About Last Night: Winning Winner-Take-All Winners
Last night, voters in Florida, Ohio, Missouri, North Carolina, and Illinois case their primary votes for President. By about 8PM, it was clear that it was going to be a big night for Donald Trump who would go on to carry Florida, North Carolina, and Illinois (as of the time of writing, the State of Missouri still has not been called, officially, for Trump, who leads by around 1%). In order to secure the “magic number” of 1237 delegates to get the GOP nomination on the first ballot, Trump will have to garner around 60% of the outstanding GOP delegates. Because some states now shift to winner-take-all models, Trump’s path to the nomination is the easiest for the remaining candidates, but it still is a higher bar than he would have liked.
John Kasich, the Governor of Ohio, carried his home state and vowed to stay in he race all the way through the Republican convention in Cleveland. This was the first state won by Kasich, who has made the image of his candidacy one of optimism (to act as a contrast to Donald Trump’s “we don’t win anymore” rhetoric). Unfortunately for Kasich, he needs 112%+ of the remaining GOP delegates in order to secure the nomination. Consequently, Kasich’s path forward requires an open convention later this summer.
Ted Cruz ran solidly and above his polling estimates. He now can, effectively, say that it is a “two man race” between himself and Trump. Though Cruz needs (likely) over 80% of the remaining delegates to deny Trump the nomination and take it for himself, because John Kasich is, mathematically, precluded from getting enough delegates without an open convention, Cruz is pushing the line that he is the only viable anti-Trump.
Marco Rubio’s campaign ended in disaster last night as he was thoroughly routed in his home state of Florida. After several campaign miscalculations, Rubio was never able to fully become the “anti-Trump”, “establishment” candidate. It’s unclear where Rubio’s political path goes from here. He will remain a United States Senator until his successor is chosen this Fall. After that point, his future with the Party is unclear. In the event of an open convention in July, Rubio’s 150+ delegates may be part of a larger anti-Trump coalition (if this scenario actually plays out).
Like we’ve been seeing for months now, turnout on the GOP side of the primaries has been strong. This is, in no small part, because of the candidacy of Donald Trump (in order to vote for him, or, as we saw in Ohio, likely to vote against him). We are also continuing to see heavy voter distrust of the established institutions of government.
From here, we turn to Arizona (a closed primary that is winner-take-all) and Utah (closed caucus) next Tuesday. Both are big for Ted Cruz. A closed winner-take-all primary in Arizona puts the theory that Donald Trump does worse in closed elections to the test (a closed election being one where only registered members of the Republican Party can vote in the Republican Primary). We’ve seen some evidence of this before, but, given the number of candidates, Trump has still been winning more than he has been losing. Given that Arizona will likely be a fight between Trump and Cruz in a “two man” race, this race will give us a significant look into whether Trump will be able to get to 1237. Likewise, Trump needs the winner-take-all delegates to increase his lead. (Utah, being a closed caucus, is a likely win for Cruz.)
FoxNews is attempting to schedule a debate for the day before the Arizona and Utah contests. Already on Twitter, Donald Trump has begun to attack Megyn Kelly’s reporting on the race. This is certainly not just the billionaire deciding to chide a journalist, but rather, Trump building a case to refuse to go to another GOP Debate hosted by Fox. It’s unclear if Fox would simply have Cruz and Kasich talk for two hours or whether Trump is so integral to the ratings that they would be forced to abandon the debate if he declines to participate. (Note that the last time Trump refused to participate, he wound up losing to Cruz in Iowa. Trump really cannot afford a loss in Arizona, so he may need to attend this next debate).
WINNERS AND LOSERS
Donald Trump: While the billionaire hasn’t wrapped up 1237, if he were any other candidate in any other Presidential contest for the past two decades, we’d be saying he’s the presumptive nominee. An open convention may happen, but, he’s the presumptive nominee.
John Kasich: Finally getting a win is important, finally getting media coverage is moreso. Kasich’s path to the nomination would require an open convention and a lot of “backroom” deals. But, at least for the moment, he has his moment in the sun.
Hillary Clinton: She walloped Bernie and won every contest last night. Barring a federal indictment, she’s the Democrat’s nominee. Now she gets to focus her attack on the GOP while the Party struggles with its own internal divisions.
Pollsters: They’ve been hot and cold this cycle, but, at least from the outcomes on the Republican side, the results from last night were in-line with projections.
Marco Rubio: “Little Marco” got blown away in his home state. Much of Rubio’s success and failure coverage was generated by media stories. It seemed that Rubio’s team had little control over the narrative surrounding their candidate. If there’s one thing they could learn from Trump, it’s how to manipulate the media. Aside from a potential part of an anti-Trump coalition in Cleveland, there’s not a lot for Rubio to do in the next few years. To be fair, at least now there’s no reason for him to miss Senate votes.
Bernie Sanders: Sanders ran close in a few states last night, but the math isn’t on his side. He’s a niche candidate whose niche just got sealed up.
Ted Cruz: While not really a “loser” on the list, he could have really used a win. Running close with Trump in Missouri will likely net him some delegates. Unfortunately, he could use the media boost into Arizona and beyond.
John Boehner: A “Tea Party” conservative, Warren Davidson, won a contested primary in Ohio’s 8th Congressional District last night. This is former House Speaker John Boehner’s seat. Boehner, famously, resigned the Speakership after the House Freedom Caucus (made up of, largely, Tea Party members) decided to oppose Boehner’s initiatives and even proposed forcing him out of his position.
The GOP “Establishment”: If it ever really existed, the GOP Establishment’s chances died last night. While we will read tons of wonkish articles about how convention chicanery could bring Mitt Romney back as the nominee, the reality is that the GOP now has a choice between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz for the nomination. Cruz, potentially the most detested politician in Washington among the GOP elites now seems to be the more “establishment” choice. By the math, only Trump and Cruz could get to 1237 (and Trump has a far better chance, numerically). Certainly the “establishment” could stage a coup of the convention, but, as we’ve seen, they couldn’t even organize enough to get a candidate nominated.