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Hawaii/Idaho/Michigan/Mississippi primaries

March 8th, 2016, 1:00am by Sam Wang

Today, both parties vote in Michigan and Mississippi. In addition, Republicans vote in Hawaii and Idaho. Overall, support for Trump, Cruz and Rubio in today’s states parallels national opinion, so voting in these races should be representative of the weeks ahead (though note that races soon shift toward winner-take-all rules).

On the Republican side, in 18 primaries and caucuses so far, Trump’s vote share has been quite close to his pre-election polls – he has slightly outperformed them, by a median of 0.8 percentage point. Talk about underperformance – relative to polls – seems to be unsupported.

Marco Rubio has overperformed polls by a median of 2.2 percentage points. However, as I wrote previously, that overperformance may have stopped fairly abruptly last weekend. Finally, Ted Cruz has overperformed by a median of 4.9 percentage points (see my previous post).

The few polls available for today’s GOP primaries are summarized below. Candidates unlikely to get delegates are in parentheses.

Michigan, 15% threshold to get delegates, median of 4 polls: Trump 38.5%, Kasich 22%, Cruz 21%. (Rubio 10%)

Idaho, 20% threshold, 1 poll only: Trump 30%, Cruz 19%. (Rubio 16%)

Mississippi, 15% threshold, 2-1 rule in Congressional districts, 1 poll only: Trump 41%, Cruz 17%, Rubio 16%. (Kasich 8%)

Hawaii, proportional and complicated: no polls.

Broadly, these numbers would be sufficient to keep Trump on track for just about 50% of delegates by the convention. Which side of 50%? We’ll have a better idea next Tuesday, when Florida and Ohio vote in their winner-take-all primaries.


Democratic races: nothing to say, except that Hillary Clinton is getting more votes than Bernie Sanders. By Democratic Party rules, that means that she is also getting more pledged delegates. She continues to be on track for the nomination.

Tags: 2016 Election · President

55 Comments so far ↓

  • timothy

    what does Sam Wang say about this washpost article where the author emphatically declares: if trump wins 1 of 2 out of ohio and florida then it will be a contested convention. The author is emphatic.

    • AnderJ

      Maybe I am not reading the WashingtonPost article correctly, but to my mind the author declares: if Trump wins 1 of 2 out of Ohio and Florida Trump could get a majority of delegates before the convention.

      This does not take away from the fact that the author is basing himself on the percentage of delegates won by Trump so far to predict the percentage of delegates won by Trump in the future. The author however does not take into account that (i) prior contests were not winner takes all contests, while future contests will be and (ii) the field of contenders has narrowed and will narrow further (which one would expect will benefit Trump as well as the other remaining candidates)

    • Sam Wang

      I see. In that case…that statement is probably true. Current polls suggest that Trump is headed toward getting a total of about 60% of all delegates, ensuring nomination on the first ballot.

      Narrowing: actually, I don’t think that benefits Trump. Division is good for him.

    • AnderJ

      Well to be fair to Josh, the exact quote is: “If he wins Ohio or Florida but not both, he could — but probably won’t — get to 1,237 before the convention.”

    • timothy

      thank you Sam for replying. it’s amazing that that article got such traction that so many other serious established writers are furiously quoting it as a fact.

  • C.S.Strowbridge

    Given the polling, the best case scenario for Sanders is keeping Hillary Clinton to under 100 delegates. Worst case, she increases her lead by 100 delegates.

    The race would be all but over at that point.


    Best cast scenario for Trump is 90 of the 150 delegates handed out tomorrow. Anything above that and it is over. If he gets 40 or less, then he’s no longer on pace to win the nomination. He will be going into the winner-take-all states with a huge losing streak.

    • Froggy

      There’s a good argument to be made that the Democratic race is all but over already. According to Nate Silver’s state-by-state targets for the race (link below) Sanders is already 81 delegates behind where he should be, which is a huge hole given the Democrat’s delegate allocation rules. Holding Clinton to 100 delegates tonight would put Sanders another 14 delegates off his target, and the best he has done in any state was beating his target by four delegates in Kansas on Saturday.

