Thursday, March 3, 2016

Theory: Open primaries favor Trump, Closed favor Cruz...and the calendar is shifting towards more Closed primaries

Another great piece from TRS yesterday gave everyone a glimpse at the upcoming elections and delegates that are at stake from now until March 15th. I'd highly recommend taking a look at that, with particular notice paid towards how many Closed Primaries are coming up. A recent WaPo piece pointed out that so far, Trump wins open primaries and Cruz wins closed...and the calendar is starting to change towards more closed primaries.
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. So that got me to thinking.

If true, why does this matter? 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 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.

Then, once the winner-takes-all states begin, a large number of those are closed primaries and caucuses as well (including Florida, for what it’s worth).

That suggests at least two things.

First, the fact that South Carolina and most of the SEC primaries were open primaries may very well explain why those states did not turn out to be Ted Cruz’s firewall or launch states as he had predicted. Oklahoma did perform as expected, being a fairly comfortable win for Cruz. The timeless Pauline Kael quote that has been back in circulation lately may not necessarily be incorrect among actual Republicans.

Second, the four closed primaries and caucuses this Saturday could be very interesting to watch, particularly to see whether Trump can maintain his momentum in closed primary states where he will have to appeal to the traditional Republican base. I haven’t gone through the remainder of the states to calculate in detail how many delegates will be selected through this series of closed primaries and whether those are enough to win. Trump also might start winning closed primaries and caucuses. But this has been his Achilles heel so far.
We'll see how this theory holds up very soon! Also, an interesting aside...
As an aside, it seems sort of peculiar that open primaries play such a disproportionately large role at the outset of the Republican nomination process. I understand the historical reasons for why Southern states have open primaries and why they are at the beginning of the campaign process. And I’m not saying that it is necessarily wrong to have so many open primaries at the beginning of the process. But it just seems peculiar to have so many open primaries front-end loaded and the closed ones disproportionately later in the process, given the importance of the early primaries in culling the field. I’m not sure whether the Republican National Committee would have intended that had it thought of it.
That's a good way to have your nominee steered by the opposition towards the weaker candidate, RNC. Dummies. This is why ALL primaries, Republican or Democratic, should be closed to party affiliates only during the selection process.

Related links: Here are the Trump Democrats that Donald is using to win states
Only One Top GOP Candidate is Losing to Hillary in the Polls for November
What to look for in the Saturday closed primaries & caucuses. ‘Caucusi?’

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