Sabato's Crystal Ball

Republicans 2016: From South Carolina to the Ides of March

Taking a close look at the upcoming GOP primaries and caucuses

Geoffrey Skelley, Associate Editor, Sabato's Crystal Ball February 18th, 2016

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After months and months of endless fascination with Iowa and New Hampshire, the bulk of the primary season will be contested over just the course of a single month. Between Feb. 20 and March 5, a whopping 37 states and territories will hold at least one party’s nominating contest, many both. In order to prepare our readers for this flood of primaries and caucuses, we wanted to take a look at each one and try to assess what their electorates are like and what history tells us about whom they might be inclined to support. This week, we sketch out the Republican calendar from Feb. 20 through March 15. Next week, we’ll tackle the Democrats.

The Crystal Ball will be following the South Carolina Republican and Nevada Democratic results on Saturday night. We will be posting a reaction to the results on Saturday night or Sunday morning on www.centerforpolitics.org/crystalball, or look for the link on Twitter @LarrySabato, @kkondik, and @geoffreyvs.

One over-arching reality has to be taken into account when considering the Republican race: Although it’s possible that Donald Trump may have a support ceiling of some kind, he has a broad base of support from an ideological and geographical perspective, unlike the other GOP candidates. If one looks at crosstabs in exit polls and horse-race surveys, it’s possible to see Trump competing for a plurality of the vote almost everywhere as long as the Republican candidate field remains crowded. Trump’s candidacy is more about personality than ideology, and that has enabled him to appeal to the many different parts of the Republican Party, regardless of whether we are focusing on different wings or groups within the party or examining geographical bases of strength for the candidates.

Despite his somewhat forced religiosity, Trump garners ample support from many white evangelical Christians, who will be a majority of voters in many GOP contests, particularly in the South. Only born-again voters who prioritize issues important to the religious right over security, immigration, and the economy are less likely to back the business mogul. Trump has solid blocs of support among self-described very conservative, somewhat conservative, and moderate Republican voters, and if he isn’t winning one group, he’s often leading among the other two.

Geographically, Trump can compete everywhere, from sea to shining sea. Ted Cruz may have a chance of battling for the lead in South Carolina and the rest of the religious, conservative South, but he won’t be expected to do much in Massachusetts or Vermont on March 1, and many of the states best-suited for him are front-loaded on this cycle’s calendar. John Kasich isn’t really trying to make waves in South Carolina, instead focusing his energy on states such as Michigan, which votes March 8. Plenty of polling has suggested that Marco Rubio has broad potential appeal, but his struggles in New Hampshire and the word out of his camp that Rubio would be happy with a third-place finish in the Palmetto State leave that analysis open to question. Super-establishment candidate Jeb Bush isn’t close to leading in any polling, state or national.

Lastly, it’s worth noting that the delegate allocation rules in many states may boost Trump as long as the GOP field remains crowded. Many Super Tuesday states (and others) have 20% minimum thresholds that candidates must reach statewide and/or in individual congressional districts to qualify for delegates. The Washington Post’s Monkey Cage blog recently laid out the ramifications of such rules with Crystal Ball contributor Joshua Putnam. The long and short: If a fair number of primaries and caucuses on March 1 have results that look somewhat similar to what happened in New Hampshire, with Trump winning a solid plurality while the rest of the vote is heavily fragmented, there could be states where only Trump meets a 20% requirement. In some states, that could mean sharing delegates with the second-place finisher (statewide and/or in districts); in others, it could give him a “backdoor winner-take-all” victory, enabling him to win all or most delegates from a state with only a plurality.

With these circumstances in mind, here’s our look at the upcoming Republican contests. So far, only Iowa and New Hampshire have voted. After March 15’s primaries have concluded, 36 states and territories will have voted on the Republican side, and close to 60% of all GOP national delegates will have been awarded.

