Sunday, 6 March 2016

Trump has a bad night - but not nearly as bad as Rubio

Four states voted in yesterday's Republican presidential stakes. Two backed Ted Cruz and two went for Donald Trump, but it was a very bad night for Trump - and an even worse one for Marco Rubio.

The two states that backed Trump were Louisiana and Kentucky. Both were closed events - ie only open to registered Republicans - an audience that Trump has struggled with in the past. And, despite being called by the US TV networks very early, it almost became squeaky bum time for Trump (and the TV experts) as his lead narrowed in Louisiana as more and more results came in. Once again it appears that early voters backed Trump convincingly, but those who decided later in the run up to the vote (and therefore who, by definition, vote on the day) were less in favour. As it was, Trump just held on in both contests.

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Shock of the day was in Maine. Very few polls had been done there, but those that were suggested Trump would win easily from John Kasich in second. But Cruz won at a canter and also took Kansas by 25%.

Had Trump won three or four contests then he could have legitimately claimed a good night. As it was, he only just won two. It was a bad night.

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All of which was good for Cruz and really bad for Marco Rubio who had three third places and a fourth place in Maine. In both Maine and Louisiana he failed to win enough support to cross the delegate threshold. So by the end of the night Trump was calling on him to quit so he could go one on one with Cruz. Such a call was probably more motivated by hatred of the GOP establishment who had backed Rubio than anything else.

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John Kasich had a so-so night. He remains in the race hoping for a win in his home state of Ohio. Where that gets him is unclear. Even in a contested convention it is hard to picture him being the compromise choice. Clues to Ohio came from the Kentucky votes. The states are next to each other and share some TV markets. Kasich did ell in these border areas, but so too did Cruz. It looks like Ohio could be a three way race at the moment.

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Also worth noting - none of the Republican contests have yet seen a candidate win more than 50% of the vote. Admittedly, there is a multi-choice field, but it is telling that the party seems unable to make up its mind on a clear favourite or challenger in any state.

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On the Dem side, Bernie Sanders won two out of the three contests last night but lost the third by such a margin that he still went backwards in his contest with Hillary Clinton. I suspect this is how it will play out until the end of the primary process. Sanders will win about a third of the contests but never come within reach of the former First Lady.

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