Sabato's Crystal Ball

A Glossary of National Convention Delegate Allocation

Josh Putnam, Guest Columnist February 11th, 2016


The objective of any presidential campaign seeking the nomination of one of the two major parties is pretty simple: In some way, shape, or form, all the candidates want to win. All other things held equal, those candidates would also like to keep winning, from Iowa to New Hampshire to South Carolina and on and on. That is, a candidate wants to either (1) build on momentum established in the pre-voting invisible primary period or (2) create and sustain that momentum during primary season itself. The nominations of Al Gore and George W. Bush in 2000 fit the “building” mold, while John Kerry and Barack Obama in 2004 and 2008, respectively, might fall into the “create” category.

It might be easier to focus on the primary and caucus wins and losses in the first case. After all, that is the pattern: win and keep winning, with very few bumps in the road along the way. Presidential nominations are not often wrapped up so easily, however. Sometimes a candidate can clinch a nomination by a series of early victories, quickly choking off the support of challengers also vying for the nomination. However, if a candidate cannot do this and the hopes have faded on a quick and easy, momentum-based sprint to the nomination, the goalposts move and the focus shifts from wins and losses to the delegate count. And that can move things from a quick and easy sprint to a slow and murky slog through the arcane rules that govern the Democratic and Republican presidential nominations.

With that transition comes a fairly steep learning curve for the campaigns, which have hopefully already planned for a drawn-out affair, as well as for casual observers. The 2016 process is no different. While the Democratic National Committee retained the bulk of the delegate selection rules it used in 2012, the Republican National Committee made some changes to their process. On top of the patchwork of rules carried over, then, there are additional rules to consider.

The 2016 races have only just entered the voting phase of the process, and while there are some distant signs of order in a sea of chaos, here are some things to consider if either or both of the presidential nomination races become delegate counting affairs:

1. Proportionality

The concept of proportional allocation may be the most misunderstood aspect of delegate allocation. Basically, the problem is that the mechanics of the process are oversimplified. Often it is interpreted as “if Obama wins 60% of the vote, then Obama wins 60% of the delegates.” But that is only true in the very small number of states in the Republican process that have no requirement that candidates meet a certain threshold of support in the voting to qualify for delegates. For instance, in the recently-completed New Hampshire primary, only the five candidates who won at least 10% of the statewide vote were eligible to win GOP delegates.

On the Republican side, just five states are truly proportional with no threshold: Hawaii, Iowa, Nevada, North Carolina, and Virginia. The remaining states in the GOP process restrict just how proportional the allocation is. On the Democratic side, all of the states and territories holding delegate selection events are required to have a standard 15% threshold to qualify for delegates.

Proportional, then, is only completely proportional in a few rare instances. In the majority of states, proportional tends to mean the qualifying candidates receive a higher share of delegates (relative to raw vote share) because of a series of additional limiting components.

2. Qualifying Thresholds

All of the states in the Democratic process and the majority of proportional states on the Republican side have some qualifying threshold that must be met in order for a candidate to be eligible for delegates. Again, that threshold is set at the national party level in the Democratic process at 15%. Therefore, to be awarded any delegates a Democratic candidate must win at least 15% of the vote statewide and/or in a congressional district (see point 4).

Things are more variable for Republicans. The GOP has set up a “proportionality window” for the states that go between March 1 and March 14, ostensibly preventing them from awarding delegates in a winner-take-all fashion. States in that proportionality window and those that opt to be anything other than winner-take-all — whether statewide and/or at the congressional district level — the Republican National Committee allows a qualifying threshold up to 20%. A limited number of states — those described above — have no threshold. But among the other 28 states that fall in the Republican proportional category, the thresholds range from 5% to 20%. The higher that marker is set, the smaller the number of candidates qualifying for delegates is likely to be.

