Super Tuesday Round 3 - Is this it?
Ohio and Florida, winner take all.
Illinois and Missouri, winner take all by congressional district.
North Carolina, proportional.
The race may have more drama on the Democratic side.
Clinton looks to win Florida and North Carolina.
However, it looks competitive in Illinois, Ohio, and Missouri. If Sanders can take all three there will be major panic in the Clinton Camp. Likewise, if he is blanked, then there will be more calls for him to drop out though I suspect he has no political reason to do so. My prediction: Sanders takes two of these states - Illinois and Ohio.
ACTUAL: Sanders edged out Clinton in Missouri by 1 delegate and Clinton edged out Sanders in Illinois by 1 delegate. Clinton rode to easy victories elsewhere.
Meanwhile, on the Republican side, Trump appears to be on the edge of pushing the opposition off the stage.
Kasich looks like he will take Ohio. Rubio's campaign has run out of gas and Florida goes to Trump. My prediction: Kasich edges out Trump by a percentage point or two and Trump easily takes Florida with about 36/37%.
ACTUAL: Kasich won easily by 11% in Ohio and Trump won easily in Florida with a stunning 46% and Rubio 19% behind. Rubio has suspended his campaign.
Cruz's goal at a minimum is to pick off as many delegates as he can in Illinois, Missouri, and North Carolina. In his dream scenario, he actually takes one or two of these states. My prediction: though Trump will get a lot of press for winning 3 states, his delegate haul will NOT put Cruz away. Cruz edges Trump out in Missouri.
ACTUAL: Cruz came close in Missouri to winning but fell a little less than 2000 votes short. In terms of the delegate hunt, not all the data is in for Illinois and Missouri. Cruz did collect a good number in North Carolina.
What is next?
538 has estimates of what level of delegate collecting each candidate needs to get the nomination. As it stands, Trump is best positioned to reach the 1237 magic number while the others aim to deny him the magic number.
Kasich and Cruz are in delegate collection mode to keep Trump from 1237. However, will there be back channel communications with the Cruz team so they won't compete too strongly in the same states and wind up dividing the vote allowing Trump to collect delegates too easily?
Where is Kasich's most favorable ground? Where is Cruz so strong that Kasich would skip campaigning?
March 22 is next with Utah and Arizona. My guess is that Kasich will concede Arizona to Cruz to fight Trump in this winner-take-all primary. On Kasich's web page (as of Wednesday afternoon PDT), he plans to appear in Utah where it is a proportional primary where it could be a close three-man race.
Looking further into the calendar, April 5 Wisconsin win-take-all by congressional district and April 19 New York proportional by congressional district is likely to be favorable to Kasich. And Kasich will definitely (resources permitting) go all-in for the NorthEast Super Tuesday on April 26.
If Kasich hasn't made inroads (e.g. a few (four?) victories and strong second place finishes otherwise) by this point, the rationale for his candidacy will be over. His practical goal must be to overtake Cruz as the number two delegate collector and keep Trump below 1237.
The mystery is how much below 1237 must Trump be for the contested convention to be a truly viable option? And how close must the second place candidate be?
1000 is a nice "psychologically round" number for Trump. Get over 1000 then he could probably arm-twist and wheeler-dealer get the last 200+ to get over the magic number.
But what if Trump is below 1000?
If Trump had 999, then there would be 1473 delegates left to divide among the rest. If the second place finisher had ~ 800, a contested convention is probably possible. But if the second place finisher was only at ~ 700, it might be harder.