Is Ted Cruz the favorite now?

I think you can make a pretty good case for this.  It may be at least even odds now that nobody ends up with a majority of the delegates entering the convention.  Nate Cohn:

But the real surprise Tuesday night was not the weakness of Mr. Trump but the strength of Ted Cruz. It was the first contest after the departure of Marco Rubio that was truly competitive, and it looks as if Mr. Cruz benefited a lot. In fact, with a final result of 48 percent, he won a larger share of the vote than in any primary this year.

There’s no guarantee that this pattern holds for the rest of the race. But Mr. Trump will not come very close to amassing a majority of Republican delegates if it does…

It appears that many moderate voters, who have long been the biggest obstacle to Mr. Cruz, finally broke his way. According to exit polls, Mr. Cruz won 29 percent of them — far higher than the 12 percent he won in Michigan and 15 percent in Illinois. Mr. Kasich’s share of the vote among both self-described “moderate” and “somewhat conservative” voters dropped.

Of course, maybe Wisconsin is just Wisconsin.  But if it in any way is part of a larger pattern, Trump doesn’t get 1237.  And if Trump doesn’t hit 1237 on the first ballot, I’m increasingly thinking the nomination is Cruz’s.  For one, he’s been way more zealous and smart in ensuring that once delegates are no longer bound, they will vote for him.

Cruz’s success in the complex delegate game is helping him counter Trump’s headline-grabbing wins in big states and would give the Texas senator a tactical advantage should the party’s presidential nomination come down to a rare contested convention.

“Cruz is ahead of everyone on this,” Republican election lawyer Ben Ginsberg said, describing Cruz’s aggressive but quiet delegate strategy as “equally important” to the actual votes.

And think about the type of people who are so hardcore Republican that they end up being delegates.  Can you seriously imagine these folks choosing a relative moderate like Kasich (or Mitt Romney).  Sure, there’s hope for Paul Ryan as the great savior, but I suspect Ted Cruz is well more popular among delegates than Ryan.

So, hard not to see Cruz as the odds-on favorite at a contested convention.  And, at this point, a contested convention may even seem reasonably likely.  We shall see.

UPDATE: Should have also included this link to Nate Silver that definitely influenced my thinking.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

3 Responses to Is Ted Cruz the favorite now?

  1. ohwilleke says:

    * Trump will pass rule 40(b) (the eight state rule) at the convention, which is very unlikely to be amended. Cruz will almost surely meet the Rule 40(b) eight state rule (which is very unlikely to be amended). It is outright impossible for Kaisch (or any other candidate besides Trump and Cruz) to qualify for the Rule 40(b) eight state rule. Due to 40(b), any second round or later vote at the convention will be a straight Trump v. Cruz choice.

    * Trump needs about 60% (494) of the remaining delegates (819) to get a majority on the first vote. If Cruz and Kaisch combined don’t win at least 40% (325) of the remaining delegates, Trump wins on the first round ballot. Cruz needs 88% (720) of the remaining delegates to win on the first vote. Neither Kaisch nor anyone other than Trump and Cruz can win a majority of the delegates.

    * All of the remaining states except NY, CT, RI, OR, WA and NM are winner take all, or winner take most. The biggest remaining prizes are CA (172), NY (95), PA (71), Indiana (57), and NJ (51). Relatively few of the remaining states have the demographics that have rewarded Cruz.

    * Trump has solid leads in the polls relative to Cruz in NY, PA and CA and probably would lead in NJ which is similar to NY and arguably better for Trump to the extent that it is different. Trump will probably get at least 48 delegates in NY, 71 in PA, and 51 in NJ for a total of 170. If Trump holds onto his lead in CA he has a minimum of 342 more delegates (42% of the remaining total). Trump will probably get more than 342 more delegates, so he will probably need less than 152 more delegates (less than half of those that will be released in the second round).

    * Given current polling and the fact that there are still a few proportional states left, it is essentially impossible for Cruz to win the 88% of the remaining delegates that he needs to win on the first round. But, Cruz will almost surely get more delegates and more states than Kaisch, who is unlikely to win any more states.

    * The only three realistic possibilities are: Trump wins on the first round, Trump wins on the second round, or Cruz wins on the second round.

    * 331 delegates earned to date are released on the second round. Carson has endorsed Trump so most (probably at least 5) of his 9 delegates are likely to vote for Trump. Jeb Bush has endorsed Cruz so most of (probably at least 3) his 4 delegates are likely to vote for Cruz. A second round vote also releases 173 Rubio delegates and 145 Kaisch delegates. Most of the released delegates are for establishment GOP candidates who are perceived as much more moderate than Cruz. Kaisch will probably get at least a few more delegates in proportional states before the race is over, so there could be 350 or more delegates released in the second round if there is one.

    * If Trump comes close to a majority but doesn’t quiet get one, he can win the second round with a pretty modest percentage of released delegates. For example, if he gets 50% of the remaining delegates and needs 74 more, for example, he needs only most of the Carson delegates and about 20% of the rest of the released delegates.

    * Cruz has made lots of enemies in the GOP establishment and has lots of pre-existing political commitments that limit his ability to bargain before the second round. Trump is generally despised and has made a handful of personal enemies in the GOP establishment, but has very few pre-existing commitments so he has a lot of room to bargain offering promises to delegates who support him on issues that he hasn’t taken a stance upon. Trump is a better negotiator than Cruz.

    * Bottom line, even if Trump doesn’t win the first round (which is 50-50 odds perhaps) he is likely to be close and to have better than 50-50 odds of winning the second round. So, perhaps 85% chance that Trump is the GOP nominee.

    • rgbact says:

      You math looks off. A bunch of those states aren’t really WTA. CA is WTA by district, like WI. PA is WTA only for a minority of their delegates. Most are unpledged however.Some are saying the race could come down to IN.

      Oddsmakers have Trump at only about 50%…..not 85%.

  2. ohwilleke says:

    Silver’s analysis relies on more significant defections from Trump to Cruz than from Cruz to Trump, in a second round, and on near unanimous support for Cruz in a second round from Rubio and Kaisch delegates. While loyalties may not be perfect in a second round, I think he overestimates the propensity of someone who comes to the convention as a Trump delegate to defect in the second round to Cruz. People are optimists and given the relatively blank slate that it Trump, I think people may prefer the guy they don’t know well (Trump) to the guy they know they don’t like much who is well understood (Cruz). Also, neither Trump nor Cruz has a decisive electability edge vis Clinton.

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