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John…you didn’t have to get me anything!

March 22nd, 2016, 9:22am by Sam Wang

See the updates. Trump and Cruz won Arizona and Utah outright. Overall, a subpar performance by Kasich. No gifts today.

Today, John Kasich potentially gives the first of a series of gifts to Donald Trump. What’s inside the box? Maybe 58 delegates – from Arizona, which is winner-take-all.

Trump leads the last three surveys done in Arizona. His median support is 37% and his median lead over second-place Ted Cruz is 13 percentage points. In addition, a combined 17-27% goes to Kasich and Rubio (several surveys were done before Rubio dropped out). Previously I pointed out that when reassigned, Kasich/Rubio supporters heavily favor Cruz over Trump. If we reassign those voters in a 4:1 ratio, the resulting medians are Trump 42.4%, Cruz 44.6%. This 2-percentage-point difference is small, and would slightly favor Cruz to win.

My calculations the other day suggested that if Kasich dropped out of winner-take-all states after Ohio, this would cost Trump between 200 and 250 delegates because anti-Trump voters would likely consolidate around Ted Cruz. No matter what happens today, that difference between the scenarios of Trump v. Cruz v. Kasich and Trump v. Cruz will decrease, as one winner-take-all state falls by the wayside. Tick, tock.

Cruz might win Utah outright – though if he falls below 50%, again Trump should thank Kasich.

Follow tonight’s returns in Arizona, Hawaii, and Utah here.

Update, 11:20pm: early returns are looking stronger for Trump than expected from pre-election polls. One reason: early voting, which began before the most recent polls were taken, shows some Rubio strength. Therefore a more-divided vote than expected given the current state of the race.

4:15am: It looks like Trump did not need anyone’s help in Arizona after all. With 91% of precincts reporting, the vote is Trump 47%, Cruz 25%, Rubio 14%, Kasich 10%. Kasich underperformed his polls (last poll 17%, 3-poll median 15%).

Ted Cruz won Utah outright with 64% (53% in last survey). Again Kasich did not affect the outcome, with 17% of the vote (29% in last survey).

At this rate, Trump isn’t going to have any trouble getting to a majority of delegates.

Tags: 2016 Election · President

55 Comments so far ↓

  • Scott

    I think Kasich is running his own “game” here. He can continue to accumulate as many delegates as he can in proportional states, giving him bargaining chips at a brokered convention or, if Trump secures the nomination with Kasich’s help in winner-take-all states, he can say Trump owes him something (VP, cabinet position, etc). It’s a win/win for Kasich.

    • Sam Wang

      No, this is backwards. If Trump wins Arizona’s 58 delegates, the gap between him and 1237 is reduced by that much. Kasich will get between 0 and 12 delegates. With these numbers, Kasich’s leverage decreases by 46-58 delegates.

    • Joseph

      There’s an unknown effect on Mr. Kasich on the field narrowing to three candidates. My guess is that’s why Mr. Kasich is staying in at this time, even in the states where he doesn’t have a ghost of a chance. Also, it increases his name recognition for four years from now.
      I suppose there are those who will “blame” Mr. Kasich for increasing the possibility of Mr. Trump becoming the Republican nominee by staying in to the bitter end, but we’re pretty deep in the weeds here so I doubt it will cost him anything four years out.

    • Ed Wittens Cat

      Kasich understands the resistance to Trump is already crumbling. And he doesnt understand game theory. Inevitable result.
      I missed u guys.
      The most entertaining part of this election season is the cultural heat death of Nate and 538.

  • Froggy

    Hawaii? I thought Republicans already caucused in Hawaii earlier this month:

    American Samoa is having a Republican primary today.

  • Ed Wittens Cat

    Has Romney officially endorsed Cruz? That might benefit Cruz in Utah but could be seen as tarring with an establishment brush in most places.
    Also…the GOP base respects winning over all other traits in a candidate.
    Romney is an official “loser”.

  • Mark F.

    Kasich should offer to drop out if Cruz puts him on the ticket as VP. The scenario of Kasich winning a brokered convention is fanciful.

