Two-thousand sixty years ago, members of the Roman Senate fell upon dictator Julius Caesar and ended him. Today, Donald Trump will do the same to Marco Rubio. Welcome to the Ides of March.
Yesterday, I examined “Ides of March” Tuesday for the Democrats. Today: the GOP. Like their Democratic counterparts, the Republican candidates have a lot on the line today.
In total, there are 367 delegates up for grabs. While it’s not as many as Super Tuesday, which had 595 delegates, today’s contests allow candidates to more easily accrue them. All of Super Tuesday’s states were proportional allocators. (Allocators are not to be confused with crockodials, which measure how much candidates lie.) Today, however…
- has three winner-take-all contests: Florida’s 99 delegates, Ohio’s 66, and a game-changing 9 delegates from the no-joke-they-are-American Northern Mariana Islands.
- Two more states — Illinois’s 72 delegates and Missouri’s 52 — could easily turn into winner-take-all due to their rules, more about which later.
- Only one of today’s six contests is proportional: the 72 delegates from North Carolina. (Or, as Marco Rubio calls it, “You mean I’ll actually get some delegates today?? Big win!)
Ultimately, today can easily turn into the day Donald Trump effectively seals the nomination (if he wins Florida and Ohio) or the day we know we’re headed toward a convention (if he wins neither). If he wins neither, I’ll be so excited that I’ll convert this into a pay/premium blog, upgrade the site, and take us to the convention. If he loses both, it’ll probably be time to shut it down altogether. (This, of course, means he’ll only win one and keep me in limbo.)
Have I suggested to beware the Ides of March yet?
#1. Florida Primary — 99 pledged delegates
Most recent polls: Ten polls in the last week give us the following averages: Trump 43.0, Rubio 24.4, Cruz 18.7, and Kasich 9.1. The trend is unfavorable for Rubio. Two polls from six days ago had him down 6 and 9, but the polls since have him trailing by between 17 and 25 points. Moreover, Trump was at just 36 points in those two earlier polls, but he’s since been between 43 and 49, which cannot be caught in this field. Most embarrassing is that a recent CBS poll showed Cruz ahead of Rubio, 24-21.
Prediction for the state: Rubio’s only hope is that A) He had enough of an early-vote lead that a close race becomes decided by those ballots, and B) Enough Cruz and Kasich supporters, who have told pollsters that Cruz or Kasich is their first choice, decide to vote for Rubio to block Trump from getting 99 delegates. It’s impossible to predict if they’ll delineate things that way. At least the Rubio Campaign came right out and told his supporters in Ohio to vote for Kasich. Kasich could have returned the favor in Florida, but chose not to, contributing to Rubio’s Ides of March demise like a Roman senator wielding a deadly blade. Cruz, of course, looked to knock Rubio out in Florida (Et tu, BruTed?), and was willing to sacrifice 99 delegates to Trump to do it. My sad, depressing, despondent, dispirited, crestfallen prediction: Trump 44, Rubio 33, Cruz 24, Kasich 9. (LATE EDIT: Can you believe those added up to 110? Let’s reduce those rather evenly: Trump 41, Rubio 30, Cruz 22, Kasich 7)
Estimated delegate split: Trump: all 99 friggin’ delegates. And then it’s impossible for him to have a bad day. Sigh. Frankly, if they could just not call Florida right away for Trump, that’ll at least give me a few minutes of excitement.
#2. North Carolina Primary — 72 pledged delegates
Delegate allocation rules: Totally proportional. It works out to a candidate earning a delegate for every 1.39 percent of the vote. This is the only that practically guarantees all four candidates will get delegates today.
Most recent polls: Three polls in the last week show Trump 41.3, Cruz 29.0, Kasich 11.3, and Rubio at 8.7. The polls show Trump strengthening over the week, 32 early to 48 and 44. Cruz has strengthened steadily from 26 to 33. Kasich the Consistent polled at 11 and 12. Rubio has continued to crater; his last six North Carolina polls show him dropping from 18 to 16 to 14 to 11 to 8 to 7.
Prediction for the state: Grumble. Trump 45, Cruz 38, Kasich 11, Rubio 6
Estimated delegate split: Trump 33, Cruz 27, Kasich 8, Rubio 4
#3. Illinois Primary — 69 pledged delegates
Delegate allocation rules: Illinois holds a “loophole primary,” which turns out to be as confusing as most loopholes. Best I can tell, voters are voting directly for delegates, rather than candidates, but in effect that shouldn’t make much of a difference, since it will be clear which candidate the delegates support. Each of the 18 Congressional districts get three delegates each (54 combined), and they are winner-take-all for each district. There are 15 more state-wide delegates, also winner-take-all. Ultimately, Illinois would turn into a winner-take-all state if the state’s winning candidate also won each of the districts. Unlike proportional North Carolina above, we can expect the winning candidate to get a pretty good delegate haul here if the margin is comfortable.
