How Trump wins the nomination in three weeks

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Eight months ago, business magnate and reality television star Donald TrumpDonald TrumpRNC official: We won’t go full Trump on party platform RNC’s Katie Walsh: A behind-the-scenes leader Green Party could be election spoiler MORE shocked the nation by declaring his candidacy in the United States presidential race. Throughout the twists and turns that have followed, Trump’s lead has remained nearly unshakeable, with him only relinquishing the top spot for a single day when retired neurosurgeon, Ben Carson, eclipsed all other contenders before wandering back off into obscurity almost as swiftly as he appeared.  In a mere three weeks, Trump will shock Americans once more, when he secures an inevitable path to the Republican nomination.  

To become the nominee any candidate must attain 1,237 delegates, a faraway target for Trump, who will end up between 80 and 90 delegates following the allocation of delegates from the Nevada caucus.  Nonetheless, voter trends indicate staunch support for the frontrunner in the “golden four” states of California, New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey, which are heavy in delegates but fall late in the primary season.  The Republican frontrunner has gone on to sweep this bloc in every primary election since 1980, awarding them a substantial 389 delegates and the nomination.

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Presuming this pattern holds, the magic number for a candidate to reach in the contests prior to the golden four states becomes 848 delegates.  Following his victory in Nevada, Trump will likely end February just under 90 delegates, nearly six times that of his closest competitor, Sen. Ted CruzTed CruzTrump wins Washington state primary Overnight Cybersecurity: House to offer bill on government hacking powers Overnight Tech: Rubio, Cruz take up internet domain fight MORE (Texas).  If he maintains this momentum throughout the first two weeks of March, he will have more delegates than any candidate could feasibly match going into the golden four states, guaranteeing him that frontrunner status that turns out late primary voters and transforms candidates into nominees. 

The first two weeks of March present the ultimate test for any campaign, with 27 nominating contests and 1,309 possible delegates.  An evaluation of recent polls, state demographics, and regional indicators, reveals that Trump is positioned to take 672 of those delegates with wins in 13 of the 27 states (Alabama, Alaska, Georgia, Massachusetts, Vermont, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Florida, Illinois, Missouri, and North Carolina).  In six further states (Oklahoma, Tennessee, Virginia, Kansas, Kentucky, and Ohio) Trump retains slimmer polling advantages, marking these as “likely Trump” states, and providing him with a prospective 302 additional delegates.  In five further states and territories (Puerto Rico, Hawaii, Idaho, Washington DC, and the Northern Mariana Islands) lack of up-to-date information makes accurately predicting the outcomes impossible, leaving those 102 delegates effectively up for grabs.   The remaining three states (Arkansas, Texas, and Minnesota) are divided between the rest of the pack, with Cruz polling in front in Texas and Arkansas, and Sen. Marco RubioMarco RubioNew Mexico GOP gov. won’t attend home-state Trump rally Rubio: 'It’s not that we lost, it’s that Donald Trump won’ Santorum endorses Trump after 'long heart-to-heart' MORE (Fla.) narrowly edging Trump out in Minnesota.

However, as evidenced by the Iowa caucus, minor Trump leads in polls can still result in election night victories for his opponents, as the organizational capabilities of Trump’s campaign are some of the weakest in the field.  Yet of the six “likely Trump” states and five states without sufficient information, Trump only needs a combined 81 delegates of the 405 in play.  In this scenario, Trump only needs to win two states between Virginia, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Tennessee, all of which he holds comfortable polling leads in.

When prognosticating any number of scenarios, it seems that every possible outcome points to Trump.  All indicators suggest that Trump will likely well surpass the 850 delegate benchmark within the next three weeks, setting up a straightforward conclusion to the race.  With this comfortable of a lead, Trump is poised for victories in the golden four states, giving him enough delegates to clinch the nomination.  At some point we have to accept that no other candidate can reach the number of delegates that Trump has obtained.  Gov. John Kasich (Ohio) and Rubio can celebrate second place finishes in New Hampshire and South Carolina respectively, while Trump takes his delegates and runs- all the way to the Republican nomination.

Denney and Fleming work in analytics and research for federal campaigns and are  based in Southern California.

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