— The Editors

Feb. 20

South Carolina Republican primary

Delegates at stake*: all 50 — 29 statewide delegates (26 at-large, 3 automatic), 21 congressional district delegates (hereafter “CD”)

Allocation method: Winner-take-all statewide and in each congressional district (3 per CD)

2008 primary winner: John McCain

2012 primary winner: Newt Gingrich

2012 very conservative % of primary electorate: 36%

The “First in the South” primary was established by South Carolina Republicans prior to the 1980 election cycle. Since then, analysts have typically viewed it as a key winnower in the Republican nomination process, backing the eventual party champion in every cycle through 2008. But Newt Gingrich won the Palmetto State primary in 2012, ending that run.

Although the primary electorate in South Carolina will be solidly conservative, it’s unlikely to be quite as conservative as Iowa was on Feb. 1, which could augur well for Donald Trump and less so for Ted Cruz. Entrance polls found that 40% of GOP Iowa caucusgoers were “very conservative” and 45% were “somewhat conservative” — 85% “conservative” in total. Cruz won 44% of very conservative voters, but Trump won a solid plurality of somewhat conservatives (and moderates, too). Importantly, 68% of 2012 South Carolina GOP primary voters were conservative (36% very, 32% somewhat). So while the state is plenty conservative, Trump’s broader ideological appeal may boost him in the Palmetto State ahead of Cruz and the rest of the GOP field. As of this writing, Trump has a decent lead in polls of South Carolina, but if there’s any looming fallout from last Saturday’s debate — or from Gov. Nikki Haley’s (R-SC) endorsement of Marco Rubio — it might manifest itself before the voting.

At first blush, the fact that South Carolina’s Republican primary electorate will be about two-thirds white evangelical Christian might appear to be an advantage for Cruz, who has made appealing to such voters a key part of his campaign. However, while he won born-again Christians in Iowa, public polling suggests that Cruz doesn’t have an edge among such voters in the Palmetto State. Instead, Trump wins support from a plurality of evangelicals, much as he does in overall South Carolina Republican primary polling. In other words, just as the GOP field seems to have fractured the support of voters who aren’t backing Trump, the same is true among white evangelical voters.

Feb. 23

Nevada Republican caucuses

Delegates at stake*: all 30 — 30 statewide (15 at-large, 3 automatic, 12 CD)

Allocation method: Proportional by statewide vote (probably 3.33% but unclear threshold to qualify) for all delegates

2008 caucus winner: Mitt Romney

2012 caucus winner: Mitt Romney

2012 Mormon % of caucus electorate: 25%

Because of their number and Nevada’s spot on the election calendar, Republican Mormons in the Silver State potentially hold the largest influence over the GOP nomination process of any Mormon community in the U.S. In 2008 and 2012, about a quarter of Nevada GOP caucusgoers were Mormon. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Mitt Romney dominated the Silver State in both cycles. Of course, Romney’s candidacy surely inspired higher turnout among his coreligionists. However, according to the Public Religion Research Institute’s American Values Atlas, Nevada has the third-largest Mormon population in the country (in a tie with Arizona and Wyoming), behind only Utah and Idaho.

With the absence of a Mormon Republican presidential candidate in 2016, it’s less clear how many of these voters will turn out and how they will vote. Nonetheless, they could still be influential. Rubio, who briefly converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as a child living in Las Vegas, has long been angling for support from Mormon Nevadans. But Cruz has also sought LDS backing in the state, and given his victory in Iowa and Rubio’s struggles in New Hampshire, the Texan could end up being the stronger of the two heading into the caucuses on Feb. 23. And then of course there’s Trump, who failed to put together a strong get out the vote effort in Iowa, another caucus state, but who still looms large over the splintered GOP field; he held a large lead in CNN’s recent Silver State poll.

March 1

Alabama Republican primary

Delegates at stake*: all 50 — 29 statewide (26 at-large, 3 automatic), 21 CD

Allocation method: Proportional allocation by statewide and CD vote (20% threshold for both) with winner-take-all trigger at 50% in both

2008 primary winner: Mike Huckabee

2012 primary winner: Rick Santorum

2012 white evangelical % of primary electorate: 75%

Ideologically, Alabama’s 2012 GOP primary electorate looked similar to South Carolina’s. But the Yellowhammer State’s Republican electorate was 75% white Evangelical compared to the Palmetto State’s 64%. The impact of the huge percentage of born-again voters is reflected in the identities of the past two statewide primary winners: Mike Huckabee in 2008 and Rick Santorum in 2012.

