2016: The GOP’s Four Faces

Decision Desk, Ides of March: Et Tu, GOP?

“Beware the Ides of March,” the soothsayer told Caesar. Election soothsayers, aka pundits, have been saying the same to the GOP for months. March 15 will not only determine the fates of many Republican aspirants; it may even decide whether the party itself dies, assassinated by its own voters.

Trump, in this analogy, is to the GOP as Caesar was to Rome, a man whose ambitions could not be constrained by prior forms and habits. Just as Caesar’s armies swept the armies of the Republic before him, so too are Trump’s armies scattering Republican resistance. Just as Caesar’s remaining opponents had to team up to murder him, on the Ides of March, so too now must rivals for the nomination team up to bring down their common foe.

We know what happened to Rome. Caesar’s rivals could bring down Caesar but not Caesarism. Another bloody civil war later, Augustus would overthrow the Republic and install one man authoritarian rule.

We don’t yet know what will happen to the GOP. Will it bring down this Caesar, or will he ride into Cleveland’s forum at the head of legions of supporters to receive the crown he had won? If it brings down Caesar now, can it resist four years hence being laid low by another, more subtle in his craft but equally ambitious to end Republican forms? Much history remains to be written, and whatever happens every Republican should take heed the words Cassius spoke to Brutus: “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.”

Poetic allegory aside, tonight will end the political dreams of one man and give fleeting life to those of another. Marco Rubio will lose Florida and with it the hopes of continuing on in the race while John Kasich will carry Ohio and hang on to the threads of hope. Ted Cruz will finish second in North Carolina and Missouri, but fail to upend Trump’s march. And the man himself will win four states, garnering just enough delegates to be on track for winning the magic 1,237 delegates needed to win the nomination on the first ballot. My delegate estimate for the night is Trump 220, Kasich 74, Cruz 57, Rubio 6, Carson 1.

State-by-state analyses are below.


Florida (99 delegates) – The Sunshine State is the big prize today, with all 99 delegates going to the winner of the statewide vote, and the polls suggest an early sunset for Marco Rubio’s campaign. The polls are remarkably uniform, with all but three of the last eleven polls having Trump at 42, 43, or 44 percent. Trump has been steadily over 40 percent in Florida since January; nothing indicates that support is on the downslide.

If Rubio were somehow to pull off a miracle, it would be on the heels of a massive turnout and vote margins from his fellow Cubans. Watch early returns from South Florida (Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties) to see if that transpires. Trumps’ best margins will come in the Panhandle (Pensacola east to Jacksonville) and in the rural center of the peninsula around Lake Okeechobee. The large counties in the I-4 corridor (Pinellas, Hillsborough, Polk, Orange, Seminole, and Brevard) will cast about a quarter of the statewide vote and should roughly mirror the statewide total.

My ranges are Trump 42-46, Rubio 21-24, Cruz 16-24, Kasich 9-10. My best guess is Trump 44, Rubio 22, Cruz 22, Kasich 10. I would not be surprised if Cruz narrowly bests Rubio for second. Delegate count: Trump 99.

North Carolina (72 delegates) – North Carolina awards its delegates proportionally according to the statewide vote with no floor. As such, victory here is only about bragging rights and “momentum”: everyone will get a share of the Tar Heel State’s delegate pie.

Trump should do best in eastern Carolina and could also run strong in the western Appalachian counties; he has run extremely well in similar counties in Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee. Cruz will be competitive in Wake County and the counties (Union, Cabarrus, Iredell, Gaston, Catwaba) surrounding Charlotte (Mecklenburg County). Kasich and Rubio will be non-factors, but they will do best in Orange and Durham counties (they tend to do well in university towns).

My ranges are Trump 37-46, Cruz 28-35, Kasich 11-12, Rubio 8-12. My best guess is Trump 42, Cruz 37, Kasich 11, Rubio 8. Delegate count: Trump 30, Cruz 27, Kasich 8, Rubio 6, Carson 1 (he only needs 1.4% to get a delegate).

Illinois (69 delegates) – Illinois effectively awards three delegates to the winner of each of its 18 Congressional Districts and 15 to the winner of the statewide vote. I say “effectively” because delegates are directly elected at the CD level, with the names of the candidate to whom they are pledged listed on the ballot. In practice supporters of a candidate do not split their votes for delegate, so all three delegates supporting a candidate are elected in districts favoring that man.

