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Tuesday, March 22, 2016

March 22 - Arizona and Utah (and Idaho and American Samoa)

This week, there are two contests for both parties: the Utah Caucus and the Arizona Primary.  Both are fairly conservative solidly Republican states.  Idaho is also holding its Democratic Caucus, the Republican contest being several weeks ago.  American Samoa is holding its Republican Convention.

Republicans:

Utah is looking good for Ted Cruz.  He has performed particularly well in closed caucuses in very conservative states.  On top of that, Mitt Romney, the most famous Mormon politician in the country, has announced he will be voting for Cruz.  This may be the first time Cruz wins an outright majority, over 50% of the State.  Even more surprising, Kasich is running a solid second in the polls after taking on most of Rubio's supporters, with Trump's numbers crashing in recent weeks. Winning 50% is important since under State rules, it will give all 40 delegates to Cruz.  Otherwise, delegates are distributed proportionally to any candidate getting over 15%.

This raises an interested challenge for Kasich and Trump.  They will try to keep Cruz below 50%. Trump is also struggling to meet the 15% threshold.  Kasich's best case is keeping Cruz below 50% and Trump below 15%.  It would allow Kasich to collect a respectable number of delegates and freeze out front runner Trump entirely.  Cruz, of course is pushing for a 50% win.  He would probably also like to see Trump do better than Kasich since he is trying to ignore Kasich and make this a two person race.

For his part, Trump has been focusing on the Arizona Primary.  He has held a few rallies in Utah, presumably trying to stay above the 15% threshold and keep Cruz from reaching 50%.  But beyond that, he is looking at Arizona.  He leads Cruz by a good 10 points or more in most polls and Kasich trails badly.  Arizona is a winner take all State with 58 delegates.  Even it Trump gets zero delegates in Utah, if he wins Arizona,  he collects the most delegates for the day.  A few delegates are awarded based on winning a congressional district, so a handful could possibly go to another candidate.   Both Cruz, and Kasich, however, seem to have conceded Arizona to Trump and are focused more on Utah.

American Samoa also holds its Convention on Tuesday, selecting nine delegates for the Republican convention.  These delegates are not bound, so no results to report.  But keep in mind these various unbound delegates make it harder for Trump to reach the magical 50% of bound delegates at the convention.  On the other hand, these are wild card delegates who could support Trump on the first ballot and put him over the 50% mark even without enough bound delegates.

Democrats:

Hillary Clinton has been a good 25-30 points above Bernie Sanders in Arizona.  Clinton has played well with retirees, and Arizona is full of them.  She expects an easy win there.

The Utah Caucus is more up in the air.  It is likely to be close, with polls differing on who will win. Sanders could pull a win here as he tends to do better in closed caucuses.  Even though Utah is a conservative State, its registered Democrats tend to be middle class and white, groups that have tended to favor Sanders.  Since delegates are awarded proportionally, it does not matter much who wins, as it will only affect a couple of delegates.  But if Sanders pulls off a win, it gives him bragging rights for future contests.

Idaho Democrats also hold their closed caucus on Tuesday.  Again, this is a close one. Again, Sanders tends to do better in closed caucuses, especially in States without significant numbers of minorities. This could be a Sanders win as well.

Even though Clinton will win the most delegates for the day, if Sanders can win two of the three contests, it will help to continue his justification for continuing his campaign.

Analysis:

None of these contests will be particularly decisive and probably will not result in any more drop outs.  They are the last Republican contests for two weeks, so candidate would love to two weeks of coverage of wins for their campaigns.  Since the results will be mixed, we should not see any real theme coming from these contests.  Candidate will continue to slog it out and move on the the remaining States.

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