Obviously, Donald Trump had a very good and better than expected primary on Tuesday sweeping all five states. His closest rival Ted Cruz is mathematically eliminated from a victory on the first ballot at the convention in Cleveland in July. But, that was a foregone conclusion after New York pretty much and obviously Cruz’s strategy is to deny Trump the 1,237 delegates to win on the first ballot so that he could capture the nomination on a later ballot, perhaps as early as the second.
Still and all, there is no denying that Trump had a good day. These primaries represent the sixth consecutive contest where he garnered greater than 50% of the vote on a statewide basis. It may be his last, however, for reasons to be explained shortly.
Even in the bluest of blue states, one can find pockets of conservatism. Let’s take the example of tiny Delaware. As one moves south through the state, the area becomes increasingly conservative with the southern Sussex County being the most conservative. One would expect the most consistently conservative candidate- Ted Cruz- to perform the best there. But, Trump took greater than 71% of the vote in Sussex County with Cruz actually a distant third. This is a trend seen in New York where Trump was expected to win in the urban areas. Even in the rural northern counties of New York, Trump managed to win. To me, that is what stood out the most about New York.
Pennsylvania is a whole different story. By winning the state overall, Trump garnered 17 delegates. The method of delegate selection by congressional district is where the bulk of the delegates are- 54 in all. Others here have detailed the confusion regarding delegate selection by congressional district in Pennsylvania as we headed into Tuesday.
Of those 54 delegates, about half (or 27) stated they would commit to whoever won the statewide vote or the congressional district vote (if they hadn’t already committed otherwise and let it be publicly known). Donald Trump carried every county in Pennsylvania and every congressional district. His lowest percentage was 52% on a congressional district basis with many exceeding 60%. This included the metropolitan counties, suburban counties and rural counties. If he showed any weakness, it was in the very important (in a general election) suburban counties around Philadelphia. Note: I also find it interesting that in the western counties bordering Ohio, Trump also outperformed John Kasich by wide margins.
If we take those unbound Pennsylvania delegates at their word, it will be increasingly difficult for them do go back on their word. In fact, it may make persuading uncommitted and unbound delegates very difficult to commit to anyone but Trump.
In a previous article in the lead up to Tuesday, this writer held out hope that Trump would be held to something in the range of 40-43% of the overall vote in Pennsylvania. That would lay seeds of doubt in the minds of uncommitted unbound delegates who previously announced they would mirror the state or congressional district outcomes. Unfortunately, at 56% of the vote statewide, those hopes are dashed unless delegates were previously committed to Kasich or Cruz and they won. Among the others, it may be too large of a task to woo them. One would expect Trump to take at least 40-45 of the 54 unbound delegates.
The same situation and trend holds true for Maryland where Trump will get the lion’s share of their delegates. Even in the conservative panhandle counties and those of the 2nd district to the east, Trump won those areas handily.
Two thoughts come to mind. First, we know the average Trump voter is “low information.” If true, then there a lot of low information voters out there, especially in the Northeast. But, the fact is that Republicans in the Northeast are not particularly “conservative” in the truest sense. But would that explain why the most conservative of the Northeastern “conservative” areas voted for Trump?
Instead, the dynamic may be something I like to call “inevitability creep.” I am of the belief that a certain degree of reservation that Trump will be the eventual nominee may be the cause of his better than expected performance in these areas.
Which brings me to the second thought- how can it be thwarted? Obviously, a Cruz victory would put a brake on some Trump momentum as he breaks out of the Northeast. That line of thinking reminds me of the Cruz Southern firewall hypothesis that proved false.
Cruz is running out of states and delegates, although he likely will succeed in holding Trump below the 1,237 threshold to win on the first ballot. After California, Indiana is the state richest in delegates. It is basically a winner-take-all state so the stakes are high. Ted Cruz must perform well statewide and within each congressional district if he hopes to take their 54 delegates.
When there were five candidates in the race, this writer circled May 3rd and Indiana as potentially the most important on the calendar. With three candidates, that ink is now bright red! Generally a conservative state, they are pragmatically conservative. Here is hoping that this pragmatism translates into a decisive Ted Cruz victory on all levels. The presence of John Kasich may deny Cruz that “decisiveness,” which would be unfortunate but makes their “deal” understandable.
Therefore, Indiana may be, more than any other state, the bell weather for the Cleveland convention and the fate of the important unbound delegates that can potentially put Trump over 1,237 delegates on the first ballot.