The Land of Lincoln will lay bare one of the major flaws in the anti-Trump coalition’s strategy: their two leading candidates appeal to very different types of voters. Ted Cruz continues to be the candidate of the very conservative evangelical above all else, and so one should expect him to lead the anti-Trump ticket in places where those voters are large shares of the electorate. In Illinois, this means counties where Rick Santorum did well in 2012, and those counties are rural or small town counties outside of the Chicago metropolitan area. Santorum won a few CDs in 2012 even while losing the state by eleven and a half points to Romney, and I expect Cruz will follow suit.

Metro Chicago, however, is both more Catholic and more formally educated. These areas tend to favor Kasich or Rubio, so while the combined non-Trump may be high it will likely be divided two or three ways. This will allow Trump to win all eleven CDs predominantly within metro Chicago, although it is possible Cruz could compete in CD 11 and Kasich could compete in CDs 6, 8, 9, and 10. 

Cruz will be doing very well if he breaks 30 percent in metro Chicago and runs ahead of Kasich and Rubio.

My best guess is that Trump wins thirteen CDs (1-11, 14, 17) and Cruz wins five (12, 13, 15, 16, and 18). CDs 11, 13, 14, and 17 should be close – Cruz could win any of those. If Cruz loses any of the five districts I have given him, Trump will be likely to win all the close seats.

My ranges are Trump 33-38, Cruz 22-34, Kasich 16-21, Rubio 9-15. My best guess is Trump 36, Cruz 29, Kasich 19, Rubio 11. Delegate count: Trump 54, Cruz 15.

Ohio (66 delegates ) – John Kasich’s home state is another big prize as the Buckeye State gives the winner of the statewide vote all 66 delegates. Kasich has been gaining in the polls over the last week and I think he will eke out a win over The Donald.

Kasich will have to run up significant margins in urban areas if he is to win. That starts with his home base in the Columbus media market (Franklin and Delaware counties are the big ones to look for). He also needs to do well in Cleveland (Cuyahoga) and Cincinnati (Hamilton), and carry the suburbs of each major city (Warren, Butler and Clermont around Cincinnati; Medina, Lake, and Geauga around Cleveland). Trump should do very well in the coal country in SE Ohio and in the older industrial cities (Ashtabula, Lorain, Stark, Summit, Mahoning, Trumbull, Montgomery, and Lucas counties). Trump should compete with Cruz in rural Ohio; Kasich will need to get 20 percent or more in these counties to have a shot to win.

My ranges are Kasich 33-39, Trump 33-38, Cruz 17-27, Rubio 3-7. My best guess is Kasich 38, Trump 36, Cruz 19, Rubio 3. Delegate count: Kasich 66.

Missouri (52 delegates) – Missouri awards its delegates in the same fashion as does Illinois, with two exceptions. The first is that it awards five delegates, not three, to the winner of each CD (the statewide winner gets 12). The second is that delegates are not directly elected, so there is not chance of a split CD-level delegation.

Missouri is divided a bit like Illinois into a rural and more evangelical south (with a smidgen of that influence in the northern “Little Dixie” region) and a largely Catholic large metro area (St. Louis). Metro Kansas City falls somewhere in between the two poles in terms of its voting proclivities.

Cruz will do very well in the rural areas and should win the two southernmost CDs (7 and 8). Unless Cruz is truly breaking out of his core demographic support, however, he will do relatively poorly in metro St. Louis and lose the two CDs (1-2) within that region. CD 5 contains the African-American section of Kansas City, and similar areas in other states have voted for Trump. CDs 3, 4, and 6 contain rural and urban elements and thus will be the battlegrounds. The statewide winner should take two or all three of these CDs. CD 4 should be the most pro-Cruz of this group, while CD 3 should lean Trump. CD 6 includes Kansas City’s northern suburbs and will be a good test for whether Cruz is truly consolidating the non-Trump voters.

My ranges are Trump 33-40, Cruz 29-38, Kasich 12-18, Rubio 8-13. My best guess is Trump 37, Cruz 33, Kasich 16, Rubio 11. Delegate count: Trump 37, Cruz 15.

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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