The Pulse: More primaries and the "inevitability" watch

William JordanUS Elections Editor
March 08, 2016, 8:20 AM GMT+0

Hello, I'm Will Jordan and welcome to The Pulse.

Republicans and Democrats head to the polls again today. Here are some things you should know:

  1. Which states vote today?

    For Republicans: Michigan, Mississippi, Idaho and Hawaii (a caucus)

    For Democrats: Just Michigan and Mississippi. March 8 also marks the end of the voting period for Democrats Abroad.

    Michigan is the state that will confer the most delegates for both Republicans (59) and Democrats (148), so it will be closely watched on both sides.
  2. What do the polls say in Michigan?

    Michigan is also the only state with any real polling. YouGov’s latest poll, consistent with recent polling in the state, gives Donald Trump 39% support, 15 points ahead of Ted Cruz (24%). John Kasich and Marco Rubio have 15% and 16%, respectively. Clinton holds a similar 11-point lead over Bernie Sanders, 55% to 44%.

    Most polling was conducted before or during the weekend, which included, among other things, a strong showing by Cruz in Saturday’s voting and a Democratic debate. Cruz and Kasich both appear to be surging (especially Kasich) and the Democratic race looks like it could be tightening.
  3. Is Donald Trump "inevitable"?

    Not yet. Trump looks weaker than he was after Super Tuesday, where he won 7 of 11 contests. Cruz, who won 3 on March 1, won the majority of delegates on Saturday, with unexpectedly strong finishes in Kansas and Maine (which he won) as well as Louisiana and Kentucky (which he lost to Trump). It’s possible voters are coming to see Cruz as the one alternative Trump – or they are voting tactically for the candidate best positioned to beat Trump in a given state. It could also be that Trump’s vulgar debate last Thursday hurt him.

    Either way, Trump needs to get to 1,237 delegates to win. He currently has 384 (Cruz has 300; Rubio 151; Kasich 37). Cruz is probably the only one other than Trump who can still win outright – but even if he doesn’t, he and the other Republicans can prevent Trump from reaching the magic number, leading to a “contested convention” in which delegates can essentially switch sides.
  4. Is Hillary Clinton "inevitable"?

    Not yet. Though she is in a better position than Trump. Bernie Sanders has won 8 of 20 contests so far, but trails by 477-672 in pledged delegates, mainly because Clinton has racked up some huge wins in the South. Sanders can still come back, but he probably needs a solid win in Michigan to revive hopes for his campaign.
  5. What’s next?

    Sanders needs a strong performance today partly because he needs to pad his delegate count and avoid a total wipe-out next week when several large states with sizeable non-white populations vote. If Clinton dominates today and next Tuesday she can mount an insurmountable lead.

    For Trump, if it’s closer than expected in Michigan and Mississippi, it may foreshadow difficulties in Ohio and Florida (Kasich and Rubio’s home states) on March 15. Delegate rules change that day, granting the winner 100% of delegates rather than a proportional share. Winning Ohio (66 delegates) or Florida (99) would keep Trump on track for the nomination – he now leads narrowly in the former and by a larger margin in the latter according to polls. Losing both would make a contested convention more likely than not.
  6. Something else: The Trump Effect?

    Following Mitt Romney’s anti-Trump speech last week, YouGov conducted some polling on the 2012 GOP nominee. It found his hypothetical endorsement of a candidate would have mixed effects. But the polling also uncovered a remarkable shift in Romney's popularity among Republicans. His favorable/unfavorable rating plummeted from 73/18 in February 2015 to 47/44 now (it was 86/11 on the eve of the 2012 election).

    The change appears to be driven by Trump supporters, who now dislike Romney even more than Democrats do. Trump’s supporters have similarly turned on other Republicans as the race has grown more heated. From the start of January to the end of February, Rubio’s favorability fell from a net +24 among Trump backers to -9; Cruz has fallen even more, from +45 to -16.

Follow me for constant updates on the race, and other stuff too.

The Pulse is a weekly newsletter YouGov has launched ahead of the 2016 primaries and general election to give readers a one-stop-shop for the latest polling-related news from the campaign. In addition to YouGov’s own extensive coverage of the election, The Pulse gives you the five things you need to know about the state of the campaign each week (and one you don't need to know but we think is worth knowing anyway!).

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