  • Amitabh Lath

    I cannot see any rational justification for Kasich’s actions, unless he wants a quid pro quo (VP? State?) in exchange for his delegates at the convention.

    For that to work Cruz and Trump need to be below 1237, and Kasich needs to be able to make up the difference. But how does keeping Cruz below 50% in Utah help that?

    The only other motivation I can ascribe to Kasich is he’s the Jamaican bobsled team at the end of Cool Runnings. Get to the finish line no matter what.

    • Michael K

      According to CNN, quoting straight from the horse’s mouth:

      “I think we’re going to go to a convention — which is really an extension of the political process — and when we get there, the delegates are going to think about two things: No. 1, who can win in the fall? And I was glad to hear Lindsey (Graham) say ‘Kasich’s the best general election candidate’ because I don’t think the other two can win,” Kasich said. “And secondly — now this is a crazy idea — who actually could be president of the United States and do a good job? When the delegates think about that, I think we will do very well and we will go to the convention with momentum.”

      Never underestimate a politician’s vanity or narcissm I guess…

    • Amitabh Lath

      One would hardly expect him to admit to a strategy of trading delegates for the French ambassadorship. He’s got to keep the troops motivated, ergo the delusional pep talk.

    • Michael K

      I wouldn’t expect him to admit it, but he’s also emphatically ruled out (“no way!”) serving as VP for either Trump or Cruz.

      Not that he couldn’t change his mind, but I suspect he finds Cruz and Trump roughly equally objectionable and he truly believes he can emerge from a convention brawl as the compromise nominee if neither Trump nor Cruz can accumulate a majority after multiple ballots and if his poll numbers against Clinton are much better than theirs.

    • Amitabh Lath

      Yeah, the whole Kasich thing makes no sense. A VP-play would minimize Trump but that’s not what he’s doing. Maybe he’s delusional (as JayBoy2k says above) but how is he getting his staff and donors to go along?

    • Michael K

      He may be delusional, but he’s hoping to persuade the many donors and insiders who hate Trump and Cruz that he’s their guy. He’s recently hired veterans of the 1976 convention and his aides are studying the 1940 nomination of Wendell Wilkie and are openly plotting to influence the rules committee. Of course Wilkie lost the general election in a landslide ;)

    • mediaglyphic

      can a rational actor really run for president? There is a lot of Ego in involved and some level of delusion.

    • Lorem

      Well, if Kasich thinks that the odds of him becoming president or vice-president this cycle are extremely low no matter what – which is not too unreasonable – then staying in might be optimal. Staying in is likely to be more beneficial for his reputation, as Republican voters are likely to prefer someone who is seen to be “fighting” to someone who is strategic. On top of that, he’d get to campaign in a few extra states and stay “the third viable candidate” for another month or two, hopefully improving his position for four years from now.

      Overall, the consensus that staying in is not optimal for him is probably correct, but I think it’s not suboptimal by all that much either. If there’s also some secondary emotional factor like him feeling uncomfortable with dropping out and leaving the field to Cruz and Trump, I’d be fairly sympathetic to the decision.

  • 538 Refugee

    I’ve read Utah and Arizona are states that seems to do a strong early voter turnout and many of the votes may have been cast before Rubio dropped out and even before Romney unloaded. Ironically, Rubio may have more influence on these results than Kasich.

  • JayBoy2k

    As always a cogent set of insights with data and a link to watch the results. I really like your site.

    I think Kasich sees those National polls showing him doing better against Clinton and dreams. He knows that establishment republicans and money sources would really prefer him to Trump or Cruz. He is playing an honest moderate campaign and sees a path to a 2nd ballot convention that gradually moves toward him. He has exactly the odds of Cruz knocking off Trump enough to prevent any 1st ballot victory.
    Otherwise, he can follow the advice of Establishment GOP, manipulating politico Romney and the loyal opposition and take a dive in states where Cruz is close or losing.
    He is a long shot any way he plays it.

    I expect Trump to take Arizona and Cruz to just miss 50% in Utah.

