After the repudiation Donald Trump suffered at the hands of Wisconsin voters yesterday, Trump supporters are screaming about voter fraud (in a Wisconsin GOP primary? Really? Are you on drugs?) and chortling about regaining momentum in the upcoming primary contests in Pennsylvania and New York. This is just another exercise in self delusion. As I pointed out yesterday, 54 of Pennsylvania’s 71 delegates are not bound to any candidate at any time. They are complete free agents. It would be possible for Trump to win a clear majority of the vote in Pennsylvania and only get 17 delegates. This is not merely theoretical. Given the abject incompetence of the Trump campaign the overwhelming odds are that no matter what they win at the ballot box in terms of popular vote will not be converted into voting delegates.
The next big goal for Trump fans is New York and its 95 delegates. This is Donald Trump’s home state and no one who has lost their home state in a primary stays in the race for long. But New York is not the given that Trump fans seem to think it is and it certainly is not the Holy Grail that puts Trump back in the driver’s seat heading toward the nomination.
What is driving the Trumpian confidence, naturally, are the polls. Like the one that had Trump winning Wisconsin by 10 points. I’d like to point out here that Trump does not have a private polling capability. He relies on public polls and, by all evidence, he believes them.
But things are rarely as simple as they seem.
New York is a closed primary state and the deadline for registering or changing parties passed on March 25. The unstoppable Trump Train of late March suddenly looks rather decrepit but those Trump supporters who are either not registered to vote or not registered as Republicans — an issue in a state with roughly a half dozen parties on the ballot — couldn’t know that. And because they didn’t register as Republicans, they will not be a factor at the polling booth.
As we’ve seen, over and over, polls overstate Donald Trump’s actual vote by about 5 points. Even so, the way New York award delegates is based on Congressional district:
For starters, the state’s 95 delegates will be awarded proportionally, rather than on a winner-take-all basis. Beyond that, 81 of those delegates are distributed on the basis of results in the state’s 27 congressional districts.
Trump could gain 14 delegates if he wins more than 50 percent of the statewide vote. Otherwise, he will share those delegates with any rival who tops 20 percent. In any congressional district where he falls short of 50 percent, even if he has the plurality of votes, he will give up one of the three delegates awarded in each of those districts. If he runs second in any district, he would pick up just one delegate.
If we assume Trump gets under 50% of the statewide vote, and I would contend that this is the most likely outcome, he gets about 7 of the 14 statewide delegates. Assuming he finishes first or second in each CD (for purposes of illustration I’m assuming he wins half and loses half), but under 50%, he’d pick up about 40 more. Instead of waltzing out with 95 delegates his total will probably be less than 50, or alternatively put, the anti-Trump effort gains 45 delegates. Yes, it would be a win, but in the fight to reach 1237 it will be a death blow.
So as you interact with Trump supporters and you find them ecstatic about the polls in Pennsylvania and New York, keep in mind that the only reason they are happy is because they simply don’t understand the game they think they are playing.