Math Casualties in Delegate Count
If you thought predicting the weather was hard, try predicting the primaries! If anyone had a tougher Saturday than Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), it was probably political pollsters. Obviously, last week’s GOP debate was a game-changer, and few knew how big of one until this weekend. After showing double-digit leads for Donald Trump in almost all of the four states up for grabs on Saturday, Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) blew past projections and bested the front-runner in two (and possibly, three) states. When people say, “don’t believe everything you read,” it must apply double to pre-primary surveys!
With the exception of Kentucky, which was far and away Trump’s best performance of the night, the numbers tell a very different story than the lead-up to the votes in Louisiana, Kansas, and Maine. Cruz surged past Trump and the rest of the pack, racking up more delegates (69) than the outspoken billionaire (53) and Rubio (41, who has Puerto Rico to thank for the 23-delegate bump Sunday). After his best debate of the cycle, Ted’s momentum was undeniable where it counts: ballot totals. By night’s end, he and Trump were separated by only 234 votes out of the 622,579 cast. For a candidate slated to finish second in almost every state, the Texas senator closed a gap that by most pundits’ predictions would only widen after March 1. The overall front-runner finished above 40 percent in just one state, falling off from the pace he’d set earlier in the month.
Of course, most experts were curious how Saturday would impact the race given that these were all closed primaries and caucuses — meaning that only Republicans could vote. For Trump, the cushion he’d built from Democrats and Independents crossing over to vote GOP in open states obviously vanished. In fact, of the seven states that have held Republican caucuses (which many would argue require more organization to win), Trump has lost everywhere but Kentucky and Nevada. While the real estate mogul still added to his delegate count, Cruz’s surge does sting. The odds of Donald winning the GOP nomination took a heavy hit over the weekend — falling from 78 percent to 63 percent based on CNN’s Political Prediction Market. To date, Trump has racked up 44 percent of the delegates — with Cruz surging at 34 percent, and Rubio a distant third at 17 percent.
For the Florida senator, it was a dismal Saturday, capped off with just 18 delegates. Ohio Governor John Kasich (R) fared even worse at 10. In fact, the only place Rubio did manage to finish second was at the CPAC straw poll, which went decisively to Senator Cruz, who mopped up with 39.5 percent of conservatives’ support. (Trump, who canceled his appearance at the last minute, paid for it mightily, winning just 14.7 percent of the vote to Rubio’s 30 percent.) Cruz’s successes in Kansas and Maine — two radically different states — are even more interesting when you consider that he was trailing significantly in surveys as recently as last week. A much more moderate state, the Pine State easily went to the Texas senator, despite projections that he wouldn’t appeal to voters there.
The Trafalgar Group had Trump up six points in Kansas heading into Saturday. He lost it by a whopping 25! The story is even more stunning in Louisiana, where Donald bragged about his supposed 21-point lead the night before. Even RealClearPolitics had Trump up 15.6 percent. Now, the two leaders are virtually tied! Although reporters called my home state early for Trump (too early, they admit now), he and Cruz are now equal in delegates there with 18 — with 5 more at-large-delegates possible. (Read the latest on the Louisiana election drama here.)
“The finish in Louisiana was particularly noteworthy,” NRO’s Rich Lowry pointed out. “Trump had built up a big lead in the early voting, so big that the networks called it for Trump almost immediately on that basis, but Trump’s margin steadily eroded away as the votes that has been cast today came in. This was a sign that something had hurt Trump over the last several days–there are many things to choose from, but the debate looms particularly large.” Of the Louisiana votes actually cast on primary day, Cruz edged out Trump by .4 percent. Throughout his political career, people have counted Cruz out. The same thing happened when he ran for the Senate, and the polls weren’t in his favor. He didn’t give up then — and it’s clear he isn’t giving up now. Momentum is on Ted’s side, as more voters realize that this is a two-man race if America wants a constitutional conservative.
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