As we reported earlier, Donald Trump appears likely to be trounced in the Utah caucus this Tuesday. On the other hand, his prospects in Arizona — the largest winner-take-all contest left in the GOP race — are looking good, in what could be a crucial step closer to securing the nomination outright.
While Trump leads in Arizona polls by 12 to 14 points, however, there are a couple big wildcards that could lead to election night surprises Tuesday.
Via The Hill:
Polls show Trump will enter Election Day as the favorite. But Republicans on the ground in the state say the contest could be decided by a razor-thin margin, and that Cruz is just as likely to finish on top.
“I think Cruz will pull the upset,” said Kurt Davis, a neutral GOP operative in the state and close confidante of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). “He’s the only candidate with any kind of organization out here and they have him positioned to spring the upset. They just have to deliver.”
There have been only two public surveys of Arizona released this month. Each found Trump with support in the 30 percent range, with leads of 12 and 14 points over Cruz.
“It’s significant but it’s not insurmountable,” said Tara Blanc, the co-director of the Merrill Poll, which conducted one of the surveys.
Whether or not you buy the above opinions, two wildcards have the potential to upset Trump’s significant lead — or, by the same token, perhaps enhance it.
There hasn’t been any polling completed of Arizona since Marco Rubio dropped out of the race, and the overall samples of the state have been small so far. As we reported earlier, 47% of Rubio supporters said they will now get behind Cruz, which may have only been reinforced by indications that the Florida senator is close to endorsing Cruz himself.
Regardless of what happens with Rubio’s supporters, the large number of late deciders in the state — 30% were undecided in the Arizona poll — could make or break Tuesday’s election for either candidate. Some suggest the advantage with late deciders is Cruz.
While Trump has so far run up the score among early voters in several states, Cruz’s get-out-the-vote efforts have helped him close strong. He consistently outperforms the polls and has surprised political watchers by making a race out of contests where Trump entered with a healthy lead.
As the largest remaining winner-take-all contest in the GOP primary, stakes are high in Arizona. If Trump secures it, it gives him one big step forward, while if he falls short, it could increase the likelihood of a contested convention.
[Note: This article was written by Michelle Jesse, Associate Editor]