Texas Senator and 2016 Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz was all smiles as he was winning Utah’s presidential preference caucus last night. Cruz had been expected to win by a wide margin, and his supporters delivered an important victory. With an estimated 85% of all precincts reporting, Cruz has 118,904 votes, or 69.2 % of all votes counted so far. Ohio Governor John Kasich was far back in second place with 29,015 votes, or 16.9%, with businessman Donald Trump coming in third place with 23,984 votes, or 14%. Because Cruz exceeded the 50% plus one vote total threshold, he was awarded all of Utah’s 40 delegates to the Republican national convention.
Following a devastating loss in Arizona, Cruz had to reach over 50% to gain some new momentum, and he did, out polling his competitors by more than a 3 to 1 margin statewide. Cruz has done well in states with caucuses, and at the same time, fails miserably to win in states with high populations and more moderate conservatives. That doesn’t bode well for Cruz before the Wisconsin state primary held on April 5, 2016. Cruz is trailing significantly in polling data available from Wisconsin, and Trump’s percentage of voters is only going to increase in the days ahead of the election.
For their parts, neither Trump nor Kasich had a strong organization in Utah, and the results showed it. Kasich’s second place finish did not win him any delegates, but it did depress Trump’s vote total. On this night, Cruz was to be the only winner in Utah.
Some polling places ran out of ballots, leaving voters to cast provisional ballots instead. As it turns out, the provisional ballots matter had no impact on the election, as the election was over long before the polls closed. Cruz had traveled all over this heavily Mormon state, and made connections with LDS church leaders that helped carry him over the top. Having Mitt Romney vote for you in Utah can’t hurt either.
Cruz lost more ground in the delegate race, and now has just 463 delegates to date. This dwards in comparison to a staggering 738 delegates for Trump. Kasich’s role now is only as a spoiler, as he currently only has 143 delegates.
Winning the Mormon vote by a landslide will not get you elected, by itself, to the presidency. Ask 2012 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney about that. In the United States, you must appeal to people of different political philosophies in order to become president. Where the most delegates are happen to be on the east coast of the U.S., the west coast, and the industrial states surrounding the Great Lakes; and these are areas where Trump is expected to make himself a candidate that cannot be stopped on the way to the nomination.
While Cruz did well in Utah, he was trounced in Arizona, losing to Donald Trump by a double-digit margin. For now, while this win keeps Cruz in the race, he is running out of time to prevent Trump from getting the nomination. Both Wisconsin, and New York should demonstrate Trump’s populist appeal to a broad voting coalition. For Ted Cruz, this was one of the last states where he has been projected to perform well. Cruz won Utah in a landslide, but expect to see no more of that for the rest of the campaign, in general.
Trump has the war chest and the volunteers to be competitive in every remaining primary, and while he had a poor showing last night, he already must have known that he had no chance. Nevertheless, Trump did campaign in Utah; its just that Mormons don’t like Trump because Trump doesn’t like Mitt Romney. With Romney telling the press that he was going to be voting for Ted Cruz in Utah, that signaled the end of the line for both Kasich, and Trump. Cruz won this one; will he win any more states?