All this year, the big political story has been Donald Trump—what he says, what he does, what he plans. But now that we’re deep into the campaign, we’re beginning to ask, could he really win? And if so, how? And how will we judge his progress along the way to 1,237 delegates?

The first question was, which primary states could he win, based on his issues and appeal? The New York Times provided a graphic:

Trump States NYTimes

As you can see, Trump has over-performed expectations. Yes, he lost Oklahoma, which he was expected to win. However, he was not expected to win Nevada, Arkansas, Massachusetts, Vermont, or Hawaii.

Of course, with proportionality, “winning” a state doesn’t matter. In fact, it’s possible to “win” a state, but end up with fewer delegates than the “loser.” But now that we’re into the “winner-take-all” states, “winning” really does mean winning. And increasingly, it is the number of delegates we’re watching, not just “states won.”

Now, FiveThirtyEight has given us the NUMBERS to look for, not just which states:

Trump has 695 delegates now, and, on average, our respondents estimate he will still be just a little bit short of 1,237 on June 7, when California wraps up the primary calendar. He might be close enough, though, that he could clinch the nomination in the six weeks between California and Cleveland. . .

Overall, our average response suggests that Trump will win 513 delegates the rest of the way. When combined with the 695 he’s won so far, that means he’d fall 29 delegates short of the 1,237 needed to win on the first ballot. Here is the Olympic average for each upcoming contest (we’ve left out some contests with only unbound delegates; see the footnotes for more detail):

Trump Delegates 538
For explanation of where these delegate numbers originate and the methodology in use, see the story from FiveThirtyEight

All of the respondents agree that Trump is not likely to get close to 1,237 delegates before June 7, when California and four other states vote. The closest Trump came was 1,088 delegates. And even the most optimistic Trump projection has him hitting 1,244 after all the states have voted. That leaves Trump with very little room for error to reach a majority of delegates without at least some of the currently unpledged or uncommitted delegates coming to his aid.

The article gives much more detail. If you are a detail-oriented person, check it out.

OK, so we’ve established that winning proportional states doesn’t necessarily make one a “winner.” And, we have a pretty clear path for Trump to follow. The Times graphic expected Trump to LOSE all three of the next states, Arizona, Utah, and Wisconsin—BUT the polls say Arizona is Trump Territory, up by 13%, and the most recent Wisconsin poll puts Trump up by 12%. He was never expected to do well in Utah. In fact, the betting odds are that Cruz will win, with a probability of 94%. No surprise there.

We will follow these paths and give you an update on whether Trump is on-target to win, and how far ahead or behind he is. If he does as well as expected, he should be able to cajole enough delegates to get the nomination.


    • The MO error has been corrected. As for the rest, remember, these are merely guesses based on this criteria. Such as Wisconsin, where that estimate means that Trump has a 50% chance of winning there. If he wins, he takes them all, but this is a way of estimating.

      Also, on PA, see this:

      “Others, like the 54 Pennsylvania district delegates, are automatically unbound and have been elected as unbound for decades (see: when Gerald Ford beat Ronald Reagan in the 1976 primary).”

      PA does not actually have 71 available delegates, since 54 of them are unbound, only 17 of them are bound by the primary.

      See the guidelines from 538, the originator of this graphic:

      “For instance, our average has Trump with 15 delegates in winner-take-all Delaware, which has 16 delegates at stake. This is equivalent to saying that Trump is highly likely but not quite certain to win Delaware, according to the panel.”

      • I knew about the delegates in Pennsylvania but thought it was by district (like illinois and Missouri) where 18 districts x 3 del= 54 while 17 was the winner of the state. The unbound will probably be pulled to the winner or most will. Btw when is Missouri secretary going to give Trump his 12 more delegates for winning the state?

        • Good question on MO. I don’t know what the hold-up us. Trump was declared the winner. Perhaps there were some very close districts, I’d have to research it.

          • Districts already given.. 25 to Trump 15 to Cruz but the remaining 12 (for winner) is being held up by the Secretary of that state for signing to make it offical. I wonder if the GOP is hoping we all will forget about this

    • according to Wisconsin GOP (Wisconsin State Journal) , 18 delegates go to the overall winner, the remaining 24 are divvied up among whoever wins each of the state’s 8 congressional districts.

  1. I never recall seeing a poll that had Trump down in Nevada , Vermont or Massachusetts …. He always had a nice double digit lead in those states but this article is suggesting that he wasn’t expected to win them ?

    • Those suggestions came from a “path to the nomination” prepared by the New York Times back in early February. At that time, they wrote about which states Trump “had to win” and which he might lose or could lose to continue toward the nomination.

      We’re just comparing what was “forecast” earlier in the race to where he stands today – he’s over-performing some early estimates, especially in some Western states as you point out.

        • If you note the graphic heading, they listed Trump’s “Key States” – as in, states he must win along the way to grab the nomination. They didn’t mean he was destined to lose the others, just that they might not matter if his “key states” went down.

          You’ve got to check the details here. We’re not just trying to toss around numbers. We’re trying to construct the means to determine whether Trump can win 1,237 delegates, and have a means to determine how close he is to the target.

          Referencing the Times piece was a way to look back toward the beginning, and judge where he is now, and where he has to end up to win the nomination outright.

  2. Forgive my ignorance, but how is it possible to win a state, but end up with fewer delegates than the loser?

    • Each state has its own rules. For instance, in Missouri, There was a lump of 12 votes, but each district was awarded separately. Theoretically, one could have won the total popular vote, but lost most of the districts.

      Also, in Alaska and Louisiana, the winner and “loser” gained the exact same number of delegates.

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