    • 538 Refugee

      The problem with ‘taking a dive’ when your name is on the ballot is that you are still the only viable ‘none of the above’ choice and will get the votes of people that will simply NOT vote for Trump or Cruz.

    • Mark F.

      Trump will easily win AZ, and Cruz will easily win 50% in Utah IMHO.

  • Bloodstar

    First, you’re assuming that Kasich would think that Cruz is somehow better than Trump. I would assert that is not the case. Kasich dropping out will effectively end any chance of anyone besides those two getting the nomination.

    You’re using medians on polls that are not identical? And using medians to get the differences in leads? That seems a bit, questionable. Besides giving an outcome that supports your hypothesis what prompted your methodology? Don’t get me wrong, you’ve been doing this stuff and I’m sure you have good reasons, but from a laypersons perspective it looks an awful lot like making the data fit the hypothesis.

    Why not use some sort of mild WAM? Maybe like 40 30 30? With the poll getting a slight bump to reflect being most recent as well as the only one not including Rubio.

    Using that, we get T 38.8, C 25.8, K 14.3, R 6.6, and U 12.4

    Using your 4:1 ratio, you then have T 43.0, C 42.5, and U 12.4

    Now the assumptions being made are doing some pretty heavy lifting. Early voting has been taking place since March 3rd, that none of the voters of Rubio and Kasich would simply sit out rather than vote for Cruz or Trump, and that the 4:1 ratio would hold true, which according to the poll you used the ratio was around 7:3.

    Use 7:3 and you end up with T 45, C 40.4. So basically, it all depends on what assumptions you make, I happen to think yours are doing too much lifting.

    • Sam Wang

      These are reasonable concerns. However, on the other side I left out an empirical finding that surely would have you screaming bloody murder: Ted Cruz outperforms his pre-election polls by a median factor of 1.3. That would suggest Cruz will do better than 33% (the Opinion Savvy data point). We’ll find out tonight.

      Previously, I have cited surveys that show Cruz beating Trump by 15 percentage points in a one-on-one race. In Arizona, Trump and Cruz are close to their national numbers – and Cruz is above his national numbers. These numbers again indicate that if Kasich dropped out, Cruz would have an advantage in today’s election in the Grand Canyon State.

      Bottom line, there are considerable uncertainties that arise whenever we are limited to a single state. Aggregated across states, the 200-250 delegate gap is as I have written before – though any hypothetical plus-Kasich vs. no-Kasich gap will shrink somewhat over time as Kasich drags things out. As I have written before, in terms of delegates, Kasich is weakening his own negotiating position.

  • Mark F.

    The latest polling is showing Trump with around as much support nationwide as Kasich and Cruz combined.

  • Just Dropping By

    My WAG is that Kasich’s strategy for staying in the race is that, in the event of Trump having less than a majority, Kasich will cut a deal with Cruz under which Cruz’s delegates support Kasich to be the presidential nominee and Kasich nominates Cruz as his VP. (This makes sense given their ages — Kasich will be 64 on election day, while Cruz will be 45. Cruz can serve two terms as VP and still be under 55 when the 2024 election rolls around, and so be well-positioned for another presidential run.)

  • truedson

    Trump wins Arizona. 58 more in his quiver.

    • bks

      Now we enter the dog days. A month till NY and ten weeks till California.

    • Matt McIrvin

      Hmm, next up on the Democratic side is a series of caucuses in western states, and the open Wisconsin primary. Probably great territory for Bernie Sanders… expect a lot of buzz about how he could go all the way after all!

      Then in late April there are a bunch of closed mid-Atlantic/Northeastern primaries where Clinton ought to do better, with many more delegates at stake.

  • Some Body

    No gifts today, though. Cruz will be way over 50% in Utah, and Trump will have more votes than Cruz and Kasich combined in Arizona.

  • Bloodstar

    So, basically unless early voting could be nullified and people allowed to revote. Trump was going to win Arizona. Cruz had Utah solidly in the bag.

    Now, going forward it’s possible there is a Kasich interference. But for tonight, not so much.

    TN has 14 more delegates up. Not sure what ND is doing and WI. Should be interesting to see if Walker remains relevant.

