Trump Has Edge in Little Tuesday Contests

Rubio, Trump, Cruz, Kasich, AP

On Tuesday, Republicans in Idaho, Hawaii, Michigan, and Mississippi will make their pick for the Republican nomination. According to recent polling, Donald Trump has a clear edge in these states.

It is very possible, though, that a replay of Super Saturday could further muddy the GOP contest.

Altogether, 150 delegates will be selected for the Republican convention. Hawaii is a caucus, while the other states are primaries. Idaho’s primary is closed, meaning that only registered Republicans can participate.

In Hawaii, the statewide winner of the caucus receives 10 delegates, with another nine awarded through Congressional Districts or RNC committeemen. In Mississippi, the statewide winner receives 28 delegates, with another 12 awarded through the state’s four Congressional districts. In Michigan and Idaho, all the delegates are apportioned based on a candidate’s statewide vote.

Currently, Donald Trump has 384 delegates, Ted Cruz has 300, while Marco Rubio is a distant third with 151. John Kasich is last with 37 delegates.

The biggest delegate prize Tuesday is Michigan, with 59 total delegates. All candidates receiving at least 15 percent of the vote are awarded delegates based on their percentage support. Michigan is an open primary, meaning that any voter can participate in the Republican primary. But Michigan does not allow early voting.

Three polls released Monday show Donald Trump with a strong lead in Michigan, ranging from 13 to 22 points. The RealClearPolitics average has Trump favored to win Michigan by 15 points. John Kasich is currently in second place, followed closely by Ted Cruz. Marco Rubio is a distant fourth in polling.

One enormous caution on polling in Michigan is warranted. One of the most recent Michigan polls is from the Trafalgar Group. Their final poll of Louisiana showed Trump winning the state by 18 points. He won by three. Their final poll of Kansas showed Trump winning that state by six points. Ted Cruz won that state by 25 points, a 31-point swing from their poll.

The other poll of Michigan is from Fox 2 Detroit, showing Trump with a 21 point lead. The local Fox affiliate has shown almost no change in the race throughout several polls it conducted in the month of February. A static race there is implausible.

The Michigan primary represents the first of the big, industrial midwestern states of the 2016 cycle. It is also an enormous test for Ohio Governor John Kasich, who has based his campaign on winning his home state next week. A strong showing in Michigan on Tuesday would give him momentum in Ohio’s winner-take-all contest.

Trump should still have an edge in Michigan, but Kasich is likely to do better than polling suggests. In many ways, he is a natural fit for Michigan Republicans.

The second big prize tomorrow is Mississippi. The question is whether that state’s voters are more like Alabama’s voters, where Trump won in a landslide, or are more like Louisiana’s voters, where a late surge by Cruz kept Trump’s margin to just three points.

Both Cruz and Trump have campaigned in Mississippi ahead of Tuesday’s vote. On Monday, Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant announced his support for Cruz. Cruz also has the support of former state Sen. Chris McDaniel, who almost upset U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran in 2014.

That said, the only recent poll of Mississippi, published at the end of February, before Super Tuesday, showed Trump leading by 24 points. The state does not allow early voting, however. It is likely the race in the Magnolia State has tightened since last Tuesday’s vote.

Magellan Strategies, which conducted the Mississippi poll, showed Trump winning Louisiana by 20 points.

Trump has the edge in Mississippi, but the race is very likely to be much closer than the polls suggest.

The Idaho primary is the first western primary election. (Nevada was a caucus). A recent poll of Idaho showed Trump leading the state by 11 points over Cruz. There are two reasons to ignore this poll.

First, it was conducted over a very-long 10 day period, February 17-26. The timing of this poll means that some interviews were conducted even before the South Carolina primary.

The poll, also, of course, was conducted before Ben Carson left the Presidential race. Carson received 11 percent in the Idaho poll, enough for 4th place. If one combines Carson’s vote with undecideds, this unaligned group actually leads the field, pulling 31 percent, just ahead of Trump’s 30 percent.

The Idaho contest is closed. But voters can register as Republicans at the polling place. Idaho is Cruz’s best chance to win a state on Tuesday. He should be considered having an edge here.

The final state is Hawaii, whose returns won’t be known until Wednesday morning. No polling is available for the state and no candidates have campaigned there for its 19 delegates.

It is a closed caucus and according to one local political report, the Cruz campaign is the only real presence on the island. Several state legislators are backing Cruz in the Aloha State.

Cruz should be considered the favorite here.

According to polling, Trump should sweep at least three of the four contests on Tuesday. There are multiple reasons, though, to think the contests will be closer.

To date this election, Trump has over-performed his polling in just four states. He has significantly underperformed in 10 states. He won some of the states where he underperformed, but by much narrower margins than expected.

There is one thing almost certain about Little Tuesday, though. Marco Rubio isn’t likely to be a major factor in any of the four states. That alone says a lot about the current state of the Republican race.


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