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Analysis and perspective about what's happening in the political realm.

The Statistical Models Vying to Define Donald Trump

Donald Trump’s success seems inexorable, inexplicable, and immune to punditry. Of course, that hasn’t stopped pundits from trying. By now, the marketplace of ideas is so crowded with why-Trump-is-winning theories that the line to return expired opinions stretches longer than the wait at an Arizona caucus site.

But as more states cast ballots, political analysts are getting actual data—not just opinion poll results—on what voters want. Granted, they don’t know whatindividual voters think; most states aggregate results at the county level and up. But by using publicly available demographic data and a bit of computer modeling, analysts can begin to link a county’s vote to the makeup of the people who live there. Predictions about what voters care about can be backed up with data, not theory.

Or at least that’s the idea. In practice, the results have been much weirder.

Earlier in March, The Washington Post’s Jeff Guo ran an analysis of Super Tuesday vote returns and found that Trump fared unusually well in counties where older white residents were more likely to die in middle age, a conclusion he couldn’t conclusively explain. A little over a week later...

Cruz and Kasich Are Playing Right Into Trump's Hands

Even as Don­ald Trump’s strong per­form­ance Tues­day night was a ser­i­ous set­back to the anti-Trump move­ment, the biggest obstacles to stop­ping Trump are his own Re­pub­lic­an rivals. In­stead of work­ing to­geth­er and deny­ing Trump del­eg­ates, both Ted Cruz and John Kasich have pur­sued self-de­struct­ive, self-in­ter­ested strategies that seemed de­signed more to one-up each oth­er than take on the front-run­ner in the race.

Ac­cord­ing to The Cook Polit­ic­al Re­port’s del­eg­ate score­card, des­pite Trump’s suc­cess­ful night last Tues­day, he is now (slightly) off track to se­cur­ing the 1,237 del­eg­ates ne­ces­sary to clinch be­fore the con­ven­tion. And, ac­cord­ing to the del­eg­ate math, Cruz and Kasich have no path to win­ning a ma­jor­ity. If both Cruz and Kasich are look­ing to deny Trump his ne­ces­sary del­eg­ates (and press their luck with a con­tested con­ven­tion), they should be...

American Conservatives Face a Difficult Choice in 2016

The accelerating likelihood that Donald Trump will win the Republican presidential nomination outright thrusts an agonizing dilemma on Republican politicians. Leave aside their own personal feelings about Trump. The most likely consequence of a Trump nomination is a severe Republican defeat in November, and not a defeat for Trump alone. Some significant number of Republicans just won’t vote for Trump. When people don’t want to vote for the top of a ticket, they often stay home altogether, dooming every close race lower down on the ticket.

Republicans have Senate seats at risk in Florida, Illinois, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin—sufficient to put the Republican majority in question. The House looks safer, as does the Republican hold on state governments, but who knows? Trump is most objectionable to the most reliable and loyal Republican voters, exactly the kind of people who vote Republican for every office all the way down to county commissioner. Perhaps the very most reliable and most loyal will show up no matter what, skip the top line, and otherwise vote the straight ticket. Or perhaps not.

So talk is rising in the Republican world of some kind of independent candidacy, using some minor-party...

Florida and Ohio Primaries Critical in the 'Stop Trump' Movement

In this screw­ball year, it’s dan­ger­ous to say any­thing defin­it­ively, but it sure looks like Tues­day’s Ohio Re­pub­lic­an primary will be the make-or-break point for the “Stop Trump” move­ment. This is as­sum­ing that Don­ald Trump beats Marco Ru­bio in Flor­ida, which seems a bit more likely than not. Then it comes down to Ohio, where John Kasich has been hold­ing a mod­est lead in the polls. 

If Kasich holds Ohio, which is his home state, the del­eg­ate climb for Trump gets very steep. Trump has won 44 per­cent of all del­eg­ates se­lec­ted so far. Ima­gine a straight, di­ag­on­al line from zero del­eg­ates in the bot­tom left corner at the be­gin­ning of the race, up to the num­ber 1,237 in the up­per right corner, the barest ma­jor­ity that se­cures a nom­in­a­tion. Every week, take a look and see if Trump is above or be­low that tra­ject­ory to the ma­gic num­ber. A...

The Odds of a Contested Convention Have Never Been Higher

Don­ald Trump’s not-so-ma­gic num­ber in the Re­pub­lic­an primar­ies is 34 per­cent. That’s the av­er­age share of the vote Trump has re­ceived in the first 19 con­tests. He won one-third of the vote in the four early races, 34 per­cent on Su­per Tues­day, and a dis­ap­point­ing 33 per­cent av­er­age in the smal­ler-state races held this week­end. At a time when can­did­ates usu­ally in­crease their sup­port, Trump’s is stun­ted.

This has been the story of the Re­pub­lic­an race: Trump, with the help of end­less news-me­dia cov­er­age, was able to con­sol­id­ate and lock down his blue-col­lar base quick­er than his rivals, who spent months fight­ing among them­selves. Only now are Re­pub­lic­an can­did­ates and out­side groups train­ing their fire at Trump, and it’s clearly pay­ing off.

The biggest be­ne­fi­ciary of the Trump ceil­ing is Ted Cruz, who is the second choice of many Trump sup...