“May you live in interesting times” goes the old Chinese proverb.
We are most certainly living in interesting political times. Let’s take a quick dive into the numbers on election night.
First, the Magellan Strategies poll that we commissioned last week looked to hold water. Trump had a commanding lead over the field in that poll, and that’s how it wound up. Since the poll, Carson got out of the race and it looks like those voters likely trended toward Trump. There was a 13% undecided in that poll and I think it’s fair to say that most if not all of that went to Cruz. Additionally, Cruz seems to have now sold out to the establishment and is courting their votes to “stop Trump”. The tangible result of that in Mississippi is that he cut into a lot of Rubio’s support here, which was evidently pretty soft. Governor Phil Bryant’s last minute endorsement probably helped Cruz a bit here, too. Rubio establishment types defected to Cruz, but their support for Cruz is probably pretty squishy in the end analysis. In other words, of the 36% of Cruz voters in Mississippi, my sense is that only about half of that are true Cruz believers.
Let’s look at the numbers
In 2012, remember that Mississippi Republicans had basically a three way race between Santorum, Gingrich and Romney. There were about 271,000 votes cast in that primary. In 2016, we had another contested primary . . . and Republicans voted 398,000 in the primary. That’s a massive jump. In other words, the base is re-engaged.
Compare that to the Democrat side where Obama in 2012 got 97,000 votes. With a hotly contested Democratic primary, Democrats mustered 218,000 votes this time around. But just to show you how low the energy is, with 2008 being a real contested Democrat primary and a good corollary, there were 434,000 votes in that Democrat primary (with Obama, Clinton, Biden and Edwards). This is just more evidence of the backslide of the Democrat party in Mississippi. In relative terms, their base is not enthused.
Some other notes of interest
I watched CNN’s coverage last night, and when Trump took the stage for his acceptance speech, I hit my stopwatch. From start to end, Trump got 41 minutes of uninterrupted prime time talk time. 41 minutes! That’s unheard of. But that’s why he’s winning. He is dominating the media and is using their airtime (for free) to make his pitch . . . and it’s connecting.
Although Ted Cruz improved his position from where we polled him, Mississippi is the sort of state he had to win amongst Republicans. Losing double digits to Trump in Mississippi is a bitter pill for him. And it wasn’t like he lost just one segment. According to exit polls, he lost everywhere. He lost men vs. women. He lost old vs. young. He lost poorly educated vs. highly educated. He lost on self-described evangelicals. He lost on voters valuing immigration, economy, terrorism and jobs.
In defeat, Cruz’s state chair Chris McDaniel played the role of the rooster taking credit for the sunrise. “Although we disagree on the best candidate — I believe it is Sen. Ted Cruz — it is a testimony to the strong network of anti-establishment individuals who believe Washington has to be changed,” McDaniel said. “I appreciate their anger and I share their anger with Washington, D.C.” Even though their candidate pitted himself directly against Trump and lost big, it’s still somehow a result they feel like they can take credit for. But Trump beat Cruz in McDaniel’s home county (Jones County) 53/39%. Ouch.
The other big story of the night was how poorly Rubio underperformed in Mississippi. No one expected him to win here. However, not getting out of single digits here (nor in Michigan) bodes poorly for him to hold his Florida firewall together next week. He doesn’t look competitive at this point, and Trump now looks odds-on to beat Rubio in winner take all Florida. If Trump wins there, Rubio is out.
Looking also to Ohio, Trump is neck and neck with Kasich. Even though Trump is ahead in the polls, Kasich should win. If for some reason he doesn’t and Trump wins both Florida and Ohio, it’s ball game. Trump will be the presumptive nominee in that scenario next Tuesday.
If next Tuesday turns out to be big for Trump, there are going to be a lot of Republicans that are going to have to come to grips with some pretty hard truths. It would appear “Bubba” is in control. Bubba didn’t vote for Romney and McCain in the past, but he is on board for Trump and seems to be able to provide the energy behind Trump to defeat Hillary in November. It could put some fundamentalist Republicans who are ranting and raving about #NeverTrump in the space of showing that they’re so conservative that they’re willing to help Hillary Clinton get elected.
Sorry folks. I’m just not that conservative.