Why Illinois and Missouri Matter Today

Photo credit: Tom Arthur via Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
Photo credit: Tom Arthur via Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Florida and Ohio have carried much of the attention over Super Tuesday II because of their 165 winner-take-all delegates. But Illinois and Missouri, with 121 delegates between them, could turn them into swing states.

A RealClearPolitics piece today notes their vital importance to the consolidation in the Republican Primary:

The Republican primaries Tuesday in Ohio and Florida have been the focus of most candidates and the media, but two other contests, in Illinois and Missouri, could be just as pivotal to Donald Trump’s march toward the nomination or its demise.

[…]

Trump leads in both states, but Sen. Ted Cruz has identified them as potentially fertile ground for his campaign, adjusting his recent schedule accordingly.

It seems a foregone conclusion that Donald Trump and Ted Cruz are likely to split the majority of North Carolina’s 72 delegates.

Florida’s 99 delegates, though, are likely go to Trump:

Mr. Trump is poised to trounce the first-term senator in Florida, with polls showing the businessman maintaining a lead of about 20 percentage points.

“Florida is do or die for the Rubio campaign, but it looks like victory may have slipped from his grasp,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute, whose own pre-election survey Monday showed Mr. Trump up 44 percent to 27 percent over Mr. Rubio.

Ohio, scored by Quinnipiac, is still a toss-up between Trump and Ohio Governor John Kasich:

Ohio is a real contest on both sides. Trump and Gov. John Kasich are in a dead heat for the Buckeye State’s GOP delegates.

But Illinois (69 proportional delegates) and Missouri (52 winner-take-all delegates) represent a pivot point for both Trump and Cruz, especially if we assume a Trump Florida victory and a Kasich win in Ohio. Cruz is within striking distance of Trump in both Illinois and Missouri, and given Cruz’s late-closing trend, he and Trump could split both states, with the winner-take-all spoils of Missouri keeping a Cruz challenge to Trump viable.

Cruz knows he’s within shouting distance in Missouri, polling currently within the statistical margin of error:

Cruz’s campaign manager, Jeff Roe, told RealClearPolitics on Thursday that he sees “a real opportunity” in Missouri. “Trump has got a floor everywhere, but when you take the congressional breakdowns and the media markets where we’re participating, we think we have a real opportunity in the state.”

And Trump has signaled he recognizes the importance of Illinois where he holds a slim but surmountable 6-point lead:

“We are quite a bit ahead in Illinois, but I don’t want to tell you that,” Trump told a crowd in Bloomington, Ill., on Sunday. “The more we win by … the more delegates we’re going to get.”

By this time tomorrow we should know whether there will be consolidation or chaos in the Republican Primary.

Clint Cline is the president of Design4, a national media and messaging firm based in Florida.