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What To Expect In The GOP Race In Arizona And Utah

If it’s Tuesday, that means it’s time for another round of caucuses and primaries. Today features three Republican contests with a total of 107 delegates up for grabs: the American Samoa caucuses, the Arizona primary and the Utah caucuses. Ted Cruz is likely to win a contest or two, but on net, we expect Donald Trump to add to his delegate lead when the results are all in. (Democrats are voting today too, in Arizona, Utah and Idaho, but because all delegates in the Democratic race are awarded proportionally, the overall contour of the race — Hillary Clinton is winning — is unlikely to change.)

Here’s how the Republican contests are likely to break down.

Arizona

Polls close at 10 p.m. EDT; results expected starting at 11 p.m.

Trump is heavily favored to win in Arizona: FiveThirtyEight’s polls-only and polls-plus forecasts both give him a greater than 90 percent chance. And Trump needs to win by only a single vote to get all 58 of Arizona’s delegates.

Trump’s hard-line stance on immigration is a natural fit in the state, which has been a hotbed of resistance to illegal immigration (see Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, who has endorsed Trump). Still, we have a limited number of polls here. Most of the surveys we do have were taken before Marco Rubio exited the race, and those found Trump stuck in the 30s. The one more recent survey, by Opinion Savvy, had Trump leading Cruz 46 percent to 33 percent, but it was a one-day survey, and those tend to be less reliable.

One factor working against a Cruz upset in Arizona is that a large portion of the vote is expected to come from early voting. That means a lot of votes were cast before Rubio left the race. We’ve seen in states such as Louisiana how anti-Trump voters split their vote fairly evenly between Cruz and Rubio in early voting, only to vote in a more consolidated bloc for Cruz on primary day. It’ll be interesting to see how high a percentage of the vote Rubio gets in a state he’s no longer competing in. The higher Rubio’s share, the less likely Cruz gets a surprise win.

But a Trump win in Arizona shouldn’t alter your view of the race too much. The Republican primary at this point boils down to one question: Can Trump reach the 1,237 delegates necessary to clinch the nomination before the Republican National Convention? Our FiveThirtyEight expert panel projection expects it to be very close, and that factors in Trump collecting Arizona’s 58 delegates. It would be a surprise if he didn’t and would increase the chances that we’re heading toward a contested convention.

Utah

Polls close at 1 a.m. EDT Wednesday; results expected by 1:30 a.m.

Cruz is almost certain to win in Utah, according to FiveThirtyEight’s polls-only and polls-plus forecasts. Both models project that Trump will earn less than 15 percent of the vote. That’s because Utah’s caucus electorate will be nearly 90 percent Mormon (if past years are any clue), and Mormon voters are among the least supportive of Trump’s campaign of any of the blocs of the Republican Party.

The real question in this contest is whether Cruz will get more than 50 percent, triggering Utah’s winner-take-all rule. If Cruz wins a majority, he’ll collect all 40 of the state’s delegates. The only poll taken in Utah after Rubio’s exit, by Y2 Analytics, has Cruz at 53 percent to John Kasich’s 29 percent to Trump’s 11 percent. If Cruz doesn’t get more than 50 percent, the state will split its 40 delegates proportionally among all the candidates. Trump wouldn’t win a lot of delegates this way, but every little bit helps him in his quest for 1,237.

That’s why many anti-Trump forces have been upset with Kasich for campaigning and advertising in Utah, even though he has almost no chance of winning the state. If Kasich’s hope is to win this nomination through a contested convention — which is pretty much his only route — then making a play in Utah is the last thing he should be doing. Initially, Kasich’s team told me via Twitter that it hoped he could simultaneously keep Trump below the 15 percent threshold and keep Cruz below 50 percent, thus allowing Kasich to collect some delegates. The problem, as Kasich’s team later acknowledged, is that the 15 percent threshold isn’t in effect if only two candidates are at or above 15 percent.

Our delegate panel forecast Trump to win just four delegates in Utah. If he wins more than that, he will have done better than expected and increased (if only slightly) his chance of getting to 1,237 delegates by June 7.

American Samoa

Results unlikely until very late tonight or Wednesday morning.

This contest probably won’t favor Trump. The territory is more than 25 percent Mormon, and Trump, as I mentioned, doesn’t do well with members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. That doesn’t mean Cruz will dominate the caucuses in American Samoa, however. All nine delegates will be unbound, unless “instructed by resolution of the body which elected them as to the disposition of their vote on any business before the National Convention.” In other words, these nine delegates are probably going to be among the more than 100 delegates that the candidates will fight over after June 7, if Trump hasn’t reached 1,237 after all the caucus and primary contests have taken place.

Harry Enten is a senior political writer and analyst for FiveThirtyEight.

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