In the remaining Republican Primary contests, the supporters of Senator Marco Rubio will play a large part in ultimately determining who will be the Republican nominee. If they break for Ted Cruz , they could give Cruz a delegate lead going into the convention. If they break for John Kasich, Donald Trump would go into the convention with a delegate lead with Cruz a distant second. Interestingly, a best case scenario for Trump would be if the Rubio supporters split between Cruz and Kasich, and his worst case scenario is if Rubio supporters vote strategically against him.
Both Rubio and Cruz were elected to the Senate with the support of the Tea Party. There is a strong argument that Rubio supporters will be attracted to the conservatism of Cruz. However, as the election has progressed, Rubio has been more and more identified with the Republican establishment. If Rubio’s support is mostly from establishment types looking for a traditional Republican establishment candidate, Rubio’s supporters may break for Kasich. It is also possible that Rubio supporters’ contempt for Trump will outweigh support for a particular candidate and they will vote for whoever they feel is best positioned to beat Trump in a particular state.
When all of the delegates available in Tuesday night’s primaries are tallied, Trump will probably end up with about 700 delegates, Cruz will be around 420 and Kasich around 150. Trump will be more than half way to the 1,237 delegates needed to wrap up the nomination before the Republican National Convention in July. However, the remaining states include a significant number of winner-take-all or winner-take-most contests.
So far, in the Northeast, Trump has captured 49.7% of all votes cast, with Kasich at 20.4%, Rubio at 17.7% and Cruz at 12.3%. In the Northeast, it may not matter what Rubio supporters do since their votes would not be enough to push either Cruz or Kasich past Trump. For the Rust Belt, Trump has captured 38.0% of all votes cast, with Kasich at 33.7%, Cruz at 22.0% and Rubio at 6.2%. Here, Rubio supporters could push Kasich past Trump and into the lead. In the Plains, Cruz captured 39.7%, Trump 36.1%, Rubio 16.6% and Kasich 7.7%. For the South, Trump is at 43.2%, Cruz 25.8%, Rubio 23.1% and Kasich 8.0%. Here, Rubio supporters could move Cruz into the lead over Trump. And in the Mountain West, Cruz is at 40.8%, Trump 33.9%, Rubio 18.6% and Kasich 6.7%.
With these numbers in mind, if all of Rubio’s votes go to Cruz, Cruz could find himself winning in the South, Plains and Mountain West. Cruz would end up winning all of the delegates in Arizona, Utah, Delaware, Maryland, Nebraska, West Virginia, Montana and South Dakota for a total of 278 delegates. Trump would win the winner-take-all states of Wisconsin, Indiana and New Jersey for a total of 150 delegates. Splitting delegates in other contests, Trump would lead Cruz by about 980 to 810 before factoring California’s 172 delegates. If Trump wins California, he could end up with about 1150 delegates to Cruz’s 810, but if Cruz wins California, it would be a virtual tie, with each candidate having about 980 delegates. In this scenario, Kasich would end up with about 160 delegates.
If all of Rubio’s votes go to Kasich, Kasich could win the Rust Belt winner-take-most contests of Indiana and Wisconsin for 99 delegates. He would also receive more delegates in the various non winner-take-all contests. However, Rubio voters would not be enough of a boost to allow Kasich to win any significant amount of delegates in any other regions. Trump would maintain his dominance in the South and Northeast and win the winner-take-all states of Delaware, Maryland, West Virginia and New Jersey for a total of 105 delegates. Before looking at California, the tally would be Trump around 990, Cruz around 630, and Kasich about 320. Trump would be assured of going into the convention with a plurality of delegates, and if he wins in California, his total could be around 1160 delegates. It is interesting to note that Kasich’s gains are at Cruz’s expense, not Trump’s.
Remarkably, a 50-50 split between Cruz and Kasich by Rubio’s voters ends up being the best scenario for Trump. By splitting the Rubio vote, Kasich never quite gets enough to win the winner-take-all Rust Belt states, while Cruz never quite gets enough support to win in the South. Trump would wind up winning the winner-take-all or winner-take-most states of Wisconsin, Delaware, Maryland, Indiana, West Virginia and New Jersey. Cruz would win Arizona, Utah, Nebraska, Montana and South Dakota. Kasich would not win anywhere. Due to Trump also winning most delegates in proportional states, the delegate count before looking at California would be Trump with about 1070, Cruz about 670 and Kasich about 200. Once again, Trump would be going to the convention with at least a plurality of delegates, and if he wins California he would be right around 1237 delegates, and potentially win the nomination outright before the convention.
What if Rubio supporters vote strategically in an effort to stop Trump? Such voting by Rubio supporters could propel Kasich past Trump in the Rust Belt and push Cruz past Trump in the South, leaving Trump with victories only in the Northeast. Kasich could win winner-take-most contests of Indiana and Wisconsin, while Cruz could win all of the delegates in Arizona, Utah, Delaware, Maryland, Nebraska, West Virginia, Montana and South Dakota. Trump’s winner-take-all victories would be limited to New Jersey, and his overall delegate increase from now forward if he does not win California, could be limited to under 200 delegates. In this scenario, Cruz would have the plurality of delegates at around 940, with Trump at 880 and Kasich at 300.
It is clear that California will play a major role in this year’s Republican nomination. Although for this analysis California has been treated as winner-take-all, (in 2012 Mitt Romney won 171 of California’s delegates), California is actually a collection of 53 congressional districts with each district awarding all three of its delegates to the candidate with the most votes in that district and 13 at-large delegates which go to the statewide vote leader. If in June the delegate count is close, California could turn into a district-by-district battle.
In the end, if Rubio supporters reflect Rubio’s own disdain for a Trump nomination, they should move to support Cruz, or at least support the candidate with the best chance of beating Trump in a particular contest. Any other course of action, such as only supporting Kasich or deciding not to vote, will likely lead to Trump winning the Republican nomination.