Ted Cruz and those who are aligning to find some way to “stop” Donald Trump from gaining the GOP nomination this summer may have something to look forward to in Wisconsin, but there are bigger battles looming down the road. Some of the largest, at least for now, look as if they will be throwing cold water on the Texas senator’s efforts. The Sacramento Bee reports that California, with the largest block of delegates out there, is still holding strong for the business mogul even after the field has thinned to three men.
The Public Policy Institute of California poll showed support for Trump at 38 percent among likely Republican voters, followed by Ted Cruz at 19 percent and John Kasich at 12 percent. Marco Rubio, the Florida senator who ended his presidential bid last week, received 12 percent in the poll taken March 6 to March 15.
With the totals recalculated to account for Rubio’s departure, Trump remained at 38 percent while support for Cruz grew to 27 percent and Kasich to 14 percent. Under that scenario, Trump, a billionaire businessman and political newcomer, bests the others with voters across all age, education, gender and income groups.
It’s important to keep in mind that California doesn’t vote until June which, in political terms, is several lifetimes away. Anything could happen to make those numbers shift, but it’s also impossible to ignore a trend which has been holding steady for months now. Trump is a strong candidate in the Golden State and nothing thus far has shaken him from the top slot.
Meanwhile, Trump is up by 52 points in New York according to the latest polling from last week. Back in January The Donald was only at 34%, but by the end of February he had climbed to 45, even as Kasich surged from the back of the pack to 18%. Something has gone sour for the Ohio governor in the Empire State though, and in just a few weeks time Kasich has sunk back down to 1% in the latest Emerson poll. That’s the one which has Trump dominating the field at 64… a thirty point increase in two months.
The way the delegates are allocated in these two states works out to Trump’s best advantage if the current polling numbers hold. Both states have a hybrid system rather than winner take all, but there are key differences between the two which are important to understand as we work through the middle portion of the primary race.
Taking them in the order they occur, New York’s “winner take most” system is a bit less proportional than it looks at first glance. Of the 95 delegates up for grabs, 14 at large delegates are awarded proportionally to the candidates, but they have a 50% trigger for winner take all. If Trump holds the astronomic numbers he’s currently enjoying that won’t be a problem. But even if he slipped below 50 by a small bit, New York has a 20% basement threshold. Currently Cruz is at 11 and Kasich is at one. Unless they can get above 20 it’s winner take all anyway.
The remaining 81 delegates are divided up, 3 for each of the state’s 27 congressional districts. These are also theoretically “proportional” in that the first place candidate gets two in each district with second place getting one. But the same rules I mentioned above apply at the district level. In any district where either Trump breaks 50 or Cruz and Kasich both fall below 20, Trump gets all three. With that sort of formula in play it’s unlikely that Trump takes 95, but he could very easily take 80 or more.
California, as I noted above, is the race where Cruz is closer to Trump than in New York, but their rules for delegate allocation are a bit different. Similar to New York, they only have 13 at large with more than 160 divided up among the congressional districts. But unlike the Empire State, all of those individual packets of delegates are winner take all with no 50% requirement and no worries about a threshold. One candidate can win the state by a few percent and squeeze out wins in most of the districts by slim margins and take all 3 delegates in each location. There are bound to be a larger number of districts going to the second place finisher in a close contest, but the winner could still mop up 140 or more without breaking a sweat if the averages carry across most of them.
Keeping these rules in mind, if you could only be ahead by a little in one state and by a lot in the other, you’d definitely want the big lead in New York and the narrower margin in California, which is precisely what Trump has at the moment. Trump is currently sitting at 739 delegates. If he manages to snag 80 out of New York and even 130 in California, that puts him in the neighborhood of 950. Can he find another 280 out of the rest of the states? There are five primaries with two big northeastern ones on April 26th, five more in May and four others that go on the same day as California, including New Jersey. If Trump can’t do it then it’s probably going to be darned close.