Feb. 26, 2016 — The next presidential voting event occurs this Saturday for Democrats in South Carolina, but that race is close to an end. When Hillary Clinton easily wins the Palmetto State primary, and then launches into a southern Super Tuesday sweep, the nomination will effectively be hers. But, the real action is with the Republicans.
Next Tuesday, March 1, Republican voters in 12 states will go to the polls to possibly begin officially crowning a presidential nominee, at least according to most news stories.
The media is promoting Donald Trump’s Nevada victory as possibly more than it is, however. Though his 46 percent margin was impressive and anyone’s best showing to date, Nevada has just 30 total delegates and the turnout was only about 18 percent of the total registered Republican universe. Therefore, contrary to popular opinion, the GOP nomination campaign is not yet over.
As we mentioned yesterday, five of the 12 Super Tuesday Republican states are highly important. Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Texas and Vermont carry 20 percent vote thresholds in order for candidates to obtain delegates. Though earlier polls reveal Trump winning from eight to all dozen Super Tuesday states, it is his victory margin that is most important.
If senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio both break 20 percent in each of these places, which appears likely, the delegate count would tighten, and though Trump will undoubtedly be leading he, won’t yet be in range to capture majority support. As we know, winning the Republican nomination requires one candidate to secure an absolute majority of GOP delegates (1,237) at the national convention in July.
Though Trump is in far better position to capture the nomination than any other candidate at this time, his national delegate total is 81, inclusive of Nevada, and he commands only 6.5 percent of the total number he needs to claim victory. Therefore, with voters in 52 of 56 voting venues yet to participate, this campaign still has a very long way to go.
The importance of Texas, Sen. Cruz’s home state and the second largest delegate pool (155), is underscored by the latest Emerson College Polling Society survey (Feb. 21-23; 446 likely Texas primary voters). The poll projects a tight three-way contest among Sen. Cruz, Trump, and Sen. Rubio. According to the polling society’s data, Cruz takes 29 percent, in a virtual tie with Trump who registers 28 percent support. Sen. Rubio is right behind with 25 percent. Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Dr. Ben Carson trail badly with nine and four percent, respectively.
Since Texas is a 20 percent threshold state, only Cruz, Trump, and Rubio would qualify for delegate apportionment. Factoring their combined percentages as the whole, the projected delegate ratio, if the polling data is correct, would give Cruz 53 delegates, Trump 52, and Rubio 47. The remaining three delegates, under Texas state law, are unbound and act in an equivalent nature to Super Delegates on the Democratic side. The three uncommitted free agent delegates are the state Republican chairman, and the National Committeeman and National Committeewoman. All states award delegate positions to these party officers.
Should the Emerson College polling numbers prove accurate and some of the other states produce a hodgepodge of results, we will see a very differently evolving race. Though Trump will undoubtedly be leading after Super Tuesday, it is the delegate margin that must be observed. While his finishing in the top position may not be threatened, Trump’s ability to commit 50 percent of all delegates could be very much in doubt.