      If Sanders wants to make this a race again it would have to be by winning Michigan. The rust belt is about the last delegate-rich area not yet tested in a vote, so if Sanders is going to significantly exceed his targets in states (Silver has his target in Michigan as a win, 67/130) he’d better start tonight with at least not digging that hole he’s in any deeper.

      Of course the polling indicates that he’ll come nowhere near winning Michigan, which gets us back to the race being all but over already.

    • Matt McIrvin

      I’ve heard Sanders supporters talking about some kind of dramatic shift after March 15th that will result in Sanders winning most of the late states and coming from behind. I suspect it is pure wishful thinking, but there’s not much recent polling in these states, so it’s possible to imagine any number of things.

    • Mark F.

      Wouldn’t Sanders have to get over 57% of the popular vote from now on to surpass Clinton in elected delegates? That really seems like wishful thinking, maybe a 1% probability at best. I suppose Mrs. Clinton could be the victim of a shark attack or murder someone on live television…

      The GOP race is more interesting. I could see it going all the way to California.

    • Josh

      Sanders’ problem is that, with a very few exceptions, he seems incapable of winning states by significant margins–and those few exceptions (NH, VT) have a very small number of delegates. Unless Sanders starts winning big states by big margins, he’s too far behind to catch up. And basically all available polling, plus all the fundamentals of the race, say that this isn’t going to happen.

      Kudos to Sanders–he gave it his best. But it’s not going to be his year.

  • Doctor Science

    I find data-based analysis like this very calming, unlike the inflated (I was going to say “trumped-up”) hysteria of e.g. cable news reporting.

  • JayBoy2k

    Thanks Sam. good data , well presented.
    Before we get to the Political pundits for meaning.
    Will Cruz outperform in any of these states? I will be looking for that 5% average. It will be especially tough with Kasich surging in Michigan and Trump having a core base around 33%.
    Mississippi may be Cruz’s opportunity. That is a big number for Trump to maintain.

    I like the debate between this Tuesday and next Tuesday. We will have a lot of polls on Ohio & Florida and an opportunity to gauge how effective the Trump attacks have been.
    In 2012, Romney took 45% of Hawaii, easily beating Santorum, Paul, and Gingrich. Same order with Romney taking 61% in Idaho 2012 caucus. Hard to see that Trump should be favored in either State, but we will see.

  • Matt McIrvin

    Trump’s “underperformance” is in delegates, because if some other guy gets more he naturally has to get less.

    • JayBoy2k

      There are 150 delegates in play. If Trump tracks his National average, he should get 51 delegates , His state poll %s , around 57 Delegates.

      Next week starts the winner take all States.

  • Kevin O'Bryant

    You know who always underperforms? “Undecided”

    Specifically, when you talk about overperformance, how are the undecideds being handled in your numbers?

    • Olav Grinde

      I suspect the “undecided” would be more decisive if we had election reform. Imagine all ballots with an extra checkbox: None of the above. If that gets a plurality, then new elections must be held – with none of the former candidates being allowed to participate.

  • Mark F.

    It seems likely that both Rubio and Kasich will get out if they don’t win their home states. My gut feeling is that Kasich will win Ohio and Rubio will lose Florida, resulting in a 3 man race.

    • Frank

      Looking now at how things are turning out for Rubio, I predict Rubio will be getting even more pressure to drop out before next week, in order to help the party’s anti-Trump efforts.

  • Mark F.

    Democrats would be well advised to stop wasting their hard earned cash on the Sanders campaign and start getting ready for November.

    • 538 Refugee

      Mood and priorities are being set now. Sanders is showing Clinton what she is missing with a large segment of the Democratic base, similar to what Trump is showing the Republican establishment. The Republicans are already getting disproportionate air time so keeping the contest going is actually not a bad thing at this point. Hillary would get barely a mention on the news if it weren’t for Bernie right now.

    • bks

      Republicans would be well advised to stop wasting their hard earned cash on Kasich, Rubio and Cruz and start pumping it into the Sanders campaign.

