Cruz and Kasich are working at cross-purposes, setting Trump up to win most of Tuesday's delegates despite big trouble in Utah.
By Patrick Reis
03/22/16 05:14 AM EDT
Updated 03/22/16 12:06 PM EDT
Donald Trump’s rivals are once again going to the extra mile to hold each other back — and Trump is once again set to profit from it.
Trump spent the election’s first two months opening a large delegate lead, in part because his rivals keep cutting into each other’s strength. Now they’re set up to do it again Tuesday, when Republicans compete in Arizona and Utah.
Trump is already expected to win 58 delegates in Arizona’s winner-take-all primary. And in Utah, where 40 delegates are at stake, John Kasich threatens to do just well enough to stop Ted Cruz from getting the big victory the Texan would need to keep pace.
Utah’s caucus rules threaten to trip up the anti-Trump forces. If any candidate gets more than 50 percent of the vote, he takes all 40 delegates. The most recent poll shows Cruz threatening to do just that: A survey by Y2 Analytics put Cruz at 53 percent, Kasich at 29 percent and Trump at a bottom-scraping 11 percent. If those results were to be exactly borne out, Cruz would still finish second in Tuesday’s overall delegate haul — but he would keep the day from becoming another Trump rout, even if the Manhattan mogul scores his expected big win in Arizona.
But if no candidate scores a majority of the vote in Utah, the delegates are divided proportionally, and that’s where Kasich comes in. With a late campaign push, the Ohio governor threatens to peel off enough Cruz support to deny the Texan an outright majority — leaving the two to share the delegate pool. And in the establishment’s absolutely worst-case scenario, Trump could add insult to injury by snagging a few delegates for himself.
Anti-Trump figures in Utah are scrambling to keep that from happening. Mitt Romney recorded a robocall to Utah Republican voters Monday with a straightforward message: “A vote for John Kasich is a vote for Donald Trump.”
If Romney and his allies fail, however, it all adds to up to a dayin which Trump’s foes cancel each other out, and Trump's big delegate lead gets even bigger.
Arizona and Utah will dole out 98 delegates Tuesday. Here’s what to watch for.
Arizona and the ghost of campaigns past
Cruz has long said — and the party has long hoped — that he’ll be able to beat Trump once they get in a one-on-one matchup.
He won’t get it in Arizona. Kasich has sat out the contest almost entirely, but it’s a former rival, not a current one, who threatens to siphon support from Cruz: Marco Rubio.
Arizona has one of the longest early-voting periods in the nation, and experts estimate a majority of the ballots have already been cast, including many sent before Rubio ended his campaign on March 15.
Still, Trump’s opponents can take hope in the unknown: The Arizona primary has had few polls, the most recent one was weeks ago, and the contest’s polling has been hit-or-miss, anyway.
Other than that, all signs point to Trump: In the two public polls that have been taken, Trump leads Cruz by an average of 13 percentage points, with Trump in the 30s and Cruz in the 20s.
And even if the polls aren’t to be trusted, there are plenty of other reasons to believe Trump’s campaign is tailor-made for a win in Arizona. When Trump promises a Mexico-funded wall along the southern border, he’s referring in part to Arizona’s southern border. And a candidate who started his campaign with a blistering screed labeling undocumented immigrants “rapists” and “murderers” seems a good match for a state with the nation’s most controversial law dealing with undocumented immigrants.
Trump also racked up a host of big-name endorsements. Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio is backing him and endorsed him at his Phoenix-area rally Tuesday. Former Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer has endorsed him as well.
A Trump drubbing
Trump has promised his supporters that he’d win so much they’d get “sick” of winning. Utah should provide a dose of a cure.
Trump is on pace to get crushed in Utah, where the state’s strong Mormon contingent has shown little appetite for his boorish antics and inconsistent stances on social issues. And all that was before Trump questioned Romney’s Mormon faith — an intensely personal attack against the state’s favorite son — at a Salt Lake City rally Friday night. (In the 2012 general election, Romney won 73 percent of Utah’s vote against President Barack Obama.) Trump has since walked back the comments, but the damage had been done.
Trump got a preview of how he’ll do among Mormons during the Idaho primary early this month. Statewide, he took 28 percent of the vote there. But in eastern Idaho’s heavily Mormon counties, Trump’s numbers plunged into the mid-teens, behind both Cruz and Rubio in many cases.
This is going to hurt
After March’s barrage of primaries and caucuses, Tuesday’s contests will be followed by a half-time of sorts in the GOP primary.
By Tuesday, the remaining Republican candidates will have competed in at least 29 nominating contests. During the three weeks after that, they’ll have just two: the Wisconsin primary and the Colorado party convention.
The next opportunity for a really big win won’t take place for nearly a month, when 95 delegates will be at stake in New York on April 19.
For Tuesday’s winners, that’s a partial respite and a chance to savor a victory, but anyone who loses big Tuesday night will have to sit with that sting for a while.
Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2016/03/utah-arizona-primary-trump-cruz-kasich-221061#ixzz43ghOfH5u