Trump appears to be on track for at least three more wins in the states that vote today. He has commanding leads in North Carolina and Florida, and he has a smaller lead in Illinois. The best chance for a Cruz win is in Missouri, where there has been almost no polling and where socially conservative/evangelical candidates have done well in the previous cycles. Santorum won Missouri in 2012, and in 2008 Huckabee finished in second close behind McCain, so it wouldn’t be surprising if Cruz prevailed. Kasich leads in the RCP average in Ohio by a few points, and I assume he will hang on to that lead tonight.
Florida, North Carolina, and Illinois have the largest delegate hauls today. North Carolina allocates proportionally, but Trump is polling well enough he will probably take almost half of the state’s 72 delegates while Cruz should get about a quarter of them. In Illinois, most of the state’s 69 delegates are directly elected by Congressional district. Josh Putnam explains how this could affect the outcome:
The nature of the loophole primary — the direct election of congressional district delegates — as FHQ described in the context of the 2012 Illinois primary, is that the statewide winner usually ends up with a disproportionate share of the delegates. In other words, the loophole primary historically has been neither truly proportional nor truly winner-take-all. The allocation tends to end up somewhere in between with the winner taking a greater share of delegates than their share of the statewide vote.
That pattern may or may not hold in a more competitive, multi-candidate race. Trump supporters would theoretically vote for Trump and Trump delegates. All of the other voters in the Not Trump category may find it difficult to choose which other candidates’ delegates to support. Barring any clear direction there, the vote for Not Trump congressional district delegates will tend to be diluted as compared to Trump’s. For example, Cruz supporters may not have as clear an indication that they need to support Kasich or Rubio delegates in a district where Cruz may be at a disadvantage. That is a long way of saying that there is an organization hurdle that the Not Trumps have to overcome in Illinois with which the Trump campaign is not faced.
So it’s possible Trump could come away with a large share of Illinois’ delegates despite getting a smaller percentage of the vote. The Ohio winner gets 66 delegates, and those will go to Kasich, who at the moment has the fewest delegates of the four remaining candidates. Missouri has the fewest delegates available (52), and these are split between statewide winner-take-all and Congressional district allocation. Cruz may win the state, but unless he gets over 50% of the vote he won’t make much progress in chasing Trump in the delegate count.
Trump is poised to have another good night and seems likely to get more than 40% of the vote in at least two states today. Kasich will stay in the race after winning Ohio, and that could create some headaches for Trump later in the primary schedule. Cruz will add some more delegates from Missouri, Illinois, and North Carolina, but the gap between him and Trump will be larger tomorrow than it is today. Assuming Rubio drops out tonight as he is expected to do, Kasich will be the last so-called “establishment” candidate left.