Following the South Carolina primary, an interesting article by Michael Harrington went around Facebook that speculated that Donald Trump’s victory in the South Carolina primary was attributable to Democrats voting in the Republican (open) primary. One of the good things about Harrington’s article is that he put out a testable hypothesis — that turnout in the Democratic primary a few days later would be less than 390,000. In fact, it was 367,000. Harrington concludes that had South Carolina had a closed primary, Ted Cruz would have won the primary there. I don’t know him and the author seems to be anti-Trump based on other things he has written — but the fact that his prediction was borne out adds some independent verification to his thesis.Why does this matter? Back to Zywicki:
Because so far the primary calendar has been heavily tilted toward open primaries. But there have been four closed elections: the Iowa caucus, the Nevada caucus, and Super Tuesday’s Oklahoma primary and Alaska caucus. Ted Cruz won three of those four closed elections.So does that mean Ted Cruz is going to win these closed events? We'll find out soon enough. Underlying what we've seen so far are two interesting questions:
So here’s where it potentially gets interesting. Although the media are looking forward to March 15, this Saturday (March 5) there are four Republican primaries/caucuses: Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana and Maine. All are closed.
- Who are the Trump voters? and
- What is their motivation?
We've talked quite a bit, maybe too much, about motivation here. I've also assumed that many Trump voters are disaffected and that they are either new to the political process, or they've been away for a long time. But are we certain that we know who the Trump voters are? I'm not certain at all.
Meanwhile, other questions arise:
- If a series of closed primaries delivers more wins for Ted Cruz, what does that tell you about the Republican base?
- Are there enough potential extra votes to be had in the Trump camp to make up for the losses the party suffers if Trump becomes the standard-bearer?
If Trump gets through to the general election, his candidacy is a complete roll of the dice. The problem for Republicans, particularly in the last two cycles, is that the other side was more motivated and the candidates the Republicans ran were hesitant to fight. Trump will fight. So will Ted Cruz. I'm not sure which one would fight more effectively. Trump's genius in dealing with opponents is his ability to boil the insult down into a soundbite -- the notion that Jeb Bush is "low energy" was perfect. Cruz can't do that. If left to his own devices, Cruz will speak in paragraphs. But then again, if Cruz is the nominee, he'll have more time to prosecute the case against the Democrats generally, and Hillary Clinton in particular. And he'll be good at it.
And all that leads to the most important question:
- Do you trust your brain, or do you trust your gut?