Swing State Pres

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Can Donald Trump Win It All in the Primaries and Prevent a Brokered Convention? The Math Says...Yes, It Is Likely

The GOP Establishment and far right Big Money (and the story-hungry media) are dancing in symbiotic lockstep, a rather hastily conceived and desperate choreography designed to deny Donald Trump the GOP nomination.  Their hope is to prevent Trump from securing the 1,237 delegates he needs to clinch the nomination before the Cleveland GOP convention in July.  Delegates are bound to their candidates only (by and large) for the first ballot, and thus Trump can be denied, in theory, if he enters Cleveland short of the requirement and the race is thrown open in subsequent ballots.  This “brokered convention” scenario, and the schemes to make it happen, are dominating the current conversation.

But is it a real possibility?  I ran the numbers yet again and conclude that while it is possible to deny Trump the 1,237 in the primary season, it is much more likely that he will make it

The basic math is that between them, Cruz and Kasich would have to win a fair number of the remaining 17 contests, because simply nipping off delegates with second- and third-place finishes will not be enough to do the job.  And the fact is that neither Cruz nor Kasich has shown much of an ability to win states that hold primaries rather than caucuses, and where they don’t have a home- or neighbor-state advantage.  And that is what we have left:  mostly primaries (14 out of the 17 races) in states where neither Cruz nor Kasich clearly has friendly neighbors.

Let’s look at the numbers, and for that I have a helpful chart below.

Trump now has 738 delegates, and thus needs 499 more to get to 1,237.  There are 800 delegates to be had in the remaining 17 contests, and so he would need to win 62% of them.  That’s the number the media is focused on, since Trump has yet to win 50%+ in any one race thus far.

But two key factors have changed at this stage of the campaign that make that 62% eminently achievable.  One is the narrowing of the field, and the other is the fact that a number of the 17 races remaining are either “winner-take-all” (five of them) or a hybrid “winner-take-most” (eight) in which there are either triggering thresholds of varying kinds, or there is winner-take-all at the congressional district level within a state.  That leaves only three races that have proportional allocations.  (The 17th is Pennsylvania, in which only 17 delegates are awarded winner-take all, and the other 54 delegates are, in effect, unpledged.)  So all that means is that if Trump continues to pile up wins in the 40-50% range, he will earn a far higher percentage of delegates in the remaining contests than he has up to now.

I have tried to predict the remaining 17 contests based on the latest polling, if it exists, neighbor state results and reading up on state dynamics.  There are several caveats to this exercise apart from the vagaries of polling.  Both caveats relate to delegate allocation rules…first off, while I have tried to find accurate representations of them, reputable sites at times have conflicting information about exactly how it is done.  And second, the rules are arcane; some, as mentioned, involving district-by-district allocations, and that is very difficult to predict.  I have made some simplifying assumptions and even those vary state-by-state.

One important thing to note: polls exist in 10 of the 17 states, and Donald Trump leads in every one, except in Wisconsin and New Mexico, where Cruz is ahead, in each, by a single point.  Trump leads by nine or more points in every other state.  Trump is leading virtually everywhere they have polls, which likely means he is leading virtually everywhere else as well.

When in doubt, I had tried to lean at the margin toward giving Ted Cruz the benefit of the doubt.  For instance, I have him winning Wisconsin and New Mexico even though the polls are essentially even.  I have him winning Nebraska even though it is a primary, and winning both Washington and South Dakota, which, while being caucuses, are not truly regional strongholds for him (he did win Idaho and Utah, though). 

Polling indicates Trump will likely sweep the northeast and mid-Atlantic states (New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and West Virginia).  The only question is how much he will max out on delegates given the funky allocation rules in many.  California is similar to these states as well, with Trump doing well in the polls.

There is no polling yet in Indiana, but Trump won in neighbors Illinois, Michigan and Kentucky, losing only to Kasich in Ohio, and not by much there.  I don’t think Kasich has a regional pull in Indiana.  I have Trump taking Oregon, a neighbor to California.


  Delegates

Date
State
P/C
Del.
Alloc.
Trump
Cruz
Kasich
Poll Leader
5-Apr
P
42
WTA CD
12
27
3
Cruz +1
19-Apr
P
95
WTM
86
0
10
Trump +40
26-Apr
P
28
WTM
24
0
4
Trump +15
26-Apr
P
16
WTA
16
0
0

26-Apr
P
38
WTA CD
29
4
6
Trump +9
26-Apr
P
71
LH
17
0
0
Trump +11
26-Apr
P
19
WTM
13
1
5
Trump +18
3-May
C
46
WTA CD
37
7
2

10-May
P
36
WTA
0
36
0

10-May
P
34
WTM
34
0
0
Trump +20
17-May
P
28
PRO
13
10
6

24-May
C
44
PRO
4
35
4

7-Jun
P
172
WTA CD
129
34
9
Trump +11
7-Jun
P
27
WTA
27
0
0

7-Jun
P
51
WTA
51
0
0
Trump +27
7-Jun
P
24
PRO
9
11
4
Cruz +1
7-Jun
C
29
WTA
0
29
0


Thru 3/22



738
463
143

Post 3/22

800

500
194
52

Total



1238
657
195

The bottom line is that in this scenario, which is generous to Cruz, Trump takes home 1,238 delegates, just ahead of the 1,237 requirement.   And obviously there is upside for Trump as well.  He could take more delegates in the states I have him winning; he could win Wisconsin and New Mexico, which are dead even; he could win Montana and Washington, and even Nebraska.  

John Kasich could conceivably drop out any week, if he does as poorly as I believe he will.  But that really only helps Trump…some segment of Kasich voters will go to Trump, and given I have Kasich winning 58 more delegates, even if 10-20 go to Trump that could be decisive.  I don’t see Kasich voters propelling Cruz to victory anywhere.

All told, Trump’s upside to this scenario is well over 100 delegates, pushing him perhaps to over 1,300.  Whereas Ted Cruz is not likely to do much better than what I have modeled here, and more likely will do worse.

So, while the nation turns its attention to brokered convention scenarios, there actually must first be some kind of catalyst to knock Trump down a peg, just enough off this scenario to keep him below 1,237.  And no one in the GOP has been able to find that catalyst as yet…what makes anyone think they will now?








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