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We’re calling it a night. (Well, sort of: Harry will have more about Bernie Sanders’s shocking win in Michigan in a separate article later on.) In the meantime, here are my initial thoughts on why the polls in Michigan, which had Clinton ahead by 21 percentage points, got things so wrong.
I’ll also be posting some extended thoughts about Marco Rubio, who obviously had a terrible evening. In fact, Rubio may not net any delegates from any of Michigan, Mississippi and Idaho, having failed to hit delegate thresholds in all three states. It appears that some of this reflects tactical voting — there were a lot of late-deciders for Kasich — rather than a total collapse of Rubio’s image. So perhaps, just perhaps, he can hold out hope of that tactical voting working in his favor in his home state, Florida. But it’s an awfully long parlay — he’ll have to overcome very skeptical media coverage this week, then somehow win Florida despite already having been behind in polls, and then overcome a huge delegate deficit (or win at a contested convention) even if he wins his home state. Anyway, more on what’s going wrong for Rubio later.
For the other three Republicans, things were reasonably in line with expectations (or at least, FiveThirtyEight’s expectations). But note that things being in line with expectations is basically good news for Trump since he’s currently leading the nomination race.
Trump wound up with 37 percent of the vote in Michigan, a good sign with three big Midwestern states, Ohio, Illinois and Missouri, set to vote March 15. He ran especially strongly in southeastern Michigan, including in Macomb County, which was one famous for its “Reagan Democrats,” as well as in rural northern Michigan. There were still a few trouble signs — the exit poll showed Trump tying Cruz among women and losing to him in a hypothetical one-on-one matchup and (once again) faring mediocrely among late-deciders. But the results tonight take the notion that Trump was in some sort of free-fall largely off the table. He’s not invincible, but he won’t be easy to beat.
Trump also won Mississippi, getting 47 percent of the vote to 36 percent for Cruz. What’s the difference between Mississippi and Louisiana, which was closer? The difference may be that Mississippi was an open primary while Louisiana was a closed one, a factor to keep in mind going forward.
Cruz’s evening was reasonably good also, however, with two second-place finishes (very narrowly in Michigan ahead of Kasich) along with what looks like a fairly emphatic win in Idaho. He won’t lose many delegates to Trump — he’s down about 10 as I write this, with a chance to gain some back in Hawaii early this morning. Cruz had a reputation for being a regional candidate, but he now has won states in all four regions of the country: the Northeast (Maine), the Midwest (Iowa and Kansas), the South (Texas and Oklahoma) and the West (Idaho and Alaska). His chances look pretty good of emerging as the main challenger to Trump, much to the GOP establishment’s chagrin.
Kasich’s performance, on the surface, was somewhere between a par and a bogey. His final results in Michigan were in line with polling averages, although expectations were probably inflated in light of one poll that, in contradiction to the polling average, had Kasich winning Michigan. However, Kasich won’t pick up any delegates in Mississippi or Idaho. More to the point, he doesn’t really seem to have a plan to win the nomination without a contested convention and has admitted as much. Still, Kasich could possibly benefit from the fact that Rubio had an even worse night, especially given that Kasich seems more likely to win Ohio than Rubio is to win Florida.
There are a few possible explanations for the huge polling miss in the Michigan Democratic primary: For instance, if a significant number of Clinton supporters stayed home out of complacency or crossed over to the Republican primary to oppose Trump, that may have contributed to Sanders’s shocking win. We might get more explanations from pollsters soon — I’ve emailed several who showed Clinton ahead by 10 percentage points or more to ask why they think the polls were so far from the voting results.
Here’s another possible explanation: The most recent Michigan polls in our database stopped contacting voters Sunday, the night of the last debate, held in Flint, Michigan. Although many thought Clinton performed better than Sanders in the debate, perhaps voters felt differently. After many pollsters missed Ted Cruz’s Iowa win and suggested that Clinton would win Iowa easily — she won so narrowly that some call it a tie — several pollsters told us a lesson they learned: “Keep on contacting voters as late as possible.” But it’s up to poll sponsors to pay to contact voters until the final days of the race, and none did so in Michigan.
Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse for Marco Rubio, it has tonight. Buried in the drama is the fact that Rubio has yet to win a single delegate in tonight’s primaries. Not only did he fall woefully short of hitting Mississippi’s 15 percent delegate threshold and 6 percentage points shy of hitting Michigan’s 15 percent threshold, his current 18 percent in Idaho is just barely below the Gem State’s 20 percent threshold. Luckily for Rubio, Hawaii’s lack of a delegate threshold is likely to save him from a humiliating shutout. But Rubio’s mainland fortunes couldn’t have fallen any further.
Our colleagues at ABC News have called Idaho for Cruz.
Cruz now leads Trump by about 11 percentage points in Idaho, according to both The New York Times and Decision Desk HQ. The one caveat is that there are relatively few returns in from Ada County (Boise), where Trump is running a little better than his statewide figures. Still, it’s not a bad night for Cruz, who’s also pulled narrowly ahead of Kasich for second place in Michigan.
Michigan is a large and diverse state, and this makes summarizing its recent economic picture kind of difficult. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Michigan unemployment in December 2015 as 5.1 percent, about the same as the U.S. overall.
