Political Analysis - March 18, 2016

Political Forecast & Review - Week Ending March 18, 2016

President

Donald Trump (R) had a big night at the beginning of the week, almost sweeping the March 15 primaries. Losing Winner-Take-All Ohio (66 delegates), however, now makes reaching 1,237 committed delegates before the Republican National Convention begins a difficult task.

Currently, Trump sits at approximately 690 committed delegates. He needs another 545+ of the remaining 983 available votes, meaning between a 55 and 57 percent conversion rate. Looking only at the remaining available bound delegates – those who must vote for a specific candidate on the first ballot – he must do even better. The remaining bound number is 831, meaning Trump would have to commit almost two-thirds of those available, which is highly unlikely. At this point, including his take on March 15, he has attracted 46.5% of the available delegates.

The remaining states set up favorably for Trump. The heart of his strength should be the northeastern states, and New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Delaware, and Maryland are still yet to vote. But the Winner-Take-All by congressional district primary system in California, with its 53 US House districts and 172 delegates scheduled for June 7th, may well tell the final story.

It is quite possible that Trump will not have all 1,237 when primary and caucus voting ends. This would require him to work the unbound delegations of Colorado, North Dakota, Wyoming, and 80% of the Pennsylvania contingent in order to cobble together his majority. Therefore, the period between June 7 (the end of primary/caucus voting) and July 18 (the convention commencement date) will be an interesting time. If the nomination is not yet won, a likely divisive contested, or brokered, convention will result for the first time since 1940.

The Democratic picture became much clearer this week. Hillary Clinton (D) had hoped to score a knockout blow against Sen. Bernie Sanders (I/D-VT) on Super Tuesday, March 1. Sanders exceeding performance expectations did not allow such a result. But, March 15 may have given Clinton what she needs. Winning all five primaries at the beginning of the week and close ones in Illinois and Missouri, places where Sanders was expected to draw better, means she is in shouting distance of the 2,383 delegate votes she needs to claim the Democratic presidential nomination.

At this point, counting the announced Super Delegate votes – those elected Democratic officials and party leaders who gain this designation and voting power – Clinton is in the 1,550 range as compared to Sen. Sanders languishing around 800. It is likely we are in the last stage of the Democratic process, and already many analysts and observers are beginning to plan for a Clinton-Trump general election.

Next up is the last big Republican Winner-Take-All state, Arizona (58 delegates), which is scheduled for this coming Tuesday. Republicans will also vote in Utah and American Samoa. Democrats will go to the polls in Arizona, Utah, and Idaho.

Senate

Sen. Mark Kirk (R) and Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D) both easily won their respective party primaries in Illinois this week and now face off for what promises to be a tough general election battle. National trends as felt in Illinois will likely cut against Kirk, meaning he can objectively be rated as the underdog in this race even though he is the incumbent.

Ohio Republicans again nominated Sen. Rob Portman (R), while Democrats, as predicted, chose former Gov. Ted Strickland (D). This will also be a highly competitive November Senate race, but Sen. Portman retains the inside track toward re-election.

North Carolina Democrats nominated former state Rep. Deborah Ross (D) in a better-than-expected performance (62% against three opponents), while two-term incumbent Sen. Richard Burr (R) came in below expectations at 61%. North Carolina was widely viewed as the Democrats’ biggest recruitment failure, but this may yet turn into an interesting race. The Tar Heel State will be a major national battleground and the presidential result will be close. This will undoubtedly influence the Senate campaign.

In Florida, Sen. Marco Rubio (R) confirmed that he will not re-enter the 2016 Senate race now that his presidential campaign is suspended. He also stated he will not become a candidate in the open 2018 Governor’s race. Gov. Rick Scott (R) will then be ineligible to seek a third term.

House

Voters in Illinois and Ohio chose their congressional nominees, and all challenged incumbents were re-nominated in both states.

The most serious contest was state Sen. Kyle McCarter (R) opposing ten-term incumbent Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL-15) for his central/southern Illinois district. In the end, Shimkus prevailed 60-40%.

Elsewhere, Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL-01) easily turned back a Democratic primary challenge from Chicago Alderman Howard Brookins, Jr.(D). Mr. Rush received 71% of the vote.

In the Chicago suburbs, former Deputy State Treasurer Raja Krishnamoorthi (D), as expected, won the Democratic primary to succeed Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL-08). He will easily win the general election this fall from the heavily Democratic district.

In the northern suburbs, former Rep. Brad Schneider (D) claimed the Democratic nomination for the IL-10, defeating local community president Nancy Rodkin Rotering (D) by just a 55-45% margin. Schneider lost his seat in 2014, and now will face Rep. Bob Dold (R-IL-10) in a general election match-up.

Finally, in western Ohio, businessman Warren Davidson (R), riding strong financial support from the Club for Growth membership, won the special primary election for the seat that former Speaker John Boehner resigned in OH-08. Mr. Davidson defeated 15 opponents, including his chief rivals, state Rep. Tim Derickson (R) and state Sen. Bill Beagle (R). Davidson will win the special general election on June 7, and then seek a full term in the regular election.