Will Ted Cruz catch Donald Trump?
This election is setting record turnout for Republicans at every election. For Super Tuesday all the votes were up against 2008 and 2012, the table below shows Republican Primary votes in the states that voted on March 1st, 2016 and how the turnout compared with 2008 and 2012:
With those results, the totals for the remaining Republican candidates is as follows:
On the surface, the data shows Trump has a somewhat comfortable lead, but is Senator Cruz on his coat tails and posing a real threat? Lets take a look at how Cruz got where he is.
Ted Cruz won Texas. He got almost 44% of the vote. People are claiming that was a great victory and it is putting wind in his sails, but I believe the data does not agree with that story. As the above charts show, Cruz is within 100 delegates of Trump, which looks alarming. Also notice the total votes casts for him follows a similar pattern, Trump has 3.6M and Cruz has 3M.
Cruz has Texas to thank for that and he made that clear, but how great was his victory in Texas? Can that victory be repeated? Historically, serious candidates win their home state and usually, they win it big. The below table is a list of previous primaries, where a serious candidate ran in his or her home state. They usually win, but there are a few exceptions, e.g. Rick Santorum lost Pennsylvania in 2012 to Romney, but that vote was in late April when Romney already had things tied up.
Notice who is at the bottom? In fact, a comparison between Ted Cruz’s 2016 Texas primary results and George Bush’s 2000 Texas primary results show that Ted could not match W’s performance adjusted for population growth:
Between 2000 and 2016 the population of Texas has grown 31%. The number of votes Cruz got this year (home town politician) did not keep pace with the number that Bush (home town politician) got in 2000. The data suggests that high turnout in Texas was due to voting for Trump and voting against Cruz, 56% of Republican primary voters did not vote for their own Senator.
About 1/3 of Cruz’s total delegates and votes came from Texas. If the Texas primary happened in May like in 2012, the current race would look much different:
Suddenly Cruz looks more like Marco Rubio and Trump is more clearly the front runner. I am not diminishing the results of Texas or suggesting that Texas should not vote early in the process, I am showing that Cruz will not have another Texas sized victory. He will probably win a few more states and pick up delegates in some second place finishes, but the Texas vote inflated Cruz’s numbers. Going forward Trumps lead will start to accelerate past Cruz’s.
The other problem the Cruz campaign faces is the type of elections they are winning. Other than his home state (which will not be repeated), Cruz has only won one other primary, Texas’s neighbor or “North Texas”, Oklahoma. Oklahoma was far from a huge victory for Cruz because the delegates were split pretty evenly among Cruz, Trump, and Rubio:
(Note: These tables show the current delegate and vote counts per candidate in Oklahoma for the 2016 primary)
Yes, Cruz won, but not by much. Other than Texas (his home state) and Oklahoma (minor victory), Cruz has only won caucuses.
(Note: the above chart shows 2016 election victories per candidate, by election type)
This should alarm the Cruz camp because caucuses only provide about 15% of the delegates in the Republican nomination process. The beginning of the election season is heavy on the caucus to primary ratio, but as we move further out, there will be more primaries and less caucuses. Can the Cruz campaign start to win large states that hold primary elections? Maybe a few, his best chances for those are among the remaining southern states, but polls show Trump ahead in those states.
If Trump supporters continue to vote the way they currently are, there should be no fear of a brokered convention. Primary voting is almost double 2008 and 2012 levels so far, Trump clearly is the primary cause and he has the enthusiasm behind him:
(Note: the above chart shows total votes cast for Republican candidates in primary/caucus elections for states that voted in 2016 starting with Iowa through March 6th)
Tomorrow, Michigan and Mississippi will be key states. A decent victory for Trump in Michigan (at least 10 points above anyone else) will show he has appeal in every region of the country (this is the first mid-west primary) and it will also show the negative attacks by the Republican establishment is not working. If Trump also wins in Mississippi, it is a major blow to the Cruz campaign, taking yet another state that Cruz was banking on being “in the bag” for the Cana…Texan. Hopefully it will shut Romney up too! Trump was also up in Idaho, Cruz can have Hawaii (another caucus).