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Thursday, March 3, 2016

March Madness underway Weekend Primaries March 5-6

We have entered the "March Madness" phase of the primary season.  The majority of delegates will be awarded in March for both parties.  Several States will hold contests each week, with candidates desperately darting from State to State hoping to make their last minute appeals to voters.

This weekend, we will have contests in five states and one territory.  Yes, I've largely ignored non-state primaries so far, but US territories are permitted to vote in Party primaries, even though the citizens of those territories get zero electoral votes in the general election.  This weekend, Puerto Rico votes, along with Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine and Nebraska.  Let's take a closer look at what we can expect:

Republicans

  • Kansas will hold its primary caucus on Saturday.  Kansas has scheduled a primary every election year since 1992, and each time has canceled it and decided to hold a caucus instead. The stated reason is that primaries are more expensive and that Kansas usually goes late in the calendar when the candidate is already decided.  This year, however, there is still some question as to the nominee at this stage.  Nevertheless, Kansas has decided to change to a caucus.  It is also closed to party members only.  This will likely benefit Ted Cruz who does better in such contests, to the detriment of Donald Trump, who benefits more from independents and in primaries that take less of a time commitment for voters.  I have seen no published polls for Kansas, but the State tends to favor evangelical candidates, which are breaking mostly for Cruz this year.  This could be a possible win for Cruz.
  • Kentucky is also holding a closed caucus on the same day.  A Western Kentucky poll taken a few weeks ago shows Trump leading with Rubio second and Cruz third.  Again, Cruz usually does better in closed caucuses than in the polls and Rubio's star has been fading in the weeks since this poll was taken.  I expect Cruz to beat Rubio in Kentucky despite polling to the contrary.  Getting close to Trump would be impressive, but I still expect a Trump win.
  • Louisiana has an open primary.  Again, I have not seen any polls taken in recent months.  Like Kansas, Louisiana tends to favor evangelicals which may benefit Cruz.  Louisiana is also next door neighbor to Cruz's home state of Texas.  Still Cruz has trouble in open primaries.  If he can beat Trump here, it will make him seem more viable.  A Trump victory will mean people will continue to question whether Cruz can ever win an open primary anywhere outside his home state.
  • Maine also holds a caucus.  Again, no current polling is public so its hard to handicap.  Maine Republican voters are similar to New Hampshire, which went big for Trump.  This will probably be another Trump victory.
  • Sunday March 6 is the Puerto Rico Republican Primary.  This will be an interesting one. Once again, the pollsters have taken a vacation.  There has also been little to no direct campaigning by candidates on the island. Trump has been pretty unpopular with Spanish speaking voters, so I would expect problems for him here.  The island also does not tend to go for doctrinaire conservatives like Cruz.  This may be Rubio's best chance at a win this weekend.
Democrats

Kansas and Louisiana both chose Obama over Clinton in 2008.  This Saturday, Clinton may find a warmer environment.  With no recent polling available, it is hard to guess.  But Clinton has beaten Sanders soundly in more conservative southern States.  Sanders has done better in closed caucuses though, giving him some hope for the closed Kansas caucus.  Kansas is probably his best chance to shine on Saturday. Kentucky Democrats don't vote until May.  Puerto Rico Democrats must wait until June.

The Maine Caucus for Democrats takes place on Sunday.  This New England Caucus may be a good one for Sanders, near his home base of Vermont and next door to his big win in New Hampshire. Sanders should be able to win Maine over Clinton.

Analysis

The conventional wisdom is that winners will keep winning.  Trump and Clinton should expand their respective leads.  Cruz will again be trying to frame the results as showing he is the only alternative to Trump.  Rubio needs to win something to remain viable.  Sanders needs a Kansas win to keep Clinton from significantly widening her lead.

I am writing off Kasich at this point.  Kasich may take a few votes away from others in Maine, but I doubt he will make the 15% required to get any delegates anywhere.

Yesterday, Ben Carson said that he did not see a path to victory at this point and would not participate in the next debate.  While he did not formally suspend his campaign, I'm going to take that as the informal end to his bid for the Presidency and will not include him in my further analyses.

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