Predicting Tuesday's Primaries

TAMPA, FL - MARCH 14: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to supporters during a town hall meeting on March
TAMPA, FL - MARCH 14: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to supporters during a town hall meeting on March 14, 2016 at the Tampa Convention Center in Tampa , Florida. Trump is campaigning ahead of the Florida primary on March 15. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)

It's time to play "guess the primary results" once again, boys and girls! Before we get to confidently (or not-so-confidently, in some cases) predicting tomorrow night's results, I have to first update my record from the last time around.

Before I even get to that, however, a mea culpa is necessary for D.C. Republicans, Northern Mariana Islands Democrats, and a few other races that slipped my attention last week. Since I didn't make any predictions for any of these minor contests, I can't add any of them to my totals. The D.C. Republican primary was amusing, partly because there are so few GOP voters in the District. And they're not in tune with GOP voters elsewhere, it seems. It was a close race for first place between (are you sitting down?) John Kasich and Marco Rubio. In the end, Rubio edged Kasich out by 50 votes, out of over 2,000 cast. The establishment strikes back! Or something....

In any case, getting back to the races I did remember to call, I didn't have all that great a night. I missed Bernie's win in Michigan, but in my defense so did everybody else. This continues a slump of me underestimating Bernie Sanders, which I will try to counterbalance in today's picks. Overall, I was only 1-for-2 for the night on the Democratic side (I did call Mississippi's big win for Hillary correctly). I should also mention that I did call the Democrats Abroad race for Sanders, but the results won't be in until next week, so it won't be counted until then.

On the Republican side, I did a bit better. I predicted a complete sweep of Hawai'i, Idaho, Michigan, and Mississippi for Donald Trump, and therefore got three out of four right. Again, in my own defense, I did write about the Idaho race: "I feel the least confident of any of today's predictions here, but I'm going to go with the polling and say Trump edges Cruz out. I wouldn't be surprised to be wrong, though." I was indeed wrong, and I wasn't that surprised. So that brings my overall record up to:

Total correct 2016 Democratic picks: 17 for 22 -- 77%

Total correct 2016 Republican picks: 23 for 32 -- 72%

Total overall correct picks: 40 for 54 -- 74%.

OK, with that up to date, let's take a crack at predicting what is going to happen tomorrow night. These races will all be closely watched on both sides, to state the patently obvious. Here are tomorrow night's contests, in alphabetic order.

 

Florida

Calling Florida is pretty easy, on both sides of the aisle. Hillary Clinton will dominate, continuing her sweep of the South. The big news here, however, is going to be Donald Trump beating Marco Rubio in his home state, and taking all 99 of the Florida delegates as a result (Florida is a "winner-takes-all" state). This defeat will utterly crush Rubio's presidential dream, and he will likely withdraw from the race either Tuesday night or very early Wednesday morning. Ah, what might have been, Little Marco....

 

Illinois

Illinois is going to be a very interesting race to watch, although most of the media hasn't quite picked up on it yet. On the Republican side, there has been a late movement towards Ted Cruz, but he's still trailing Trump in the polls. Geographically, both Trump and Cruz have a shot at both Illinois and Missouri, since the states border regions they've already won. But I'm betting that Trump's Chicago rally no-show will actually seal the deal for him, since it was local news in the state. Trump edges Cruz out to claim Illinois.

On the Democratic side, the race has very dark undercurrents indeed. Illinois is one of three states Hillary Clinton can claim as "home states" (Arkansas and New York being the other two). But here in Illinois, tying herself tightly to the Obama administration isn't going to be as magical for Hillary as it was in the South. Rahm Emanuel was Obama's White House Chief of Staff, before he left to become Chicago's mayor. His time in office has been contentious, though, as he's earned the wrath of the teachers' unions and African-Americans (for delaying the release of the cop shooting video until after his re-election). Those are two big constituencies to lose, and when Hillary Clinton loudly supported Rahm a few months ago, people in Chicago noticed.

There has been a very late-breaking surge for Sanders in Illinois. Last week a poll showed Clinton with a whopping lead of 42 points. Now, the polls are virtually tied and Sanders even led one of them (48 percent to Clinton's 46 percent). A good rule of thumb is that when the voters break late, the candidate they break toward is usually the winner. I'm going to go with that rule and say Bernie edges Clinton out in one of her home states.