Most recent polls: Three polls in the last week show Trump 35.0, Cruz 26.3, Kasich 18.3, Rubio 12.7. A week ago, the poll numbers had Trump pretty vulnerable — just 33 points. Trump and Cruz have strengthened, and Kasich and Rubio falling as of the last poll, but it took place from 3/9 to 3/11, totally before the Chicago protests on Friday night. While I think the protests helped Trump down in Trump country, Chicago itself might consider itself on the front-lines. That being said, we can probably assume most of the protesters were Democrats, and therefore they won’t be voting against Trump today. The question is — how were Illinois Republicans affected by this development? Impossible to know.
Prediction for the state: Trump 38, Cruz 34, Kasich 19, Rubio 9
Estimated delegate split: So much grumble. Trump 57, Cruz 12, due to winning four districts to Trump’s 14. Kasich and Rubio shut out.
#4. Ohio Primary — 66 pledged delegates
Delegate allocation rules: Winner-take-all! It’s the establishment’s line in the sand. If Rubio loses Florida, he’s out. If Kasich wins Ohio, he’s out, too, and Trump runs away with this. Rubio is almost certainly going to lose. . . . Will Kasich?
Most recent polls: Five polls in a week show a classic in the making: Kasich 38.8, Trump 35.4, Cruz 17.8, Rubio 4.2. That puts Rubio in last place in a third straight state. If only the actual Roman Senate were around to put him out of his misery.
Prediction for the state: Please, Kasich. PLEASE! Kasich 40, Trump 36, Cruz 21, Rubio 3
Estimated delegate split: Kasich 66. (PLEASE, I SAY!)
#5. Missouri Primary — 52 pledged delegates
Delegate allocation rules: If a candidate earns a majority of the statewide vote, he gets all 52 delegates. Short of that, each of the 8 Congressional districts give 5 delegates to its winner. An additional 12 statewide delegates are given to the state’s winner. Like Illinois, this can be a big haul for the winning candidate, since he’ll probably win in most of the districts. If he wins in all 8, it effectively becomes a winner-take-all state.
Most recent poll: Just one poll, a one-week survey from 3/3 to 3/10, had Trump 36, Cruz 29, Rubio 9, Kasich 8.
Prediction for the state: I think we get a late Cruz surge like he has often has in these parts. He has targeted the state, and it’s the last link in the heart of the country between Texas and Ohio. He’s already won Oklahoma and Kansas, and this is next. Cruz 43, Trump 39, Kasich 10, Rubio 8
Estimated delegate split: Cruz 37, Trump 15
#6. Northern Mariana Islands Caucuses — 9 pledged delegates
Delegate allocation rules: Winner-take-all
Most recent polls: None, probably because no one could find the islands on a map. Trump earned the support of its governor. That’s all I have to go on. That and it’s a caucus, so Cruz has probably organized every possible Islander.
Prediction for the state: Trump wins most of the vote, Cruz wins most of the rest.
Estimated delegate split: Trump with all 9.
- Trump 4 (Florida, North Carolina, Illinois, Northern Marianas)
- Kasich (Ohio) & Cruz (Missouri) 1 each
- Rubio 0
- Trump 213 (58.0% of day’s delegates)
- Cruz 76 (20.7%)
- Kasich 74 (20.2%)
- Rubio 4 (1.1%)
- Trump 673 (46.8% of total delegates)
- Cruz 446 (31.0%)
- Rubio 167 (11.6%)
- Kasich 137 (9.6%)
- Other 15
- Total delegates combined: 1438
- Total delegate remaining: 1034
I’ve never wanted to be so wrong about a political prediction, but Trump’s going to win Florida and all of its delegates. Rubio either drops out or never wins another delegate. In either case, Cruz will get most his remaining support, piddling as it is. These two first-term conservative senators that rode in with Tea Party, as much as they bickered, have a lot in common.
With Florida almost assuredly Trump’s, we now turn to Ohio as an open convention’s desperately needed win. If Trump wins Ohio and everything else stays as I estimated, Trump would be at 739 delegates, or 51.4 percent of allocated delegates, the first time he’s been at a majority. At that point, it’d be awfully difficult for the party to successfully resist him.
That being said, if both Rubio and Kasich lose their home state and drop out, it really would be the one-on-one race that Ted Cruz says he wants. Can he turn that into big wins in places where he was once considered nonviable, like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Washington, and Oregon? I don’t think so. He has a good shot at massive California, but that’s not until June, when most Republicans might have already started rounding their Trump wagons under the “Anybody But Clinton” banner.
We can get this Kasich win, and I’ll still hope against hope that Rubio will shock the world, but we all must beware: the Ides of March have come, and by the time they’re gone, there may be no stopping Donald J. Trump.