The true impact of the qualifying thresholds on the ultimate delegate allocation also hinges to some degree on the amount of winnowing that has taken place before any given contest. While a proportional allocation method with any threshold limits the number of candidates who qualify — making the distribution less proportional — the impact is different depending on the number of candidates still in the race. For a large field, a qualifying threshold not only limits the number of candidates who end up with delegates, but also potentially makes the allocation less proportional.

Take Iowa, for example. If the threshold in the Hawkeye State had been set at 20%, then only Ted Cruz, Donald Trump, and Marco Rubio would have qualified for delegates. Rather than Cruz claiming nearly 28% of the delegates, as the Texas senator did because Iowa Republicans set no threshold, Cruz would have won 36% of the Iowa delegates under a set of rules that included a 20% threshold. The allocation becomes less proportional with the threshold and a group of candidates below the threshold claiming a significant share of the vote. Nearly a quarter of the vote was won by candidates below 20% in the Iowa Republican caucuses.

In a scenario where there are fewer candidates, though, the outlook is different. If there are just two candidates and the race is reasonably competitive, then a qualifying threshold is less restrictive on the eventual delegate allocation. On the Democratic side, then, so long as Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton exceed the 15% threshold, the allocation will continue to be pretty close to mathematical proportionality. There are no other Democratic candidates credibly vying fora sizable chunk of the vote that would come under the threshold. That is in contrast to the more crowded Republican field. As the GOP field winnows, however, the delegate share of the remaining candidates above the threshold would tend to be a more proportional reflection of the vote share. And that will likely be true regardless of where a threshold is set. The candidates not qualifying for delegates will tend to take up a shrinking share of votes as primary season progresses.

3. Winner-take-all Thresholds

Though there is only one type of threshold on the Democratic side, the Republican process allows for an additional threshold. Proportional states can also set a threshold that, if surpassed, can give a candidate all of the delegates from the state or congressional district. In other words, even states in the proportionality window in early March could allocate all or a greater fraction of their delegates to one candidate and still qualify as proportional under the RNC rules.

By rule, a state can set that threshold no lower than 50%. If, however, a candidate wins a majority of the vote either statewide and/or in a congressional district, then that candidate would win all of the delegates, all of the at-large delegates, or all of the delegates from a congressional district. (More on these distinctions below in point 4.)

Assuming there is a crowded field, there is a smaller likelihood of a candidate meeting such a winner-take-all threshold. That is particularly true in the earlier states on the primary calendar. As a nomination race stretches deeper into the calendar, though, and as the field winnows, the odds of one candidate hitting that threshold increase. The decreasing field is key. As a field winnows (or if the field only ever had two candidates to begin with), then triggering a winner-take-all threshold becomes more likely. This is most often relevant toward the end of the process on the Republican side. Remember, the Democrats have no winner-take-all triggers.

4. Pooled delegates

Another difference across parties concerns how delegates are grouped for the purpose of allocation. State parties under Republican Party rules have the ability to allocate all of their delegates — whether proportionally or winner-take-all — based on the statewide vote. However, all Democratic states and a group of Republican states also split that allocation up across units. That is to say, state parties can allocate a portion of their delegates — the “at-large” delegates — based on the statewide results. But those same states can award “district-level” delegates based on the vote within each congressional district in the state. Democrats actually require 75% of a state’s base delegation to be made up of delegates allocated at the congressional district level or smaller — Texas Democrats, for example, use state senate districts — and 25% to be elected at large.

The former group — having all the delegates allocated based on the statewide vote — pools all of the delegates. The latter group of states separates the allocation, basing it on district-specific votes. This, too, has strategic implications for the aggregation of delegates based on what kind of allocation system a state employs: usually winner-take-all or proportional.

First, under a winner-take-all plan there are obvious benefits. If the delegates are pooled, then a truly winner-take-all allocation, like what Florida and Ohio Republicans are using in 2016, is a potential boon to any candidate in the delegate count. But if a state uses a separated allocation, like the winner-take-all by congressional district method South Carolina Republicans traditionally use, multiple candidates can get their hands on delegates. Under such a system, the statewide winner typically wins the most delegates, but other candidates who may be stronger in particular regions within the state — rather than statewide — also have an opportunity to win delegates if they can finish first in a district.

