Part of the long awaited northeast swing in the primary race will feature Maryland on April 26th. If you’re a Republican, your first response is likely something along the lines of, “who cares?” It’s generally a fair question, because aside from the somewhat curious election of Governor Hogan, the state is pretty much owned lock, stock and barrel by the Democrats. But they’ve got 38 delegates to kick in for the convention and every one of them counts this year so the candidates have to pay attention.
On the Democrats’ side, a recent poll shows Hillary Clinton hanging on to a slimmer than expected 15 point lead, 55-40. That’s bad news for Bernie Sanders on two fronts, because first of all, he doesn’t need to follow up his recent string of victories with a series of losses in Democratic strongholds. But even more to the point, it’s another proportional split for the Donkey party and even a narrow victory wouldn’t gain him much ground on Clinton. Sanders needs to knock out some big wins if he hopes to realize his quickly vanishing dream of catching up in the earned delegate race.
As for the Republicans, it likely won’t come as much of a shock to see that Donald Trump is still performing well. You might not know it from the description in the Washington Post, though.
On the Republican side, Trump has a slight edge among likely voters, garnering 41 percent of their support compared with Kasich’s 31 percent and 22 percent for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas). Although the 10-point margin bodes well for Trump, it is not statistically significant given the survey’s sample size of 283 likely Republican voters.
Kasich, who has won only his home state, has been banking on a strong showing in northeastern states to show he’s a serious candidate. He leads among Maryland college graduates with 43 percent, ahead of Trump’s 28 percent and Cruz’s 23 percent support. In 2012, 56 percent of Maryland’s GOP primary voters had college degrees, one of the highest shares in the nation.
Trump is buoyed by support from Republicans without college degrees, leading with 51 percent among this group compared to Kasich’s 22 percent and Cruz’s 21 percent.
We should start with a couple of notes about that poll. First of all, most candidates at this stage of the game would be fairly happy with a ten point lead. As to the sample size, it’s admittedly smallish, but 283 probably represents about a quarter of the registered Republicans in Baltimore, so what’s a pollster to do?
The Maryland GOP primary is another winner take most system, with all three delegates from each of their eight congressional districts being awarded winner take all. Further, the remaining 14 at large delegates are winner take all to the overall state victor. So if Trump’s margin holds for the next two and a half weeks and he can carry, let’s say… six districts, then he cleans up with 32 delegates. (At least on the first ballot.)
But who carries the remainder, particularly in the collar areas near the DC beltway? Kasich is doing better than Cruz in Maryland at this point, so it’s not unlikely that he could pick up a half dozen or so and leave the Texas senator out in the cold. (This is similar to the situation in New York where Kasich is currently running a strong second behind Trump’s 52%.) The reason I’m paying more attention to these numbers now is that the #NeverTrump movement is banking heavily on Ted Cruz closing the gap significantly before the convention, fueling their plans for him to negotiate his way to victory later on if Trump can’t close the deal with 1,237 on the first round. The more states which hand their second place delegates to the mathematically eliminated Kasich, the fewer show up in the Cruz column.
The further back Cruz is in the delegate race, the more ground he has to make up during the back room dealings. Also, the wider the gap between Trump and the second place finisher, the louder the howls of protest will be from all of his supporters about The Big Steal if it comes about. That bodes ill for reconciliation after the convention when Cruz will need to somehow convince all of those Trump voters to get on board for November.