Another eventful primary weekend is in the rear view mirror and while it was not as exciting as Super Tuesday, it did offer a lot more clarity into where each race is headed.
More states will vote today, but let’s take a look back at what happened this weekend and where each race stands.
Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Louisiana, and Puerto Rico all cast ballots last weekend and they made it more clear than ever that the Republican primary is pretty much a two man race.
Ted Cruz won the Kansas Caucus by a 2-to-1 margin and also walked away with a victory in Maine. Cruz winning in Kansas was not exactly a shock. The fact he won by as much as he did was very surprising, however. His victory is Maine was a shock. No question about it. This is a state someone like Trump should have won, given his close(ish) proximity to the state; or even Marco Rubio since Maine is a more moderate, suburban state, similar to Minnesota where he won on March 1.
Ideologically conservative, evangelical Christians are not supposed to win here. Yet Cruz managed to pull it off by a very impressive 13% margin. The results in Kansas and Maine continued the trend of Trump not performing particularly well in closed primary/caucus states, and led many in the media to speculate whether Trump’s campaign was in serious trouble.
Later in the night, Trump’s victories in Louisiana and Kentucky tempered the conversation. Somewhat. While Trump did win these states, he greatly underperformed his poll numbers; winning each state by narrow margins when polling indicated he would win them by double digits.
Digging a little deeper into the results, Louisiana especially, shows us another trend we have been seeing throughout 2016. Trump consistently loses among voters who make up their minds as Election Day gets closer. Trump won the early voting in Louisiana by an overwhelming margin, garnering 46.7% of the vote, a 24 point head start on Ted Cruz who got 22.9% of the early vote. Marco Rubio was not far behind him at 20.9%. The early vote totals led many media outlets to call the state for Trump shortly after the polls closed.
By comparison, among the people actually voting on Election Day, Cruz beat Trump 40.9% to 40.5%; followed by Rubio at 9.4%. Because of this late surge to Ted Cruz, people tracking the returns saw Trump’s lead collapse in real time all the way down to 4%, where it eventually stabilized. This has to be a cause of concern for Trump’s campaign. Time and again we see voters breaking against him as they get more information about him.
The results in Louisiana, and elsewhere, also show another disturbing trend. Except this trend affects the Rubio campaign. It is now pretty obvious that Ted Cruz is consolidating the anti-Trump vote. Rubio had hoped they would break towards him as more of the Republican Establishment coalesced behind him. Instead, voters are bailing on him en masse. Just look at those Election Day numbers in Louisiana.
In the four contests on Saturday, Rubio finished third in Kansas, third in Kentucky, third in Louisiana, and fourth in Maine. Make no mistake, these were distant third and fourth place finishes. In Maine and Louisiana, Rubio did not receive enough of the vote to win any statewide delegates.
He did salvage a win in Puerto Rico on Sunday; taking home all 23 of their delegates after winning 71% of the vote. Even with the win on Sunday, after a very poor showing on Super Tuesday, followed by an even worse performance this past weekend, Rubio’s campaign is very close to flat-lining.
It remains to be seen if his victory is a good omen for Florida on March 15. Let’s just say I am not convinced it will be. I know Florida has a large Puerto Rican population, but all of the trends are going against Rubio right now.
He is far from a sure thing to win Florida, where polls have him losing by anywhere between seven to 20 points. Complicating matters further is the fact that Ted Cruz is very active here, hoping he will pull enough votes away from Rubio to prevent him from winning his home state; effectively knocking him out of the race. Given how things are going right now, it’s a strategy that is very likely to work.
To add insult to Rubio’s injuries, I should add that the last four polls out of Michigan, who as you know votes today, show him in a distant fourth. When it rains, it pours.
So while Trump is still the frontrunner in the race, Cruz was the big winner of the weekend. He won more delegates than Trump (69-53) and has moved to within striking distance of him in the all important delegate count. People will say the map going forward favors Trump since Cruz will have trouble winning in blue states; but his victory in Maine should quiet the chatter on that a bit and make Donald Trump a little nervous.
Whether you like him or not, you have to give it up for Bernie Sanders. He has put up more of a fight against Hillary Clinton than most people thought he would, and he showed us once again over the weekend that he is not going away quietly.
There were four contests in the Democratic primary and Sanders won three of them going away. He won Kansas by over 30 points, Nebraska by 25 points, and on Sunday he won Maine by 29 points. In these three victories he managed to put 68 total delegates into his column. Sounds like a great weekend for the Vermont Senator, right? Wrong.
The one contest Sanders didn’t win was Louisiana. And he didn’t come close. Clinton cruised to a 71.1% to 23.2% victory and outgained Sanders in the state delegate count 37 to 14. Clinton’s grand total in delegates gained this weekend was 67. And therein lies the problem for Bernie Sanders. Last weekend captured it perfectly.
Sanders had convincing wins in three states and all he has to show for it is a net gain of one delegate. Before any Sanders supporters start arguing about superdelegates skewing the numbers, they should know the counts I just posted were in pledged delegates only. In one fell swoop, Clinton was able to negate most of Sanders’ delegate gains, and she made up the rest of her deficit by picking up delegates in the three states she lost.
This is why Sanders has no conceivable path to the nomination. Winning states is all well and good, but at this late stage, it is all about collecting delegates; and Sanders isn’t coming close to collecting them at a rate where he can overtake Clinton. Clinton’s lead in pledged delegates is 677 to 480. A margin of nearly 200. When superdelegates are factored in, Clinton’s lead widens to 1,140 to 500. A margin of 640 delegates.
For Sanders to change the course of the race, he needs to start winning in states that have larger populations, thus a larger delegate haul, with sizable minority electorates. So far, there is no evidence to suggest he will start doing so any time soon. Looking at the data, it is easy to see the correlation between how large the African American and minority electorate is in a state, and how well Clinton or Sanders do as a result. The more a state’s electorate is made up of minority voters, the better Clinton does.
And it only gets harder for Sanders from here. States like New York (291 delegates), Illinois (182 delegates), California (546 delegates), and Florida (246 delegates) have yet to vote.
A Sanders win in Michigan (147 delegates) today could be a game changer. Unfortunately, evidence tells us it won’t happen. Michigan has a sizeable African American electorate of its own, and polls show Clinton with a commanding lead among them. Not to mention every recent poll shows Clinton with a double digit advantage in the state as a whole.
Add to it the fact Mississippi, another state with a large African American electorate, also votes today and there is a pretty good chance it will be a rough night for Sanders’ camp.
Someone is going to have to show me Bernie’s path to the nomination. And name the states he will win in the process of getting there. If not, I’ll stick to my guns and say the race is still over.
For Sanders to get to the 2,382 delegate majority needed to win the nomination, he would have to win about 60% of all remaining delegates going forward. With every state in the race awarding delegates on a proportional basis, along with the other aforementioned factors, I just don’t see it happening.
Back with more later on.