But on the Republican side, this pooled versus separated distinction occurs in proportional states as well. On the one hand, some states utilize a separated allocation system that doles out at-large delegates proportionally based on the statewide vote, and district-level delegates in a proportional fashion based on the congressional district vote. Georgia Republicans, for example, allocate at-large delegates to candidates who win at least 20% of the statewide vote, and allocate each congressional district’s three delegates to the top two finishers in each — first place receives two, second place gets one, with no threshold to qualify. On the other hand, some Republican contests, such as Virginia’s, pool their at-large and congressional district delegates and proportionally allocate all of them (minus the three party/automatic delegates) based on the statewide vote alone.

As already mentioned, Democratic contests proportionally allocate delegates by both the state and district-level vote — though states with just one congressional district can essentially be pooled states if they don’t use even smaller districts to allocate (e.g. Montana uses east-west districts based on when the state had two congressional districts before the 1990 census). So in a state like Vermont, at-large and district-level delegates are proportionally allocated by the same vote.

5. Backdoor Winner-take-all Triggers

A crowded field of candidates also opens a potential backdoor to a winner-take-all allocation. Based on the combination of the Republican National Committee rules and the state-level rules of delegate allocation, if only one candidate surpasses the qualifying threshold, then that candidate could win all of the delegates from the state, or in a districted system, all of the at-large delegates (based on the statewide results) or congressional district delegates (based on the congressional district results).

While this is possible among a number of the states with contests in the March 1-14 proportionality window, it is dependent on not only a large number of candidates, but a large number of candidates who are able to continue winning a fairly large percentage of the vote. Given the pace of winnowing thus far during the 2016 cycle through just two contests, the likelihood of a backdoor winner-take-all trigger being tripped is decreasing as well. And as the chances of a backdoor winner-take-all scenario decrease, the odds increase for the types of true winner-take-all threshold allocations described above.

6. Winner-take-all

The Democratic Party does not allow states to allocate their delegates in a winner-take-all fashion, and while the Republican Party does, states with contests outside of and after the proportionality window have not moved en masse to adopt winner-take-all rules. There are only five truly proportional states, as stated above, and only 10 truly winner-take-all states and territories. That is more than the six winner-take-all states in 2012, but it is still a limited part of the delegate allocation puzzle in 2016. The Republican Party has always left the decision up to the states, and few actually opt for a winner-take-all method.

What the system is left with in between truly proportional and truly winner-take-all on the Republican side and across the Democratic process is a majority of states with rules that might best be described as winner-take-most or winner-take-more. But the winners aren’t the only beneficiaries of this system. Those at the top of the order in a state win delegates while those further down in the tally do not. Who finishes at the top, though, has a lot to do with how quickly the field winnows. That input says much about how the limitations discussed here affect the cumulative delegate count.

7. Released Delegates

Once the delegates are allocated, there is at least one additional factor to consider: What happens to a candidate’s delegates when that candidate withdraws from the race? As is the case elsewhere, there are differences across the two major parties. There is variety on the Republican side and a more uniform process in the Democratic system.

Republicans leave the question of how to release delegates up to the states. In a state like Iowa, the delegates are bound through the national convention’s first ballot regardless. Both Mike Huckabee and Rand Paul were allocated delegates in Iowa, and those delegates will stay bound to those candidates despite both having since dropped out of the race. The only exception is if only one candidate is placed in nomination at the GOP convention. The Iowa delegates can move as a bloc to that candidate, the presumptive nominee. Other states are not as rigid.

At the opposite end of the spectrum are states like New Hampshire. Four years ago in the Granite State, Jon Huntsman won two delegates, but immediately dropped out of the race after finishing a disappointing third. Those two delegates were free to move to another candidate of their choosing after Huntsman’s withdrawal.

