Tuesday, March 15th will be the biggest day so far for the GOP 2016 race for the presidential nomination with 368 delegates up for grabs. Most of the attention has been focused on the Ohio and Florida Primaries, but Illinois, Missouri and North Carolina also hold their primaries. Oh and we shouldn’t forget the Northern Marianas Primary that takes place today as well. If Donald Trump sweeps the five state contests it will be very difficult to stop him from reaching the 1237 threshold.
Currently the GOP delegate count stands at:
- Real estate mogul Donald Trump – 460
- U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) – 370
- U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) – 163
- Ohio Governor John Kasich – 63
Over the weekend Cruz won 9 delegates in the Wyoming Caucus, the rest of the delegates will be decided at the Wyoming GOP State Convention. He also won the Guam Convention. Marco Rubio picked up 10 delegates at the District of Columbia Convention and John Kasich picked up 9.
Florida has 99 delegates up for grabs in a winner take all primary. Polling heavily favors Donald Trump as he has a Real Clear Politics average of 19.1%. There were a couple polls that show a tighter race with Marco Rubio. The latest Monmouth Poll carried some bad news for Rubio, Trump not only leads in Northern and Central Florida, but South Florida by five points as well. He has also caught Rubio among early voters.
The Real Politics Average shows:
- Trump – 42.9%
- Rubio – 23.8%
- Cruz – 18.3%
- Kasich – 9.3%
Not surprisingly Rubio leads among Cubans and Hispanics. He has to win South Florida by a large margin in order to prevail. He also needs to see a good turnout from the Puerto Rican population along the I-4 corridor. This is a closed primary, but if Trump is able to overtake Rubio among early voters that may not matter. This is a must-win contest for Rubio for him to make a credible case to stay in the race.
North Carolina offers 72 delegates where Trump has a 12.3% polling average lead. North Carolina has an open primary, but only Republicans and independents can vote. The state also has a large military presence, and like South Carolina, may give him an advantage.
The delegate allocation is proportional however and there is no winner-take-all trigger. Even if Trump wins the state, Cruz may be better positioned than Rubio or Kasich to pick up a good number of delegates as well.
The poll average standings are:
- Trump – 41.3%
- Cruz – 29.0%
- Kasich – 11.3%
- Rubio – 8.7%
Illinois offers 69 delegates, but 54 of those delegates are elected in what is considered a “loophole” primary. What this means this is a combination of delegate selection primary along with an advisory “beauty contest” presidential preference vote. So voters in Illinois will vote not only for president, but also directly for delegates. A delegate’s name will appear along with their presidential preference. There are 12 winner take all candidates that are bound to the primary vote, and three party leadership delegates that are also bound.
The wild card I believe is what campaign did the best job recruiting candidates for delegate to be on the ballot. It is possible for one candidate to win the primary, but still lose in terms of delegates.
Right now Trump has an 8.7% edge over Cruz in the Real Clear Politics average of polls. In the latest poll, however, Cruz is within the margin of error 38% to 34%. This is an open primary so Trump does have an advantage, but Cruz could surprise.
Here are the RCP average standings:
- Trump – 35%
- Cruz – 26.3%
- Kasich – 18.3%
- Rubio – 12.7%
Ohio Governor John Kasich appears to be in the driver’s seat in his home state leading Trump by a Real Clear Politics average of 3.7%. Like Rubio this is a do or die state for Kasich, but unlike Rubio, Kasich appears to be a good spot to win the state. There have been two polls that showed this as a tied race. It will be close.
Ohio offers 66 delegates in a mixed primary which means that Republicans and unaffiliated voters can participate.
Here are the RCP poll standings:
- Kasich – 38.0%
- Trump – 34.3%
- Cruz – 18.0%
- Rubio – 4.7%
A wildcard to watch – Kasich is not very popular with grassroots conservatives in the state, but on the other hand the Ohio Republican Party broke with precedent and is actively supporting Kasich. Cruz has polled as high as 27% with Kasich and Trump tied at 33%. Kasich is the favorite for today, but polling shows a tight race between him and Trump.
The Show-Me State offers 52 delegates and this may be the most favorable state for Cruz. Only one poll has been taken of Missouri and it shows Trump leading Cruz by seven points. The margin of error is also +/- 7.0%. The pollster is Fort Hays State University whose Kansas Caucus poll was completely useless in terms of accuracy. That could be the case here.
The Cruz campaign manager, Jeff Roe, is from Missouri and knows the state well. Cruz has had more campaign events in the state. Missouri has a winner-take-all trigger at 50%. If that is not reached then the candidate with the most votes in each of the state’s eight congressional districts will be allotted the district’s five delegates. The candidate with the most statewide votes will win the 12 statewide delegates.
This race is the most unpredictable.