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Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Why Trump is so happy for John Kasich

by digby

Trump ran the table last night, except for one state: Ohio. And he couldn't be happier he lost that one. At least he shouldn't be because it is the path to winning the whole enchilada. That seems counter-intuitive but the weird delegate math of the GOP explains it.

Here's Nate Cohn from the New York Times:

Mr. Trump’s large vote share in Florida was a pattern throughout the night. He got at least 39 percent of the vote in every contest except Ohio, where he faced its strong governor, John Kasich. The higher share of the vote for Mr. Trump is important because it’s the sort of tally that would easily allow him to win a three-way race.

Mr. Trump’s loss in Ohio may have cost him a lot of delegates, but it may nonetheless help him from this point onward by assuring a true three-way race. Mr. Kasich will almost certainly stay in the race, which will help split the anti-Trump vote, especially in the blue states that predominate in the second half of the primary season.

The results in Illinois — and Michigan last week — hint at how Ted Cruz’s blue-state weakness and Mr. Kasich’s strength might help Mr. Trump amass a majority of delegates.

Mr. Trump won Michigan and Illinois by wide margins, with less than 40 percent of the vote, since Mr. Kasich and Mr. Cruz neatly split the preponderance of the non-Trump voters.

Donald Trump at an election-night news conference in Palm Beach, Fla. He won Florida in a rout.
Under the delegate allocation systems that will become increasingly common over the second half of the primary season, Mr. Trump would win lopsided delegate tallies if he prevailed by anything like the margins he carried in Illinois and Michigan. Mr. Trump could easily collect nearly all of the delegates in Illinois.

The results in Illinois and Michigan are so telling because they wound up being bigger victories for Mr. Trump than many of the other races since Super Tuesday.

He won an even larger share of the vote in places like North Carolina, Missouri, Louisiana and Mississippi, but found himself in some closer races. There, Mr. Cruz ran far stronger and Mr. Kasich ran far weaker.

The problem for Mr. Cruz — and the good news for Mr. Trump — is that there are far fewer states like North Carolina and Missouri from this point on. The contest now turns to the blue states, where Mr. Kasich and Mr. Cruz will more equitably split the vote. Mr. Trump is often fairly strong there himself — as the results in Massachusetts suggest.

The combination of Mr. Trump’s blue-state strength, of the more evenly divided opposition in the North and of delegate rules that increasingly favor winners makes it easy to imagine how Mr. Trump could amass an outright majority of delegates.

The path is fairly straightforward. By my rough estimate, Mr. Trump ended Tuesday night needing around 600 delegates to win the nomination. He could get 350 of them from states where he’s clearly favored: Indiana, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, West Virginia, Delaware, Rhode Island, New York and New Jersey. Mr. Trump will undoubtedly earn more delegates from a variety of states that award their delegates proportionally, like Washington or New Mexico.

Whether Mr. Trump can win the rest comes down to states where Mr. Trump might be weaker, but where a divided field might let him emerge nonetheless as the winner. At the top of the list is California, a state where there are plenty of reasons to think that Mr. Trump might struggle, but where both Mr. Kasich and Mr. Cruz can count on considerable support.

Who knows whether a divided field will allow Mr. Trump to win California and its 172 delegates, or the other states where he might be relatively vulnerable — Arizona, Maryland, Wisconsin, Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska? A strong showing in these states, especially in the winner-take-all contests, could let him clear the 1,237-delegate threshold.

It's a tangled web but that's exactly what works for him.

Cruz's poor showing convinces me that he's not going to be able to compete in any serious way going forward to the big states and the west, even if the rest of the establishment holds their noses and throws 50 million dollars into it.  His best states are behind him. Kasich is ... Kasich. So it looks like it's going to be Trump.

Fasten your seatbelts.