Somewhere in between are states like Kentucky or Texas. Both allow for the delegates of candidates no longer in the race to be reallocated to active candidates still competing for the nomination. Normally, regardless of being released, these delegates tend to end up with the presumptive nominee at the convention.

Within the Democratic rules, the process is standardized across states. At-large delegates are reallocated similar to the rules used by Kentucky and Texas Republicans. On the other hand, congressional district delegates are free to shift to another candidate following the withdrawal of their candidate, as is common in the New Hampshire Republican Party process. John Edwards’ delegates were not released at the time of the suspension of his campaign in 2008, but were when the former North Carolina senator formally withdrew from the race and endorsed Obama.

Some of the rules behind these concepts are more consequential than others and even then only under certain circumstances. Yet together they provide valuable insight into how candidates in both the parties accrue delegates on the way to the nomination.

Josh Putnam is a lecturer in the Department of Political Science at the University of Georgia who specializes in campaigns and elections. He is the author of Frontloading HQ, a blog about the presidential primary process.

House Update: The Waiting Game

Lots of rating changes but few clear trends

Kyle Kondik, Managing Editor, Sabato's Crystal Ball February 11th, 2016


We are making 17 changes to our U.S. House ratings this week. On the surface, all that movement suggests that there is a lot going on in the battle for the House. Actually, though, the overall House picture remains largely where it has been for months: on hold until the presidential race gets sorted out.

Neither party’s House campaign committee can control what happens in their respective nominating contests: either might end up with nominees who help or hurt down the ballot. Or the election could be closely contested between two equally strong — or weak — candidates, creating a relatively neutral political environment.

For the purposes of our ratings, we’re assuming the third scenario — a close national election where neither presidential candidate exerts excessive influence on other races.

As it stands right now, Democrats are poised to gain a small number of seats, probably somewhere between five and 10. Part of this is just a correction to the big, overextended Republican majority. Republicans won a few seats in 2014 that they really don’t have much business holding. Additionally, court-ordered redistricting in Florida and Virginia created more favorable maps for Democrats, which should allow them to pick up a few extra seats.*

However, Democrats need to net 30 seats to win back the majority, so this projection suggests the Republicans are in very good shape to win control of the House for the fourth straight election. Again, the presidential race could scramble this. The Democrats’ chances of retaking the House are tiny, but we’ll keep the window cracked open in case of extraordinary circumstances.

Table 1 shows this week’s House rating changes. Of the 17, 10 are positive for the Republicans, and seven are positive for the Democrats.

Table 1: Crystal Ball U.S. House Rating Changes

The best news for Republicans on this list is that two current Toss-ups move to Leans Republican.

While Rep. Martha McSally (R, AZ-2) represents one of the most competitive districts in the country — this is former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ (D) old seat, and McSally narrowly lost to ex-Rep. Ron Barber (D) in 2012 before narrowly winning it in 2014 — she has raised an eye-popping amount of money, with nearly $2 million cash on hand as of the last report. Democrats appear headed for competitive primary, and it’s so late (Aug. 30) that it’ll be hard for the eventual nominee to gain traction. While Democrats might be hurt by the late primary in this district, it might help them in AZ-1. Former Republican state legislator Tom O’Halleran (D) has an open road to the Democratic nomination in that open seat, while Republicans have a big, jumbled field. This same dynamic — a late, divisive Republican primary — helped Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D, AZ-1) hold on in 2014. Kirkpatrick is now running for Senate.

After redistricting changed his district from one Mitt Romney narrowly won in 2012 to one where President Obama got 61%, Rep. Randy Forbes (R, VA-4) found himself in a tough spot. However, the retirement of Rep. Scott Rigell (R, VA-2) in a swingy but now-Republican-leaning Hampton Roads seat gave Forbes a place to credibly run for reelection. Forbes will have to win a primary, and Democrats may produce a credible opponent, but Forbes starts as the favorite. His seniority on the House Armed Services Committee can only help him in a district with a big military presence and a lot of veterans. With Forbes out of the picture in VA-4, though, that seat moves from Likely Democratic to Safe Democratic.

