Ohio has the second biggest prize of delegates on Super Tuesday tomorrow, awarding 66 delegates to the candidate with the most votes in the state. No delegates are awarded for second or third place.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich seems poised to pick up the state’s delegates, dealing a serious blow to Donald Trump’s hopes of quickly nailing down the GOP nomination.
Kasich has a four point lead over Trump in the RealClearPolitics average of public polls. Of the five most recent polls, two show a tied race, while three show Kasich leading by five-six points.
Ohio has a partially-open primary. Only members of the Republican party can vote in the primary, but any voter can become a member of the Republican party on election day.
Trump has generally done well in primaries that are open to Democrats and Independents, as well as Republicans. If a large wave of Democrats or Independents vote in the Republican primary, Trump could outperform his poll numbers and win the Buckeye State, but that is a very large hypothetical.
The Democrat Presidential primary between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders is very close as well. The Democrats also have a high-profile race for the nomination to challenge Sen. Rob Portman for one of the state’s U.S. Senate seats.
These races will likely dampen the number of Democrat or Democrat-leaning Independents who cross over into the Republican contest.
Aside from polling, however, Kasich should be considered the favorite as the sitting Governor of the state. He was reelected in a landslide in 2014 and won a hard-fought contest against Dem. Gov. Ted Strickland in 2010.
In other words, Kasich has just recently won two statewide contests in Ohio, an enormous advantage in voter turnout organization.
One of Trump’s chief weaknesses this election has been a lack of a well-organized campaign operation. His campaign has been sustained by wall-to-wall earned media coverage and mega-rallies, all fueled by his own personality.
Trump has often performed far below his polling numbers as a result. Attracting supporters to a rally is just one part of the equation. Turning those supporters into votes on election day can be a challenge.
Trump hasn’t borne a huge cost from this, because his field of opposition has been so diffused. In Ohio, however, there are really only three candidates contesting the election, i.e. Trump, Kasich, and Cruz. Marco Rubio is currently mired in the low single digits in polling in Ohio.
The narrowed field of candidates, combined with the political infrastructure Kasich enjoys in the state, makes him a strong favorite to win Ohio’s delegates tomorrow.
A win by Kasich doesn’t make him any more likely of winning the nomination, but it makes it harder for Trump to claim the nomination for himself.
A Kasich victory makes it more likely the primary race will extend up until the Republican convention. That convention, of course, will take place in Ohio this summer.
A Buckeye Bookend, if you will.