Highly recommend from the New York Times Upshot blog this graphic depiction of the path to the Republican nomination of the three major frontrunners — Ted Cruz, Donald Trump, and Marco Rubio — who finished first, second, and third in the Iowa caucuses.
The strongest states for Cruz are those with high numbers of evangelical voters; the strongest for Trump are those with high numbers of, ahem, high levels of racial resentment; and the strongest for Rubio are those with highly educated voters.
The graphic is also a reminder of the importance of blue states that have a lot of delegates, like California.
For Rubio, it’s going to be about surviving an early calendar that is very unfavorable:
Mr. Rubio held broad strength, according to the exit polls, but he was notably weak among “very conservative” voters and those without a college degree. Many conservative states appear early in the calendar, and especially on Super Tuesday, when a host of Southern states and caucuses will pose a big hurdle for candidates who count on the support of more moderate and secular voters.
One advantage unmentioned here is that the media (not to mention the GOP establishment) is eager to anoint Rubio, so much so that Bronze Medal Marco was declared a winner of sorts after a third-place finish in Iowa (Rubio had been polling in third, but did better than expected in grabbing 23 percent of the vote). There’s a good chance that Rubio will go 0-4 over the first slate of contests and though he may win a state or two on the big SEC primary on March 1, he’ll likely be well behind in delegates at that point. But if the media and donors buy in to the idea that he’s the frontrunner, there’s a self-fulfilling prophecy factor that could come in to play, and the slate of states on the back of the calendar represent good territory for Rubio to mount a comeback and start cleaning up in winner-take-all states. Florida, Ohio, Illinois, and California loom large if Rubio is to translate the hype into delegates.
Trump has the most interesting, and unusual, coalition:
There is little precedent for how a candidate like Donald Trump can go from Iowa to the nomination, mainly because there’s never been a candidate quite like him. His support is broad, and it spans many of the traditional ideological and demographic divides that usually define the geography of primary contests.
But Mr. Trump appears to fare best in the South, Appalachia and the industrial Northeast, according to data from Civis Analytics, a Democratic firm. Mr. Trump’s best state is West Virginia, followed by New York. He fares worse farther West, in traditionally Republican areas where measures of racial resentment are lower.
Arkansas is a state that should favor Cruz, the Upshot reports — although here I wonder whether endorsements will come into play. Cruz has a decent batch but most prominent Republicans in the state have gone for Rubio (with more, including Gov. Asa Hutchinson, still deciding now that Mike Huckabee has dropped out).
Check it out over at the Upshot — they have graphics for each candidate, depicting key states on the calendar to come and how each might chart a path to victory.