Peak Trump?

Thanks to fladem for another well-informed view of Republican delegate scenarios. His earlier posts in this series are available here. -promoted by desmoinesdem

Just before Super Tuesday here, I suggested that the possibility of a GOP brokered convention was rising. Just over a month later, as I will show, those odds have risen considerably. Before I walk through the math, let me start with some observations:

1: We are in uncharted territory.

The last time the GOP had a nomination fight that lasted this long was 1976. Many of the upcoming states have not been seriously contested since then. In fact, one, New York, has NEVER had a primary fight that was truly contested. Any prediction is necessarily very speculative.

Another related point: frequently people tend to underestimate how volatile primary elections can be. Huge swings in momentum are not uncommon.

This is always a good rule, but is particularly true in this case: humility is in order.

2. The two leading candidates for the GOP nomination are deeply flawed, and the most disliked major candidates for their party’s nomination in modern political history.

The only candidate that is really comparable is Bill Clinton. Before the Democratic Convention, Clinton’s favorable/unfavorable rating was 15 positive, 40 negative. It is worth noting, though, that a large portion of the country had not formed an opinion about Clinton. Trump and Cruz’s numbers are astounding – over half of the country does not like them. Note that in September of 1972 even George McGovern had a favorable unfavorable rating of 54-41 in a Gallup poll.

Trump’s unfavorable numbers, and his performance in trial heats against Clinton, will I suspect play an increasingly large role in the upcoming primaries. In general party members try to avoid catastrophe, and Trump very much looks like one.

3. State delegate rules will matter a great deal

Perhaps nowhere is this more obvious than Pennsylvania, where delegate names not tied to a candidate appear on the ballot. These delegates will not be bound to their candidate. Predicting how committed to a candidate a delegate is is basically impossible. Campaigns will advertise for delegates who have promised to commit to them, but it is hard to know how much of an effect this will have. Similarly, in NY 81 delegates will be selected based on 2-1 allocation (candidate with the highest total gets 2, next highest 1) unless a candidate gets over 50% of the vote in that CD. With Trump over 50% in the latest polling he may win the vast majority of those delegates. But a small shift in percentages will have an enormous effect of the allocation of those delegates.

4. This is going to be VERY close

Trump may or may not get a majority of the delegates. But is unlikely to be 150 more than or less than that in either direction.

I have been running a GOP delegate projection since November of last year. The chart below summarizes this projection. This prediction is based on taking the polling and modeling each CD to come up with an estimate for the result. I have improved this methodology since I began: I have analysed the variation in individual CD’s to more accurately estimate the results of states with winner take all by CD rules.

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Nevertheless, there are reasons to doubt this analysis. As a result, I ran the following scenarios.

The detail behind these scenarios is described below. But I want to make a point here: you need 1237 for a majority. Stopping Cruz is not dependent on winning NY, PA and California. Trump can win all three and still be short a majority. We are not talking about large swings of momentum. In fact, I think it IS PROBABLE that Trump will not get to 1237.

But almost as important – he is likely to be within 100 or so of that number. Additionally, he is likely to be at least 150 delegates ahead.

The politics of that situation are not really foreseeable. Early this year when Trump become prominent I re-read “The Making of the President 1964”. When convention disasters are discussed, usually the first topic is 1968 and the riots. But the 1964 GOP convention was every bit the disaster. It was the story of a Party that was literally coming apart at the seems.

I am usually a believer that parties usually find a way to unite in their hatred of the other side. But the story of the GOP convention is likely to be decided as much by the players at the Convention as by delegate math. Will cooler heads prevail? Or anger, which plays such a large role in the Cruz and Trump’s campaigns be too much to contain.

Here is what can happen when that anger becomes too much too contain. In 1964 Nelson Rockefeller, the candidate with the second most delegates, said this, and it was obvious he was talking about the eventual nominee.

These extremists feed on fear, hate and terror. They have no program for America – no program for the Republican party. They have no solution for our problems of chronic unemployment, of education of agriculture, or racial injustice or strife.

These extremists have no plan and no program to keep the peace and bring freedom to the world.

On the contrary – they spread distrust. They engender suspicion. They encourage disunity. And they operate from the dark shadows of secrecy

The GOP essentially tore itself apart at the convention in 1964. Given who Trump and Cruz are, it would not shock me to see the same happen this year.

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Scenario 2 looks at the results of caucuses to date. Cruz has won 143 of the 224 delegates that Cruz and Trump have combined from the caucus. This scenario applies that proportion to the remaining caucuses.

Scenario 3 models the result if Trump is held below 50 in New York (he is currently averaging 53%)

Scenario 4 assumes Cruz wins Indiana. Cruz won Wisconsin this week, and Indiana is arguably more friendly than Wisconsin. Equally importantly: Indiana does not allow independents to participate in the caucus: which is a significant source of Trump’s strength. This is likely.

Scenario 5 makes an attempt at a realistic outcome of Pennsylvania. Make no mistake – this is guess work.

Scenario 6 assumes Cruz wins Montana based on his performance elsewhere in the West. This is speculative.

Scenario 7 assumes Cruz narrowly wins California (he trails by about 6 there).

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