Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and John Kaisch are all continuing to seek the Republican party nomination for President to face presumptive Democratic party nominee Hillary Clinton this year.
Bottom line: I give Trump an 88% chance of winning the nomination (and a 13.2% chance of being elected President), and an 82% chance of a Clinton victory in the general election, mostly because Trump is weak vis-a-vis Hillary Clinton, but also because I think that Cruz is weaker vis-a-vis Hillary Clinton than polling so far would suggest because Cruz's flaws aren't as well known as they might be.
CNN's prediction market affiliate has a 78% chance of a Clinton Presidency and a 19% of a Trump Presidency, which is within reasonable margins of error of my own predictions, which suggests that my views are well within the mainstream of informed opinion on these issues. And, it isn't impossible that my liberal bias is pulling me to overstate Clinton's chances somewhat.
The Results So Far
There are 2,472 delegates to the National Republican Convention in Cleveland this July.
Trump has 1,002 pledged delegates and he needs 42% of the remaining delegates (271 of 564 including remaining super delegates) to win the Republican Presidential nomination on a first vote at the convention. After that first vote, the analysis becomes much more complex because pledged delegates cease to be pledged to their candidate at that point. The magic number at the Republican convention in Cleveland is 1,273 delegates.
It is mathematically impossible for anyone else to win on the first round, even if they are supported by all uncommitted delegates who can vote their preference in the first round. Ted Cruz has 571 pledged delegates and one super delegate who has endorsed him. John Kaisch has 157 pledged delegates. Marco Rubio has 167 pledged delegates. Ben Carson has 9 pledged delegates. Jeb Bush has 1 pledged delegate.
Rubio and Bush have given Cruz a lukewarm endorsement, and Kaisch has implied that he will join them in that lukewarm endorsement. Carson has given a lukewarm endorsement to Trump. But, none of those endorsements releases the delegates for those candidates in the first round or binds those delegates in later rounds.
Unlike the Democratic primary and caucus process, almost all of the remaining GOP races are winner take all, or winner take all partially at the state level and partially at the Congressional district level.
Republican party rule 40(b), which would have to be amended by a supermajority at the convention to change, limits the convention to considering only candidates who have won eight or more states, i.e. to either Donald Trump or Ted Cruz. Rule 40(b) excludes John Kaisch, Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, or some "white knight" candidate who didn't run, from receiving the nomination unless both Trump and Cruz drop out of the race. (In theory, Kaisch could still win enough of the remaining states to qualify in addition to the one state, Ohio, that he has already won, but in reality this is simply impossible given his past performance and current polling among like Republican voters in the remaining primary states.)
Remaining Races With Predictions
The remaining Republican Presidential nomination races are as follows (with polling aggregated per Real Clear Politics when available):
Indiana - 57 delegates - Trump 37.5, Cruz 35.2, Kaisch 18.0 - No clear prediction
Nebraska - 36 delegates - Conventional wisdom favors Cruz (clean sweep) (Trump zero)
West Virginia - 34 delegates - Conventional wisdom favors Trump (almost clean sweep) (Trump 33)
Oregon - 28 delegates - No clear prediction
Washington - 44 delegates (proportional) - No clear prediction (At least 15 for Trump)
California - 172 delegates - Trump 45.7, Cruz 28.2, Kaisch 18.0 - No clear prediction
Montana - 27 delegates - Conventional wisdom favors Cruz (clean sweep) (Trump zero)
New Jersey - 51 delegates - Trump 52.0, Cruz 18.0, Kaisch 24.0 (Trump 51)
New Mexico - 24 delegates (proportional) - No clear prediction (At least 8 for Trump).
South Dakota - 29 delegates - Conventional wisdom favors Cruz (clean sweep) (Trump zero)
Analysis of The Rest Of Primary Season
It is much harder to robustly predict the outcome of the GOP race, because the winner take all nature of the contests (with incomplete Congressional district level data) creates a large swing in close races such as the Indiana race. The three way races also leave open the possibility of tactical moves in which Cruz or Kaisch drops out of contention in a state to give the other non-Trump candidate a shot at depriving Trump of those delegates.
And, the significant share of the remaining delegates that Trump needs leaves much less margin for error.
Analysis of the races give us 5 races to consider further and 84 Trump delegates from easier to predict races, so he would need 187 additional delegates from those 5 races and uncommitted delegates to win in the first round. If we make a conservative assumption that he will win at least a third of the delegates in the two states with a proportional allocation, his Trump's quota for Indiana, California and Oregon is 164 delegates out of the 257 delegates at stake in those states.