Six members go from Likely Republican to Safe Republican: Reps. Don Young (R, AK-AL), Mike Bost (R, IL-12), Rodney Davis (R, IL-13), Tom MacArthur (R, NJ-3), Steve Pearce (R, NM-2), and Dan Donovan (R, NY-11) all appear to have easy paths to reelection. Bost and Davis occupy downstate Illinois seats that are competitive on paper, but the region is trending Republican and neither drew a strong challenger (the state’s filing deadline was Nov. 30, 2015). MacArthur and Donovan are both in their first terms and both represent seats that Obama won in 2012, but, again, neither has drawn strong challengers and national Democrats appear to be prioritizing other races. The fact that both are in expensive media markets — Donovan’s Staten Island seat is part of the New York City media market while MacArthur’s is covered by Philadelphia and New York City — also helps the incumbents because it would be very expensive to successfully wage a television ad war against them. MacArthur’s immense personal wealth also helps him in particular, as does Donovan’s strong reputation on Staten Island dating back to his time as Richmond County’s district attorney. Young and Pearce occupy Republican-leaning districts and have not drawn credible challengers.

Moving onto the Likely Republican list from Safe Republican are Reps. Erik Paulsen (R, MN-3) and Pat Meehan (R, PA-7). Both represent the kind of politically balanced suburban districts that are of growing importance to Democrats as some of the traditionally Democratic rural districts they used to hold become increasingly Republican. Paulsen and Meehan should be fine, but if Democrats do end up making a serious play for the House, they hold the kind of districts that might become competitive.

Meanwhile, two members who had surprisingly close calls in 2014 — Reps. Jim Costa (D, CA-16) and Louise Slaughter (D, NY-25) — appear to be taking their races more seriously this cycle, and presidential-level turnout will help them in their districts. Obama won 59% of the vote in both in 2012, and Republicans don’t hold any districts where he did so well. Both go from Likely Democratic to Safe Democratic.

Speaking of California, Reps. Jeff Denham (R, CA-10) and David Valadao (R, CA-21) will be perpetual Democratic targets so long as they hold their seats, both of which Obama won in 2012. However, both won in 2012, and each of them has well-stocked coffers while their potential Democratic opponents have much to prove. So we’re moving both seats from Leans Republican to Likely Republican for now.

Two incumbents Democrats might have better luck challenging are Reps. Scott Garrett (R, NJ-5) and Mia Love (R, UT-4). Garrett’s typically reliable Wall Street fundraising is drying up over his social conservatism: He is a vocal same-sex marriage opponent who made national news for criticizing the National Republican Congressional Committee for supporting gay candidates. His likely opponent, former Bill Clinton speechwriter and Microsoft executive Josh Gottheimer (D), has raised impressive sums of money. This is still a Republican-leaning district but it could be a very competitive race. Love, who surprisingly lost to former Rep. Jim Matheson (D) despite Mitt Romney’s coattails in 2012, only narrowly defeated Doug Owens (D) in 2014. Owens is running again and actually outraised Love in the most recent fundraising quarter. Both move from Likely Republican to Leans Republican.

Table 2 shows all of the seats we list as at least potentially competitive.

Table 2: 2016 Crystal Ball U.S. House rankings

Note: Districts are shaded by the color of the party that currently holds them, red for Republican and blue for Democratic.

Overall, Republicans have 208 Safe seats, and Democrats have 171. That’s 379 of 435 total seats (87%) that we call safe for one party or the other. More broadly, there are 229 seats that are Safe/Likely/Leaning Republican, 188 Safe/Likely/Leaning Democratic, and 18 Toss-ups. The current House is 247-188 Republican, assuming Republicans win a special election to fill the seat of former House Speaker John Boehner (R, OH-8). Splitting the Toss-ups down the middle would result in a 238-197 Republican-controlled House, or a gain of nine seats for the Democrats, which would be on the high end of our current estimate, a five-to-10 seat Democratic gain.

