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That’s it for our live blog, people. It was a momentous night for U.S. politics. Harry just unpacked the night’s Democratic primary results, but there is still so much more to say. We’ll also have two separate posts for you: an analysis/retrospective of Cruz’s failed campaign by Clare, and, a little later, a look forward to what happens to Trump and the Republican Party from Nate. Thanks for reading!
The Democratic race remains fundamentally unchanged after tonight’s win by Sanders. Yes, his victory was somewhat surprising, given that all of the polls had Clinton winning and by an average of 7 percentage points. And yes, Sanders has promised to fight on in the primary until perhaps the convention. The problem for the Sanders campaign remains delegate math and demographics.
Right now, Sanders looks like he’ll earn about five to 10 more delegates than Clinton in Indiana. That means Clinton will have an elected delegate lead by the end of the evening of around 280 to 285 delegates. In order to catch Clinton in the elected delegate count, Sanders would need to win over 65 percent of the remaining elected delegates. That’s actually higher than it was before Indiana voted.
Perhaps as importantly, there’s not anything in the Indiana result that should make one think that Sanders has dramatically changed the result. According to a demographic model published last week by Nate, Sanders was expected to win the state of Indiana by 7 percentage points. That’s about the size of his lead right now. Indeed, you can look at the exit polls and see that Clinton is holding onto the demographic groups she usually wins. For instance, she is beating Sanders among black voters by 52 percentage points. That’s actually slightly better than she did among black voters in New York.
I know that some people will think tonight’s polling error in favor of Sanders could be predictive of errors to come. As I pointed out in a different post, it’s actually par for the course so far in this primary. It’s nothing like the Michigan polling error we saw earlier in the campaign. Sanders will need far larger polling errors going forward to have a shot at the nomination.
As I said at the top, Sanders will continue to fight on, and he will win votes. He looks like the favorite in the West Virginia primary, for example, which is coming up next. He’ll also do well in the remaining states in the middle of the country. Still, it looks like Clinton and Trump are going to be the nominees of their party.
We’re always on the lookout for potential new ways to forecast election results, even as we remain skeptical about whether they work. Here’s an update on how two measures of online interest in the candidates did in the Republican race today:
Google search volume continues to be a decent proxy for how Republican primaries and caucuses will play out. Trump dominated in searches all day — until Cruz announced he was suspending his campaign and achieved a Pyrrhic victory.
Meanwhile, TweepsMap projected a Trump landslide based on its analysis of the geographic location of the candidates’ Twitter followers and their engagement in the last 24 hours before the primaries. On the GOP side, Trump had the most Indiana followers, and was the subject of the most positive hashtags in the state. This has less of a track record than the Google Trends approach, but at least today, in this race, it pointed the right way.
Now that we can call Trump the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party, I suppose, Democrats seem to be bouncing back and forth between glee and panic. Which is the more evidence-based emotion?
Back when we thought political science mattered, there were two pretty consistent schools of thought that suggested candidates and campaigns were less important than news reports often suppose. Election forecasts based on what political scientists like to call the “fundamentals” — the state of the economy, how long the incumbent party has been in office, and how popular the incumbent is — are usually pretty accurate. Second, polarization has emerged as a powerful force in American politics. With an electorate that’s pretty set in its party preferences, it’s not too hard to figure out what the vote might look like. All of this suggests that the GOP nominating a wild card like Trump doesn’t matter that much.
But candidates do sometimes underperform based on what the “fundamentals” suggest, and campaigns may well play a role in helping voters figure out the cues from the political environment. In particular, voter mobilization seems to have been a big part of the story for Obama’s last two campaigns.
Mobilization is perhaps the biggest question mark for a Trump general-election candidacy. He’s made some friends within the elite party tent, but not that many. Will the party coalesce around him and mobilize on his behalf? Or does the candidate really matter when it comes to inspiring these efforts?
The exit polls on the Democratic side look familiar: Sanders dominated among young and independent voters, Clinton among old voters and black voters. Consistent with Sanders’s gains as votes were counted, he also won among late deciders, getting 55 percent of the vote from people who decided in the last few days. That could mean his campaign’s claim that voters in upcoming primaries will turn toward him as they get to know him more has some merit. It could also reflect the decision by the Clinton campaign to spend virtually nothing on advertising in Indiana, since it has such a formidable lead among delegates.
Now that common sense, conventional wisdom and the betting markets have converged on the near-certainty of a Clinton vs. Trump general-election matchup, what can polls tell us at this point about who would win? It’s far too soon to believe exactly what the polls say at this stage — only after the conventions do they get really predictive. Still, if you’re wondering, lots of pollsters have been asking voters this question for a while, and Clinton consistently wins in the hypothetical matchup.
