DELEGATE ALLOCATIONS AS OF 02/29/2016
*Dropped out but delegate allocation rules differ by state—some of these delegates will remain allocated to these candidates, while others will be reallocated.
THE ORIGINAL PREDICTION
Businessman Donald J. Trump has maintained his momentum, winning by large margins in both South Carolina and Nevada. Trump’s victories have elevated his campaign and substantiated our Political Team’s original prediction, while significant uncertainty surrounding the rest of the field remains to this day. As of today, Trump is outperforming our prediction by 134%. This margin will likely grow as the Super Tuesday states vote.
SOUTH CAROLINA—RESULTS & IMPLICATIONS
The results of the South Carolina Primary indicate that Trump’s “ceiling” of support of approximately 1/3 of the Republican electorate may have been a premature estimate. The polling numbers were surprisingly accurate (1) in South Carolina and Trump continues to draw out Republican voters of all types—from evangelicals to voters disenfranchised with mainstream Republican politics. Trump dominated the field and defeated Senator Marco Rubio and Senator Ted Cruz by more than ten points, amassing all 50 of South Carolina’s congressional and state-wide delegates. The Super Tuesday states will be Trump’s proving ground; if he performs well, the path to the Republican nomination becomes far narrower for his rivals.
Cruz must over-perform throughout the South and win his home state to maintain any chance of staying relevant and viable moving forward into states with demographics and delegate allocation rules that are unfavorable to him. Rubio rebounded from a poor performance in New Hampshire to secure second place in South Carolina. At a certain point, Rubio must do better than a strong second place to actually have a chance to overcome the lead that Trump has built through the first four states. Former Governor Jeb Bush’s early exit after a disappointing performance in South Carolina should propel Rubio forward to a certain extent, but Rubio must continue to pull new voters and convince the “establishment” politicians and voters that he can defeat Trump.
Trump received 46% of votes, surpassing Rubio’s 24% and Cruz’s 21% by more than 20 points. Although the Nevada Caucuses are not necessarily indicative of the race as a whole, Trump victories in New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada give him crucial momentum going into the more important Super Tuesday primaries. Rubio showed that he remains a strong candidate, but again, second place is not sufficient moving forward. Turnout was significantly higher than expected in all four early states, especially in Nevada, which highlights Trump’s influence throughout the country and demonstrates that the 2016 race, and Trump’s campaign, do not reflect historical trends.
THE "ESTABLISHMENT" LANE
Bush dropped out of the race immediately after South Carolina due to a poor showing in the state and vocal dissatisfaction expressed by his major donors. This was earlier than expected and leaves his small, but still present voter group up for grabs. Perhaps more important is the direction in which his Super PAC Right to Rise will choose to spend its remaining war chest. With his recent streak of endorsements, Rubio has demonstrated an ability to garner more establishment Party support, but this has not necessarily translated to more votes on the state level. Governor John Kasich seems to be in the race for the long haul, despite low national support from voters, so he will continue to compete with Rubio for mainstream conservative support. Consolidation of so-called establishment has begun, but the effects have not yet been realized by either Rubio or Kasich.
TED CRUZ'S STRUGGLES
Trump won 34% of the evangelical vote to Cruz’s 26% in South Carolina (2), which has dangerous implications for Cruz in the long run. In Nevada, 40% of white evangelicals voted for Trump and for Cruz (3). If Cruz continues to lose the evangelical vote to Trump throughout the South, his campaign will be hard pressed to rebound after Super Tuesday. Since day one, Cruz has based his pathway to victory upon an incredible show of strength on Super Tuesday—something that increasingly appears unlikely (4). Continued evangelical support of Trump confirms that Trump’s support crosses ideological lines and is not primarily issue-driven. Cruz’s strong ground game and overall campaign in South Carolina did not help him overcome Rubio or close the gap between him and Trump.
The endorsement primary has become more of a factor in recent weeks. Donald Trump has received several key endorsements from Governor Chris Christie (NJ), Governor Paul LePage (ME), Senator Jeff Sessions (AL) and four U.S. Representatives from across the country.
Rubio maintains a significant lead in the so-called “Endorsement Primary,” but Trump’s ability to garner support from mainstream Republican politicians has just begun. In the five days following the Nevada Caucus, Trump has gone from zero national endorsements to seven. We may see endorsements continue to roll in over the coming weeks, which would serve to further validate Trump’s candidacy for voters and possibly for the Republican Party in general.
DEBATE IN TEXAS AND RECENT MEDIA ATTENTION
Held in Texas, just days before the Nevada Caucus, a great deal of weight was placed upon the performances in this debate. However, as he typically does, Trump defied all conventional wisdom. Starting the week off with vicious attacks against both the Pope and former President George W. Bush, the media lampooned Trump for a “bad week.” He ended this “bad week” with sweeping victories in both South Carolina and Nevada.
For the first time, Rubio went after Trump in the debate and had a strong showing. Rubio was very much on the offensive—a position that has backfired on many other candidates who have tried it previously. It does not appear to have backfired on Rubio yet, and we will soon see if his attacks can translate to votes.
Thirteen states, and one island territory, located primarily in the South vote today. The Super Tuesday stakes are incredibly high for the three front-runner candidates, and the stage is set for significant victories for our predicted nominee—Donald J. Trump.
Super Tuesday will be even more important for each of the three leading candidates than previously anticipated. Without a doubt, Senator Cruz has the most to lose going into today’s contests. Cruz’s assumed base of support has always been the most conservative, white evangelical Christians of the South. For Cruz to lose this base would be an enormous blow; perhaps an insurmountable one. Texas is the state to watch today for Cruz. If he is unable to win his home state by a decently large margin, his campaign is likely finished.
Senator Marco Rubio has the most to prove today. Finishing second in both the South Carolina and Nevada contests, Rubio is hoping to ride this momentum into Super Tuesday. Although not his target demographic, picking up a large portion of delegates in the South would serve to affirm Rubio’s status as a national candidate. He is in a good position to beat expectations and garner further support from establishment Republicans to further coalesce this critical group.
Businessman Donald J. Trump is well poised to sweep the Super Tuesday states. After Super Tuesday, over 25% of the total delegates will have been allocated, and Trump will remain in the best position moving forward to secure the Republican nomination.
1. RCP Average as of 2/20/16
3. NBC News Exit Polls