* A recent court ruling could force North Carolina to change its House map, which is a pro-Republican gerrymander. However, smart commentators like Rick Hasen of the Election Law Blog and the Daily Kos Elections team are skeptical that any potential changes will lead to Democratic gains.

The Republicans: Trump Soars, Rubio Falters

Kasich has a strong night, but where does he go from here?

Larry J. Sabato, Kyle Kondik and Geoffrey Skelley February 10th, 2016


Six months ago, Donald Trump as New Hampshire primary winner was almost unimaginable. Yet here we are: He triumphed, and it wasn’t even close. So much for the Iowa narrative, which held that Trump had no ground game and would always fall short of his predicted margin in polls.

Not only did Trump sweep — 35% is in line with many past first-place showings in the Granite State — but the billionaire got an even bigger present. Except for Chris Christie, who dropped out after a disappointing campaign, all of the significant candidates appear to be staying put. This traffic jam among anti-Trump contenders means that Trump can continue to win primaries with a third of the vote, while all the others divvy up the other two-thirds (to little effect).

A couple of cautions are needed, however. Eventually — only God knows when — the field will dwindle to three or four top-rated candidates. At that point, it will be more difficult for Trump to glide to victory — assuming he can’t expand his coalition, and who’s to say at this point? Second, we strongly suspect that Trump will fairly consistently do worse in caucuses than primaries. As in Iowa, intense, expensive organizing is essential to come out on top. Other GOP hopefuls have a much better handle on this aspect of politics — and the interest groups to assist them. (There are 17 Republican caucus states; they will select 18% of the delegates to the Republican National Convention.)

From here, we can only speculate on the course this long and winding campaign will take. Does anybody think there won’t be more surprises that will upset the apple carts of candidates and pundits? And to mix our metaphors, let’s resist the urge to bring down the curtain on a play that isn’t even finished with the first act.

One of us was just in South Carolina, and the opinions of the political elite appeared to favor Trump, or at least think he’d win the primary. Nonetheless, Ted Cruz has been working hard, and evangelicals could make up close to two-thirds of the electorate in the Palmetto State — a giant boost to Cruz’s fortunes. Nobody was writing off Jeb Bush, though; his family has long ties, and impressive past wins, in the state. It was Marco Rubio who really had people buzzing because of the enthusiastic endorsements of Sen. Tim Scott and Rep. Trey Gowdy. But this was before Rubio’s debate disaster and poor finish in New Hampshire. (An aside: a Rubio endorser remarked in private, “He needs a second speech. The first one is good, but everybody’s heard it over and over.” Too bad this didn’t reach Rubio before the last debate.)

Absolutely no one mentioned John Kasich. Possibly his second-place showing in the Granite State will help, yet few think he matches this very conservative electorate. Kasich definitely deserves a tip of the cap for his second-place showing in New Hampshire. He spent more than half a year cultivating the state and building connections with some important players there, such as the Sununu family and former state Attorney General Tom Rath.

The downside for Kasich is that he did not even fare as well as Jon Huntsman did four years ago despite focusing nearly all of his attention and energy on the first-in-the-nation primary. Kasich’s support overlapped with Huntsman’s from 2012 — for instance, both performed well in Hanover, home to Dartmouth College. On the other hand, Kasich just about matched Huntsman in a slightly bigger field. Finishing ahead of everyone but Trump gave Kasich a good night.

Kasich clearly gets to move on, while Huntsman dropped out before South Carolina. The question for Kasich is, where does he go next? One stop might be Trenton to see his old friend Chris Christie. The two governors get along well, and it would be natural for Christie to endorse Kasich. Beyond that, Kasich can continue to try to cultivate the Northeast: While March 1 is dominated by Southern primaries with conservative, religious electorates — not Kasich’s crowd — states like Vermont and Massachusetts also vote on March 1, and he might be able to do well in those places, although if New Hampshire is any indication Trump may also do well in the Northeast. Kasich’s goal now is to remain viable through March 15, when Ohio holds its winner-take-all primary, and to see if he can outlast Bush and maybe Rubio, too.