Alaska Republican caucuses

Delegates at stake*: all 28 — 28 statewide (22 at-large, 3 automatic, and 3 CD)

Allocation method: Proportional allocation by statewide vote (13% threshold) for all delegates

2008 caucus winner: Mitt Romney

2012 caucus winner: Mitt Romney

Alaska Republicans will hold what is essentially a firehouse primary, but it is commonly denoted as a caucus to differentiate it from a standard primary. Romney and Santorum fought to a near-draw in the Last Frontier’s 2012 presidential preference vote, with Ron Paul winning about a quarter of the vote to finish third. Perhaps Cruz can win over many Santorum voters as well as some Paul supporters as he’s actively sought to attract Rand Paul backers. The caucus environment may also favor Cruz given his commitment to field organizing. On the other hand, if Trump’s coalition is a version of the old Ron Paul coalition on steroids, this could be a good state for him as well.

Arkansas Republican primary

Delegates at stake*: all 40 — 28 statewide (25 at-large, 3 automatic), 12 CD

Allocation method: Proportional allocation by statewide and CD vote (15% threshold for both) with winner-take-all trigger at 50% in districts. If no one wins a majority in a district, the winner receives two delegates and second-place receives one. If a candidate wins a majority of the statewide vote, any other candidate garnering 15% or more receives one statewide delegate and the remaining statewide delegates are allocated to the winner.

2008 primary winner: Mike Huckabee

2012 primary winner: Mitt Romney

2008 white evangelical % of primary electorate: 68%

With Mike Huckabee unable to make any waves in 2016, there won’t be a home-state candidate making a play for Arkansas. The last time the state voted on Super Tuesday was in 2008, and nearly seven out of every 10 Razorback Republicans was a white evangelical that cycle. If that percentage remains roughly the same this time around — it’s tough to say as Alabama’s electorate went from 68% in 2008 to 75% white evangelical in 2012 (there was no Arkansas exit poll in 2012) — then Arkansas would be something of an average of Alabama and South Carolina. Like much of the South, Cruz and Trump appear the most likely to compete for the top spot in the Razorback State.

Colorado Republican caucuses

Delegates at stake: 0 (of 37 total)

Allocation method: No 2016 national delegates will be bound by the precinct caucuses in Colorado.

2008 caucus winner: Mitt Romney

2012 caucus winner: Rick Santorum

For a number of reasons, including the Republican National Committee’s new rules requiring presidential preference votes to be binding, the Colorado GOP has opted against holding such a ballot at its precinct caucuses. The allocation of delegates will be determined at the congressional district conventions and the state convention, some of which may be committed to individual presidential contenders or uncommitted. North Dakota and Wyoming have made similar choices.

Georgia Republican primary

Delegates at stake*: all 76 — 34 statewide (31 at-large, 3 automatic), 42 CD

Allocation method: Proportional allocation by statewide and CD vote (20% threshold for both) with winner-take-all trigger at 50% in both. If no one wins a majority in a district, the winner receives two delegates and second-place receives one.

2008 primary winner: Mike Huckabee

2012 primary winner: Newt Gingrich

2012 white evangelical % of primary electorate: 64%

The Georgia primary electorate won’t look all that different from many other Southern states: In 2012, the Peach State was one of six primary contests in the South (including Oklahoma) that was at least 64% white evangelical. But it will get plenty of attention as the second-biggest Super Tuesday state in terms of total delegates, trailing only Texas.

Massachusetts Republican primary

Delegates at stake*: all 42 — 42 statewide (12 at-large, 3 automatic, and 27 CD)

Allocation method: Proportional allocation by statewide vote (5% threshold) for all delegates

2008 primary winner: Mitt Romney

2012 primary winner: Mitt Romney

2012 Moderate/Liberal % of primary electorate: 49%

Whereas most of the March 1 contests will be conservative southern primaries or small-state caucuses, the Bay State primary will feature more moderate Republican voters. In 2012, of the states with exit or entrance polling, Massachusetts had the second-largest contingent of moderate-to-liberal Republicans (49%), behind only nearby Vermont (also voting March 1). Considering his success in next-door New Hampshire and his broader ideological (or fairly non-ideological) appeal, Trump may be best positioned to win the largest proportion of Massachusetts delegates. But John Kasich only narrowly trailed Trump among moderate voters in New Hampshire on Feb. 9, so he may have a path.

