Closed primaries could turn out to be Cruz or Rubio’s saving grace this election cycle. These contests will make it harder for Trump to reach the 50%+1 of delegates needed for the nomination.
For those who don’t know, a closed primary is a primary where only registered members of a particular party can vote, and over half of the Republican primary delegates will be handed out by states that have closed caucuses and primaries.
This is very bad for Donald Trump, as many of his supporters (more so than other candidates) are not registered as Republicans, or registered as voters at all. As Americanblog.com pointed out back when Carson was at his peak:
“UMass released a poll of the Republican primary yesterday, in partnership with YouGov, showing Donald Trump leads the pack with 31 percent of likely voters, followed by Ben Carson at 22, Ted Cruz at 13 and Marco Rubio at 9. All of the rest of the candidates were under 5 percent. Jeb Bush was in seventh place, with three percent.
But YouGov did something with their sampling that the Trump campaign may want to make a note of. Their sample included 1,000 adults, which they screened down to 318 likely Republican primary voters and 381 likely Democratic primary voters. However, after they had identified their likely voters and polled them, they applied an additional screen for whether they could actually match voters back to the public voter files.
Normally, voter screens work the other way. You start with registered voters, and then screen for whether you think those voters will actually show up (in this case, YouGov simply asked respondents if they would definitely or probably vote in the upcoming election). But in this case, it appears that YouGov did the reverse: they polled self-described likely voters, and then checked to see whether their respondents were actually registered to vote.
With this registered voter screen applied, Donald Trump falls out of first place. His nine point lead over Ben Carson evaporates, and he trails the traveling book salesman 29-28. Even Ted Cruz gains some ground on him, jumping four points to 17 percent. In fact, Donald Trump is the only Republican with more than five percent of the likely vote share who loses ground when the registered voter screen is applied, so while he only falls three percentage points, the loss matters more relative to gains made in the rest of the field. Taken together, the effects of the registered voter screen suggest that the enthusiastic-but-not-registered voters are predominantly either undecided or pro-Trump.”
Polls don’t usually make the above adjustment, meaning we aren’t getting a picture of truly likely voters in most polls.
So what does this ultimately mean? Well many places allow for same day voter registration and party changes, which might make it a little less convenient for non-Republicans to vote for the Donald. But that isn’t the case everywhere.
For example, New Jersey requires that voters register with a party 55 days before a primary. Yes, Jersey doesn’t get to vote until June, but if this is a long, drawn out primary with the risk of a brokered convention, every delegate may end up counting.
But forget June, in the delegate rich state of Florida, which votes in March, there’s a 29 day deadline prior to voting.
These aren’t it either. The massive New York primary has a 25 day deadline. There’s a full 92 bound delegates at stake here.
This phenomena is certainly worth noting. If every delegate will count this cycle (it will if Donald Trump’s candidacy doesn’t die and keeps going for months), this is just another hurdle he must overcome before Cleveland.
The Trump camp is aware of this. Some of his biggest backers, the two sassy ladies Diamond and Silk, even compiled a list of last days to register and change parties in various states (I can’t attest to its accuracy but it is worth linking here).
This is where having much of your base be disengaged new voters can be a big…well…liability I guess.