This Tuesday, voters in Arizona and Utah will go to the polls. As I did for last Tuesday’s contest, I will examine the upcoming states and how voters whose first priority is to block the nomination of Donald Trump can best cast their vote.
As an Idaho voter, Arizona seems like deja vu. Like in Idaho, the only pre-primary polling in Arizona has been done by little-known firms and much of it fails to account for the withdrawal of a candidate from the race. In Idaho, the polls showed a double digit lead for Donald Trump. Trump only won 28% of the vote to Ted Cruz’s 45% and the combined Cruz and Rubio vote outnumbered Trump 2:1. Like Idaho, Arizona is a closed primary state and the poll showed a large number of undecideds even before the withdrawal of Marco Rubio. Given the tendency of undecideds to break against Trump, this bodes well for Cruz.
However, there are some key differences. While Arizona is a solidly conservative state, it is not quite as conservative as Idaho. In addition, the early vote is a much larger factor in Arizona and many voters already voted early for Marco Rubio, which may hinder Cruz’s effort to catch Trump. In addition, Trump had no major endorsements in Idaho, while in Arizona, he has the support of Sheriff Joe Arpaio and former Governor Jan Brewer. These factors will make winning Arizona a challenge for Cruz.
A victory here would be big for the Cruz campaign, given Trump has built his reputation on building his huge border wall. This will be the second border state to vote (after Cruz’s home state of Texas) and the one that has taken the hardest line on illegal immigration. Should Cruz win here, it would suggest, on Trump’s signature initiative, those most affected by it trust Cruz more.
Immigration is also not the only issue that Arizonans care about. In 1996, Pat Buchanan expected to win Arizona on the strength of his opposition to illegal immigration only to lose the state to Steve Forbes, a precedent that should be encouraging to the Cruz campaign.
Last week, I wrote that a vote for anyone other than Kasich in Ohio was a vote for Trump. In Arizona, a vote for Kasich is a vote to give Trump fifty-eight delegates to the national convention (or just eleven less than Kasich won in Ohio.) Arizona Kasich supporters wanting to stop Trump (and therefore help their candidate in the long run) should vote for Cruz and hope that Kasich catches fire in April
There’s little question that Ted Cruz will win the Utah Caucus. The Idaho primary once again provides a guide as the heavily LDS South Eastern Idaho is culturally similar to much of Utah and in many of these counties Trump finished a distant third behind Cruz and Rubio, including Madison County where Trump won only 8%, nearly fifty points behind Ted Cruz.
The only issue is whether Cruz will garner a majority of the vote. If he does, he’ll win all 40 of the Beehive State’s delegates. Given Caucuses have more limited turnout than primaries and are closed, this seems probable. Polling has been limited, with the last poll taken in February with six candidates in the race with Rubio leading Cruz 24-22% and Trump at 18% and Kasich at 4%.
Governor Kasich’s decision to campaign in and to run TV ads in Utah has raised questions and led to a lot of nasty rumors and allegations of collusion with Trump that are unfounded. First of all, based on the Idaho results, it’s going to take a lot more than a few bland TV ads and making three stops to hurt Cruz in Utah. If this is some attempt at sabotage it’s one of the most pathetic ones I’ve ever seen.
The fact is that Governor Kasich did the ad buy and scheduled the trip before last Tuesday’s primaries when Marco Rubio was in the race and it was plausible for Kasich to win delegates in the state due to Rubio and Cruz splitting the conservative vote in Utah. The far more plausible explanation is that the tickets and the air time are bought, his faithful supporters are waiting to see him, and the next primary isn’t until April, so he might as well go. There’s enough reason to be upset and disgusted about this election without making up malicious rumors.
Regardless, the bottom line is that for those who are trying to stop Trump, the smart vote in Utah is for Cruz.