The Key State in the 2016 Election

Anarelis Ramirez, Elena Gleed, and Jack Weiss

The way to the White House is not a path, but rather a maze or complex treasure map. For years political scientists and consultants have attempted to generate the perfect trajectory from candidacy to commander and chief, however, there is still no overwhelming consensus among candidates as to which states need more attention than others. As we face Super Tuesday, and unleash a flood of delegates and polling data, it is essential to identify which state’s results matter, which have implications for further primaries and the general election, and which tell us nothing.

Although political pundits agree that Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida are the swing states to monitor during the general election, until then we attempt to look deeper into specific Super Tuesday states to find which encompass the information needed to generate a winning game plan to the nomination. Below we identify the three states that you should focus on and that can help shape the future of what has already been an unpredictable election season.


Does every state in matter in the road to the White House? You decide.



Yes, Oklahoma.


Although widely overlooked by those who consider the state overwhelmingly conservative, Oklahoma deceptively has a unique blend of ideologies, making the state prime for a tight battle between Trump, Cruz, and Rubio. According to 538 research, those who self-identify as somewhat conservative or moderate/liberal make up roughly 54% of the Republican population, thus testing Ted Cruz’s viability in the state and Marco Rubio’s ability to gain traction with urban and more centrist voters. As 538 confirms, “Cruz should do well with religious voters, Rubio should do well with voters in Oklahoma City and Tulsa, and Trump should do well with the rest.” If this is indeed the case, look Oklahoma to teach us if “the rest” is a large enough population to carry Trump to the nomination.


Furthermore, the last two Oklahoma primaries have been heated three way contests with the winners (John McCain and Rick Santorum) able to court the evangelical base. This poses an issue for Trump, however, if evangelical don’t all squarely fall behind Cruz, it predicts future failures for the Cruz campaign in less conservative states. Additionally, polling from March 1st (see below) indicated that Trump had a 68% of winning the state, but if we look back to February 28th, Trumps probability drops almost 20 points (see below).



This indicates a possible strong anti-Trump base building among Republican voters, especially after the news of Trumps quasi-support for former Grand Wizard of the KKK, David Duke. Oklahoma’s change in voter probability as a result of Trump’s recent actions highlights possible media strategies for the anti-Trump establishment to utilize in later states.


Lastly, Oklahoma forecasts the populist’s movement going forward. According to the Oklahoma Election Board, since January 1st, almost 21,000 people have registered as Republicans, and roughly 5,000 democrats and 1,500 independents have switched their party registration to the GOP. Seeing voter turnout such as this in Oklahoma should motivation other candidates, especially within the establishment, to set up similar voting infrastructure as Oklahoma in an effort to encourage greater anti-Trump voters.


Don’t overlook Oklahoma when looking to identify major micro-trends and demographic research useful to capturing the GOP nomination.



Defeat is inevitable for Trump in Texas. The majority of polls indicate a close race between Cruz and Trump with an overall win for Cruz. Nonetheless, Texas’s delegate distribution indicates that a closer race minimizes the number of delegates for Cruz, limiting his chances of taking a lead against Trump.


Texas represents the highest number of delegates at stake for the Republican Party thus far in the primary season. On the condition that a single candidate does not receive over fifty percent of the vote, Texas’s 155 delegates will be divided proportionally. There are three delegates within each of the 36 congressional districts. The winner in each district receives two delegates, while the runner-up receives one delegate.

It is fair to assume Trump and Cruz will meet the twenty percent threshold. If Cruz comes in first in all districts and Trump in second, they will receive 72 and 36 delegates respectively. According to the Washington Post, even if Cruz wins by 14 points, his net gain 46 delegates in his home state will be fewer than Trump’s net gain of 50 delegates in South Carolina. The proportional allocation of delegates in Texas trumps Cruz’s chances of gaining a delegate advantage.


A close race in Texas reveals major problem for Cruz. If Cruz fails to win in his most favorable state, it is difficult to forecast victory for him anywhere else.




Virginia, too, will be an incredibly important state to watch on Super Tuesday. Virginia’s most northern and most eastern populations represent, for the most part a fairly well educated electorate. Donald Trump, appealing mostly to non-college educated white males, has not proven to be highly successful so far among this demographic. However, with 35% of the Republican vote in Virginia, Trump has secured his hold not only on Virginia’s Republicans, but on Republican voters all across the Appalachia region. According to 538, if Trump is successful in Virginia on Super Tuesday (which he was), he’s is likely to do well over all, proving his appeal to “voters in [the] economically depressed areas of Appalachia.” Trump’s win in Virginia, giving him 17 additional delegates, proved his ability to win, even in a region with a wide-range of Republican ideologies. Based on 2012 polling data, the Republican ideological breakdown in Virginia is fairly equal among the “very conservative” (32%), the “somewhat conservative” (33%), and the “moderate or liberal” (34%). While Rubio was also fairly successful in the Virginia primary on Super Tuesday (gaining 16 more delegates with 31.9% of the vote), Trump’s overall victory has huge implications for his potential to gain support among the Republican electorate, even in ideologically diverse regions of the country.




Works Cited:


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