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What’s At Stake For Republicans In This Weekend’s Elections

Have you had your fill of the Republican presidential primary? If so, then go outside and enjoy the fresh air. But if you’re a glutton for punishment, then you’ll be happy to know Republicans will vote in Louisiana, Kansas, Kentucky and Maine on Saturday (and in Puerto Rico on Sunday). Together, 168 delegates are up for grabs this weekend, or 14 percent of the 1,237 delegates necessary to win the GOP nomination on the first convention ballot.

But this weekend’s voting may not shift the race much. Most of the contests award their delegates proportionally or close to it. More than that, the thresholds to receive delegates in these states are mostly low, making it more likely that multiple candidates will win delegates in each state. So, no single candidate is likely to receive the lion’s share of these 168 delegates.

Still, let’s look at who’s favored in each contest.

Check out our live coverage and results from Saturday’s primary elections.

Kansas caucuses

At stake: 40 delegates: 12 district, 28 statewide
Delegate targets to be on track to win nomination: Trump 16, Cruz 20, Rubio 13

We have just two polls in Kansas, the minimum number FiveThirtyEight’s model requires to issue a forecast. That forecast makes Donald Trump a slight favorite, but Kansas holds closed caucuses (only registered Republicans can vote), and Trump has underperformed with self-identified Republicans, so don’t be surprised if he loses here. Trump hasn’t done all that well in caucuses, and Ted Cruz won Kansas’s southern neighbor, Oklahoma, and Iowa, just to the northeast. Three delegates are awarded proportionally in each of Kansas’s four congressional districts, with no minimum thresholds. So Cruz, Trump and Marco Rubio will likely split those. An additional 25 delegates are proportionally awarded to each candidate who finishes above 10 percent statewide. Those too will likely be split among Cruz, Trump and Rubio. Another three delegates go to the statewide winner.

Kentucky caucuses

At stake: 46 statewide delegates
Delegate targets: Trump 21, Cruz 20, Rubio 17

The one poll of Kentucky conducted in February found Trump with 35 percent, Rubio with 22 percent, Cruz with 15 percent and John Kasich with 6 percent.1 I have no idea if that’s right. There hasn’t been enough polling for us to issue a forecast, and caucuses are hard to poll anyway. Like in Kansas, however, there’s a chance Trump underperforms in Kentucky because it holds a caucus, which requires more organization than a primary. Either way, Kentucky is unlikely to alter the delegate math much; all its delegates are awarded proportionally with just a 5 percent threshold.

Louisiana primary

At stake: 46 delegates: 18 district, 28 statewide
Delegate targets: Trump 23, Cruz 22, Rubio 14

Trump will probably roll in Louisiana. Not only has he done well in other Deep South states so far, but both the FiveThirtyEight polls-plus and polls-only forecasts have him finishing with somewhere around 45 percent of the vote. Even if Trump romps, though, Louisiana’s delegate rules won’t allow him to rack up a large margin. Three delegates are awarded proportionally in each of the state’s six congressional districts, with no threshold. The 28 statewide delegates are awarded proportionally with a 20 percent threshold. That may mean that Rubio misses out on those statewide delegates because both FiveThirtyEight forecasts have him falling just short of 20 percent. (Cruz is above 25 percent in both models.) But there’s a catch: Unlike almost every other state, Louisiana allows unbound delegates. If a candidate receives 45 percent of the vote, they receive 45 percent of the delegates, regardless of how many candidates cross the 20-percent threshold. Any leftover delegates go to the convention unbound, which means it’s unlikely any candidate will win a majority of delegates from Louisiana. (Are you sensing a theme yet?)

Maine caucuses

At stake: 23 statewide delegates
Delegate targets: Trump 9, Cruz 9, Rubio 10

Maine, like Kansas, holds closed caucuses. That’s bad for Trump. On the other hand, Trump has dominated contests in New England so far (see Massachusetts and New Hampshire), and he has the endorsement of Maine Gov. Paul LePage. But like the rest of the Saturday contests, the threshold to receive any delegates is low, just 10 percent. Even Kasich, who has easily hit 10 percent in all three New England contests so far, could receive some delegates from Maine. If the statewide winner in Maine gets over 50 percent of the vote, he’ll sweep all 23 delegates. But that seems unlikely given that no candidate has gotten over 50 percent in any contest so far.

Puerto Rico primary

At stake: 23 delegates territory-wide
Delegate targets: Trump 8, Cruz 8, Rubio 15

We’ll get a good test of whether Hispanics truly “love” Trump this Sunday in the Puerto Rico primary. Most of the political organization on the island is in Rubio’s corner. Puerto Rico was also very friendly to mainstream Republican Mitt Romney in 2012; Romney received 83 percent of the vote. Puerto Rico’s 23 delegates are awarded proportionally to each candidate finishing above 20 percent of the vote. It would be quite a blow to Trump’s “Hispanics love me” argument if he finished below that threshold, though he hasn’t gotten below 20 percent in any contest yet. The 23 delegates become winner-take-all if a candidate gets above 50 percent of the vote.


  1. Ben Carson, who was still in the race when the poll was conducted, earned 7 percent.

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