But Michigan has been at the center of symbolic discussions over the 2008 economic meltdown and the impact of inequality and environmental racism. After the big crash, the question about whether to bail out the auto industry symbolized what had gone wrong with the economy and forced Republicans and Democrats to articulate positions on government interference in the economy. The concept of “bailouts” spurred the tea party movement. In 2012, Mitt Romney’s “let Detroit go bankrupt” statement came back to haunt him. Michigan, where Romney’s father served as governor, handed Obama a nearly 10-point victory. Last weekend, Hillary Clinton tried to depict Sanders as having been on the wrong side of the issue, pointing out that he voted against the auto bailout when it was packaged with the financial industry bailout.
This year, Michigan — specifically Flint — has been at the center of the debate about the great disparity in health and safety across economic and racial lines. Democrats have worked to use the Flint water crisis to cast a shadow on Michigan’s Republican governor, Rick Snyder, and Republican governing philosophy in general. But it also highlights the fact that at the end of Obama’s presidency, all is not well with many of the people Democrats claim to represent.
Clinton’s accusation doesn’t appear to have stuck, however. As Nate, Clare and Harry have pointed out tonight, Sanders’s victory — just called as I write this — is a big surprise. And we’ll have to wait for more data to know exactly which voters drove the outcome. Symbolically, though, Michigan represents the efforts and limitations of the Obama administration. As Clinton runs to carry on the Obama legacy, this is a significant upset.
Q: Not sure if 538 is reading this message board — but I would really be interested in an article that addresses the question of whether Sanders or Clinton is “more electable” or actually (at this point in time) can be said to have a “better chance” against Trump/Cruz/Kasich (whomever wins). — commenter Josh Medly
A: Electability is tough to pin down. I think we can say with confidence how the potential candidates compare to candidates who’ve won (and lost) in the past. This is probably what makes Democrats, especially older ones who remember the 1980s, nervous — Sanders reminds them of liberal Democrats who got trounced in the general election. What we don’t know for sure is how these characteristics — ideology, or even personal characteristics such as age, religion or home state — will matter in 2016. The electorate evolves over time, both in terms of its ideological preferences and in terms of the kinds of qualities it looks for in a president.
Nate, you noted one reason Sanders pulled out his victory in Michigan: He’s losing to Clinton among black voters in the state by much less than he lost to her among black voters in previous states. That may be a sign that he gets more support from black voters outside the South, which if it persists past Michigan could help him stay competitive in the Democratic race. Most of the previous primary states with enough black voters to measure their presidential preferences in exit polls were in the Southeast and the Southwest. In those regions, Clinton led Sanders among black Democratic voters by 73 percent to 19 percent, or 54 percentage points, in an aggregation of all polls so far this year by Reuters. Everywhere else, her lead narrowed to 35 percentage points: 64 percent to 29 percent. Clinton’s lead in Michigan among black voters is exactly that: 35 percent.
In what might be one of the greatest shockers in presidential primary history, The Associated Press has called Michigan for Sanders. Most of the polls were not close, and any thought that Sanders would exit this race in the foreseeable future has been put to rest by a stunning victory.
With vote-counting in Mississippi almost complete, Trump leads Cruz 47.4 percent to 36.5. A very good performance, although it appears Trump will come in just shy of 50 percent. That extends a streak we’ve been tracking: So far, no Republican has achieved an outright majority of the vote in any of the 21 states to have voted to date (I’m counting Michigan and Mississippi among those 21 but not yet Idaho and Hawaii). Rubio did achieve a majority in a territory, Puerto Rico.
I am skeptical of the math working out for Clinton in Michigan given that Kent County (home to Grand Rapids) just reported a ton of votes on its election department page, and it has Sanders expanding his lead there.
One reminder about the Democratic calendar: Although there are a lot of reasonably good Clinton states on March 15 — according to both polls and demographics — we then have a stretch of states that look quite strong for Sanders. These include Idaho, Utah, Arizona, Alaska, Washington, Hawaii, Wisconsin and Wyoming, all of which vote from March 22 to April 9.
So if Clinton underperforms her polls on March 15 in states such as Ohio as she did tonight in Michigan — and pollsters probably ought to be checking their turnout models carefully after tonight — she could have a really long few weeks ahead, even though Sanders’s delegate math remains highly challenging.
We won’t know exactly how many delegates Sanders or Clinton will take out of Michigan until the results are final, but based on the numbers so far, The Green Papers estimates that Sanders would get 72 delegates and Clinton 58. That would put Sanders five delegates above his FiveThirtyEight target for Michigan and Clinton five delegates below.
Another chunk of Wayne just came in and Clinton is now down just 17,000 votes or so, but that’s still not a small advantage for Sanders. Still votes left in Wayne, Grand Rapids and Flint. We’ll see if it’s enough to make up the difference. I’m somewhat skeptical.
We’re getting some initial results in from Idaho, although they contradict each other. The New York Times had it Cruz 39, Rubio 28, Trump 22 with about 4,400 votes reporting. Conversely Decision Desk HQ, reporting different initial precincts, had it Trump 36, Cruz 33, Rubio 18 after about 4,300 votes.
Sanders’s lead just dropped to about 24,000 votes with some more of Wayne County reporting. Wayne (at 75 percent) is still behind the overall state count (81 percent) in terms of precincts reporting, but 24,000 is still a healthy lead. We’ll see what happens next.
