2016: The GOP’s Four Faces

Decision Desk, Acela Corridor Primaries: Trump Train Speeds To Cleveland

Tonight will be an awful night for the #NeverTrump forces. The irresistible force that is Donald Trump will meet a very moveable object, East Coast Republicans. They will gladly hitch a ride on the Trump Train and give him five victories and the overwhelming share of the delegates.

Most of this is simple demographics. Trump has done better with moderates, Catholics, and non-religious people throughout this race and the electorates in tonight have larger shares of these groups than in the national GOP voter pool. But some of this has to do with the matching weaknesses of the two remaining candidates.

Simply put, the sort of highly educated moderate who likes John Kasich does not like Ted Cruz, and the very conservative voter who loves Ted Cruz detests John Kasich. The few polls that ask hypothetical two-man horse race questions show this. A third of each man’s backers would prefer Trump to the other guy, meaning that there is no anti-Trump majority to be had in any of these states.  When a majority of Republicans tacitly backs Trump in a state, he is going to win the lion’s share of the vote and the delegates. QED.

The Cruz-Kasich cartel – let’s cheekily name it OPEC (Operation of Politically Effective Conservatives) – is meant to change this dynamic. It is supposed to signal each man’s backers that they should vote stratgtically: if their preferred man has no chance to win delegates, vote for the other guy before voting for Trump. It is likely at this stage to fail precisely because neither candidate will put time, money, and concerted messaging behind this request. If the cartel is going to work, they are going to need to really sacrifice for the common cause – they need to persuade their backers why this unusual move is needed, not simply coyly bat their eyes at their voters with a “come hither” look.

This why cartels usually fail. When push comes to shove, each cartel member has reasons to cheat. Cruz really does have to tell voters who loathe Kasich to hold their nose and vote for the man they view as a big government moderate. And Kasich really does have to tell voters who hate Cruz to hold their nose and vote for the Bible-thumping jerk. Until they do this, we should expect each man to hold on to enough of his votes to really prevent the deal from bearing full fruit. And that means that the odds of beating Donald Trump are rapidly approaching John Belushi’s grade point average in Animal House: 0.0.

State-by-state predictions and overall delegate predictions below.

Pennsylvania (71 delegates) – Pennsylvania will go for Trump by a large margin, but the real battle is in the delegate election battles in each of the state’s eighteen Congressional Districts. Pennsylvania is the only state in which delegates are elected without any indication on the ballot of whom they support. Voters must find out on their own who to support, and that is a test of a campaign’s organization. It’s possible, therefore, that Trump will lose many delegates to Cruz, Kasich, or the party insiders who usually win these races.

The Allentown Morning Call contacted all of the delegates and published a list of who is backing whom. As you can see, there is no race in two CDs – three “uncommitted” delegates are the only names on the ballot. It will surprise no one that these seats are in heavily Democratic Pittsburgh and Philadelphia and thus are likely to be party activists unfavorable to Trump.

You might also note that not a single delegate says they back Kasich. Kasich backers should not despair, however. The Facebook page Kasich4Pennsylvania is telling voters to support people who say they are uncommitted or will vote for the winner of the district. Thus it is quite possible that Kasich will garner a substantial share of the delegates even as he loses most of the state.

Many of the delegate candidates are current or former GOP Congressmen or state legislators. These people will have name ID and should be expected to win in the absence of a well-organized ground game on behalf of the Trump or Cruz slates.

Trump should do best in the CDs outside of the main metro areas and particularly outside of the Philly suburbs. Cruz will do best in the religious conservative heartland of York and Lancaster counties (CDs 4 and 16). Kasich will do best in CDs with pockets of high income voters like 6 and 8.

The ranges are Trump 45-52, Cruz 25-30, Kasich 15-22. My best guess is Trump 51, Cruz 27, Kasich 19. My delegates count is Trump 28 (11 from CDs, 17 from winning statewide), Cruz 8, Uncommitted or “Vote the District Winner” 35. In formulating this I gave each current or former officeholder a slot and made a random guess based on the district’s nature for the others.

Maryland (38 delegates) – Maryland gives 14 delegates to the statewide winner and three to the winner of each of the state’s eight Congressional Districts. Trump is ahead by at least 14 points in every poll, and with margins like that it is hard to see how he does not sweep the state.

Kasich has a shot in the upscale 8th CD and Cruz has a shot in the rural 6th. But I think each will fall short and Trump will get all 38 delegates.

The ranges are Trump 45-53, Kasich 25-30, Cruz 21-25. My best guess is Trump 48, Kasich 27, Cruz 23.

Connecticut (28 delegates) – Another easy win for Trump. Polls have him in the mid-to-high 50s, which makes sense given that the Nutmeg State is situated between New York (Trump 59 percent) and Massachusetts (Trump 49 percent). Trump will win the state and all five CDs easily, giving him all 28 delegates.

The ranges are Trump 53-60, Kasich 25-30, Cruz 10-14. My best guess is Trump 56, Kasich 29, Cruz 12.

Rhode Island (19 delegates) – Little Rhody will show how how weird our nomination process is. It will likely be Trump’s biggest win of the night, as polls have him receiving close to 60 percent. However, the state awards its delegates proportionally by statewide and CD vote, meaning that Cruz and Kasich will get more delegates here than in Connecticut and Maryland despite losing by bigger margins.

Six of the delegates are awarded proportionally by CD, three in each. Candidates getting at least 10% of the vote receive one delegate in the CD unless someone gets 67 percent. If that happens, then first place gets two and second gets one. The remaining thirteen delegates are allocated proportionally based on the statewide vote to all candidates getting at least ten percent.

Cruz is polling dangerously close to the ten percent mark, but he should surpass it. 

The ranges are Trump 58-63, Kasich 20-25, Cruz 10-15. My best guess is Trump 61, Kasich 25, Cruz 12. Delegate breakdown: Trump 10, Kasich 6, Cruz 3.

Delaware (16 delegates) – Delaware gives all of its delegates to the statewide winner. That will be Trump by a huge margin. My best guess is Trump 52, Kasich 24, Cruz 21.

Delegate Breakdown: Trump 120, Uncommitted/Other 35, Cruz 11, Kasich 6.

Henry Olsen — Mr. 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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