Two new polls of the Republican presidential primary in Indiana show GOP frontrunner Donald Trump holding a small lead over Sen. Ted Cruz.
Ohio Governor John Kasich is a distant third. The Hoosier State’s primary on May 3 may well determine the outcome of the Republican nomination.
Trump holds an 8 point lead over Cruz, according to a poll from Fox News. He has 41 percent support against 33 percent for Cruz. Kasich is a distant third with 16 percent support.
A poll from Indianapolis TV station WTHR shows a tighter race, with Trump leading Cruz by 6 points, 37 percent to 31 percent. Kasich is again third, with 22 percent support. Among core Republican voters, though, the race between Trump and Cruz is a virtual tie.
Both polls were conducted April 18-21 and have margins of error of 4 percent. The poll interviews were conducted immediately before and after Trump’s landslide win in New York State.
There are 57 delegates at stake in Indiana’s winner-take-most open primary. The winner of the statewide vote receives 30 delegates. Another 27 delegates are awarded to the winners in the state’s 9 congressional districts. The winning candidate in each district receives 3 delegates.
Indiana is the next potentially competitive state on the primary calendar. Next week, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Connecticut and Rhode Island hold their primaries. Donald Trump is expected to win all five states and collect most of the delegates from these contests. The only exception is Pennsylvania, which elects 54 unbound delegates to the RNC convention through the state’s congressional districts.
If Trump captures Indiana and wins most of its delegates, he will be well positioned to secure, or get very close to, the 1,237 delegates he needs to win the nomination on the first ballot at the RNC convention. If Cruz captures Indiana, however, Trump will face a steep challenge in winning a majority of delegates before the convention.
The conservative Club for Growth recently announced a $1.5 million ad buy in Indiana to oppose Trump’s candidacy. It is likely that other organizations that oppose Trump will also flood the Indiana airwaves in an attempt to block Trump. Most of these organizations largely are ignoring next week’s primaries, since they are being held in a region where Trump has run very strong.
John Kasich has the highest net-favorable rating at +25. The net-favorable ratings for Trump and Cruz are both +16. Cruz, however, has the highest net-favorable rating in Marion County, which includes the state’s biggest city Indianapolis.
Cruz also has the highest net-favorable rating, +33, among women under 55. Kasich’s net-favorable rating with this group is +30, while Trump’s is just +1. Kasich, however, has the highest rating among women older than 55.
Trump’s lead in the state is built on his large margin with male voters, where he leads Cruz by 11 points. Trump’s lead among women is just 3 points. Trump has a 16-point lead among voters without a college degree, while Cruz edges Trump among college graduates by just 1 point.
Trump leads among voters older than 45 and those who identify as “Republicans.” Cruz leads among voters younger than 45, evangelicals and voters who identify as “very conservative.”
One-in-four potential Republican primary voters say they may still change their mind as to which candidate to support.
The Cruz campaign, and groups opposing Trump, hope Indiana can be a replay of the primary race in Wisconsin, a midwestern state with a lot of similarities to Indiana. There are particular characteristics in Indiana that are fertile territory for all three Republican candidates.
Polls at a similar point before the Wisconsin primary also showed a close contest between Trump and Cruz. In those polls, Kasich was also polling at around 20 percent. Cruz’s victory in Wisconsin was largely fueled by an exodus of Kasich supporters to the Texan’s campaign. On election day, Kasich only received 14 percent support in the Badger State, with Cruz gaining from the defections.
Trump’s final vote in Wisconsin, in fact, was about where he was polling just over a week before the contest. The difference in the outcome was a collapse in support for Kasich and a surge in support for Cruz.
If Cruz stops Trump in Indiana, the primary contest will stay heated until the final votes on June 7th. If Trump can win the Hoosier State, however, the momentum he gained after New York may evolve into inevitability.
With a loss in Indiana, Cruz would have to win the California primary to have any hope of blocking Trump from winning the nomination on the first ballot. That would likely prove a state too far for Cruz.