HuffPost Pollster has Clinton beating Trump by about 7 percentage points on average. And her lead has been remarkably steady: She has led in all but two of the last 58 polls the site has compiled. In the two exceptions, Trump is level with Clinton in one, and ahead by 2 points in another. Perhaps because the two are such longstanding national figures with major name recognition, an average of just 10 percent of respondents have said they are undecided. Again: Take these polls with a generous pinch of salt.
And P.S. to that House post: Our ratings at the Cook Political Report show that Democrats would need to win 34 of 36 competitive seats to win the House. That’s an extremely tall order.
In the House, where Democrats would need to pick up 30 seats, Republicans are more insulated by gerrymandering and the fact that filing deadlines are now closed in over 80 percent of districts. On a micro level, it’s extremely difficult to count 30 GOP seats that Democrats have a chance to win. But on a macro level, if Clinton does end up beating Trump by more than 8 points nationally, there could be some surprises, particularly in highly educated and heavily minority districts. So maybe Trump changes my range from Dems picking up five to 15 seats to perhaps 10 to 20, but that’s still a long way from 30.
Trump’s nomination will put the Senate super in play. Democrats only need four seats, if Clinton wins the presidency. Democrats are already winning in Illinois and Wisconsin. They may be up in Ohio, if you believe some of the polls. The races in Florida and New Hampshire are too close to call. And now we’re hearing murmurs that Iowa, Missouri and North Carolina could be in play. As for the House, I’m less sure. Yes, Trump could erode the Republican hold on it, and I know our own Dave Wasserman and The Cook Political Report has been moving races more toward the Democratic column. Still, that’s far harder to project given that Democrats need to pick up 30 seats for a majority.
I don’t know, but in some ways, the lack of a contested convention makes it easier for them. There’s nothing compelling them to endorse Trump or endorse #NeverTrump — they can just stay silent on him and see how things develop. To some extent, it could be a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy. If Trump’s polls against Clinton still look bad a couple of months from now, a lot of people will want off the train. If he’s in a competitive race, I think the blue-state Republicans will still keep their distance, but many of the purple-state ones will come along.
A question for the panelists here: What’s your best guess on how many Republican members of Congress will end up refusing to endorse Trump? Five? Ten? Twenty? Thirty? Keep in mind, there are 26 GOP House members and seven GOP senators who currently represent Obama states and districts. Of those 33, all but five are running for re-election in November.
Trump’s challenge getting the support of women voters continued in Indiana. He won just 47 percent of women, according to the exit polls, compared to 59 percent of men. He still won the plurality of women voters, but his lead was just 6 percentage points over Cruz, compared to a lead of 26 percentage points over Cruz among men.
NBC News projects Sanders has won in Indiana.
We pointed out a few weeks ago that most GOP governors, senators and representatives had not endorsed any of the remaining candidates. Using our weighting system — 10 points for endorsements from governors, five points for endorsements from U.S. senators and one point for endorsements from U.S. representatives — we saw that only 22 percent of available points had been awarded to a candidate still in the race, the lowest share since at least 1980. With Cruz dropping out, that percentage drops to 18. The question now will be whether more Republican elites will rally around Trump or continue to sit this cycle out and not endorse anyone.
In the end, Cruz ran a pretty good campaign — in a field of 17 candidates, the second-place candidate probably deserves some credit. But he was also, in his own way, just as much a factional candidate as Trump, instead of someone who was able to unite or interested in uniting the Republican Party.
It’s easy to look back now and say that Trump had a lock on the race all along, but we know that nomination races are fairly path-dependent — small things can make a big difference. So, yes, I’m an unforgivable Marco Rubio fanboy who wonders what would have been if Rubio had a better debate in New Hampshire, knocked Kasich out, won a few more states on Super Tuesday and emerged as Trump’s main opposition instead of Cruz. To some extent, Rubio would have combined Cruz’s and Kasich’s strengths, while also having more support from party elites, potentially making him more of a consensus choice as the rest of the field consolidated.
We often talk about the “base” of the Republican primary. I don’t know what the base exactly is, but I’ve often heard it described as the ideological base (i.e., very conservative voters). Well, that base is not in love with Trump. Even as he wins easily in Indiana, he’s losing self-described very conservative Republican primary voters 54 percent to 41 percent. Moreover, Trump is losing those who attend church at least once a week 63 percent to 28 percent. It’ll be interesting to see how these very conservative and very religious voters react to Trump’s nomination. Cruz himself gave them little direction in his speech this evening.
