LAWRENCE — With 10 states scheduled to hold primaries or caucuses on Super Tuesday and Kansas party voters set to caucus on Saturday, the presidential race could become clear or more muddled by week's end.
University of Kansas political scientists are available to comment on developments leading up to the events.
In the Democratic race, Hillary Clinton is hoping to expand on her lead over Bernie Sanders after her decisive victory in South Carolina last Saturday. For the Republicans, Donald Trump also seeks to further secure his lead over challengers Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, John Kasich and Ben Carson.
Patrick Miller, assistant professor of political science, monitors national polling made available and tweets analysis at Twitter.com/pmiller1693. His broad research interests include national politics and attitudes of partisanship.
Q: What are key things to look for from the Democrats on Tuesday?
Miller: On the Democratic side, Super Tuesday should be very good for Clinton. She will likely win most states, especially Southern states with heavily African-American primary electorates. Sanders should win his home state of Vermont, and the minimal public polling we have suggests that he may be competitive in a few others. But tomorrow should further the narrative that is already emerging in this race: Average Democrats are increasingly consolidating behind Clinton and that Sanders has largely failed to expand his demographic appeal.
Q: What about on the Republican side?
Miller: What polling we have suggests that Trump is likely to win most Republican Super Tuesday contests. He is running away with most Southern states. But critically, polling also shows him handily winning Massachusetts — one of the states that should be most supportive of an establishment nominee given the sorts of Republicans who typically do well there. If Rubio cannot win states like Massachusetts, Vermont and Minnesota tomorrow, then we should seriously reconsider the media narrative that he has a viable chance of winning the Republican nomination through the primary and caucus process.
Texas also votes tomorrow, which is Ted Cruz's home state. Most polling shows Cruz winning there, but some recent polls show Trump surging in Texas. If Cruz cannot win his home state, then his prospects in this race are poor. If he wins, he will likely stay in the contest, but he may reconsider his candidacy if he loses. A Cruz dropout likely helps Trump the most, though, so establishment Republicans may root for him to stay in the race even if he underperforms in Texas.
The bottom line, though, is that tomorrow is about delegates on the Republican side. Barring any last-minute shifts due to recent media coverage, Trump should emerge with more delegates than anyone else. His goal is to maximize his delegate margin as this race goes forward.
Q: Ahead of Saturday's caucuses in Kansas, are there any potential developments that seem to be different than what has been playing out on the national stage?
Miller: The one Kansas poll that has been made public gives Clinton a 33-23 percent lead over Sanders. Trump leads with 26 percent compared with 14 percent for Cruz and 13 percent for Rubio. This is not drastically different from what we are seeing nationally, but it is surprising in some ways.
Liberal Democrats tend to do best in caucus states, so for Clinton to lead in a caucus state like Kansas should be a red alert for Sanders. And Republicans in Kansas tend to be much more evangelical than average. So for Trump to be leading in Kansas, that underscores both how poorly Cruz has succeeded in consolidating evangelical voters, but the trend we've seen nationally of evangelicals moving to Trump.
Other KU political science experts who are available to discuss the Super Tuesday and the Kansas caucuses:
Christina Bejarano, associate professor of political science, researches women and Latinos in U.S. electoral politics, both their voting trends and political candidates. She has written two books: "The Latino Advantage: Gender, Race and Political Success" and "The Latino Gender Gap in U.S. Politics." Bejarano wrote a blog in January about identity politics in the Iowa caucuses.
"The significant thing to look for on Super Tuesday is the slim potential for the other candidates to gain increased support in a few states and thereby offer a challenge to both party front runners. Super Tuesday includes two more key states for Latinos, Texas and Colorado, which can further highlight their potential electoral impact in the 2016 campaign," Bejarano said. "It will be interesting to see if the Kansas turnout matches the previous states, especially when there are clear front runners for both parties and therefore less motivation for voters in Kansas."
Don Haider-Markel, professor and chair of the Department of Political Science, researches American politics and public policy and can speak about national political trends.
"The big questions are: Can Sanders win more than Vermont tomorrow? Can Cruz and Rubio pick up enough delegates to demonstrate they can challenge Trump down the road? And will some voters turn away from Trump with his latest white supremacy blunder? I doubt it," Haider-Markel said. "In Kansas, it’s possible for Sanders and Rubio to take the state, and if both do better than expected on Super Tuesday, it should enhance their chances. For Sanders, he really needs voters age 18-25 to turn out."
Burdett Loomis, professor of political science, researches Congress, U.S. politics and lobbying.
To arrange an interview with Miller, Bejarano, Loomis or Haider-Markel, contact George Diepenbrock at 785-864-8853 or firstname.lastname@example.org.