Still, it’s worth noting GOP voters may be altering how they define themselves ideologically: In 2012, 47% of New Hampshire’s Republican primary electorate was moderate or liberal. In 2016, that figure fell to 29%. Mostly, there was a shift of voters into the somewhat conservative column, expanding from 32% in 2012 to 45% in 2016. This may be more evidence of polarization as fewer voters view themselves as occupying the political middle ground.

Minnesota Republican caucuses

Delegates at stake*: all 38 — 14 statewide (11 at-large, 3 automatic), 24 CD

Allocation method: Proportional allocation by statewide and CD vote (10% threshold for both). If a candidate wins 85% or more of the statewide vote, he receives all 38 of Minnesota’s national delegates.

2008 caucus winner: Mitt Romney

2012 caucus winner: Rick Santorum

Recall that Romney ran as a conservative in 2008, not as an establishment candidate as he did in 2012. Minnesota’s GOP caucuses have opted for backing less establishment candidates in the recent past, such as Romney in 2008 and Santorum in 2012. Cruz’s organizing prowess could be the difference in a state such as Minnesota.

North Dakota Republican caucuses

Delegates at stake: 0 (of 28 total)

Allocation method: No 2016 national delegates will be bound by the precinct caucuses in North Dakota.

2008 caucus winner: Mitt Romney

2012 caucus winner: Rick Santorum

Like Colorado and Wyoming, North Dakota won’t be holding a presidential preference vote. Also note that the Peace Garden State’s GOP precinct caucuses actually end March 1, with party rules calling for such events to be held between Jan. 1 and March 1, 2016.

Oklahoma Republican primary

Delegates at stake*: all 43 — 28 statewide (25 at-large, 3 automatic), 15 CD

Allocation method: Proportional allocation by statewide and CD vote (15% threshold for both) with winner-take-all trigger at 50% in both, with other threshold and allocation complications.

2008 primary winner: John McCain

2012 primary winner: Rick Santorum

2012 white evangelical % of primary electorate: 72%

The Sooner State’s 2012 Republican primary electorate was one of four with at least 70% white evangelical participants. This helped shape the outcome of that cycle’s nomination contest, as Santorum won a close three-way battle with Romney and Gingrich in part by winning 37% among those primary voters. If Cruz is going to make a play for the nomination, he needs to win a state like Oklahoma, with its large base of born-again voters and its proximity to Texas.

Tennessee Republican primary

Delegates at stake*: all 58 — 31 statewide (28 at-large, 3 automatic), 27 CD

Allocation method: Proportional allocation by statewide and CD vote (20% threshold for both) with winner-take-all trigger at 66.7% in both, with other threshold and allocation complications.

2008 primary winner: Mike Huckabee

2012 primary winner: Rick Santorum

2012 white evangelical % of primary electorate: 73%

Of states with exit polling in 2012, Tennessee’s GOP primary had the third-largest percentage of white evangelical voters, behind only Mississippi and Alabama. Can Cruz capitalize on his appeal among those voters? Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum did in 2008 and 2012, respectively, to win the Volunteer State.

Texas Republican primary

Delegates at stake*: all 155 — 47 statewide (44 at-large, 3 automatic), 108 CD

Allocation method: Proportional allocation by statewide and CD vote (20% threshold for both) with winner-take-all trigger at 50% in both, with many other threshold and allocation complications.

2008 primary winner: John McCain

2012 primary winner: Mitt Romney

2008 Nonwhite % of primary electorate: 14%

Based on available 2008 and 2012 exit polls, Texas had the largest percentage of nonwhite Republican voters of any of the states that will have voted through March 1, 2016. In fact, one-tenth of the electorate was Hispanic in 2008 (the state went too late for exit polling in 2012). Cruz will hope they can help him achieve a huge home-turf win in the Lone Star State. Winning a statewide majority would give a candidate 47 delegates, about the whole allocation of some states (like Alabama), not to mention the congressional district delegates There hasn’t been any new polling in Texas, but a late January poll indicated that it will probably be hard for anyone to win a majority as long as the field remains somewhat crowded.

