Sometimes people on the East Coast act as if the political world revolves around them (OK, us). It usually doesn’t. Except this time.
Voters in Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island will cast their ballots on Tuesday. These five primaries are expected to provide big batches of delegates to both the Democratic front-runner, Hillary Clinton, and the Republican, Donald Trump. (Since delegates are assigned proportionally across the board in Democratic primaries, I’m going to concentrate on the Republican side here.) So just how big is Trump going to win on Tuesday, and where might he lose delegates? (Remember, Trump’s path to the 1,237 delegates necessary to clinch the GOP nomination is on a knife’s edge, so every delegate matters.)
Check out our live coverage of the April 26 primary elections.
- Delegates at stake: 28 (15 by congressional district, 13 statewide)
- Nate Silver’s “deterministic” Trump projection: 23 delegates (this is, as Nate wrote, “the single most likely” number of delegates Trump will win in the state, in Nate’s view.)
- Allocation: 15 delegates awarded winner-take-all by congressional district; 13 delegates awarded proportionally statewide with a 50 percent winner-take-all threshold and a 20 percent qualifying threshold.
The limited polling that’s been conducted in Connecticut has found Trump hovering right around the 50 percent mark, and the FiveThirtyEight polls-plus and polls-only forecasts have him falling just shy of 50 percent. If he wins a majority statewide, though, he’ll get that bundle of 13 delegates. If Trump misses the 50 percent mark, he’ll probably win only six to eight of the statewide delegates, depending on whether Ted Cruz and John Kasich cross 20 percent.
The other big question is whether Kasich can sneak a win in Connecticut’s 4th Congressional District, which borders New York (Trump will probably win the other four districts). The 4th was home to former Rep. Chris Shays, a moderate, who has endorsed Kasich, and with nearly 60 percent of non-Hispanic whites 25 years or older there holding at least a bachelor’s degree, it’s the type of district in which Trump struggled in the New York primary. If Trump loses the 4th, he’ll lose its three delegates — but he may not lose it. He was beating Kasich 41 percent to 38 percent among college-educated Republicans statewide in the latest Quinnipiac University poll of Connecticut.
Still, given the obstacles between Trump and a clean sweep of Connecticut’s delegates, it’s still not clear where the state fits in Trump’s fight to collect 1,237 — whether Connecticut will get him closer to that goal or set him further off track.
- Delegates at stake: 16
- Nate’s deterministic Trump projection: 16 delegates
- Allocation: winner-take-all
About 50,000 Republicans voted in the last competitive presidential primary in Delaware back in 2008. If turnout in 2016 is anything like that, Delaware would provide the winner with more delegates per vote than most caucuses and primaries so far. Although there has been little polling in the state, the one poll there has been found Trump with a 55 percent to 18 percent lead over Kasich. Trump is also polling very well along the eastern shore of Maryland, which borders Delaware.
Trump’s strength here shouldn’t be too surprising given that Delaware has nominated outsiders for major political office before. Remember how tea party star Christine O’Donnell defeated moderate Rep. Mike Castle in the 2010 Republican Senate primary? It was perhaps the most blatant example of primary voters throwing away a Senate seat I’ve ever seen. (Chris Coons, a Democrat, beat O’Donnell in the special election that year.) In other words, Trump is likely to win Delaware and show once again that the GOP primary rules are mostly helping him, not hurting him.
- Delegates at stake: 38 (24 by congressional district, 14 statewide)
- Nate’s deterministic Trump projection: 29 delegates
- Allocation: winner-take-all on the district and statewide level
Trump is likely to get the vast majority of Maryland’s delegates. He has led in every public poll taken there this year and holds at least a 10 percentage point lead in both our polls-only and polls-plus models. If Cruz and Kasich could somehow combine into one super candidate — let’s call him “John Cruz” — that candidate could beat Trump. The combined share of the two candidates’ vote in Maryland polls has almost always been greater than Trump’s share. But “John Cruz” doesn’t exist; Kasich plays better among moderates and Cruz among very conservative voters.
If the polling is to be believed, Kasich will beat Trump in the highly educated Washington suburbs, such as Howard County and Montgomery County. But Maryland has one of the most gerrymandered congressional district maps in the nation, which means the voting power of well-educated Republicans around Washington is diluted. A recent Monmouth University poll (which was Trump’s best statewide) showed Trump with a decent chance of winning all eight of the state’s congressional districts. My own guess is that he’ll probably lose one or two districts — most likely the 2nd, 3rd, 5th or the 7th — but even in that scenario he’d exceed Nate’s deterministic delegate projection.
- Delegates at stake: 71 (54 by congressional district, 17 statewide)
- Nate’s deterministic Trump projection: 17 delegates (statewide only)
- Allocation: loophole by congressional district and winner-take-all statewide
The big story in Pennsylvania isn’t what happens on Tuesday, but what happens after Tuesday. Only the 17 delegates awarded to the statewide winner will be bound to a candidate — probably Trump, who holds a nearly 20 percentage point lead in FiveThirtyEight’s weighted Pennsylvania polling average. The 54 district delegates (three awarded in each congressional district) will be selected individually by voters, and nowhere on the ballot will it indicate which candidate each delegate supports.
Even if a delegate currently announces plans to vote for a particular candidate at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, nothing binds that decision. Many of the delegates have said they will vote for the candidate who wins their district, while others have pledged to back the statewide winner. That potentially puts Trump in a very strong position, given his large lead in the polls. I say “potentially” because the pressure on these delegates to change their minds could be immense if it looks like they will be the difference between Trump winning on a first ballot or not.
Listen to the latest episode of the FiveThirtyEight politics podcast.
- Delegates at stake: 19 (6 by congressional district, 13 statewide)
- Nate’s deterministic Trump projection: 9 delegates
- Allocation: proportional by congressional district and statewide
This will be Rhode Island’s first Republican presidential primary with the nomination still in doubt since 2000. Back then, just more than 35,000 people voted in the primary. If the number of participants is close to that this year, a lot of delegates will be awarded for very few votes (just like in Delaware).
Beyond that, there’s not a lot to say about Rhode Island. The few polls conducted of the state’s few Republican voters have Trump winning, with Kasich a distant second and Cruz a very distant third. That’s not too surprising since Trump easily won next door in Massachusetts and is expected to also win easily in Connecticut, with nearly 50 percent of the vote. Since so few delegates are at stake and everything is proportional, not a lot will be riding on even moderate changes in the share of the vote each candidate wins here.
If you’re looking for some sort of excitement, there’s some question as to whether Cruz can reach the 10 percent threshold required to qualify for any delegates. But he probably will — the latest Brown University poll showed him at 14 percent with a lot of undecided voters. In other words, your time on Tuesday is probably better spent concentrating on other states.