Can Mega Tuesday States Predict The Nominee? History Is Pretty Telling
Presidential candidates have surpassed the halfway mark of the 2016 primary election cycle, and there's no turning back now because things are about to heat up. Though candidates tend to focus on early voting states, which set the precedent, later primaries actually are the real decision makers. In fact, a handful of March 15 states have a history of predicting nominees more accurately than even the famed Iowa and New Hampshire.
The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza went as far as to argue that two of the Mega Tuesday states — Ohio and Florida — are the only ones that ultimately matter for the GOP going forward. Firstly, the two states allocate their delegates according to a winner-take-all system. Secondly, he points out that if Trump comes out victorious in both states, he will lead runner-up Ted Cruz by 300 points, as opposed to less than 100 points. To reach the 1,237 delegates needed for a nomination, he'll have to snag just slightly over half of the remaining delegates. Cillizza maintains that for this reason, Florida and Ohio's primaries will determine the GOP nominee. And for the establishment GOP, that's a scary thought.
The Republicans aren't the only ones facing the pressure. For both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, there's still enough time to either fall or ascend in this race. Ohio and Florida, by themselves, will allocate more than 300 delegates proportionally, which means either candidate could stay in the game even if the other wins a close majority.
Clinton could come significantly closer to securing the nomination, which requires 2,383 delegates. At the time of this writing, the polls show that Clinton is leading in both Florida and Ohio, but March 8's Michigan race taught us, if anything, to not conflate state polls with conclusive results. Polls leading up to Michigan's primary showed Clinton had a consistent 20-point lead over Sanders. However, the Vermont senator ultimately prevailed, winning the vote by less than two percentage points.
That being said, let's not forget — Florida and Ohio aren't the only states voting on March 15. They are joined by Illinois, Missouri, and North Carolina. Together, the states have the ability to throw the race in either direction, but has their judgment been accurate in the past?
Since 1968, Florida, Missouri, North Carolina, and Ohio have each predicted 12 nominees, and Illinois has predicted 14. As a point of comparison, Iowa has predicted just seven and New Hampshire has predicted 10. More recently since 2000, the five states voting on March 15 have accurately voted for at least five out of the six candidates that were nominated for their party. More impressively, these tallies do not count incumbents who don't race against anyone from their party. Illinois, in particular, has virtually proven itself a fortune teller. The state's primary has selected the nominee for each party since 2000. In 2008, Florida and Ohio tainted their historical records by voting for Hillary Clinton as opposed to Barack Obama. Otherwise, they, too, have been spot on.
More than anything, these states' stellar voting records prove the nation is getting that much closer to electing a nominee and that after this point, it will be difficult to reshuffle the deck of political cards. We'll have to wait until summer to find out whether the March 15 states can uphold their impressive records. The only thing that could throw the nation's popular vote, at that point, would be a brokered convention for the Republicans or a Democratic superdelegate count that defies the polls.