Donald Trump has won Michigan, his first Midwestern victory.
One of the questions going forward, as the Republican “establishment” casts about for a path to stop Trump, is what will happen in the race for second place. John Kasich was the main hope for beating Trump in Michigan, but Ted Cruz is the clear second-place finisher in the GOP nomination race overall. Rubio’s strong second-place hopes seem far behind us.
From where we stand now, the South Carolina primary seems like a turning point. Trump showed that he could beat Cruz in the South, and a crucial fact emerged: Trump is a strong, consistent plurality candidate. The issue between Cruz and Rubio looked like one of coordination — if they could combine into one candidate, that candidate might well beat Trump.
There have been only a handful of contests in which “Med Crubio” wouldn’t have defeated Trump or come pretty close. That number includes New Hampshire, where Kasich took second place. And tonight’s race in Michigan shows Kasich and Cruz competing for second while Rubio is way down; you could combine his votes with either Kasich or Cruz and it wouldn’t touch Trump’s lead in that state (based on the last numbers I saw, 10:20 p.m. EST). However, Kasich and Cruz together would beat Trump.
So here’s the game as I see it now: Kasich may come to replace Rubio as the “establishment lane” candidate who can at least deprive Trump of a delegate majority. Cruz will probably remain the best bet to win a plurality in his own right. If Cruz comes in second place, the establishment will have a choice to make.
I said in our Slack chat today that I had a “gut feeling” that Sanders could beat his polling in Michigan. I also said, for the record, that you should mostly ignore that gut feeling. But it wasn’t a total shot in the dark. There were a few things that made me think a closer-than-expected result was possible:
- Our demographic model, as opposed to our polling model, suggested that Michigan could be relatively competitive. It had Sanders winning Michigan by 4 in an even national race. The national race isn’t even — instead, Clinton is up by 13 percentage points in our national poll average. But still, that would extrapolate to a high-single-digit or very-low-double-digit win for Clinton, and not the blowout pollsters were expecting.
- As I wrote earlier today, complacency was a risk for Clinton voters in Michigan, especially with an open primary with voters potentially casting ballots in the Republican contest instead. “In sports, we’d call Michigan a ‘let-down game,’” I said.
- Michigan has a history of polling upsets, such as John McCain winning the Republican primary in 2000 and John Engler beating Jim Blanchard in the gubernatorial race in 1992 despite being way behind.
Basically, I’m not sure that Michigan was ever really a 20-point race, as polls had it. Based on the demographics of the state, it probably narrowly favored Clinton. But then, perhaps some of her voters didn’t show up, or voted in the GOP primary instead, because it didn’t look like Clinton needed their vote. That might potentially be enough to push Sanders over the top, although it will be very close.
By the way, this is part of why we try to approach the primaries from multiple perspectives. Our polling averages are a useful tool, but not the only one we look at.
It’s possible that Clinton closes this gap, but people should understand that a 33,000+ vote deficit is a lot with 74 percent of the precincts reporting. Clinton’s going to need a lot of heavy lifting from the remaining votes out.
Sanders is up 4 points with 73 percent in … probably still a lot of vote out in Detroit, Flint, Grand Rapids, etc.
I just got back from walking my dog; where do things stand in Michigan?
We’re still waiting on the Michigan Dems’ side of the results, where the race is looking unexpectedly close between Clinton and Sanders. Exit polls coming out of the state are showing that about four in 10 Democrats said that electability and experience were most important to them — those people leaned Clinton — and six in 10 said honesty or empathy were most important, and those are people who have tended toward the Sanders side of the equation.
This, from our friends at ABC News, is interesting: “Eight in 10 voters in the Democratic contest in Michigan were more interested in an experienced candidate than in an outsider,” and although in the past Clinton has won this group by seven out of 10, her share in Michigan of this demographic is “just more than half” right now.
Could it be that some “main line” Michigan Dems — the exit polls say that seven out of 10 voters in the primary identify this way — decided that Clinton probably had things sewn up and decided to go with bit of a “heartstrings vote” in the form of Sanders? Maybe.
By this time in 2008, 42 states had held a primary or caucus (or both, in Washington’s case). The 2012 and 2016 elections have not been so front-loaded. So who’s choosing the Republican nominees in these early contests? The proportion of “swing” states that had voted by now has been about the same this year as it was in 2012.
What’s different is that twice as many strong Republican states will have cast their nomination votes by tomorrow morning — Southern strongholds such as Mississippi, Alabama and Texas, alongside Western states such as Idaho (and some states with nonbinding caucuses). And fewer states where Republicans lost big in the previous election are among the states voting up to this point. This shift is partly because states such as Washington took later slots this time and partly because states like Maine and Michigan moved from Democratic strongholds to the competitive column from 2008 to 2012.
I said earlier that this was a boring election night. I changed my mind. This is very exciting. Thank you to those of you who voted in the Michigan Democratic primary!
One thing helping Sanders tonight is a comparatively strong performance with African-American voters. He’s losing them only 65 percent to 30 percent in Michigan, according to exit polls, which doesn’t sound great but is much better than in other states, where he’s lost them as badly as 91 percent to 6 percent.