  • Michael Hahn

    Hi Sam: Would you care to comment on the steady increase in Obama’s approval rating since January? I find it a bit interesting that it correlates with the unfolding of the race to determine his successor!! If this trend holds up, do you foresee any impact on the November outcome??

    • Ian

      Great comment! No one has been talking about this. He was at -8 or 10 in Gallup just a few months ago, for example, and now is around +4 to 8. It’s a huge turnaround and if it holds up it really helps the Dem nominee, in my opinion. Would be interested in Sam’s take.

    • Sam Wang

      It was always in the right sidebar, also in the banner above. Moved the graph to the top for easier inspection.

      Why Obama moved up, I don’t know. Maybe people got a better look at the competition. I agree, it’s an important indicator. I usually think of it as a proxy for approval of the incumbent party.

    • Matt McIrvin

      I’ve been lately seeing a lot of people writing about Obama’s presidency in a retrospective mode, as if he were already in the lame-duck period. Presidential approval often rises modestly during that time, though of course we’re not really in it yet.

      There’s been a lot of theatrical outrage in the political media about him continuing to watch baseball in Cuba after the Brussels bombing, but I don’t know if it’s really confined to the sort of people who hate him anyway.

  • Dennis

    I’m surprised nothing like the Nader-Trader vote swapping websites have popped up for Cruz and Kasich. I suppose the backlash against anti-Trump collusion could be worse than the small boost it could give them in winner-take-all states, but a lot of that backlash has already happened. There are likely a sizeable number of strategically minded Kasich and Cruz supporters (and probably very few for Trump) but they need a website to coordinate and gain attention.

  • Bloodstar

    Question. Is it really under performing when so much of the vote was cast early?

  • Matt McIrvin

    The very small amount of Democratic polling in Utah and Idaho was way, way off from the caucus results, which were blowouts for Bernie Sanders. I suppose this is not so surprising with caucuses, but it’s worth mentioning.

    He also modestly outperformed his polling in Arizona, though he lost the state: there were a lot of undecideds and they seem to have mostly broken his way. There have been a lot of reports of election irregularities there and some Sanders supporters are claiming Clinton and the DNC somehow rigged the primary; I suspect it’s more the usual vote-suppression nonsense on the part of the state government.

  • JayBoy2k
    A new Quinnipiac poll shows that the 2nd choice of both Cruz and Kasich voters is Trump.
    Trump seems to be getting into the mid 40s in GOP nomination polls (NYT, CNN).
    The GOP anti-Trump effort is on life support.

    • John B. Cannon

      I had this exact same question. I respect this site a lot, but it seems you have been pushing the perspective that Cruz and Kasich voters would prefer a non-Trump alternative on the basis of one poll. Other polls (both before the one you cite and this new one) suggest the opposite. It seems to me that the assumption of the political classes that the Republican race divides up into pro- and anti-Trump positions may just not be where Republican voters’ heads are at. In any case, Sam, I’d be really interested to hear your thoughts on this.

    • Sam Wang

      Hmmm. The evidence has been (a) two recent PPP surveys second-preference data, (b) 2-way matchup data between Trump and Cruz, and (c) Trump’s persistent poor approve/disapprove numbers among GOP voters. Those bits of evidence converge, therefore my confidence in the statement that while 40% of Trump voters like Trump, 15-20% of non-Trump voters turn to him as a second choice.

      For example, in national data, I invite you to call up this graph, move your mouse to March 2 to see where Trump/Cruz/Rubio/Kasich were then – that gives Rubio at 20%. Then ask what reassignment of Rubio support it would take to get today’s levels of support. I get a ratio of 1:2:3 for Trump:Kasich:Cruz.

      It is possible that voter preferences can change over time, and that GOP voters can coalesce enough that Trump can get over 50 percent on his own steam. If this is the case, it is a recent development. So far I only see it in Arizona.

    • Mark F.

      My view is that if Cruz does not win CA, Trump will over 1237 on June 7 and there will be no contested convention.

