Pennsylvania & Indiana are key to whether GOP nomination battle goes to convention

29Mar

by Jon Conradi

Winner-take-all, winner-take-most, proportional, closed, open, caucus, primary — the coverage of the 2016 GOP primaries has become a jumbled mess of complexity. With the punditry doing their best to play up the day-to-day jabs, barbs and stumbles of the candidates in each and every state, it’s hard to get a real idea of where the race stands. Will Donald Trump hit the magic number of delegates he needs to lock up the nomination, or can the dogged Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas really bring the decision to a contested convention in Cleveland?

The answer may come down to the outcomes of the GOP contests in just two key states: Pennsylvania and Indiana. Assuming polls in other winner-take-all states mostly hold, and outcomes in a few states without recent polls do not stray too far from those in neighboring, similar states, then Trump must take a majority of delegates in both to have a chance to lock up the nomination and prevent a contested convention.

Remaining Proportional States
Date State Delegates
April 26 *Connecticut 25
April 26 Rhode Island 19
May 10 West Virginia 34
May 17 Oregon 25
May 24 Washington 44
June 7 New Mexico 24
Total                              171
*Over 50 percent triggers winner-take-all

If Trump loses all the delegates in both, even if he wins all 95 delegates from New York and all 172 from California (an unlikely outcome), he would be sitting at roughly 1,111 delegates. Then, to close the door on a contested convention, Trump would have to nab an impossible 74 percent of the remaining 171 other delegates up for grabs in 6 states that award delegates proportionally. All of that would be a tall order, considering Trump has won just 40 percent of all the proportionally apportioned delegates in the contest so far.

But if Trump can pull out near-sweeps in both Indiana and Pennsylvania, assuming big wins in New York and California, he’ll be sitting as high as 1,182 total delegates. That would leave him needing just 32 percent of the proportionally apportioned 171, a climb Trump could easily crest.

Pennsylvania — April 26
Delegates at Stake: 71

Unfortunately for the candidates and their campaigns organizing to win Pennsylvania’s delegates, the state boasts one of the most convoluted processes for allocating delegates. Of the state’s 71 delegates, 17 will be awarded to the winner of the state’s primary. The other 54 are directly elected by voters, three per congressional district.

The complex contest for Pennsylvania delegates certainly hands some advantage to Cruz, whose campaign has placed far more focus on grassroots organization than Trump’s operation. The best-case scenario for Cruz in Pennsylvania will be to deny Trump both the 17 at-large, winner-take-all delegates and a majority of the delegates who support his campaign and are individually elected, even if Trump takes many of the state’s congressional districts.

But Trump’s campaign carries the advantage of the lead in the contest. The GOP front-runner tops the most recent poll in Pennsylvania, by Franklin & Marshall College, with 33 percent support, compared with 30 percent for Kasich and 20 percent for Cruz.

Trump also carries some structural advantages in particular regions of the Keystone State. Trump won 17 of the 18 coal-producing counties in neighboring Ohio, and Pennsylvania has its own significant coal-producing region. Trump also carried 50 percent of the roughly 94,000 votes cast in the four Ohio counties that border Pennsylvania, compared to just 37 percent for statewide winner Kasich. That area of Ohio shares a booming natural gas fracking industry in common with western Pennsylvania. Both sit atop the Marcellus Shale Field and both boast blue-collar workers who want a fighter to stand against the politically motivated environmental agenda coming out of President Obama’s administration.

GOP Results in Ohio Counties Bordering Pennsylvania
County Trump Kasich Cruz
Ashtabula 45% 39% 14%
Trumbull 53% 35% 10%
Mahoning 51% 38% 8%
Columbiana 48% 38% 12%
Total         50% 37% 10%
Source: Associated Press

In order to take the state, Trump will need to run up the margin in these conservative, energy-dependent regions; prevent Kasich from making a run in the more moderate, suburban Philadelphia metro area; and, most importantly, make certain the delegates elected in districts he wins are true Trump supporters.

If Trump can win, and make sure the delegates elected are really his people, he could walk away with most of the 71 delegates up for grabs in Pennsylvania, and move one step closer to cresting the 1,237 magic number.

Indiana — May 3
Delegates at Stake: 57

Indiana appropriates its delegates in a similar manner to Pennsylvania, but the three delegates allotted per congressional district in Indiana — 27 of the total — are bound to the winner of that district. The remaining 30 delegates are all awarded to the statewide winner of the contest. Those 30 delegates represent the biggest winner-take-all haul remaining in the GOP contest except New Jersey (51), Wisconsin (42), and Nebraska (33).

Kasich could play the spoiler for Trump or Cruz in the third and sixth districts of the state. Those districts both border a swath of Ohio where Kasich dominated the competition, winning 7 of 9 counties. Much of the territory in the two Indiana districts on the Ohio border is in the same media markets, Cincinnati and Dayton, as the region won big by hometown favorite Kasich. The districts are both deep red conservative. The pair are also heavily blue-collar.

Cruz and Trump will be looking to win the state outright and will need every vote, while Kasich will likely target the area where he has his best chance to collect more delegates. Conservative, blue-collar, and in a region with heavy influence from neighboring Ohio, the third and sixth congressional districts may see Indiana’s toughest fighting among all three of the remaining GOP candidates.

GOP Results in Kentucky Counties Bordering Indiana
County Trump Cruz Other
Boone 30% 35% 35%
Gallatin 28% 42% 30%
Carroll 37% 43% 20%
Trimble 36% 46% 19%
Oldham 28% 33% 40%
Jefferson 31% 29% 40%
Hardin 35% 34% 31%
Meade 46% 31% 23%
Breckenridge 40% 33% 27%
Hancock 28% 41% 31%
Daviess 26% 37% 37%
Henderson 28% 44% 29%
Union 39% 40% 22%
Total              31% 32% 37%
Source: Associated Press

The eighth and 9th districts in southern Indiana, bordering Kentucky, could also prove a flash point between Trump and Cruz. Cruz won 9 of 14 Kentucky counties bordering the two districts, topping Trump by just 1,000 votes — or 1 percent across the border counties.

The candidate who emerges strongest from those battleground districts and who plays the best in the remaining districts heavily influenced by Indianapolis will stand to take the Indiana.

A Trump collapse in California or failure to win over 50 percent in New York could torpedo the front-runner’s math regardless of what Hoosiers decide at the polls. But if all goes Trump’s way, Indiana could be the key state for him to lock up the 1,237 delegates he needs to win outright. If Trump’s rivals can keep him from victory in Indiana, and keep his delegate count down in Pennsylvania, the Republican Party could very well be looking at a contested convention in Cleveland.

See full article: Two States that May Decide Trumps Fate