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That’s a wrap for us, folks. We’ll have more analysis of tonight’s results in the days ahead, but here’s how I’d score the evening relative to expectations on the GOP side. I mean that in a more precise way than when the term “expectations” is usually invoked. Specifically, I mean that if you’d drawn up a list of plausible outcomes this morning and ranked them from best (10) to worst (0) for each candidate, how would candidates fare by that measure?
Ted Cruz — 9 out of 10. Huge win in Kansas, unexpected win in Maine, and unexpectedly close to Trump in Louisiana, with results suggesting he might even have won if not for early votes. Cruz’s loss in Kentucky was also narrow — he came much closer to Trump, for example, than he did in Tennessee on Super Tuesday. Not quite a “best case scenario” but not more than one step removed from it.
Donald Trump — 2 out of 10. You could equivocate by saying Trump performs poorly in caucuses, and there aren’t all that many of them left, but the huge split in the election day versus early vote in Louisiana suggests that he’s encountering serious problems, perhaps the most serious since voting started on Feb. 1. It also appears as though Cruz will pick up more delegates than Trump did from the night.
Marco Rubio — 1 out of 10. Just 17 percent of the vote in Kansas, 17 percent in Kentucky, 11 percent in Louisiana (with a huge drop-off from the early vote to election day votes) and 9 percent in Maine. Not. Good. He’ll presumably hang on until Florida on March 15 and a win there would still be a big deal, but he needs to gain votes to do that and right now he’s losing them instead.
John Kasich — 4 out of 10. We thought he’d do a little better in Maine. His results in Kentucky in counties that border Ohio were solid but not stellar. He’s basically running as a one-state spoiler candidate at this point, although the fallout from some of the other developments (like Rubio’s bad evening) could create opportunities for him in the long run. Still, all of those opportunities would seem to involve a contested convention and it’s not clear why he’d emerge as the choice from such an event.
We’re about to shutter this live blog, so let’s take a look at how Semi-Super Saturday played out on the Democratic side.
Sanders won Kansas and Nebraska. That’s the good news for him. The bad news is he’s even further from the nomination than he was before the day started: He lost Louisiana, and, in doing so, fell even further behind in the delegate hunt.
In losing Louisiana, however, Sanders only claimed 12 delegates to Clinton’s 39.
Combine the three states, and Clinton gained 11 delegates on Sanders.
Now you might be saying, but didn’t we expect Sanders to do poorly in Louisiana? Yes, that’s true. But according to our delegate targets, which takes that into account, Sanders is now 3 delegates further behind the pace he needs to win a majority of pledged delegate than he was at the beginning of the day. Considering he was already running 82 delegates behind his delegate goals, he needs to be exceeding his delegate targets.
Overall, it was actually a bad day for Sanders by the math, even with his two wins.
Our colleagues at ABC News, which did NOT call the Louisiana Republican primary earlier in the night, now projects Trump will win the state.
Where are there still returns outstanding in Louisiana?
- About half of Caddo Parish, which has been good for Cruz so far, has yet to report.
- Lots of votes left in East Baton Rouge Parish, which has also been good for Cruz.
- About 70 precincts in Jefferson Parish have yet to report; Jefferson has been good for Trump.
- Lots of precincts in Orleans Parish haven’t reported, but there aren’t a lot of Republican votes there. Trump is slightly ahead of Cruz in the ones reported so far, but Rubio and Kasich also do comparatively well.
- Significant amounts of St. Tammany Parish, which has been good for Trump, have yet to report.
Overall, our guess is that Trump will just barely hold on, but these were not the sorts of margins some networks were expecting when they called Louisiana for Trump just after 9 p.m..
By the way, kudos to the state of Louisiana for reporting its results very quickly and efficiently tonight. The states you might be inclined to stereotype as being being slow to report returns are often among the best instead.
You keep hearing from people like me that Trump has a floor of about one-third of the vote. For instance, he averaged 35 percent in the Super Tuesday contests. Today, it’s the same story. His average vote percentage in the four states that voted today is 33 percent. The big difference from other days is that Cruz was able to coalesce a lot of the anti-Trump bloc, which led to at least two victories.
As more results come in from Kentucky, an update on Ohio border counties: Cruz has 33 percent of the vote from counties that border Ohio, to 30 percent for Trump and 23 percent for Kasich (and 14 percent for Marco Rubio). Ohio looks as though it could be a three-way race on March 15.
To take one example of the huge split between election day returns and early votes in Louisiana: in Acadia Parish, Trump got 47 percent of the early vote, with 26 percent for Cruz and 19 percent for Rubio. In election day returns, however, it’s Trump 44, Cruz 41, Rubio 9. Trump often performs worse with late-deciding voters, but we haven’t seen anything this dramatic yet.