 

Missouri

Missouri is one of those states allergic to polling, for some inexplicable reason. Strange, seeing as how they're supposed to be the "Show Me" state. Show me the numbers, Missouri!

On the Republican side, there is only one poll I could find. It showed Trump up by seven points over Cruz, with Rubio and Kasich in single digits. However, there was a large percentage undecided. I'm going to make a complete gut call on this and say that the polling is wrong and that Cruz wins the state. Geographically, Missouri touches three states Cruz has already won (Oklahoma, Kansas, and Iowa). So it would seem to be friendly territory for him. Combined with the dearth of polling, I can see Cruz picking up most of the counties in the state and edging Trump out.

The polling isn't much better on the Democratic side. There is a grand total of two polls for Democrats. One shows Sanders at 47 to Clinton's 46, and one says Clinton has a seven-point lead (47-40). So it's anybody's guess what will happen, really. Although Missouri's next door to Illinois, Rahm won't be a factor for them, which may change the dynamics. Missouri also touches Arkansas, another home state for Clinton. But I'm going to say Bernie pulls an upset here and edges Clinton out. Missouri has an open primary (meaning non-Democrats can vote in the Democratic primary), and Bernie usually does a pretty good job of winning independents. This race may be a close one, however, closer even than Ohio.

 

North Carolina

North Carolina seems like an easy call on both sides. Trump is up in the polling by double-digits, and Clinton's up by even more. So I predict an early win for both Trump and Clinton. My guess is neither race will even be close.

 

Ohio

Finally, there is Ohio. This state has been billed as the most interesting of the night on both sides. Florida will be big on the Republican side (because Trump's win will force Rubio out of the race), and if Bernie manages to win either Illinois or Missouri (or both) it'll be big news too. But Ohio is going to be the most heavily covered tomorrow night, that's my guess.

John Kasich has already done something phenomenal in his home state -- he's edged out Trump in the polls. In the past few days of polling, Kasich is either tied with The Donald or up by five or six points. Maybe Rubio telling his supporters to vote for Kasich here had a positive effect? For whatever reason, Kasich is surging. Late surges are usually predictive, so I'm going to go ahead and call Ohio for its governor. This will be a blow to Trump, since winning all of Ohio's delegates would have made him almost untouchable for the nomination, but even having said that, Kasich is downright delusional in his belief that he can translate a home-state win into national momentum. Winning Ohio means Kasich will live on to fight another day (unlike Rubio), but that's about it, really.

On the Democratic side, the polling indicates Hillary Clinton will win. She's ahead by five points or more in all the recent polls. However, I'm going to go fully optimistic for Bernie and predict he'll manage an upset here, too. Ohio voters care deeply about the auto industry, and Hillary's misguided attack at Bernie on not supporting the auto bailout will resonate in Ohio just as it did in Michigan. It may be a very close margin, but I think Bernie can recreate his Michigan miracle here tomorrow night.

 

Overall, this gives Donald Trump only three victories out of five (Florida, Illinois, and North Carolina). Ohio goes for favorite-son John Kasich, and Missouri goes to Ted Cruz. For Democrats, Bernie Sanders has the best night of his campaign and wins Illinois, Missouri, and Ohio. Hillary Clinton picks up Florida and North Carolina, and may actually collect more delegates than Bernie.

But I'll go one step further -- if my predictions do turn out to be correct for Democrats, here's my prediction for the storyline the media is going to start running with, starting Wednesday morning. If Sanders does pick up two or even three states, the narrative is going to quickly shift to: "Clinton having problems winning states outside the South," or, to put it slightly differently: "Clinton winning red states, Sanders winning blue states." When you look at the map of how each state is likely to vote in November -- and, again, if I'm right about even two out of the three states I've called for Bernie -- then it's going to be noticeable which states the two candidates are respectively winning. That's my guess, anyway. As always, if you think I'm wildly off my nut about any of these predictions, feel free to make your own in the comments.

 

[Previous states' picks:]

 

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