Swing State Pres

Monday, March 21, 2016

March 22 Predictions: Will the Rest Win the West?

Tomorrow is “Tiny Tuesday,” which will feature, for both parties, a primary in Arizona and a caucus in Utah, plus a Democratic caucus in Idaho.  There are not too many delegates at stake, but these contests are consequential nonetheless.  Both Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders have more or less staked their candidacies on their potential to win in the West, and good showings for them would provide some validation for their theses.  Thus far, neither has shown much strength outside their home states and neighbors.

Polling is light but quite clear for the GOP.  BTRTN predicts that Ted Cruz will easily win the Utah caucus, while Donald Trump will win the Arizona primary.  It is hard to ascertain from this whether Cruz has real legs in other Western states; what it really proves it just how strong Cruz can be in caucus states where his well-oiled machine of frenzied far right believers do a wonderful job out getting out that difficult caucus vote.  It also may show just how much Mitt Romney hates Donald Trump’s guts and how popular Romney is in Utah.  Romney issued an instantly famous favorable non-endorsement of Cruz in Utah, meaning that he implored Utahans to vote for Cruz, but not as an endorsement, more simply to deny Trump delegates.  They seem to be listening.

On the Democratic side, there is one recent poll in Arizona, but only a single, stale month-old poll in each of Utah and Idaho, which are both, as noted, caucus states.  The same dynamic behind Cruz’s strength in caucuses (frenzied, well-organized ideologues) works for Sanders as well.  BTRTN predicts that Hillary Clinton will win the Arizona primary quite easily, while Bernie Sanders will win close ones in the Utah and Idaho caucuses.  This will mean little in terms of Bernie’s attempt to overtake Clinton’s gargantuan delegate lead; in fact Clinton will likely pick up 20+ net delegates.  Even as Bernie finds the West to be friendly, he can’t help but realize that his delegate gap to Clinton most resembles one of the West’s most iconic symbols, the Grand Canyon.

(Cue to Sanders zealots:  now comes the paragraph you want to cut and paste into your forum comments and emails to fellow travelers.)

Bernie’s basic argument – the case he is making in the media for the benefit of the superdelegates he needs to convince -- for staying in the race, is three-fold:  1) if he runs the table in the West, he may not close the delegate gap but he will have more “momentum” than Clinton heading into the general election, 2) the FBI is not investigating him, and thus there will be no messy “October surprises” if Sanders tops the ticket, and, perhaps most importantly, 3) most polls show that he is beating Trump, Cruz and Kasich head-to-head by a wider margin than is Clinton.  This is true, and not by a little:

Avg. March Polls
Trump
Cruz
Kasich
Clinton versus
+8.4
+6.1
+0.5
Sanders versus
+12.1
+13.0
+9.5

(Bernie fans, stop here.)

Now, these head-to-head polls have limitations, at this stage, to be sure.  Sanders is still relatively unknown nationally to the voting electorate, and the GOP has not yet begun attack and define him (as, say, a socialist), and they likely will never have to.  He is far more of a blank slate than Hillary Clinton. 

More to the point, Clinton needs only 44% of the remaining delegates to win the nomination, and given her track record and the looming New York primary, that is virtually a lock.  The most recent poll in New York had her up 71/23.  If she wins New York by that proportion, then she will need only 39% of the rest of the delegates to lock it up.

Here are our predictions:

March 22 GOP
Arizona
Utah
Delegates >>
58
40
Primary/Caucus
P
C
Trump
46
24
Cruz
34
54
Kasich
20
22

March 22 DEM
Arizona
Utah
Idaho
Delegates >>
85
37
27
Primary/Caucus
P
C
C
Clinton
65
48
48
Sanders
35
52
52


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