It’s Super Tuesday, the day before What Have We Done Wednesday, when America may well wake up with a presumptive Republican nominee and a hangover that will last eight months.
Donald Trump is expected to win the majority of Republican contests today. Winning might not mean much, though, since almost every state has its own idiosyncratic system for awarding delegates. So in some states Trump will be able to declare victory, but walk away with roughly the same number of delegates as his chief rival (or rivals), and vice versa.
Here’s what to watch for.
Trump appears poised to grab sizable delegate leads over his respective rivals in Alabama (where Rubio is polling second) and Tennessee (where Cruz is). The crucial question in Alabama (50 delegates) is whether Rubio will be able to stake a claim to at least 20 percent of the vote — that’s the threshold required to get a share of delegates proportional to his support in the state. Two polls have him just barely missing the mark, with 19 percent of the vote; a third has him at 23 percent. It’s a similar story in Tennessee (58 delegates), where the one poll that has been conducted this year finds that only Trump and Cruz met the minimum 20 percent required to receive delegates. Trump has smaller leads over Rubio and Cruz in Georgia (76 delegates), where the two senators are locked in a virtual dead heat, according to the Real Clear Politics average of polls.
Texas has by far the most delegates at stake (155), and it is also the state where Donald Trump is losing by the biggest margin. RCP’s average of polls puts Ted Cruz about 11 points ahead of Trump in Cruz’s home state. Cruz will likely walk away with a majority of the delegates, but exactly how many will depend on how high his margins are in 36 congressional districts. (If you want to nerd out on the mathematical possibilities, district-by-district, by all means…)
With just 16 delegates, Vermont is the smallest Republican prize on Tuesday, but the one poll conducted in the state shows Donald Trump with a big enough lead over his rivals to carry all 16 of its delegates on Super Tuesday. The survey, conducted by Castleton University and Vermont Public Radio in February, found that 32 percent of state’s Republicans supported Trump, making him the only candidate with a large enough share of the vote (20 percent) to claim any delegates at all.
Expect Trump to do well in Massachusetts (42 delegates) too, where he leads by 27 points in the polls. If those numbers hold up, Trump will take home a little less than half of the state’s delegates; the rest will be split proportionally between Rubio, Kasich and Cruz.
The wildcard states
In three states — Alaska, Arkansas and Minnesota — polls show Trump either trailing or leading by a margin so small it’s essentially meaningless. The catch is that these also happen to be the states where the least amount of polling has been done. The single poll conducted this year in Alaska (28 delegates) showed Trump just barely beating Cruz; if those results hold, the two of them are the only candidates who would meet the 13 percent threshold needed to bank delegates. A lone poll conducted in Arkansas (40 delegates) showed Cruz out in front, but with Trump and Rubio nipping close enough at his heels to win roughly the same number of delegates. Minnesota, a caucus state with 38 delegates, holds a glimmer of hope for Marco Rubio: The only poll taken there this year shows him leading by two points… but that’s within the survey’s margin the error (+/- 3.5 points).