Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Arizona Primary Looms Large in Trump's Search for 1237 Delegates

Tonight features GOP contests in two states, a caucus in Utah and a primary in Arizona.  Both rate as very important in terms of the remaining candidates accumulating delegates.

In Utah, Texas Senator Ted Cruz is a solid favorite, leading his next closes rival by more than 20% in
Donald Trump
two polls.  The newest one, by Y2 Analytics, actually has Cruz breaking the 50% barrier at 53% and Donald Trump in third place at 11%, behind Ohio Governor John Kasich who is at 29%.  The slightly older poll by Deseret News has Cruz at 42%, Trump 21% and Kasich at 13%.  The vote totals are very important because of how Utah awards its 40 delegates.  If a candidate who gets more than 50%, that candidate gets all of the delegates. Otherwise they are awarded proportionally, to candidates who are above 15%.  Trump and Kasich are below that 15% threshold in the two separate polls, while Cruz exceeds 50% in one of them.  My guess is Cruz's numbers will land in the 40% range, with Trump being second in the low 20s and Kasich below 15.  That would mean that Cruz walks away with most, but not all of Utah's vote.

One other thing is noteworthy about the Utah Republican Caucus...and makes it more difficult to predict.  The Utah Republican Party offers the opportunity for its members to vote over the internet instead of requiring voters to show up at their caucus site.  People will be watching closely to see what difference this unique system has on the outcome.

Arizona, which has 58 delegates, will also be holding its winner-take-all primary today.  Trump has had a consistent 12-14 point lead over Ted Cruz lead in that state's polling, with the current Real Clear Politics average of polls at 13%.  But Trump usually underperforms his poll numbers while Cruz almost always does better than his.  While I think the race will be closer (single digits certainly), I think Trump pulls it out.

I would rate the odds of Trump obtaining the necessary 1237 delegates to avoid a brokered convention at 65%.  If he loses Arizona, then I think it declines to 55%.  If Trump wins Arizona's delegates, then I'd move his chance of getting the necessary delegates from 65% to 70%.  That 15% swing makes it a big state.

In addition to similar contests being held today in Arizona and Utah, Democrats also have a caucus in Idaho.  My guess is Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders wins Idaho and Utah, but loses Arizona.  As Democrats award their delegates proportionally, it is virtually impossible for Sanders to catch Hillary Clinton.


Anonymous said...

Paul -- I'd be interested to hear what you think about the correlation between states where Sanders showed greatest strength in the D primary and Cruz performed best (e.g. Iowa, Oklahoma, Kansas, Idaho and now Utah). What to make of that "alignment"?

Paul K. Ogden said...

Anon, I'm not sure the connection or if there is one. Cruz tends to do better out West and Sanders does too, the latter undoubtedly because of a smaller African-American population. The connection between the two I'm not sure I can explain. Certainly they are both anti-Establishment, but then too (allegedly) Trump is too.