Trump just won Jefferson County, Kentucky, 30 percent to Cruz’s 29 percent. That’s bad news for Cruz’s Kentucky hopes. While Cruz is down just 4 percentage points, Trump’s margin in the overall vote remains fairly steady at around 5,000 votes. There’d have to be a late surge from somewhere for Cruz to win; otherwise, it’ll be close but no cigar.
In less exciting news from Louisiana, Clinton currently leaders Sanders by 47 percentage points. That’s consistent with her 45-point lead in our pre-election polling average.
The margin separating Trump and Cruz in Kentucky is also shrinking. Trump is up just 4.6 percentage points, in part because Cruz won Fayette County (Lexington) 29 percent to 25 percent. Unfortunately for Cruz, both Kasich and Rubio got over 20 percent of the vote there, which may have held down Cruz’s margin. We’re still waiting on Jefferson County (Louisville).
Trump’s lead in Louisiana keeps narrowing every time I refresh the secretary of state’s webpage. It’s now down to 5.9 percentage points. Maybe Trump will hold on, but the networks should be rescinding their calls since there’s no way they’d have called it for Trump based on the information we have available now. There’s the risk of serious embarrassment for news outlets who are not picking up on this.
The very earliest returns in Louisiana, which were substantially composed of votes cast before election day, showed Trump at 48 percent, Cruz at 23 percent, and Rubio at 20 percent. Now? It’s Trump 43, Cruz 34 and Rubio 14, according to the Louisiana Secretary of State. The differences suggest a major gap between early votes and election-day returns, with Cruz surging in the past couple of days at the expense of both Trump and Rubio.
If you’re looking for good news as a Sanders’s fan, look no further than Kansas. Sanders won 23 delegates to Clinton’s 10 in the state. Not only did Sanders win, but he outperformed his FiveThirtyEight target of 19 delegates. Of course, he’ll need a lot more wins like that to have a realistic shot at the nomination.
Nate, in answer to your earlier question about why Sanders won Kansas, one explanation is likely to be a very heavy turnout in Douglas County, home of the University of Kansas, and traditionally one of the most liberal parts of the state. (In the 2008 general election, 64 percent of the county voted for Obama, while virtually every other part of the state supported McCain.) The Lawrence Journal-World reported a Democratic caucus turnout so heavy that voters had to be counted on a middle-school football field. Sanders won 81 percent of the caucus vote in Lawrence, and much of his support undoubtedly came from students and faculty at KU.
There does seem to be some movement away from Rubio in the past few days in Louisiana. While Rubio was getting near 20 percent of voters who cast a ballot early, he is now down to just 15.8 percent including election day voters.
As Rubio looks to have had another very bad night, it’s worth thinking about something we’ve brought up before: Is it possible that Rubio is actually too conservative for his own good? Obviously, the Republican Party is a conservative party. (Although Trump’s success suggests that the conservatism of GOP voters is complicated.) But Rubio is not quite in the moderate conservative “lane” that often proves to be fruitful in the GOP nomination process. Instead, Rubio is quite conservative indeed — at least based on his policy positions if not necessarily his temperament.
So Rubio has to compete with Cruz for very conservative voters while moderate conservatives have had other options to consider. Kasich, in particular, is a little more conservative than he lets on but has run explicitly toward the center. In some ways, a race with Trump, Cruz and Kasich would create clearer differentiation between the candidates than one between Trump, Cruz and Rubio, which has left Rubio as a lot of voters’ second choice.
Just a pause-for-breath post as results and calls come in left and right.
- Kansas — Called for Cruz, who won by 25 percentage points.
- Maine — Called for Cruz, who won by 13 points.
- Louisiana — Called for Trump by AP; he’s up big based on early votes.
- Kentucky — Still counting. Trump up by 9 points, although some of Cruz’s potentially better areas are outstanding.
- Kansas — Called for Sanders, no data on margin of victory yet.
- Nebraska — Called for Sanders, who’s up 10 percentage points with 75 percent reporting.
- Louisiana — Called for Clinton, who will win huge.
Is Trump doing well enough tonight to keep on track to win the nomination? Well, he won 9 delegates in Kansas and 9 delegates in Maine. In Maine, he came in on target, according to our projections. Trump fell far short of his 16 delegate target in Kansas, however.
Cruz, on the other hand, finished 4 delegates ahead of his target in Kansas and 3 delegates ahead in Maine. What is clear is that Kansas and Maine were disasters for Rubio; he ended up 7 delegates short in Kansas and 10 delegates below his target in Maine.
We’ll have to wait to see how Louisiana and Kentucky get split up.
And, as expected, AP has called Louisiana for Trump.
As expected, AP has called Louisiana for Clinton.
We don’t doubt that Trump is likely to win Louisiana, where he was way ahead in polls and is ahead by 23 percentage points in initial returns. According to Decision Desk HQ, however, the results so far are early votes cast before election day. So how much Trump’s margin declines over the course of the evening, if it does it all, could provide some indication of whether the last few days of campaign news have hurt him.