Could that bode well for Sanders in Illinois, Ohio and other states with black populations similar to Michigan’s? It certainly can’t be a bad sign for him. But some caution is required since we haven’t gotten much data on how black Democrats are voting outside of the South. (Exit polls were conducted in states such as Massachusetts and Iowa, but there weren’t enough black voters there for the exit polls to estimate the results.) That makes it harder to say whether Michigan is part of a trend or some sort of fluke — but obviously it’s something we’ll be analyzing in the days ahead.
One result that has stayed consistent on the Democratic side is that self-identified independents are far more likely to vote for Sanders. The current exit poll estimate is that he is winning them in Michigan by a 70 percent to 28 percent margin. Clinton, on the other hand, leads among self-identified Democrats by 57 percent to 41 percent. Although party registration doesn’t necessarily match identification, it gives you an idea that Sanders really benefits from open primaries.
There are still a ton of votes left out in Detroit and Flint. That’s why a lot of smart people on my Twitter feed think Clinton will pull this off, but to be honest it’s too close to call.
Is Bernie Sanders being boosted by high Democratic turnout in Michigan? It’s hard to say, because we don’t have a great reference point. In 2008, about 600,000 Democrats voted in the state’s primary. By contrast, about 600,000 have already voted this year with only half of precincts reporting. So that’s a huge turnout, right? Not so fast. In 2008, turnout was depressed in Michigan because Barack Obama’s and John Edwards’s names did not appear on the ballot — instead, Hillary Clinton ran against “uncommitted” after a dispute about Michigan having jumped too far ahead in the primary calendar. Meanwhile, Michigan Democrats held caucuses in 2000 and 2004. They did have a primary in 1992, again with about 600,000 Democrats participating, although that came fairly late in the primary calendar, after Bill Clinton was relatively assured of the nomination.
I know this may upset the Sanders fans (who don’t exactly love me), but our delegate targets say that Sanders should win Michigan by four delegates over Clinton in a race that’s tied nationally. The problem is that Sanders has already run well behind his overall delegate targets. That means he needs to be doing even better than them to really have a shot. This doesn’t mean it wasn’t a good night for Sanders — it definitely was. But the road ahead is long even if he pulls off what would be a shocking victory.
Close call, Micah, but he’s up only 1.8 percentage points with still more than half of Wayne County to count, and we saw how when Detroit counted, Sanders’s lead dropped from greater than 5 percentage points to less than 2 percentage points.
Harry, is Sanders going to hold on in Michigan?
Sometimes we, too, get caught up in the “expectations game” at FiveThirtyEight and on election nights focus on how a candidate performs relative to his polls and other information we’re looking at. In Michigan, for instance, Trump’s performance so far — he’s getting 37 percent of the vote and leading John Kasich by 11 percentage points — isn’t surprising because it’s almost exactly in line with pre-election polls. But it’s still a very good performance. Trump’s win in Michigan is broad-based — he’s winning the vast majority of counties and demographic groups along with the statewide vote. He’s having the best night of any candidate, Democratic or Republican, so far.
With Donald Trump having a good night, Republicans hoping to stop him will be thinking about next steps. One good sign for them is that the Michigan exit poll found Trump losing to Cruz 46 percent to 37 percent — with 12 percent of voters sitting out the race — in a hypothetical two-way matchup.
As Bloomberg’s Sahil Kapur reminds us, however, Cruz was once an unpalatable option to “establishment” Republicans and remains that way among his colleagues in the Senate, who have given him no endorsements. Cruz does have quite a few endorsements among state legislators, however, which could be important because state parties could potentially have quite a bit of power in the event of a contested convention.
And now a bit about our newest American ritual, the Trump election night speech/news conference, wherein the New York City businessman, in the great post-modernist tradition, unloads his stream-of-consciousness thoughts to his ready audience (no moocow mention this evening, but I’m sure we’re only a couple of victory speeches away from that).
Trump was basically talking to a group of his friends at one of his Florida properties. There was no rowdy crowd, and perhaps because of that, perhaps because he’s feeling more assured than ever, he was relatively subdued this evening — dare we say he was playing it presidential? Sure, he bookended his speech by bringing up the “$38 million of horrible, horrible lies” that people were spreading about him on the airwaves, but he intimated some telephonic ring-kissing on the part of Paul Ryan who “could not have been nicer.” After plugging Trump steaks and Trump magazine and promising that Trump University would start up “as soon as we win the lawsuit,” he also made sure to mention that former Yankees star Paul O’Neill — an Ohioan, Trump pointed out, with that state’s March 15 primary on his brain — was on his side.
While Bernie Sanders is getting great news in Michigan, Mississippi is a different story. He has just 15.8 percent of the vote counted so far, which is important because Mississippi (like all Democratic contests) has a 15 percent cutoff for allocating statewide and congressional district delegates.
As the vote count continues to come in from Michigan, Sanders is holding on to a 5 percentage point lead. This, of course, is not what the polls indicated would happen. Part of what’s going on, if the exit polls are to be believed, is that Sanders is losing black voters by only 32 percentage points. That’s not all of it, though. He’s also holding his own in the wealthier suburban counties around Detroit, such as Macomb and Oakland. In previous contests, Clinton did quite well with wealthier white voters. The question is what happens when more of Detroit and Flint report. Clinton needs big margins from there to win.
Michigan has open primaries, and it appears as though some voters who were interested in both races wound up voting on the GOP side. According to exit polls, 7 percent of Michigan Republican primary voters were Democrats; by contrast, 3 percent of voters in the Michigan Democratic primary were Republicans.