We’ve watched a lot of Republican candidates go down this year. But Ted Cruz’s speech feels the most like a wrap-up of the Reagan era. He’s talking about – and to – the conservative movement. His speech referenced Reagan and the Cold War. And then it pivoted to a discussion of terrorism and ISIS and health care and “race wars.” In other words, it’s not 1988 anymore, a year when the Republican Party nominated a sitting vice president for the first time in almost 30 years, and won a third term in the White House for the first time since Herbert Hoover’s election in 1928. The issues are new ones, and the terms of debate have changed. I doubt that’s what Cruz had in mind, but that’s how it sounded to me.
It’s been fairly obvious for over a month that Clinton would be the Democratic nominee, while the GOP race has been much more dramatic and complex. But what’s remarkable — and distressing for Democrats — is that while Trump has made amazing gains in the GOP race that have culminated in Cruz leaving the race tonight, the Democratic race has remained fairly static, with Sanders continuing to win lower-income, less diverse states like Indiana.
The psychology of Democratic voters continues to look detached from the reality of delegate math. Trump and Clinton are both pretty much presumptive nominees at this point, but Trump is winning Indiana with about 51 percent of the vote tonight while Clinton is taking only 47 percent and could end up even lower. As Trump consolidates Republican support, it’s more apparent than ever that Clinton needs a strong Sanders endorsement to unite the Democratic base.
Sanders will be under heavy pressure to provide just that when Clinton, in all likelihood, officially clinches a majority of delegates on June 7.
In one way, the Cruz-Kasich Indiana alliance did work. Kasich is only earning 8 percent of the vote right now in Indiana. Moreover, Cruz is actually beating Kasich among moderate voters. It just wasn’t enough, as Trump is at 51 percent of the vote. You cannot beat a candidate who is earning a majority of the vote.
Ted Cruz announces he is suspending his campaign.
OK, so in a normal year, we might imagine that the Democratic and Republican nominees would be working to turn out their respective bases in the few competitive states that still exist on the U.S. electoral map.
But this is not shaping up to be a normal year. Trump is an unconventional nominee for at least three reasons: he has no formal political experience; he’s made a variety of statements that you don’t normally make in American politics (about women, about Muslim immigrants, about Mexican immigrants); and he’s been heartily disavowed by many party leaders, including the party’s last nominee.
So the question with Trump is less about ideology – in fact, many of the criticisms of him from established party members are that he’s not a true conservative – and more about whether he can or will transform himself into a more mainstream candidate. Or whether he will want to.
I can’t predict whether that will happen, but the more interesting question in my mind is the implications of that choice. In some ways, it’ll be more remarkable if, after all of this, Trump tones down his rhetoric, reads up on policy, and invites party leaders over for steaks and vodka.
But what if the more readily imaginable scenario is the one we see – that Trump continues his campaign in a similar vein, creating an opportunity for a Democratic presidential landslide? This will likely be a big moment for Republican rebuilding and introspection, and since there were so many candidates and perspectives this year, it will be hard to know who to blame.
Cruz is about to drop out of the Republican race, according to an array of well-sourced reporters on Twitter. Mathematically, that makes sense. After Trump’s huge win in Indiana tonight, Cruz’s delegate math was extremely daunting. National polls have also turned further against him, and most Republicans don’t want a contested convention, which was Cruz’s only chance at winning. I’m going to hold off on further comment until I hear more of Cruz’s speech, and watch whether he hints about an endorsement of Trump, or stays neutral or negative toward Trump in an effort to position himself toward 2020.
Following up on Nate, this wouldn’t be a shocking polling error in Indiana. Right now, Sanders is holding a 4 percentage point lead in Indiana. Yes, none of the pre-election polls had Sanders winning. And yes, the average of polls taken over the past three weeks had Clinton up by a little over 7 percentage points in Indiana. But before the Wisconsin primary, I calculated that a poll before a caucus or primary had an average error of 11 percentage points. In other words, right in line with the error there appears to be in Indiana right now.
For some perspective on Indiana, our final polling average had Clinton up by around 7 percentage points. By comparison, her lead in Michigan was in excess of 20 points — about three times as high. That was a historic upset for Sanders; this would be a pretty normal primary miss. If Sanders wins Indiana, it would be the second state so far — after Michigan — where the FiveThirtyEight polling average has miscalled the winner.
So it looks like the polls are going to be wrong on the Democratic side in Indiana? Where will this stack up in terms of polling misses this year?
Just a moment of reflection for those millennial readers who have never owned a TV and are following these Indiana results the good old fashioned Twitter/refresh way; the scene on cable television right now is quite a thing. Steve Schmidt, of “Game Change”/John McCain ’08 fame, really captured the gloomy mood when he said, “Republicans need to ask whether they love their country more than their party.”
We’ve all be gradually realizing the mathematical odds stacking up for Trump, but the chatter amongst the TV people is currently what sort of convention Trump will throw in July, and that is truly a moment; the party planning says it all.