Trump leads in polling in both Indiana and California, which certainly gives him a viable shot at a first round win of the nomination and makes him even more of a front runner than he would have been otherwise. He not only leads in delegates, but has a path to victory paved with states where he leads in the polls.
But, it is close in Indiana where the close race could make for a wide swing of possibilities. Certainly, Trump gets some Congressional district delegates and Cruz gets other Congressional district delegates in a close race, but a switch of Kaisch voters to Cruz, as the those two candidates suggested briefly, could shift the balance decisively to Cruz in Indiana and deny Trump any delegates from Indiana.
Oregon sits between Trump territory and Cruz territory and I have seen no polling from this mixed winner take all state, so it is hard to predict.
Most California delegates are awarded at the Congressional district level, rather than at the state level where Trump should win if current polling holds up, so neither Trump nor Cruz will get all of California's delegates in all probability, but the polling seems to favor Trump decisively in California overall.
If Trump wins decisively in Indiana, he will probably win the GOP nomination on the first round, as there is little else to dent his momentum before the race goes to California. But, if Trump loses decisively in Indiana, he has even odds at best of winning a first round vote in the Convention.
At this point, I give Trump a 60% chance of winning on the first round.
Analysis of a Possible Contested Convention
If Trump secures 1,237 pledged delegates backing him in the first round of the convention, or falls a few delegates short but manages to win the backing of the handful of GOP super delegates in the first round, it is all over and Trump is the GOP nominee.
But, if Trump fails, the question is whether the Convention would suspend Rule 40(b) to allow someone other than Trump or Cruz to be considered, and if not, whether Trump or Cruz would win in a second round vote at the Convention.
Trump will undisputedly have secured more delegates by far, more of the popular vote by far, and more states in the Republican primary than Cruz or anyone else. A Convention vote for Cruz will look like a coup and weaken him, perhaps irremediably with Trump supporters. In contrast, supporters of other candidates may be disillusioned by a Trump win, but aren't nearly as likely to bolt the party in the end and won't be in a position to claim that Trump's win was illegitimate.
Trump isn't loved by the GOP establishment, but most of the candidates who were eliminated from the race after winning delegates (except Carson) have reluctantly endorsed Cruz, but almost nobody in the GOP establishment likes Cruz. For example, former Speaker of the House Hastert denounced Cruz as Lucifer incarnate yesterday. And, Trump has a much greater position to wheel and deal with personal or political favors for delegates than Cruz who has fewer resources and more unbreakable political commitments (and is simply less of a negotiator).
Cruz has tried hard to plant disloyal individuals as Trump delegates, and maybe he's succeeded. It is hard to know as an outsider to the process.
I give Trump at least a 55% chance of winning in a second round vote against Cruz. Combined with my prediction that he has a 60% chance of winning on the first round, this gives Trump an 88% chance of winning the GOP nomination in my estimation, with Cruz having perhaps a 10% chance of winning the nomination, and some other white knight having perhaps a 2% chance.
The crystal ball will be much less cloudy on Tuesday night when we have the results from Indiana.
Onto the General Election
In a Trump v. Clinton race, I would give Clinton an 80%-90% chance of winning, call it 85% to split the difference. Her current margin in national polls over Trump is almost thee standard deviations, but I expect that to fall to quite a bit more than one standard deviation, but less than two standard deviations (95% chance) by the time the general election rolls along as Trump positions himself closer to the center and moderates his publicly expressed views and maybe even apologizes for some of his previous incendiary statement.
In a Cruz v. Clinton race, I would give Clinton a 75% chance of winning which is probably an underestimate given the legitimacy issues that Cruz will face and the fact that lots of Americans haven't yet had time to get to know him and that doing so will reduce his esteem in the eyes of the average voter. Clinton leads Cruz in national polls by about one standard deviation, but I expect that the gap will grow over time.
In a White Knight v. Clinton race, I would give Clinton a 50% chance of winning (given Kaisch's strong polling against Clinton, but the true legitimacy problem that any such candidate would face).
This gives us a 16.7% chance of a Republican President in the 2016 general election and a 82% chance of a President Clinton and a 1.3% or so chance of a President Sanders (considering less than 2% but more than 1% chance of him being the nominee and the strong likelihood that he would do as well or better than Clinton in a general election under those circumstances).
So the odds regarding the likelihood of various persons being our next President in my estimation are:
* President Hillary Clinton 82%
* President Donald Trump 13.2%
* President Cruz 2.5%
* President Sanders 1.3%
* President Kaisch 1.0%
* Democratic President 5/6th
* Republican President 1/6th