I’m looking on the Wayne County clerk’s website to try to get an idea of where the vote is being reported from in Wayne County. It seems, at least as of earlier this hour, that Detroit was at 0 percent. The nearly uniformly white areas of Grosse Pointe Shores and Plymouth were at 100 percent. In other words, the percentages coming out of Wayne County right now don’t really reflect how black areas are voting.
If the results in Mississippi hold, Trump should have no problem exceeding his FiveThirtyEight delegate target there. His target — based on polling data, demographics and social media data — was 17 delegates. With 13 percent of precincts reporting, he had 50.7 percent of the vote, and Cruz had 34.5 percent. Candidates must get at least 15 percent to qualify for any of the 28 statewide delegates, so only Trump and Cruz would split those. That would give Trump 17 delegates and Cruz 11 (because only Trump and Cruz are eligible for statewide delegates, Trump would end up with about 60 percent of the delegates and Cruz with 40 percent). That doesn’t include any of the 12 delegates awarded based on the results in each congressional district, many of which will surely go to Trump.
Cruz’s target for Mississippi was 19 delegates. He looks unlikely to hit that, but he’ll have a better chance of coming close if he can help deny Trump a majority of the vote in some congressional districts — a candidate who gets more than 50 percent in a district gets all three of its delegates; otherwise, the top candidate gets two and the second-place candidate gets one.
I said earlier today that I had an intuition Sanders could beat his polling in Michigan tonight, but I didn’t expect things to be quite so close. If Sanders winds up winning in Michigan, in fact, it will count as among the greatest polling errors in primary history. Clinton led by 21.3 percentage points in our final Michigan polling average. Previously, the candidate with the largest lead to lose a state in our database of well-polled primaries and caucuses was Walter Mondale, who led in New Hampshire by 17.1 percentage points but lost to Gary Hart in 1984.
These are the election nights I dread. Trump has won Michigan and Mississippi, and it was an easy call. Clinton crushed Sanders in Mississippi and is well-positioned in Michigan, where Detroit and Flint have yet to report. Fortunately, we still have a fight on our hands for second place on the Republican side in Michigan, and Idaho and Hawaii haven’t even started counting the votes yet.
Trump has long done somewhat better with male Republicans, but the gender gap seems to be growing. In Michigan tonight, according to exit polls, Trump won 44 percent of men, roughly doubling the support for Cruz (23 percent) and Kasich (22 percent). But he took just 28 percent of votes from Republican women, putting him in a rough three-way tie with Cruz (29 percent) and Kasich (26 percent).
So far, Ted Cruz is winning heavily Dutch and evangelical Ottawa County in Michigan with 47 percent, to 20 percent for Kasich and 19 percent for Trump. Trump will win Michigan tonight, but Cruz’s huge margin in this western Michigan county bodes well for his chances of overtaking Kasich for second place.
On the GOP side, it’s looking like a good night for polling averages in Michigan. Although one poll in the Republican race showed Kasich winning, there was quite a bit of polling in the state and the rest had Trump with the lead, sometimes a fairly big lead.
As a result, our “polls-only” forecast projected the tally at Trump 39, Cruz 23, Kasich 22, Rubio 13. Meanwhile, our “polls-plus” forecast had it Trump 37, Kasich 24, Cruz 23, Rubio 14. The results so far — with Kasich’s strongest areas probably overrepresented a bit and Cruz’s underrepresented — are Trump 38, Kasich 27, Cruz 22, Rubio 9. It looks as though Kasich picked up a few late votes from Rubio, but otherwise polling averages will have done a pretty good job.
But the news is not all good for the polls, with the Democratic race in Michigan much closer than polls projected.
Our friends at ABC News have joined the other networks in calling Trump the winner in Mississippi. The final margin is unclear, though Trump is up by 17 percentage points with 1 percent of precincts reporting.
If I were going to predict how future analyses will write about Rubio, I’d say that he has a pretty unhappy dilemma. He was the elite front-runner for long enough to matter. No one appeared to think Kasich had a shot. But then Rubio just hasn’t taken off with voters at all. Should Rubio drop out and make the establishment look totally defeated? Or should he stay in and ensure that the establishment actually is defeated?
One thing is clear: It’s looking like a terrible night for Rubio. He’s at just 9 percent in Michigan, which means he’ll get no delegates. The exit polls have him at only 9 percent in Mississippi, which means he’ll get zero delegates there too. Any way you slice it, he falls further behind in the delegate race, and even if he wins Florida next Tuesday, I’m not really sure what path Rubio has to a majority of delegates. His best hope is for a contested convention, and it’s not clear how strong he’d be in that scenario, either, with Kasich taking up the mantle of mainstream conservative alternative to Cruz and Trump.
A number of networks have called Mississippi for Trump. I have no reason to doubt he’ll win, but only a tiny fraction of the vote in two counties is currently being reported. I’d like to have just a little more of the vote to be sure. Meanwhile in Michigan, Trump is rolling through like Desmond Howard during one of his returns for the Wolverines back in the day. He’s winning in every part of the state while Kasich and Cruz slug it out for second place.