Vermont Republican primary

Delegates at stake*: all 16 — 16 statewide (10 at-large, 3 automatic, and 3 CD)

Allocation method: Proportional allocation by statewide vote (20% threshold) with winner-take-all trigger at 50%

2008 primary winner: John McCain

2012 primary winner: Mitt Romney

2012 Moderate/Liberal % of primary electorate: 53%

Vermont’s 2012 GOP primary was the only one with a majority-moderate electorate. In light of his success next door in New Hampshire and his success with less conservative Republicans at the ballot box and in the polls, Trump may be a favorite in the Green Mountain State. If John Kasich can make a breakthrough on Super Tuesday, this might be a good target.

Virginia Republican primary

Delegates at stake*: all 49 — 49 statewide (13 at-large, 3 automatic, and 33 CD)

Allocation method: Proportional allocation by statewide vote (no threshold) for all delegates

2008 primary winner: John McCain

2012 primary winner: Mitt Romney

2012 college graduate % of primary electorate: 58%

Barring some serious winnowing by South Carolina and Nevada, it seems likely that there’ll be more than two candidates running in Virginia on March 1. In 2012, only Romney and Paul made the ballot. Whoever is running on March 1 will face one of the more educated primary electorates. Of states with exit polling data in 2012, no state had a higher percentage of primary voters who were college graduates, 58% — though it should be noted Connecticut had 63% in 2008.

What might be the impact? Based on many surveys and the first two exit polls of 2016, it’s clear that as the more education a voter has, the less likely he or she is to vote for Trump: In Iowa, Trump did seven points worse among college grads; in New Hampshire, he did 12 points worse. There may be an opportunity for a candidate such as Kasich or Rubio to make inroads in the highly educated suburbs of Washington, DC.

Wyoming Republican caucuses

Delegates at stake: 0 (of 29)

Allocation method: No 2016 national delegates will be bound by the precinct caucuses in Wyoming.

2008 caucus winner: Mitt Romney

2012 caucus winner: Mitt Romney

The Wyoming GOP chose not to have a presidential preference vote in 2016 as a part of its precinct caucuses, just like Colorado and North Dakota.

March 5

Kansas Republican caucuses

Delegates at stake*: all 40 — 28 statewide (25 at-large, 3 automatic), 12 CD

Allocation method: Proportional allocation by statewide and CD vote (10% threshold for both). The 3 automatic delegates are bound to the statewide winner, the other 25 statewide delegates are allocated proportionally.

2008 caucus winner: Mike Huckabee

2012 caucus winner: Rick Santorum

The last two cycles Jayhawk Republicans have preferred social conservative GOP candidates over the frontrunner. As in other caucuses, Cruz will hope his organizational prowess can give him an edge.

Kentucky Republican caucuses

Delegates at stake*: all 46 — 46 statewide (25 at-large, 3 automatic, 18 CD)

Allocation method: Proportional allocation by statewide vote (5% threshold) for all delegates

2008 primary winner: John McCain

2012 primary winner: Mitt Romney

Estimated 2012 white evangelical % of primary electorate: 70%

The Bluegrass GOP decided to hold a caucus in an effort to help Rand Paul attempt dual runs for president and Senate. However, Paul dropped out after Iowa, leaving a void at the top of the polls in his home state. Back in November 2015, the Crystal Ball estimated that Kentucky’s GOP electorate could be around 70% white evangelical, a number that could be higher in a low-turnout caucus atmosphere (though without an entrance poll, we’ll never know for sure).