One thing is clear to us. While Bush and Kasich are both unlikely eventual nominees, Kasich has the better chance. Bush has huge name ID and has spent loads and loads of money to finish weakly in both Iowa and New Hampshire. To us, Bush appears to have little room to grow. Kasich has much more potential, even though his sunny, kumbaya-style campaign is not a great fit for a very conservative, agitated Republican electorate.

Perhaps the key point about Bush’s weakness was made by Steve Peoples, an Associated Press reporter, who tweeted Tuesday night that even though they finished with about the same share of the vote in the Granite State, Bush and his team spent $35 million in New Hampshire while Ted Cruz’s team only spent $800,000. There’s no credible way to spin Bush’s performance as Lazarus-like so far.

Cruz was playing with house money in New Hampshire, and for him a third-place finish must have been a pleasant surprise. Even better, for him, was finishing ahead of Rubio. Cruz and Trump are headed for an epic showdown in South Carolina, a repeat of their battle in Iowa.

Can Rubio rebound to be a part of that showdown? He fizzled at the end in New Hampshire, but let’s also remember that despite some newfound support from Republicans on Capitol Hill, he is neither as establishment nor as close to the middle as his gubernatorial rivals. The Granite State might not have been a great fit for him. Rubio’s stock will plummet, and in so doing it may go from being overvalued to undervalued. One thing’s for sure, though: He needs to erase the bad memories of the last debate with a sterling, unscripted performance on Saturday.

While Ben Carson is still technically in the race, it appears that we’re down to five true Republican contenders: Trump, Cruz, Rubio, Kasich, and Bush. Our updated GOP rankings are below.

Table 1: Crystal Ball ranking of 2016 Republican presidential candidates

First Tier: Five for Fighting
Candidate Key Primary Advantages Key Primary Disadvantages
Donald Trump
Businessman and TV personality
•Benefits from fractured field
•Draws crowds & media; high name ID; riveting figure
•Billionaire, can self-fund if he wants
•Doesn’t just talk about winning: won NH, can compete in SC & elsewhere
•Has committed supporters, but may have low support ceiling in GOP primary
•Strongly opposed by a near-unanimous GOP leadership
Ted Cruz
Senator, TX
•Dynamic debater & canny, often underestimated politician
•As seen in IA win, base likes his anti-establishment & evangelical appeal
•Understands that race is marathon, not sprint
•Disliked on both sides of Senate aisle and has few friends in party; GOP establishment may prefer Trump to Cruz
•Can he unite the party, or is he just a factional candidate?
Marco Rubio
Senator, FL
•Dynamic speaker and politician
•Generational contrast with Jeb…& Hillary
•Starting to win support from party leaders, who may see him as their only plausible, winning nominee
•Went left on immigration, hurt him with base
•Disappointing NH showing puts a halt to post-IA momentum
•Needs to prove he’s not just a robotic soundbite candidate
John Kasich
Governor, OH
•Long moderate-conservative record plus two terms as swing-state Ohio governor
•2nd-place finish in NH earns him 2nd look from GOP voters
•Unscripted, combative style leads to unforced errors
•Short time to expand all-in-on NH campaign; must make inroads with somewhat conservative voters
Jeb Bush
Ex-Governor, FL
•National BushWorld money and organization
•Personifies establishment, which typically produces GOP nominees
•Father & brother both had success in SC primaries, has many friends there
•Bush fatigue is real and deep
•Campaign & allies have spent immense amounts to survive but not necessarily prosper
Second Tier: The Also-Rans
Ben Carson
Neurosurgeon and activist
•High favorability in party, well-liked by white evangelicals
•Political outsider, no baggage from office
•Running messy, error-prone campaign
•National security & foreign policy campaign focus weakens him
Jim Gilmore
Ex-Governor, VA
•Military record, intelligence officer during Cold War •Anonymous