It’s pretty clear at this point that Donald Trump will win Michigan. He’s beating John Kasich in Oakland County now (the richest and best-educated large suburb in the state), and he’s well ahead of Cruz and Kasich in most rural counties. There could be an interesting battle for second place between Cruz and Kasich, though. Cruz is running well ahead of Kasich in rural and western counties, but Kasich is running well ahead of Cruz in the Detroit suburbs.
Meanwhile on the Democratic side in Michigan, we have very little of the vote reporting from Wayne County (Detroit). Wayne is home to a lot of African-American voters, so don’t read too much into the early returns until more of Wayne reports.
Marco Rubio is holding a rally right now in Florida — that’s notable, since it’s not a victory speech. It’s a shirt-sleeves-rolled-up, roaming-the-stage piece of imagery that the campaign is projecting out to the world, and I think could indicate that they’re worried about how he’s going to do tonight.
A Wall Street Journal/NBC News national poll that came out today put Rubio in last place among Republicans, behind Kasich. It’s interesting to reflect on that, as we await the Ides of March reckoning that is due next week in Ohio and Florida: Rubio has had the sheen of establishment savior on him for the last couple of months, since it became increasingly clear that Jeb Bush was not going to be the “it” boy of 2016. But Rubio was never truly establishment in his politics — he came up in the tea party wave. At one point, the Washington barometer read guys like Rubio as radical. John Kasich, who people have joked looks like a Democrat in the current field of GOP-ers, is the only one left who looks like what we used to think an establishment Republican looks like, right down to button-downs paired with zip-up fleeces and khakis. It’s an interesting shift that voters seem to be throwing that traditionalism some bones as we head into March and as Trump continues to look strong.
John Kasich has jumped out to a tiny early lead in Michigan, but it’s almost all from Oakland County, the wealthiest and best-educated area of the state. That’s fairly good news for Donald Trump, who ought to perform better vis-a-vis Kasich in the rest of the state.
Micah, there seems to be some difference in the exact percentages that Clinton may have won of the white vote from the Mississippi exit poll, but she has tended to do fairly well with white voters in the South. She won 59 percent of them in Alabama, for instance, which is right next door to Mississippi. That’s been one of the underreported parts of Clinton’s Southern dominance. Yes, she wins overwhelming majorities of black voters, but she isn’t doing too bad with white Democrats either.
Harry, what’s going on with Clinton winning the white vote so handily in Mississippi? Did Sanders voters just give up in that state?
After Saturday’s results, Cruz is poised as the most viable alternative to Trump. And ironically, he may be GOP elites’ last, best chance to stop Trump. Cruz has more than a few enemies among party elites. But he’s a much more consistent conservative than Trump. Trump has done well in many areas that we might have considered Cruz territory — places with lots of highly conservative, evangelical voters. Should we expect tonight’s contests to be friendly to the GOP’s unexpected last hope against Trump?
This chart compares Cruz to the congressional delegations from Michigan, Mississippi and Idaho — the whole delegations and just the Republicans (which for Idaho are one and the same). One thing that stands out is just how conservative Cruz is, even compared with the average among congressional Republicans from a couple of pretty conservative states. Individually, there are a few legislators whose scores are pretty close to Cruz’s — Raul Labrador from Idaho and Bill Huizenga and Justin Amash from Michigan are in the same very conservative range. But these delegations, as well as Mississippi’s, are tempered by more moderate Republicans, relatively speaking. (I left off Hawaii, which has no Republicans in its congressional delegation and seems unlikely to be influential in the Republican contest.)
What does this mean for tonight’s results? It’s hard to say. The list includes a mix of open (Michigan and Mississippi) and closed (Idaho) primaries. If Cruz loses, we might be able to conclude that he was too conservative even for a party that has moved right. Or we might simply have another clue that this split is about more than ideology.
ABC News has projected that Clinton wins Mississippi. That should come as no surprise given Clinton’s complete dominance in the South so far. What looks to be a huge win was aided by her taking nearly 90 percent of the vote among African-Americans, who made up about 60 percent of Democratic primary voters in Mississippi. That said, the early exit polls also have her winning the white vote by a nearly 2-1 margin. The question will be whether Sanders can reach 15 percent statewide to win any of the eight at-large delegates.
A: Well, Rubio already made it past Feb. 15, but I imagine you mean March 15, when Florida votes. I think it depends, right? Rubio’s main problem is that Kasich is still in the race. I’d argue that Kasich is a far better fit for the Rust Belt and Midwest states that haven’t voted yet than Rubio is. So if Rubio loses Florida, there’s not a ton of reasons to stay in the race other than helping to deny Trump the nomination. If it were just Cruz and Trump, then that would be a different story.
I want to pick up on a point Nate made earlier in terms of late-deciders in Michigan. Rubio, who usually does well with this group, seems to have failed to do so tonight, earning just 10 percent of them. The problem for the anti-Trump forces is that they don’t seem to have been able to crown one anti-Trump. Instead of either Cruz or Kasich walking away with this group, these voters split 35 percent to 31 percent. Given that Trump has dominated among early deciders, this split could allow Trump to win the state — if the exit poll is correct.
Most people are focused on which candidates will win tonight’s GOP primary contests. But I’ll be watching this number: How many of the 150 delegates at stake in tonight’s primaries go to candidates other than Donald Trump or Ted Cruz? Trump and Cruz have combined to win about 76 percent of delegates awarded so far, but if the delegate share for other candidates rises from 24 percent tonight, so will the odds of a contested convention.