Louisiana Republican primary

Delegates at stake*: all 46 — 28 statewide (25 at-large, 3 automatic), 18 CD

Allocation method: Proportional allocation by statewide and CD vote (20% threshold for statewide vote, no threshold for CD vote)

2008 primary winner: Mike Huckabee

2012 primary winner: Rick Santorum

2012 very conservative % of primary electorate: 49%

As in 2008, Louisiana finds itself going four days after Super Tuesday. The Republican electorate that shows up that weekend — Louisiana routinely holds Saturday elections for primaries and state elections, a practice dating back to the 1940s — will be among the most conservative in 2016: 49% of 2012 GOP presidential primary voters identified as very conservative, the highest of any primary state (in Nevada’s caucus, the share was also 49%).

Maine Republican caucuses

Delegates at stake*: all 23 — 23 statewide (14 at-large, 3 automatic, 6 CD)

Allocation method: Proportional allocation by statewide vote (10% threshold) for all delegates with winner-take-all trigger at 50%

2008 caucus winner: Mitt Romney

2012 caucus winner: Mitt Romney

In the past, Maine Republicans had caucuses over the course of at least a few days, if not weeks. But this cycle marks the first time they will hold all caucus events around the state on the same day. Regionally connected candidates have tended to do well in Maine: Romney won the past two caucuses and George H.W. Bush won it in both 1980 and 1988 (Maine is home to the Bush compound at Kennebunkport). Perhaps this bodes well for Trump, who is the candidate from closest by. Moreover, many observers have noted similarities in the political styles of Trump and second-term Gov. Paul LePage (R-ME), including the governor himself.

March 6

Puerto Rico Republican primary

Delegates at stake*: all 23 — 23 commonwealth-wide (20 at-large, 3 automatic)

Allocation method: Proportional allocation by commonwealth-wide vote (20% threshold) for all delegates with winner-take-all trigger at 50%

2008 primary winner: John McCain

2012 primary winner: Mitt Romney

Republican puertorriqueños have usually backed the eventual party nominee, though presidential nomination contests have often served as proxy wars for domestic political disputes in the commonwealth.

March 8

Hawaii Republican caucuses

Delegates at stake*: all 19 — 13 statewide (10 at-large, 3 automatic), 6 CD

Allocation method: Proportional allocation by statewide and CD vote (no threshold for both)

2008 caucus winner: Uncommitted

2012 caucus winner: Mitt Romney

Of the 17 states holding Republican caucuses, Hawaii is the smallest by delegate count (excluding Washington, DC and the territories).

Idaho Republican primary

Delegates at stake*: all 32 — 32 statewide (23 at-large, 3 automatic, and 6 CD)

Allocation method: Proportional allocation by statewide vote (20% threshold) for all delegates with winner-take-all trigger at 50%

2008 primary winner: John McCain

2012 caucus winner: Mitt Romney

2015 Mormon % share of the total population (PRRI AVA): 24% (2nd)

After holding a caucus in 2012, Idaho Republicans have returned to using a primary for determining presidential delegates. There isn’t recent exit poll data available for the Gem State, but Idaho has the second-largest Mormon share of the population after Utah, so expect LDS voters — who are much more likely to be Republican than Democratic — to play a major role in the primary.

Michigan Republican primary

Delegates at stake*: all 59 — 59 statewide (14 at-large, 3 automatic, and 42 CD)

Allocation method: Proportional allocation by statewide vote (15% threshold) for all delegates with winner-take-all trigger at 50%

2008 primary winner: Mitt Romney

2012 primary winner: Mitt Romney

2012 moderate/liberal % of primary electorate: 39%

As the lone Midwesterner in the GOP field, Kasich is hoping to make inroads in the Wolverine State, which will have a somewhat more moderate Republican primary electorate than the late February elections in South Carolina and Nevada and most of the March 1 contests. Kasich could use Michigan to maintain relevance as he seeks to stay in the contest until his home state of Ohio votes on March 15, and he campaigned there earlier this week while his competitors remained more closely focused on South Carolina.

Mississippi Republican primary

Delegates at stake*: all 40 — 28 statewide (25 at-large, 3 automatic), 12 CD

Allocation method: Proportional allocation of statewide delegates by statewide vote (15% threshold). Proportional allocation of CD delegates with winner-take-all trigger at 50%. If no one wins a majority in a district, the winner receives two delegates and second-place receives one.

