The increasingly desperate pleas from the Republican establishment asking their voters to reject Donald Trump finally seem to have had some effect. The bad news for said establishment is that the beneficiary is the candidate that they hate almost as much, Ted Cruz.
Today’s voting (i.e. yesterday in the United States) is being billed as “Super Saturday”, which is a bit rich for just three caucuses and a primary. But the results so far are striking: Cruz has won comfortably in Maine, 45.9% to Trump’s 32.6%, and overwhelmingly in Kansas, 48.2% to 23.3%.
Trump looks to have won the other two states: Kentucky has not yet been called, but he’s leading with 39.1% to Cruz’s 31.8%, with 40% of precincts reporting. He has clearly won Louisiana, the only primary for the day; he’s currently on 47.4%, more than 20% ahead of Cruz, although that’s mostly on pre-poll votes.
The fact that three of the four are caucus states will account in part for Trump’s indifferent showing. Even so, Cruz’s crushing victory in Kansas contrasts with his narrow win last month in nearby Iowa. FiveThirtyEight had previously given Trump a 51% chance of winning the state.
Marco Rubio’s woes continue; his best result is a distant third with 18.6% in Louisiana. He’s also third in Kansas, and fighting for third in Kentucky with John Kasich. In Maine, Kasich managed third place with 12.2%, relegating Rubio to single figures. As Jon Ralston puts it (quoted at FiveThirtyEight), “I think your campaign may be in trouble if every election night is a discussion of whether you can get to 20 percent.”
For the Democrats, Bernie Sanders has been declared the winner in Kansas and Nebraska, while Hillary Clinton has scored a huge win in Louisiana. Updates to come with further counting.
*UPDATE 2.20pm (Eastern Australian time)*
Not much change. Kentucky still reasonably close with 47% reporting: Trump 36.2%, Cruz 31.6%, Rubio 15.4%, Kasich 15.0%. Louisiana is no walkover either; on 41% in, Trump has 42.7% to Cruz’s 35.7%. It’s a very good day for Cruz; two good wins over Trump and four very big wins over Rubio.
Cruz has surged modestly in the betting market as a result, being now given a 13.9% chance at the nomination – the first time he’s been ahead of Rubio. But Trump is still, to my mind, being overstated with 64.7%. Also interesting to see that Paul Ryan, whom I mentioned the other day as a possible compromise candidate, has made an appearance on the market with 1.7%.
Clinton, as expected, has won big in Louisiana, 70.7% to 22.4%. Sanders’s win in Kansas is almost as big, 67.7% to 32.3%, but a good deal narrower in Nebraska, 55.1% to 44.9%.
With 83% reporting, the margin in Louisiana is now down to less than 5% – Nate Silver has been saying that the networks shouldn’t have called it so early. Clearly the pre-polls were much more favorable to Trump than the votes taken on the day, suggesting the attacks of the last few days might have had some effect. (Although it’s been consistent throughout that Trump has been underperforming among late deciders.)
Even so, I don’t think he’s at any risk of losing the state. Ditto Kentucky, where he’s now on 35.3% to Cruz’s 31.3% – AP has called it for Trump. Also, Rubio is finally out of danger for third place, with 16.9% to Kasich’s 14.8%.
None of this matters a whole lot in terms of delegates, since all four states allocate in a pretty fair proportional fashion. The New York Times is saying Cruz will pick up 60 delegates, Trump 46, Rubio 13 and Kasich eight. But it will dent Trump’s momentum a bit.
Up to and including Super Tuesday, it was clearly in Trump’s interest to build up Cruz at the expense of Rubio. It worked a treat, to the extent that Cruz is now more the threat that he has to worry about. But a convention deadlocked between Trump and Cruz is the stuff of nightmares for most of the Republican leadership.
Book your tickets for Cleveland – it’s going to be standing room only.
That’s basically a wrap. Two narrow wins to Trump – by 3.7% in Louisiana (99% reporting) and 4.3% in Kentucky – and two big wins to Cruz (one of them very big). In terms of performance against expectations, Nate Silver gives Cruz nine out of ten and Trump two out of ten, which seems about right.
Silver also has figures showing that while Trump won the pre-polls (Americans call them “early votes”) in Louisiana by a huge margin, 46.7% to Cruz’s 22.9%, he narrowly lost the vote on the day, 40.9% to 40.5%. Very interesting.
On the Democrat side it’s Clinton by 48 points in Louisiana, which at least in terms of delegates will outweigh Sanders’s two good wins. He’s not totally out of it yet, but realistically he’s now running to make his point rather than from any hope of winning.
On to Puerto Rico (Republican) and Maine (Democrat) tomorrow.