This is the last instance- other than New Jersey on June 7th- of an East Coast primary group which would be favorable to the front runner, Donald Trump. While most of the attention will be focused on Pennsylvania, it is important to remember that although the state is rich in delegates, only 17 are definitely up for grabs while 54 from the congressional districts will go to Cleveland “unbound.” It is not, unlike New York, even important that any candidate’s take at the congressional district level will be of interest. Instead, it will be the behind-the-scenes wrangling by candidates to secure commitments from delegates prior to arriving in Cleveland which will be important.
Delaware: Delaware is a closed primary with 16 delegates at stake in a winner-take-all manner of allocation. Composed of three counties, the population decreases as one moves south in the state and the voters become less “liberal” or “moderate.” The bulk of Delaware’s population lives in the northern county, but the largest concentration of Republican voters (population-wise) is in Kent County in the central part of the state. In the only poll out of the state, Gravis has Trump winning with 55% of the vote. Although I believe Trump will win New Castle county (in the north), a split vote in Kent between him and either Kasich or Cruz and a possible loss in the southern Sussex county will keep Trump below 50%. However, Trump will take all 16 delegates from Delaware.
Rhode Island: Rhode Island has 19 delegates at stake and they are awarded on a proportional basis. The bulk of the population and Republican voters are in Providence county. That would seem to benefit Trump. The only poll out of here was way back in February. It is difficult to see Cruz winning this state, although Kasich may deny Trump some much-needed delegates. In fact, the race will really be about Kasich versus Trump. I expect Trump to get at least 10 of the delegates with the other nine going to Kasich. Running count today: Trump 25, Cruz 0, Kasich 9.
Connecticut: With 28 delegates up for grabs, the biggest challenge here is to keep Trump below the 50% threshold to deny him 13 delegates at-large. If he hits 50%, he gets all 13. Because another 15 are awarded to the winner of each of the state’s five congressional winners, the winner of those districts gets all three delegates (unlike the New York 2/1 split unless over 50%, then all three). Again and like Rhode Island, Kasich could be the spoiler in preventing Trump from hitting 50%. The 5th district is perhaps the least friendly to Trump. Polls show Trump at or near the 50% mark so he’ll win the state without hitting 50%.
Depending on the final count, of the 13 at-large delegates, expect Trump to grab nine with Kasich getting the other four. Trump will likely win 4 of 5 congressional districts giving him 21 delegates and Kasich the other seven. Again, Cruz gets shut out. Running count today: Trump 46, Cruz 0, and Kasich 16.
Maryland: Maryland has 38 delegates up for grabs with 14 awarded to the winner of the state overall and the remainder awarded to the winner of the congressional district vote (three delegates times 8 districts is 24 more delegates). This state also favors Trump and he will likely win the 14 statewide delegates although polls show him under 50% overall. In neighboring Virginia, Trump did not do that well with Rubio being the preferred alternative. The question in Maryland is who is the alternative- Cruz or Kasich? I am going to split the difference and give Cruz at least two districts, Kasich at least two, and Trump the remaining four. That would give Trump 26 delegates out of Maryland, Cruz 6 and Kasich 6. Running count today: Trump 72, Cruz 6, Kasich 22.
Pennsylvania: This is considered the biggest state today, but there are really only 17 delegates (of 71) awarded today. They go to the statewide winner. Polls show Trump winning with Cruz a distant second. Here is where Kasich actually hurts Cruz’s chances. The average of polls shows Trump hovering somewhere near 40% with the remainder roughly split between Cruz and Kasich. In a two-man race, one would likely see more of a battle here, but Trump is the only one with a lot of advertisements (incidentally, it reminds me of that Gilligan’s Island episode where Gilligan was the dictator who promised the masses “Dis, dat and everything.” If you see it, you just want to scream “STOP! Stop there!,” but Trump keeps going on with a laundry list of promises).
Regardless, because the anti-Trump vote is split, Trump will take the 17 bound delegates by winning the overall state vote. But then it gets a lot more interesting. Of the remaining 54 delegates, they come from the winner of the congressional districts with 3 per district. Of the 54, roughly half have said they would likely support the winner overall in the state (Trump). However, if Trump does not knock it out of the ballpark, many of those delegates may rethink that strategy.
Further, unlike other states, the delegates listed on the ballot do not indicate their preference for the nomination. Thus, within the congressional district it is sort of like a popularity contest. Some of those listed delegates may have let their preference be known, while others have been cagey and are hedging their bets. Only an emphatic win for Trump (perhaps 45% statewide) would convince these delegates (or half of them) to go with Trump in Cleveland.
For Cruz, with the tactics used elsewhere to secure delegates the situation is different here. In previous efforts, it has been at state conventions- a captive audience. In Pennsylvania, it would take a tremendous ground effort because we are talking about over 1 million potential voters in a primary situation. Whether that ground game can guide these voters to a preferred delegate who supports Cruz is an important consideration. However, at the end of the day we can pretty much put the 17 at large delegates in the Trump column. Final daily tally: Trump 89 delegates, Cruz 6, and Kasich 22.
In short, look for Trump to sweep all five states which would likely eliminate Cruz’s mathematical chances of a victory on the first ballot, but he has as much conceded that fact. Of course, this will not stop the Trumpette supporters at Fox and CNN from declaring Trump the undisputed Republican nominee in a general election. Things change dramatically against Trump after April and it may come down to 53 micro-primaries in California on June 7th and/or New Jersey (winner take all).