Democrats aren’t at much risk of a contested convention for the simple reason that there are only two candidates in the race, meaning either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders is all but certain to claim a majority. But on the Republican side, Trump would need to win 54 percent of the remaining delegates to claim a simple majority, and Cruz would need 60 percent. The more delegates that go to John Kasich or Marco Rubio (particularly in Michigan and Idaho), the more improbable Trump’s or Cruz’s path to 1,237 becomes.
By the way, according to our delegate tracker, Trump would need only 43 delegates of tonight’s 150 to stay “on track” for the GOP nomination. But on March 15, he could easily be knocked “off track”: By our estimates, he needs to win 272 of 367 delegates at stake that day to stay above his cumulative benchmark for 1,237 delegates.
Michigan was quite the troublemaker in 2008, when it, along with Florida, rebelled against Democratic National Committee rules and moved its primary earlier than allowed. Michigan had hoped that the move would make its election as important as — if not more important than — those of Iowa and New Hampshire. But instead, the DNC punished the state, awarding each of its delegates only half a vote at the Democratic National Convention. Barack Obama and John Edwards, who withdrew their names from the ballot, encouraged their supporters to vote “uncommitted.” Clinton won most counties, with “uncommitted” coming in second. Nate later projected that had Obama participated in the race, he would’ve had a chance at narrowly winning the state.
Even though Trump won Kentucky and Louisiana on Saturday, he didn’t post the same commanding numbers as he had on Super Tuesday, and if he turns in tepid numbers tonight, the chatter that Trump has “topped out” will get louder. But a new analysis of ad spending over the past month at the Cook Political Report explains why this wouldn’t be a random phenomenon.
According to CMAG/Kantar Media’s Elizabeth Wilner and Mitchell West, the proportion of anti-Trump ads (either by unaffiliated PACs or candidate-affiliated super PACs) as a percentage of all GOP ads has grown from 9 percent at the beginning of February to 47 percent in the first week of March. In terms of dollars, anti-Trump ads grew from 15 percent of all GOP ad spending in the first week of February to 62 percent in the first week of March.
The pro-Marco Rubio Conservative Solutions PAC accounted for five times as many anti-Trump ads as the next-highest group, lending some credibility to the theory that Rubio’s allies have weakened Trump at their own candidate’s expense. If Ted Cruz and John Kasich continue to gain, Rubio’s super PAC may need to redirect its fire.
Q: What would tactical voting look like for the #NeverTrump crowd? — commenter Daniel Hoffman
A: Tonight, that would be voting for Kasich or Cruz if you’re in Michigan, since they look about even in the polls there (coordination efforts of who one might get behind there to #stoptrump have been … fractured). If you want to be a Trump spoiler in Mississippi, I think you would go with Cruz, who is likely to do better in a Southern state. Idaho would also be a Cruz vote, and in Hawaii I think you’re best to go Rubio — there isn’t great polling for the Republican contests tonight outside of Michigan, so we’re flying in the dark a little!
Tonight’s primary contests — and the ones to come — have implications beyond the delegate counts. Will we see a splintering of the Republican Party over the candidacy of Donald Trump — or perhaps over Ted Cruz, who represents the party ideology in a more obvious way but isn’t very popular with other party elites? Party splits have happened over ideology, personalities and geography. What’s going on now with the GOP doesn’t quite fit any of the past molds, but it carries elements of all of them.
One of the big questions of this Republican campaign has been what would happen if the field were winnowed down. Would Trump’s lead grow or shrink?
As Nate mentioned, two polls came out today that confirmed Trump is benefiting from split competition. Both the ABC News/Washington Post poll and the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll show Trump not only losing in a one-on-one race against Cruz, Kasich (in the NBC News poll) or Rubio, but losing by wide margins in some cases. The ABC News poll has Cruz leading Trump 54 percent to 41 percent and Rubio up 51 percent to 45 percent. The NBC News poll puts Cruz and Kasich ahead of Trump 56 percent to 40 percent, while Rubio leads 56 percent to 43 percent.
The polls follow a pattern of previous polls where the non-Trumps pick up the vast majority of their rivals’ support in a hypothetical one-on-one against Trump. A recent SurveyMonkey poll showed that Trump led Rubio 40 percent to 21 percent in the full field, but only 52 percent to 46 percent in a one-on-one.
Today’s polls, however, put Trump in a far worse position to start with. Trump earns just 35 percent in the ABC News poll and only 30 percent in the NBC News poll when facing the full Republican field. That’s why he’s trailing in the one-on-ones.
The problem for the non-Trumps is that it’s unlikely any of them will get a one-on-one with Trump. The question is whether non-Trump voters are smart enough in different states to vote strategically if they want to stop Trump from reaching the requisite number of delegates to clinch the nomination.