2008 primary winner: John McCain

2012 primary winner: Rick Santorum

2012 white evangelical % of primary electorate: 80%

In 2012, Mississippi’s Republican primary had the largest percentage of white evangelical voters, with fully four out of every five fitting in that category. That cycle saw the Magnolia State’s outcome look very similar to Alabama’s, with a close three-way contest among Gingrich, Romney, and Santorum ending with a narrow Santorum statewide victory. So watch Alabama’s primary for a possible preview of Mississippi’s contest a week later.

March 10

Virgin Islands Republican caucuses

Delegates at stake*: all 9 — 9 territory-wide (6 at-large, 3 automatic)

Allocation method: Winner-take-all territory-wide

2008 caucus winner: John McCain

2012 caucus winner: Mitt Romney

Republicans on the Virgin Islands have caucused in favor of the GOP’s eventual nominee in four straight competitive cycles dating back to 1996. Prior to that, they often sent uncommitted delegations.

March 12

District of Columbia Republican convention

Delegates at stake*: all 19 — 19 district-wide (16 at-large, 3 automatic)

Allocation method: Proportional allocation by district-wide vote (15% threshold) for all delegates with winner-take-all trigger at 50%

2008 primary winner: John McCain

2012 primary winner: Mitt Romney

For the first time in modern GOP presidential political history (since the 1970s), DC Republicans will not have a presidential primary. The change was forced by the timing of the capital’s normal primary: Scheduled for June 14, the election contest fell outside of the RNC’s permissible time period for holding delegate selection events.

Guam Republican convention

Delegates at stake: 0 (of 9 total)

Allocation method: No formal system to relate presidential preference of the convention attendees to the choice of the national delegates

2008 caucus winner: John McCain

2012 caucus winner: Mitt Romney

Similar to most territories on the Republican side, Guam has tended to back the eventual GOP nominee. It may do so again in 2016, but the island’s party will not be holding a presidential preference vote as a part of selecting its national delegates on March 12. Thus, while it selects six delegates that day, none of them will be pledged.

March 15

Florida Republican primary

Delegates at stake*: all 99 — 99 statewide delegates (15 at-large, 3 automatic, and 81 CD)

Allocation method: Winner-take-all statewide

2008 primary winner: John McCain

2012 primary winner: Mitt Romney

2012 % of primary electorate aged 65 years or older: 36%

Because of its timing and winner-take-all rule, one could make a case for Florida being the most consequential contest on the Republican primary and caucus calendar. While California is the biggest winner-take-all state, it doesn’t vote until early June; Texas could be winner-take-all, but a candidate has to win a majority statewide and in all 36 of the state’s congressional districts in order to accomplish that feat. In the Sunshine State, one just has to win a simple plurality to capture all 99 delegates. The contest put Romney in the driver’s seat in 2012 and has helped many before him. In the modern era, every eventual Republican nominee won Florida; this is true of other states, too, but Florida’s size and typically early place on the schedule always make it critical.

Unsurprisingly, the Florida GOP primary electorate had the largest percentage of voters aged 65 years or older. Some polling has suggested that Trump does better with older voters, but the entrance and exit polling from Iowa and New Hampshire has not indicated a clear trend.

Illinois Republican primary

Delegates at stake*: all 69 — 15 statewide (12 at-large, 3 automatic), 54 CD

Allocation method: Winner-take-all for statewide delegates. Three CD delegates are elected separately from each district; they are named on the ballot individually with their presidential preference listed on the ballot (or uncommitted status) in what is often called a “loophole primary.”

2008 primary winner: John McCain

2012 primary winner: Mitt Romney

Prior to this cycle, the statewide vote in Illinois’ GOP primary did not bind any delegates; although it received plenty of media coverage, it was purely advisory in nature as the Land of Lincoln elected most delegates by directly voting for named delegates on the ballot. Illinois will still do this in 2016, but now the statewide vote has more than symbolic meaning. The direct election of delegates has usually led the strongest GOP candidate to win most or even all of the pledged delegates at stake in the primary: Romney won 42 of 54 district delegates in 2012, McCain 54 of 57 in 2008, and George W. Bush all 64 in 2000. The statewide winner and the district delegate winner have usually been one in the same, so the new system of handing statewide delegates to the overall primary winner makes Illinois’ system even more “winner-take-most” and could permit someone to win all 69.