  • Amitabh Lath

    Trump overperformed polls by 10 points in AZ. Might be time to revisit that 4:1 assignment of Rubio voters.

    • JayBoy2k

      I am curious about this 2nd-preference-data from 2 polls (PPP & Quinnipiac) 3 weeks apart. It might be a shift in voter opinion, but I find that hard to believe lacking an event ( Brussel’s attack?) to drive that shift. I guess that Poll error could explain the difference. We are likely to get confirmation one way or the other when the next set of these 2 polls come out. Is this an outlier or an actual shift of Republican voter opinion, and if the latter, what was the trigger?
      There are certainly a lot of pundits speculating on whether Brussels helps or hurts Trump.

  • 538 Refugee

    The “Times” has a couple good Kasich articles that clear up his thinking. Bottom line is I do think he believes he is the “white knight”. The second link pretty much blows a hole in that belief even though he doesn’t get it. As a Democrat in Ohio, none of this surprises me as I’ve seen him for longer than I care. Yes he leads Hillary and Bernie in head to head polls now, but if he should somehow be gifted the nomination, he has plenty of places to stick the skewers in and roast him over the open flame.

    If you haven’t seen the footage of Kasich calling a state trooper an idiot for pulling him over, you don’t realize what a sense of entitlement and arrogance this guy has.

    • mediaglyphic

      I wonder how many people realize he worked as an investment banker for Bear Stearns!

      John I’m Only Dancing!
      David Bowie

    • Jay

      John Kasich’s positive match-up comparatives with Hillary Clinton are, in part, because he has not been subject to the same barrage of negative ads that Trump and Cruz have. He’s not been taken seriously by the GOP field.

  • Matt McIrvin

    The other odd bit of polling news recently was a startling poll showing either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders beating Donald Trump in Utah:

    I would take this with a large grain of salt; there has been almost no general-election polling in Utah. Still, the dislike of Trump there is remarkable; it might simply have to do with Trump being personally gross and vulgar in a way that repels Mormons. The poll has Ted Cruz taking the state by an enormous margin.

  • 538 Refugee

    “as well as some delegates previously bound to candidates who have since dropped out of the race — can vote however they want even on the first ballot.”

    This is about the third time I’ve read this from various sources. No one drops out these days, they suspend. We’ve been assuming it is about retaining the delegates. What may be real wild card here though is the ‘win 8’ rule. Trump and Cruz will have the majority of the delegates and should control the rules committee and vote on any changes. I don’t see them allowing this condition to be relaxed. That means you only have two candidates nominated to vote on. Can you be bound to someone not officially placed into nomination? This could be a one ballot convention even if no one reaches the magic number.

  • bks

    The next story flogging the GOP Stop Trump! Movement that also mentions the national polling will be the first.

    • ArcticStones

      Simple question: Are there secret ballots at the Republican National Convention, or does everybody know whom each delegate voted for? If there are “faithless delegates”, will they be identifiable – with possible consequences?

    • JayBoy2k

      Good point. There is an aggravating tendency to ignore everything and anything that does not fit with the bias of the pundit.
      I savor those articles that actually try to analyze political issues starting from a point of reality and bringing in multiple viewpoints.

  • 538 Refugee

    Guess I(we?) misunderstood what was meant by “floor fight”.

    “Nearly 20,000 people have signed a petition to allow firearms inside the Republican National Convention being held in Cleveland in July.”

    What could possibly go wrong?

    “It was not clear whether the person posting the petition was backing the proposal or attempting to put the party, which strongly backs gun rights, in an awkward position.”

    I know this is a little off topic but the thought of making the Republicans stand by their principles which, in this case, is tantamount to throwing a lighted match into a can of gasoline is just mind boggling for its genius or stupidity.

    • Mark F.

      I’m sure you could get 20,000 people to sign a petition to bring back slavery. It’s meaningless.

      I think Trump will probably walk into Cleveland 100 or so delegates short 1237, and I’m expecting a contested convention and either Cruz or a compromise candidate as the nominee. I still can’t believe they won’t do everything possible, fair or foul, to stop Trump’s nomination.

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