  • LeRoy Bob

    “Trump’s vote share has been quite close to his pre-election polls – he has slightly outperformed them, by a median of 0.8 percentage point. Talk about underperformance – relative to polls – seems to be unsupported.”

    An explanation for the talk about underperformance may be that this essentially means that Trump is receiving close to 100% of those who supported him in the pre-election polls, but zero percent of those who were either undecided or supported a candidate who has since dropped out. It seems the expectation is that he’d get at least some portion of that pie, so by matching the pre-election polls he’s underperforming the expectation. Does “pre-election” in this context mean before Iowa, or just prior to the election in a particular state?

  • DaveM

    Off-topic, but I notice Obama’s approval rating has crept into green territory (+0.5%) for the first time in who knows how long. This would seem to add insult to injury for the GOP—the party melting down in a broader context of a popularish incumbent and a stable incumbency…

    • Ken

      I’ve wondered the same thing. Obama’s approval rating hasn’t been at these levels since shortly before and after the 2012 election. If it goes further positive and remains there for the next 8 months then that can’t be good news for the GOP.

    • Matt McIrvin

      It may just be that the right’s attention has shifted to attacking Hillary Clinton and each other instead of Obama.

      If they haven’t been complete catastrophes, Presidents’ approval ratings often rise a bit in the “lame duck” period after the November election at the end of their time in office, when there’s no longer much reason to attack them and people are trying to assess their historical legacy.

      But this is a bit early for that.

    • InmanRoshi

      Political peacetime is good for a sitting President, and there haven’t been any big headline producing partisan battles and staredowns in Washington in a while. No shut downs, no debt ceilings, etc. All parties are acting on their best behaviour until after the election.

    • Matt McIrvin

      The battle over Scalia’s replacement, and the Senate’s refusal to even start considering a nominee, should count, I’d think.

  • Susan

    How do you account for Kasich over performing in Michigan? At this moment he is edging out Trump

    • Froggy

      Susan, it’s very early. Over 2/3 of the vote that is in so far is from Oakland County.

    • JayBoy2k

      Mississippi called for Clinton and Trump. I found it humerous. Mississippi was called for Trump off of exit polls and all of 200 votes. 12% in Michigan , Trump pulling away from Kasich. Still very early.

    • Amitabh Lath

      Both Mississippi and Michigan called for Trump. Kasich may take 2nd, and is clearly overperforming his polls. Cruz is currently in line with prediction (no factor of 1.3 yet). Rubio…ouch.

  • Froggy

    If the Michigan exit poll below is accurate, it looks like a surprise win for Sanders tonight.

    • Sean Patrick Santos

      Very interested in how this turns out. If there’s a reversal of fortunes and Sanders ends up near 45%, it’s somewhat close to the poll averages a week ago (but not so much today). But above that (winning or coming close), it seems that something weird is going on here. And the results so far are suggesting a Sanders win close to the exit poll numbers.

    • Doctor Science

      Scroll down to “party ID”: Clinton won 57-41 (per polling!) among Democrats, Bernie won 70-28 among independents. It’s the Open Primary Effect.

    • Sean Patrick Santos

      @Doctor Science

      Good point. So you think that this is basically a problem with independent voters being screened out (or weighted against) when they should have been included?

    • 538 Refugee

      Well, I’m glad someone not named Trump is pulling in independents in big numbers.

    • Matt McIrvin

      Well, the standard pundit take on this will obviously be that it’s excellent news for Trump. If Hillary is weak in the Rust Belt, over the resentment of international trade that is one of Trump’s applause lines, it’s a sign that he will take Pennsylvania and Michigan and Ohio. Etc.

  • Matt McIrvin

    There’s what looks like a huge polling fail going on in Michigan: Bernie Sanders may win the primary, or at least keep it close (mostly-black precincts in Detroit are late to report, but exit polls seem to indicate he’s also getting more of the black vote in Michigan than elsewhere). Late polls had him losing about 60/40.

  • Anthony

    I think there needs to be a long post mortem on Michigan democratic primary pre-election polls. This looks to be one of the biggest epic fails in polling history.

    • 538 Refugee

      I have faith that Hillary will pull it out based on ‘secret sauce’.

