The polls were all wrong in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Delaware.
The Real Clear Politics average of polls in Pennsylvania leading up to Tuesday’s Republican primary for president had Donald Trump up 48 percent to 27 percent. Instead, he won 58 percent to 22 percent.
In Maryland, the average of the in the primary had Trump up 47 percent to 26 percent. Instead, he won 56 percent to 23 percent.
In Connecticut, the polls said Trump was at 54 percent, but then he over performed again at 59 percent.
In Rhode Island, the polls had Trump at 52 percent. Wrong again, he came in at 65 percent.
In Delaware, the polls said 55 percent. Voters said 63 percent.
Trump had similarly over performed in New York a week earlier. The polls had said he would get 53 percent, but he got 60 percent of the vote there. That, after a miserable few weeks with consecutive losses in North Dakota, Wisconsin and Colorado.
New York helped the campaign reclaim momentum headed into a series of northeast states that favored Trump, and where his blue collar economic message against unbridled trade and immigration played heavily.
So what went wrong for challengers Ted Cruz and John Kasich? Why were Trump’s victories even more decisive than the polls were able to show even days before the votes took place?
One potential flashpoint for Trump’s resurgence was the outcome of the Colorado caucus, where Cruz secured all of the state’s delegates at the state convention. Trump called the process “rigged” in an oped by the Wall Street Journal, taking the theme on the campaign trail in a message that has clearly resonated. In essence, 100 percent of the delegates was a banana republic type of outcome. The state GOP did not even try to make it look good by awarding a few token delegates to Trump.
Fair or not, Trump successfully portrayed a state convention awarding all of a state’s delegates to a candidate as illegitimate, while a state primary doing the same thing, such as in Florida or South Carolina, where he won all of the delegates but not all of the votes, was perfectly fine. Making that stick was a political masterstroke at a time many worried the Trump campaign was imploding.
Then, adding fuel to the fire, ahead of Tuesday’s primaries the Cruz and Kasich campaigns officially agreed to divvy up remaining primary states in a desperate bid to stop Trump.
In effect, Kasich suspended his campaign in Indiana while Cruz suspended his in Oregon and New Mexico — an unusual move by both campaigns that was bound to dispirit supporters in the states that are being sacrificed and beyond. Now Cruz and Kasich supporters in these states are being asked to support a candidate who might not even be their second choice.
The cooperation by Cruz and Kasich broke the illusion of the campaign, and may have violated voters’ sense of fair play. Aren’t the candidates supposed to be running against each other? Cruz and Kasich were no longer asking their supporters to vote for them as candidates on the ballot, they were asking them to vote against Trump.
It provided ample evidence that Cruz and Kasich — both who were mathematically eliminated from winning the nomination outright after the April 19 primary in New York — intend to play a Cleveland convention strategy to win. Which, being their only shot at the nomination, is not necessarily surprising.
Prior to 1976, contested and brokered conventions were basically the norm of Republican presidential politics, when most states neither held primaries nor caucuses. Voters had little to no role in actually selecting the party’s nominee. The national convention did. But for Cruz and Kasich to get there, they need to stop Trump from getting enough delegates to win on the first ballot at the convention. Splitting their votes in key states probably wasn’t helping.
But whatever the merits of that strategy, it has almost certainly played into the Trump campaign’s narrative that his opponents intend to disenfranchise Republican voters by wresting the nomination from the frontrunner at the convention and giving it to a candidate with far fewer votes, or none at all.
All of which might help explain Trump’s sudden surge at the ballot box, as many Cruz and Kasich supporters either switched to Trump or simply stayed home, a capitulation that would have surely boosted Trump’s percentages. Now, all eyes turn to Indiana, where the Cruz-Kasich strategy will face its first test. If it backfires, and Kasich’s supporters wind up still voting for Kasich, voting for Trump or simply staying home, this contest could be all but over.
But all of that is inside baseball, just the day-to-day bustle of the campaign. The Cruz-Kasich misstep analysis ignores other more pervasive factors, including Trump himself and more specifically the new voters he has brought the table.
Take Pennsylvania, a state where particularly his message on trade would resonate. Both were closed primaries. There, Trump secured 892,000 votes, 57 percent of the GOP’s 1.5 million vote total. Hillary Clinton only got 918,000, 56 percent of the Democrats’ 1.6 million votes.
In 2008, only 815,000 voted in the entire GOP contest in Pennsylvania, while 2.3 million voted Democrats in their primary.
Now, Democrat turnout in the Pennsylvania primary dropped 29 percent from 2008 by about 700,000, while Republican turnout increased 89 percent by more than 700,000.
It would take a whole lot more than voter frustration over the rules of the Republican presidential nominating process to realign a state like Pennsylvania so dramatically.
Pennsylvania is very clearly in play in the general election. The turnout numbers have to be worrisome for Democrat brass.
Below the topline percent numbers there is a dramatic shift occurring politically in states like Pennsylvania and elsewhere — and Trump and the economic issues he is raising are most certainly the reason. Pay attention, this is important.