention, he’s running the risk of being unable to win the majority of delegates after March 15. If Trump wins Indiana, he will beat Cruz before and after the field narrowed.
These are just a few of the ways to explain the gravity of the Indiana primary. Voters will hear this constantly in the week leading up to the vote. Potential Hoosier State endorsers will hear and realize it too. Uncommitted delegates are keeping score too.
We have zero official polls from Indiana. Apparently, telemarketing laws are more restrictive than most states, limiting the options for pollsters. Leaked internal survey results indicate a tight contest between Trump and Cruz, with Kasich limited to his core group of voters who can’t stand the other two.
If Indiana’s GOP leaders are going to rally around Cruz the way Wisconsin’s did, they’ll need to ask themselves if fear of Trump winning because they didn’t try to stop him overrides concern he will win even if they do something and would wind up making them look impotent.
Voters will need to decide if they can picture him as the nominee and want to jump on the bandwagon, or are completely afraid and want to try to stop him.
WE HAVE NO IDEA TODAY WHAT THESE INDIVIDUALS WILL CHOOSE. NONE.
Will Cruz stay close enough to Kasich on the 26th, perhaps finishing ahead of him in a couple states so that he doesn’t look like a total loser?
Will Cruz come up with an issue other than North Carolina bathrooms to challenge Trump on?
Will the narrative that Trump is modulating his approach and acting more like a mature candidate hold? How many voters will care?
At the end of the day, for wavering/unsure voters, endorsers, and delegates, is this a fair accompli to attempt to lightly embrace or a horror to stop at all costs? Starting on the morning of Wednesday, April 27, 2016, the Republicans of Indiana and those who influence them will look in the mirror and need to quickly decide.