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Ballot Box

Welcome to Ballot Box 2016, your source for coverage of state and local elections—with a bit of presidential politics thrown in as well. Your hosts are Hayleigh Colombo (hcolombo@ibj.com) and Lindsey Erdody (lerdody@ibj.com).
Elections / Politics / Government & Economic Development / Government

Indiana primary 'make or break' in effort to stop Trump

April 27, 2016

Indiana is shaping up to be the last stand for Republicans who want to stop Donald Trump from securing the party’s presidential nomination.

After sweeping five states Tuesday, political insiders say Indiana’s crucial May 3 Republican primary contest is essentially his to lose.

“I do think Indiana is relatively make or break,” said Republican pollster Christine Matthews of Bellwether Research & Consulting. “If Donald Trump wins in Indiana, the pressure is off for him to absolutely sweep California and some of the remaining states.”

Trump’s performance here could determine whether there will be an open GOP convention, which explains why the #NeverTrump crowd and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz are making such a strong stand against him here.

Three public polls show Donald Trump with between five- and eight-point leads over Cruz, according to RealClearPolitics. But those polls were conducted before Cruz and Kasich announced that they were teaming up with the goal of defeating Trump.

That deal cleared a path for Cruz to campaign in Indiana, and for Kasich to focus instead on New Mexico and Oregon, where Cruz said he wouldn’t interfere.

Matthews said she’s unsure if that pact is likely to affect Indiana’s race outcome because she’s not sure voters will want to be “part of something strategic” rather than just voting for their preferred candidate.

“If you’re a Kasich voter, you have very little in common with a Cruz or Trump voter,” Matthews said.

Here’s how the delegate math is shaping up.

Trump is entering the state with 954 delegates, compared with Cruz’s 562 delegates and Kasich’s 153 delegates.

For Republicans, Indiana is a winner-take-most state, meaning that the winner of the statewide contest will net 30 of Indiana’s 57 total delegates.

But that still leaves 27 delegates—won three at a time by candidates for winning each of the state’s nine congressional districts—on the table.

If Cruz can’t run away with the statewide contest win, he could cut down on Trump’s spoils by doing well in several key congressional districts.

Trump could have a hard time winning the fifth congressional district—which represents the northern Indianapolis suburbs, including Carmel—and the seventh district, which represents Indianapolis’ core.

But even if he loses in a couple of districts, Trump could walk away with about 50 delegates. That would put him just a hair over 1,000 delegates, and he’d be in the home stretch on his way to amassing the needed 1,237 delegates he needs.

After Indiana, there’s still 445 GOP delegates left on the board, and Trump is running strongly in the remaining states.

But don’t count out Cruz. The Cruz campaign’s organizational prowess could play a powerful role here in stopping Trump. The Cruz campaign has been lauded at several points in the presidential primary for having a well-organized, effective ground staff.

“If this is do or die, they’re going to move everything into this state to do that,” Matthews said.

Trump, on the other hand, doesn’t have the same sort of organizational structure. But the campaign is said to be beefing up here and adding staff.

Matthews said the candidates, especially Cruz, could be looking to do something big to shake up the race. There has been speculation that he will announce later this afternoon that he will choose Carly Fiorina as his running-mate.

That could energize more moderate, Republican women “who aren’t huge fans of Ted Cruz” to get on his bandwagon, Matthews said.

Democratic contest

Indiana’s Democratic primary is also shaping up to be competitive, but the question is whether Sen. Bernie Sanders has a path to victory nationally.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton walked away from Tuesday’s contests close to the number of delegates she needs to secure the nomination.

Including Clinton’s “superdelegates,” who can back any candidate, the former Secretary of State is now just 232 delegates away from getting the Democratic nomination.

In other words, she’s 90 percent of the way there after Tuesday’s wins in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Connecticut and Delaware. Sanders won Rhode Island.

For Democrats, the delegates are awarded proportionally based on who wins the statewide races. There’s also delegates awarded proportionally based on who wins each congressional district, which could shape up to be crucial.

Democrats have 83 pledged delegates to award in Indiana based on the election results. The state has nine superdelegates.

Five of Indiana’s nine congressional districts have an even number of delegates to award. For instance, the seventh district—which represents Indianapolis—has eight delegates.

But the split is likely going to be 4-4 there among the candidates unless a candidate gets more than 63 percent of the vote, according to Dan Parker, who is running Clinton’s Indiana campaign and is a former Indiana Democratic Party chairman.

Parker said districts with odd numbers of delegates to award will be the important ones to win. Those are the third, fourth and sixth districts—which represent Fort Wayne, Lafayette and Muncie respectively— and the fifth district, which is the northern suburbs of Indianapolis.

“That’s why you see Clinton field offices in the districts where there are odd numbers of delegates,” Parker said. “Even though Marion and Lake County obviously produce more votes, Fort Wayne, Lafayette, Anderson and Muncie are actually more important because if you get 50 percent of the vote, you win that district 3-2.”

Parker said Indiana “would go a long way to helping put (Clinton) over the top.”

But Sanders is within striking distance of Clinton in several polls. RealClearPolitics shows Clinton with an 4-point lead here in its average of three public polls, so it’s a much tighter race.

“It was always going to be very close,” Parker said.

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