Trump’s path to victory

There are a great many people speculating on how Donald Trump can win.

I prefer data, which is why I read FiveThirtyEight for my information. Subscribers to INCITE: Politics will know that I recommend this site to everyone interested in knowing what is going on in US politics.

They explore the path to victory for Donald Trump, or at least get close enough to make a claim for him to be the candidate.

Some of their key points are:

harry (Harry Enten, senior political writer): My biggest takeaway is how on the knife’s edge this is going to be. We probably won’t know whether Trump is going to clear the 1,237 threshold until at least June. It’s March 21 — we have a long way to go.

dave (David Wasserman, House editor at the Cook Political Report and FiveThirtyEight contributor): First off, while we don’t know whether Trump will hit 1,237 or not, we should all be able to agree on one takeaway: For the first time in a very long time, every state will matter — and yeah, this thing’s going all the way to June. I don’t see any way for Trump to attain 1,237 untilJune 7, and I don’t see any realistic way for him to be mathematically eliminated from 1,237 before June 7.

natesilver (Nate Silver, editor in chief): When I was filling out my projections, I was a little bit surprised that I had Trump coming up short of 1,237 since I thought I was being fairly optimistic for him in individual states. However, once you account for the facts that (1) there are quite a few uncommitted delegates and (2) Trump isn’t likely to do so well in less populous states west of the Mississippi, which is a fair bit of what’s out there — well then, Trump has to do really well everywhere else.

So they agree that Trump might not make the threshold to be declared the nominee going into the convention. However, they also say no one else gets close. This is what happens with so many candidates early on. Now it is only realistically three candidate.

natesilver: In general, though, there are a lot of states that look pretty good for Trump but could cost him a lot of delegates if he slips, but fewer where you have it the other way around. So if you were taking some sort of weighted mean from a probability distribution, I think it would wind up with fewer delegates for Trump than a median or modal projection.

dave: Another thing we should make clear here to those who haven’t spent many nights geeking out on The Green Papers or Ballotpedia: A big myth going around is that states are either purely winner-take-all or they’re proportional. The fact is, there are a ton of delegates remaining that are winner-take-all by congressional district, like in California, Wisconsin and Maryland. The calendar from here on out will really require Ted Cruz and John Kasich to know where to “cherry-pick” for delegates.

daniel: That’s where the dynamics of a three-way race will be fascinating to watch: Will Kasich and Cruz boost the anti-Trumpers’ hopes by each picking up delegates in congressional districts where they have some strength (as happened in Illinois at the district level), or will they neutralize each other at the statewide level, as happened in Illinois as well?

natesilver: If Kasich and Cruz were implicitly (or explicitly) collaborating, their strengths and weaknesses might line up pretty advantageously to stop Trump from getting 1,237. However, it’s not clear that Kasich is playing along.

dave: This is where the anti-Trump forces seem to fail. They’re convinced they can get voters to vote strategically, but there’s little evidence of that working so far.

Strategically, voting to keep Trump out only works if everyone is aware of the strategy, and there is no evidence of that. But what of the role of Kasich?

micah: How big of a punch bowl turd is Kasich for the #NeverTrumps?

natesilver: A pretty big one, I think, to the point where it’s fair to wonder whether Kasich might be interested in a VP slot on a Trump ticket.

micah: Message-wise, that would be an odd fit.

natesilver: Our polls-only forecast has Cruz just barely getting over 50 percent in Utah, for instance, which means he’d get all the delegates there in a potentially big (albeit not terribly surprising) blow to Trump. But Cruz would be more assured of surpassing 50 percent if Kasich were out campaigning in Wisconsin or New York instead of in Utah.

daniel: Many Republicans are trying to marginalize Kasich. And there are great arguments to be made that he’s hurting anti-Trump forces by allowing Trump to continue winning with pluralities — not to mention endangering the Cruz campaign’s efforts to shut Trump out of Utah, as Nate said. But upsides of having Kasich in are that: (1) The GOP needs to prevent Trump from hitting 50 percent triggers in New York and Connecticut, and (2) Kasich could play better in some congressional districts (as he did in the Chicago suburbs) where it’s harder to see Cruz overtaking Trump.

dave: It seems to me like Kasich’s genuinely convinced there are still some places only he, and not Cruz, can beat Trump. And he may have a small point — so far he’s won more votes in a lot of leftie hangouts like Ann Arbor, Michigan; Burlington, Vermont; and “Harry Entenville,” Hanover, New Hampshire. It’s just that there may be more delegates at stake in places where Kasich is robbing Cruz of outright wins.

harry: See, that’s the thing about Kasich. If he were willing to “play along,” he could help the anti-Trump folks in the remaining New England states and the northern Mid-Atlantic states. The problem is he is also trying to play in the West and Midwest, where Cruz can probably do fine all by himself.

Interesting analysis of Kasich…could his path to the White house be via the VP role?

natesilver: Even early on in the race, there weren’t that many signs of momentum with respect to Trump’s vote. To some extent, his results have defied momentum — having relatively bad nights after really strong ones, and vice versa.

But the other candidates’ vote shares have fluctuated a lot more, in part because voters have been behaving tactically.

I’m not sure where that leaves us, other than to say there are a lot of known unknowns. For starters, we still don’t really have enough polling to say where Rubio’s ex-voters have gone. We don’t have much polling in Arizona or Wisconsin or Indiana or California. There’s a lot we don’t know, and relatively small differences could make a big swing in the delegate count.

micah: We know we probably won’t know whether Trump reaches 1,237 for sure until June 7, right?

Consensus seems to be that Trump won’t reach 1237 delegates, but that he will get very close. Then it comes down to how former candidates endorse or signal to watch what happens next.

Key states to watch are California, Wisconsin, New York and Connecticut. If Trump does well in those states he is going to get close.


– FiveThirtyEight

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