2016: The GOP’s Four Faces

Decision Desk, March 8: Trump 2, Cruz 2

Ted Cruz is about ready to run out of states where his base, very conservative evangelicals, are a large share of the GOP electorate. Fortunately for him, three of the four states voting on March 8 have favorable demographics or election rules. He will likely ride that to at least two victories, further cementing the narrative that he will be the last man standing to take on Donald Trump when the race inevitably winnows down to two men.

Trump should easily win Michigan. His coalition of downscale, less religious whites is large in the Wolverine State, and he will benefit from a less religiously conservative electorate. The latter factor means that Cruz’s appeal will remain limited and John Kasich’s appeal will be stronger than in most other recent states. With his opposition divided three ways, Trump should cruise to victory.

The other three states won’t be as easy for him. Hawaii is a caucus state where Paul and Santorum did well in 2012. Cruz has won the two states with similar characteristics so far, Maine and Alaska, suggesting his extensive (and expensive) ground game is well suited to carry the Aloha State too.

Idaho is also fertile ground for Cruz. It’s the second most Mormon state after Utah, which suggests Mitt Romney’s blistering criticism of Trump will carry more weight here than elsewhere. The sole poll we have showed Trump at 30, Cruz at 19, and Carson at 11, and it was taken before Ben’s walk and Mitt’s talk. Cruz visited the far north of the state over the weekend, an indication his team thinks that he both has a shot and that he did not need to visit the Mormon-dominated south. I’m guessing Cruz pulls off a win, getting him on thewin board for non-caucus, non-Texas-bordering primary states.

Romney’s recording of anti-Trump robocalls for Rubio, however, could scramble this calculation, boosting Rubio and hurting Cruz. It would be highly ironic if the calls ended up helping Trump win by splitting the anti-Trump vote more evenly.

Mississippi will be close. There’s no reason to think that Trump will do less well here than in neighboring states; the Magnolia State shares the same demography. If anything, Mississippi is slightly more favorable to Trump as Trump does much better in counties with high African-American populations (I’m not sure whether that’s because he is attracting black voters or huge shares of downscale whites who live near them), and Mississippi has the largest African-American share of the population of any state in America (D.C., of course, is not a state).

Cruz is doing very well in the Deep South, however, because of its very large religious evangelical population. Carson’s departure Friday clearly helped him on Saturday, as Carson’s voters were demographically similar to Cruz’s and they likely switched to the Texas Senator. I expect Mississippi to end up like Louisiana, a Trump win in the low-to-mid single digits.

Rubio’s campaign should continue to be in free fall. Polls in Michigan show in him in fourth, and the Florida Senator has been forced to spend all his time in his home state to rescue his perilous situation there. Rubio might fail to meet the minimum thresholds to receive delegates in Michigan, Idaho, and Mississippi, a development that would further reinforce the idea that he is living on borrowed time.

Delegate breakdown: Trump 68, Cruz 61, Kasich 18, Rubio 3.

State-by-state analyses below.

Michigan (59) – Michigan awards its delegates proportionally according to the statewide vote, with a 15 percent floor. Michigan has no formal party registration, so all voters can choose to vote in the GOP primary. Voters must, however, sign a statement they are Republicans, a declaration that becomes part of that person’s voter file record.

Four regions will account for about 70% of the vote: Detroit metro (35%), Flint-Saginaw (7%), Lansing and I-94W (15%), and the Dutch Country around Grand Rapids (13%). The rest of the state casts about 30% of the total vote. Trump will clean up in the Flint area and do well in the rural and small town rest of the state. He should do well in parts of the Detroit metro, but upscale Oakland County will go for Kasich. Cruz will do best in the Dutch Country and the rest of the state as that is where Michigan’s evangelical and Protestant populations live.

My ranges are Trump 35-42, Kasich 22-30, Cruz 18-25, Rubio 10-16. My best guess is Trump 39, Kasich 26, Cruz 23, Rubio 11, others 1. Delegate count: Trump 26, Kasich 17, Cruz 16.

Mississippi (40) – Mississippi uses the Texas method of delegate allocation. Three delegates are awarded in each of the state’s four Congressional Districts, with all three going to the winner if he gets 50 percent and with 2 going to the winner and 1 going to the second place finisher otherwise. 28 delegates are awarded per the statewide vote. All will go to the winner if that man gets 50 percent; otherwise, the delegates are awarded proportionally with a 20 percent floor.

Mississippi also has no partisan registration but does not require Michigan’s partisan loyalty declaration.

I expect Trump to do very well in CDs 2 and 3, both of which have large African-American populations and lots of downscale whites. Watch the returns from Rankin County tonight – that is Jackson’s more blue-collar suburb and should be a big Trump county. Cruz should win the more evangelical and suburban CD 1 and the least African-American CD, the Biloxi-Hattiebsurg-based fourth. The man who does not win each CD will finish second in the other.

My ranges are Trump 37-43, Cruz 33-39, Rubio 7-13, Kasich 4-9. My best guess is Trump 39, Cruz 36, Rubio 13, Kasich 7, others (mainly Carson) 4. Delegate count: Trump 21, Cruz 19.

Idaho (32) – Idaho awards its delegates proportionally according to the statewide vote with a 20 percent floor. Only registered Republicans can participate, but those registered as “unaffiliated” can change their registrations on election day (registered Democrats cannot).

The bulk of Idaho’s votes will be cast in the Mormon-influenced south. About 30-35 percent will be cast in Boise (Ada county) and its suburbs (Canyon county). Another 40-45 percent will be cast in the Mormon southeast with the remainder coming from the Panhandle.

My ranges are: Cruz 35-40, Trump 30-38, Rubio 12-20, Kasich 5-10, others 3-6. My best guess is Cruz 39, Trump 34, Rubio 17, Kasich 7, others 3. Delegate count: Cruz 17, Trump 15.

Hawaii (19) – Hawaii is a closed caucus in which only registered Republican may participate. Voters may, however, register Republican at the caucus site.

Delegates are awarded at the CD and the statewide levels. Three delegates are awarded in each of the state’s two CDs. Starting with the highest vote getter, the delegates are awarded proportionally rounded to the next highest whole number. This means that at best the third place finisher will get one delegate. I will assume that unless the winner gets more than a third of the vote, or unless the third place finisher gets less than 16 percent, that each of the first three finishers gets one delegate each.

The remaining thirteen delegates are awarded proportionally according to the statewide vote with no minimum floor.

Paul and Santorum did much better in CD 2, which does not include Honolulu, than they did in CD 1. Accordingly, I will predict that Cruz wins that CD handily, perhaps with enough to garner two delegates. The Honolulu-based CD 1 should be tighter, in part because Rubio and Kasich will do better there.

My ranges are Cruz 36-43, Trump 28-33, Rubio 11-18, Kasich 8-14. My best guess is Cruz 42, Trump 31, Rubio 17, Kasich 9. Delegate count: Cruz 9, Trump 6, Rubio 3, Kasich 1.

Henry OlsenMr. Olsen is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, an editor at UnHerd.com, and the author of The Working Class Republican: Ronald Reagan and the Return of Blue-Collar Conservatism.


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