      “According to our final polls-plus forecast, Hillary Clinton has a greater than 99% chance of winning the Michigan primary.”

      In fairness pollsters and pundits alike will be happy when this one is well behind them so they can ‘pundate’ on it in a scholarly, knowing tone as a matter of redemption. Overall though I expect the national polling trends will have told the story quite nicely. That is Clinton/Trump. But, it ain’t over till it’s over.

    • InmanRoshi

      The thing is, the Sanders close shave win has almost no effect on his greater delegate math issues, other than acting as a bit of triage. Mississippi outcome actually has a much bigger impact on choosing the Democratic nominee, but it wasn’t a “surprise” and therefore not going to generation much conversation.

  • JayBoy2k

    CNN is pointing directly at the Free Trade issue as a possible cause for the Sanders surge in Michigan.
    Trump heavily outperforming his polls in Mississippi taking votes from Rubio and/or undecided. Lots of pundits asking why Rubio is still in this race. How can Cruz spin this as success when Mississippi is very Conservatives and LOTS of Evangelicals and Trump wins going away?
    Michigan: Trump is holding right on poll averages with Kasich and Cruz eating up undecideds and Rubio unimpressive.
    Clearly a big night for Trump holding off his closest rivals.

    • Froggy

      In a campaign with a lot of disappointing Rubio nights, this one is the worst by far.

    • Matt McIrvin

      There’s only one recent R primary poll I can find in Mississippi, but it’s way off: Trump is overperforming and Cruz is actually way overperforming, though not winning. Rubio is just getting destroyed.

    • 538 Refugee

      Seriously, I thought Rubio looked on the verge of tears several times during and after the last debate. I’m not sure how he’d take the humiliation of being trounced in Florida. I think the ‘mainstream’ has too much invested in him to let him back out before Florida though.

  • Mark F.

    There are some states coming up that look fairly good for Sanders, so he may eventually gain a little ground on Clinton, but the problem is that it will be just about impossible for him to make up his “YUUUGE” delegate deficit.

  • Edgeoforever

    Well, your comments about the Democratic primary stand, despite of the polling upset

  • A New Jersey Farmer

    Given what the latest polls are saying, the GOP should pour all of its resources into Ohio rather than Florida. It probably won’t stop Trump, but it would make it more difficult for him. Rubio is done.

  • Amitabh Lath

    Finally, a poll fail of some magnitude. I was concerned that the pollsters would skate by with whatever band-aids (ie, demographic weights) they had instituted rather than face the deep seated problems of low and biased response rates and LV filter problems.

    That this happened in the Dem primary is important because they cannot claim last minute effects because the debates have been low-watched snoozefests. That it happened in Michigan may be important because it is has a good mix of rural, urban, suburban, and good sized college towns.

  • JayBoy2k

    Rubio’s political career has gone up in flames. He is no longer Senator and what would a blow_out in Florida do for a future run for governor? When he agreed to be Romney’s attack dog, who would think it would end like this.
    Trump beating Kasich in a mid_west state certainly calls his strength into question. To stop Trump , the GOP establishment needs to get behind Cruz.
    Good catch on not correctly polling democratic leaning Independents in Michigan. Ohio and Illinois coming up should validate or not…

    • Mark F.

      The trouble for Sanders is that close wins in high population states don’t help him much at this point. Clinton really should not be too worried at the moment with such a big delegate cushion

  • Mark F.

    I think Trump eventually gets to 50%+1 if he wins OH and FL. A contested convention is a possibility if he loses one of those states. If he loses both, we almost certainly will have a contested convention.

    My prediction is that Kasich pulls off a win in OH, and we have a 3 man race with Cruz and Kasich hoping to block Trump. I think Rubio will be out after March 15.

  • timothy

    Sam, why is division ( ie. getting less delegates{?}) good for Trump?

  • timothy

    Scott Rasmussen wrote today: “If, as many expect, Trump picks up 99 delegates from Florida’s winner-take-all Scott primary, he would still need to win 47 percent of all the remaining delegates to be selected in the coming months to ensure a victory over Cruz.”
    Sam, is this statement correct?
    from here…

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