Hillary Clinton entered today with a pledged delegate lead of 677 (59 percent of those allocated so far) to Bernie Sanders’s 478 (41 percent). According to FiveThirtyEight’s delegate targets, Clinton’s total puts her at 114 percent of the pace needed to get a majority of pledged delegates, and Sanders is at 86 percent. The targets are estimates of how many delegates each candidate would need to win to be on track for the nomination, based on demographics. Clinton has met or exceeded her targets in 15 states; Sanders has met or exceeded his in seven:
The targets for today’s two Democratic races would expect Sanders to have a four-delegate edge in Michigan and Clinton to have a 10-delegate edge in Mississippi.
|STATE||TOTAL DELEGATES||CLINTON TARGET||SANDERS TARGET|
But Sanders needs to start beating his targets if he hopes to get back on track:
National polls from ABC News (in partnership with the Washington Post) and NBC News (in partnership with The Wall Street Journal) today showed Trump leading the Republican field. However, both surveys showed Trump trailing in hypothetical one-on-one matchups with Cruz and Rubio.
We generally don’t think you should be paying that much attention to national polls now that lots of states are voting. However, the ABC and NBC polls are interesting insofar as they fairly closely resemble the voting so far. Trump has 34 percent of votes in the 20 states and territories that had voted before tonight, compared with 29 percent for Cruz and 21 percent for Rubio. If Trump leads Cruz by only that relatively narrow margin, and not the massive one implied by some other national surveys, it’s not hard to imagine Cruz surpassing him in a one-on-one matchup.
FiveThirtyEight’s delegate targets for today’s races are fairly similar for Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio:
|STATE||TOTAL DELEGATES||TRUMP TARGET||CRUZ TARGET||RUBIO TARGET|
The targets are estimates of how many delegates each candidate would need to win to be on track for the nomination, based on polling data, demographics and social media data. With more than two candidates in the race, only one will be able to hit his overall targets.
Trump has stayed fairly close to his targets so far this year — going into today, his delegate count was 104 percent of his targeted count (though he’s won only 43 percent of the 906 delegates allocated so far). He’s met or exceeded his targets in 12 states. Cruz has hit his targets in five states, and Rubio in only two:
Cruz went into today with 65 percent of his target, and Rubio with 49 percent of his. For either to have a chance at a majority of delegates, he would have to exceed his targets going forward by quite a bit.
Exit polls in Michigan again show Donald Trump performing fairly poorly with late-deciding voters. But remember — that’s been true in most states so far, and Trump has still won the majority of them by banking a lot of votes from early deciders. So it’s hardly catastrophic news for him.
More interesting, perhaps, is John Kasich’s performance. He seems to be taking votes directly from Rubio, who had previously been a good finisher with late-deciders.
FiveThirtyEight’s final polls-plus forecast for the Michigan Republican primary puts Marco Rubio’s average projected result at about 14 percent of the vote (and a percentage point lower in our polls-only forecast). Fourteen percent would be just low enough for Rubio to be denied a share of Michigan’s 59 delegates, which are split proportionally among the candidates who get at least 15 percent of the vote. Rubio has already missed the statewide thresholds for delegates in five states, some of them by small margins:
|STATE||STATEWIDE THRESHOLD||RUBIO VOTE|
In some of these states, he has qualified for delegates at the congressional district level, but failing to reach the statewide thresholds has denied him a larger haul. Because Michigan doesn’t allocate any of its delegates based on congressional district results, reaching the 15 percent threshold will be his only chance at delegates there. In the three other states voting on the GOP side today:
- Idaho has a 20 percent threshold to qualify for any of its 32 delegates.
- Mississippi will award a total of 40 delegates: 12 based on results in each of its congressional districts and 28 based on statewide results (a candidate must get at least 15 percent of the statewide vote to qualify for any of those 28 delegates).
- Hawaii will award 13 of its 19 delegates based on the statewide vote (with no minimum) and six delegates based on the results in each of its congressional districts.
Welcome to FiveThirtyEight’s coverage of Super Tuesday 1.5. It might be a fairly long evening, so grab a Bell’s Two Hearted Ale and join us.
Republicans are voting in four states and Democrats in two states tonight. Here’s what we expect in terms of timing (EST unless otherwise noted):
- 8 p.m.: Polls close in Mississippi and in Michigan’s Eastern time zone. Mississippi is likely to get called right out of the gate for Hillary Clinton. On the Republican side, there’s been little recent polling, although we consider Donald Trump the favorite based on his performance in neighboring states.
- 8:30 p.m.: Both Michigan and Mississippi have been on the slower side to count their votes, but we should see some numbers reported in both states by about now. There’s no early voting in either state, so we don’t have to worry about early votes differing from election-day votes, as they did in Louisiana last weekend.
- 9 p.m.: Polls close in the four counties in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula that are in the Central time zone. This is the earliest that the networks will call Michigan, therefore. If the state isn’t called for Hillary Clinton at this point or shortly afterward, that’s a sign that Bernie Sanders has probably beaten his polling average. The Republican race is closer in the polls, but Trump could get a call if exit polls and early returns show him ahead.
- 11 p.m.: Polls close in Idaho, where Republicans are voting in a primary. (Democrats caucus in Idaho on March 22.) Ted Cruz is probably the favorite here, although there hasn’t been much pre-election polling nor is there an exit poll in Idaho, which could mean the state takes a while to call. Idaho becomes winner-take-all if someone gets more than 50 percent of the vote. We’ll probably still be live-blogging for the beginning of Idaho but not necessarily the end of it.
- Island time: Results will begin to trickle in from the Hawaii Republican caucus in the wee hours of the morning. (Democrats caucus there March 26.) We will not be awake for this. Well, we might, but we won’t be live-blogging it.