Missouri Republican primary

Delegates at stake*: all 52 — 12 statewide (9 at-large, 3 automatic), 40 CD (3 CD delegates per CD and 2 at-large delegates per CD)

Allocation method: Winner-take-all statewide and in each congressional district (5 per CD), with a winner-take-all trigger for all 52 delegates if a candidate wins a majority of the statewide vote.

2008 primary winner: John McCain

2012 primary winner: Rick Santorum

2008 somewhat conservative % of primary electorate: 37%

The Show Me State’s 2012 GOP primary wasn’t binding due to its non-compliance with the RNC’s calendar rules. Republicans utilized caucuses to determine delegates, but the state-run primary occurred anyway, with Santorum winning the beauty contest. This time around, the primary really counts again, and could be winner-take-all if someone can win a statewide majority. In 2008, the largest ideological bloc of voters was the somewhat conservatives, who made up 37% of the vote. They helped McCain achieve a very narrow win over Huckabee that cycle. Depending on how things shake out, perhaps that same group of voters could help a more establishment-leaning candidate. Or maybe Santorum’s victory in the non-binding 2012 primary signals that motivated social conservatives could boost a more conservative Republican candidate.

North Carolina Republican primary

Delegates at stake: all 72 — 72 statewide (30 at-large, 3 automatic, 39 CD)

Allocation method: Proportional allocation by statewide vote (under 2% threshold)

2008 primary winner: John McCain

2012 primary winner: Mitt Romney

After a long saga, North Carolina settled on March 15 for its primary date. There aren’t any exit poll data points to go on with the Tar Heel State because it has usually held May primaries in combination with its nominating contests for other offices, long after the GOP nominations have been decided. In the two instances when North Carolina has held a March presidential primary since 1972 (1976 and 1988), the Republican contests were competitive tilts. With its proportional allocation having almost no threshold, multiple candidates may have a chance of grabbing a share of the state’s large national delegation.

Northern Mariana Islands Republican caucuses

Delegates at stake*: all 9 — 9 territory-wide (6 at-large, 3 automatic)

Allocation method: Winner-take-all territory-wide

2008 caucus winner: John McCain

2012 caucus winner: Mitt Romney

The Northern Marianas Islands have held caucus or convention events since 2008. So far, GOP voters there are two for two, having backed McCain and Romney.

Ohio Republican primary

Delegates at stake*: all 66 — 66 statewide (15 at-large, 3 automatic, and 48 CD)

Allocation method: Winner-take-all statewide

2008 primary winner: John McCain

2012 primary winner: Mitt Romney

2012 college graduate % of primary electorate: 45%

Ohio changed its election statutes to move the state’s primary back a week, conveniently placing it on March 15, or outside of the RNC’s “proportionality window.” This permitted the state party to also change the rules to make its contest winner-take-all. It just so happens that Ohio’s governor, John Kasich, is running for president and might benefit from said move. Of course, if Kasich wins nothing between Feb. 20 and March 15, he may regret Ohio not voting on March 8 as originally planned. Early voting has already begun in Ohio (as it has in Florida as well), and Kasich is trying to take advantage.

Of the states with entrance or exit poll data for 2008 and 2012, Ohio’s GOP primary electorate had one of the lower percentages of college graduates, with 45% in 2012 and 39% in 2008. If Kasich is barely hanging on or out of the picture by March 15, these data points could augur well for Trump.

*Note: There is uncertainty regarding the bound or unbound status of Republican automatic delegates (each state has three: state party chair, national committeeman, and national committeewoman). Based on available information, it appears that Republican National Committee rules bind all delegates except those that are directly elected on a ballot (e.g. in Illinois). There are states that have included them as bound delegates in the past, but some states have rules or traditions that previously left them unbound, so the situation is not entirely set in stone.

Sources: FrontloadingHQ; The GreenPapers; Public Religion Research Institute; 2008, 2012, and 2016 entrance and exit polls