In the last A Year Long Conversation podcast, “Episode 12: Why March 15th is the Most Important Day of the Election” we both let it be known that March 15th is the most important day of the election. Now I’d like to go a step beyond that and say definitively that we’ll know who the nominees will be, and even have a decent chance at knowing who will win. “But how can this be?” Well, let me break it down…
Five States Vote [In order of least important to most important]: Illinois, North Carolina, Missouri, Ohio, Florida
1. Swing States Galore…Now you might have noticed that Ohio and Florida just so happen to be the biggest swing states out there. In a general election, it would be “challenging” for a candidate to lose both of those states and win the general election. If you don’t believe me, just ask Al Gore. But beyond that, Missouri and North Carolina are also soft red states. NC went for Obama in 2008, and Missouri has accurately voted with the president nearly every election Obama wasn’t in. [Bill Clinton won it twice.] Plus, it’s one of only three states that doesn’t touch a coastline that has a Democratic Governor. Missouri is most definitely open for business in a way few people are bothering to talk about. And sure, Illinois is the only one that’s not a purple state, but it also has a big amount of delegates for both parties. For example, on the Democratic side it has more delegates than Ohio, NC, or Missouri, so it’s not to be sneezed at either. Speaking of which…
2. It’s the day that decides who the Republican nominee is…The sheer amount of delegates up for grabs on this day is tremendous. Republicans are doing big “winner take all” contests in Ohio and Florida whereas nearly all states up to this point have been proportional. Just to give you an example of how big it is to win Ohio and Florida, if Trump were to win both of them, he would only need to win about less than 50% of the delegates remaining to become the nominee. Even if he loses Ohio, but still wins Florida he’d need somewhere around 55% of remaining delegates, depending on how well he does in Illinois and Missouri (who have loopholes that could technically mean all their delegates go to one candidate). Since the remaining contests are New England states Trump might do well in (including New York), and then the whale states of California and New Jersey as the final contests on June 7th—both awarding their delegates on a winner-take-all basis for more than 220 delegates—it’s more than probable he could get the delegates he needs.
3. It’s also the day that decides the Democratic nominee…Hillary Clinton is going to beat Bernie Sanders. I know it. You know it. Everybody but Bernie and his fans know it. The only question is if it will come down to the last delegate or she can stop him much sooner. If she does a clean sweep of the big “purple states” Tuesday like North Carolina (which she will), Florida (which she will), Missouri (which she might), and Ohio (I honestly don’t know), then the race is over, and it will only make Bernie look bad to keep going. Sure, he’s shown no indication of getting out of the race before she has every single delegate she needs, but if she can say “I’ve won Virginia, Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, Nevada, Iowa, and Missouri” then she has effectively won every single swing state except Pennsylvania which doesn’t vote until mid-April. At that point, Bernie will be looking at a “popular revolution” that has won less overall votes than Hillary (more than a million as of this writing), and can’t win a single swing state. If she can just win Ohio and Missouri by really any margin, and NC and Florida in the predicted landslide, then the race is over.
4. It’ll be Rubio’s Little Big Horn and (Possibly) Kasich’s Alamo…Most polls show Kasich winning his home state of Ohio, and he probably will, but what if he doesn’t? And what if Rubio loses Florida by the double digit margins he’s projected to in every poll that’s been conducted for the entirety of 2016? “Little Marco” will be facing his Little Big Horn. And Trump has already cancelled a Florida rally on Monday, so he can go to Ohio instead, determined to make it Kasich’s Alamo. Either way, Kasich is more than a jerk for fighting so hard to win a home state that won’t make a difference to him either way. Even if he manages to win Ohio, the delegate math for him to win the nomination is impossible: Kasich would have to win an impossible 95 percent of the post-Tuesday delegates to win the nomination. He’s just there as a spoiler to force a brokered convention, and I can’t see that as a good thing for Democracy.
5. Back to those purple states…I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to the general election the outcome of Tuesday’s states. Rubio’s candidacy pretty much died the night he didn’t win Virginia from Trump, thus evaporating his “I’m more electable” argument. The thinking was that if a neocon who wants to add a trillion dollars to the military budget can’t win a state that would disproportionately benefit from defense contractor spending, he can’t win anything significant. And if Trump wins Ohio, Florida, Missouri, and North Carolina, and I think he probably will except for Ohio, then it makes his general election case stronger than it’s ever been. If Hillary wins Ohio, Florida, Missouri, North Carolina, plus the Virginia primary she’s already won, it makes her case stronger than it’s ever been. We’ll have to watch these key states closely to see exactly how big the margin of victory or defeat truly is, and you’ll have a decent indicator as to who will do well in November.