Breaking Down Last Night’s Primary Results

Ken AshfordElection 2016Leave a Comment


Yesterday was big for Trump.  The first major set of primaries after a huge onslaught of non-Trump ads, and it seems to have bounced off him.  No, he never won 50% in any state yesterday, but he came close.  In Michigan, he got 36.5% (Cruz: 24.9%, Kasich: 24.3%).  In Mississippi, he got 47.3% (Cruz: 36.3%).  And in Hawaii, he got 42.4% (Cruz: 32.7%).  And even though he came in second in Idaho, he got 28.1% to Cruz’s 45.4%.

All in all, from the four states, Trump won 59 delegates, Cruz won 40, Kasich won 17, and Rubio won zero.

In other words, Trump still manages to beat his opponents be double digits, in the industrial midwest and in the South.

The weird thing about Trump last night was his press conference after the wins.  With a national TV audience at 9:00pm EST, Trump took the podium at one of his stupid resorts in Florida and spent the first ten minutes rambling on about his products, his own wealth, his business acumen and general awesomeness.  It was beyond bizarre, even by Trump standards.

It was ostensibly a response to the criticisms by Romney this past week about how Trump’s many businesses had failed.  Which was another reason the whole thing was strange — of the MANY criticisms that Romney hurled, the “failed businessman” comments had, at best, a glancing blow on Candidate Trump, as last night’s primary results bear out.  But it seems to have got under the skin of Trump, the man, as he clearly had planned to mention it, bringing the necessary props.

And even then, his counter to Romney was, well, clearly lies:

Trump attempted to portray each product as a going concern, but he appears to be lying or at best misleading people about some of them. As the staging crew was setting up the steak display, observers noticed that the steak packages were branded (ironically) “Bush Brothers.” The water company and magazine seem to be small vanity businesses that supply Trump’s own properties, not the public.

The winery is real enough; Trump drove a distressed property owner into foreclosure and picked up her award-winning vineyard for a fraction of its value. Then he gave it to one of his sons to run.

However, the products weren’t the real commodity being hawked. The whole surreal production was a long-form rebuttal to Mitt Romney’s recent denunciation of Trump as a fraud and failed businessman. Romney’s criticism clearly got under Trump’s paper-thin skin, prompting last night’s display of overweening self-regard.

Yeah.  And Romney never even mentioned the winery.  He mentioned Trump vodka, which Trump did not bother to bring because… well, that went defunct.  Ah, well, vodka, wine.  It’s all the same, right?

But the steaks thing.  I know we’re only talking about steaks, but if the point of bringing out “Trump Steaks” was to disprove a lie that Trump Steaks were a horrible business, then he should have brought out, you know, Trump Steaks.  He couldn’t though, because they don’t exist.

Anyway, victory press conference aside, Trump had a great day. To the extent that he was weakened on Super Tuesday, he has come back.


Last night was good for Cruz in that it really established him as the only viable contender to Trump.  He beat Trump badly in Idaho and came in second everywhere else.  A distant second, but not so distant that people are saying “it’s over”.  Still something has to turn around for him, and it may have to be something over which he and his strategists have no control — like when another candidate drops out.

He picked up Fiorina’s endorsement this morning.  At this point, not much help.


Although technically coming in third, Kasich was in a virtual tie with Cruz in Michigan.  His path to victory includes a win in Ohio (his home state, and a winner-take-all) state, and that (in theory) gets him noticed in other industrial states, and Pennsylvania.  He might very well take Ohio, but I don’t think that opens any doors for him.  Still, an outside chance is still a chance.


Let’s get real.  Rubio, like so many other GOP candidates before him, never caught fire from anyone.  I good read on this is Nate Silver’s “Rubio Never Had A Base“.  And it’s true.  The guy was hard to pin down ideologically, which can be summed up in this Venner:


There comes a point where a candidate’s determination to remain in the race becomes embarrassing.  Rubio ended up in last place in Michigan and Mississippi, with many delegates, and third place in Idaho and Hawaii.  Yes, he won Minnesota and Puerto Rico, but these small victories amount to almost nothing.  More importantly, his strategy to win Florida looks doomed.  Some of his advisors are urging him to bow out BEFORE Florida (according to a CNN source) — it seems like their numbers are much like others’ numbers — i.e., Rubio will not win there.  Rubio is young and can run again, but not if he totally embarrasses himself this time around.  He should start looking to the far future and get out now.  He won’t, but he should.


I combine these two because you can’t really talk about one without referring to the other.

The big news last night — even bigger than anything happening on the R side — was the Sanders win in Michigan.  Granted the win was narrow — Sander got 49.8% to Clinton’s 48.3% — but it was very very far above expectations.  Most polls had Sanders to lose by double digits.  Even Sanders himself, expecting to lose, went down to Florida, rather than have a Michigan victory party — and that was because HIS numbers probably told him he would lose.

Sanders still has a very difficult climb ahead if he is going to beat out Clinton.  Hillary has won most states so far by a ratio of 2:1, and even when she loses, she gets enough delegates to keep him from gaining on her.  As the NYT puts it:

Imagine, for instance, a brutal stretch for Mrs. Clinton, one where she underperforms the demographic projections by as much as she did in Michigan for the rest of the year.

She loses in Ohio and Missouri next Tuesday. States where Mrs. Clinton was thought to have an advantage, like Arizona, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Indiana, California and Connecticut, become tossups. Mrs. Clinton wins New York, but by just eight percentage points.

She gets swept in the West, including big 40-point losses in places like Alaska, Idaho, North Dakota, Utah and Montana, and 30-point losses in Washington and Oregon. She loses by 20 points in Wisconsin and Rhode Island, by 30 in West Virginia and Kentucky.

She still wins — and comfortably.

How? She’s already banked a large delegate lead, and it has nothing to do with the “superdelegates.”

Forty-three percent of all of the pledged delegates to the Democratic National Convention have already been awarded. She’s won those delegates by roughly a 60-40 margin.

To overcome it, Mr. Sanders will need to do nearly as well from this point on. Not even the very strong showing for Mr. Sanders imagined above would be enough.

In fact, it still wouldn’t be very close. Mr. Sanders basically splits the delegates with Mrs. Clinton the rest of the way — leaving him far short of the big 15-point advantage he needs.

Right now the delegate count is 760 to 546 (2,383 is needed).  And while Sanders could benefit from winning some winner-take-all states, there are none for the Democrats.

Sanders still does well with youth, and last night showed that he has some in-roads with unions — the so-called “lunchbox Democrats” — who are concerned about trade.  Hillary got tagged with NAFTA (which was Bill Clinton, not Hillary), and that hurt her badly.

There is a debate tonight.  It will have some effect on Super Tuesday 2 states (Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, Illinois, and Missouri).   It should be noted that the latest polls show Hillary up by 25 to over 30 points in Florida and Ohio (including today’s CNN/ORC polls) and double digits in the other states.  But Michigan taught us that these polls can be tricky.

March 15 is going to be very very interesting.