Sen. Ted Cruz appears poised to be the first Republican to break the 50 percent mark in voting, thanks to his strong performance in Kansas on Saturday. That's with only 80 percent of the vote in, so he may slip under 50 percent, and perhaps drop under the 49.3 percent Donald Trump got in Massachusetts on Super Tuesday. (Update: With 100 percent in, Cruz has 48.2 percent of the vote.) Regardless, it's a big, much-needed win for the Texas senator -- and will almost certainly be the second-biggest margin of victory we've seen so far.
And yet it will net him only the seventh-biggest delegate haul.
The delegate allocation math is tricky, with the total delegates at stake not correlating to the population of the state, with rules for divvying up the delegates -- or not divvying them up at all -- varying state by state and with different results for the scattered field in each state.
If you compare the margins of victory to the total delegate count available in each state so far, you can see that Kansas is Cruz's biggest margin of victory and that the number of delegates is about in the middle of the range for states that have voted so far (excluding Texas, which is in its own galaxy).
Proportional voting, right? So this big Kansas win should be good for Cruz. And it is, of course. It's better than a loss. But if you compare the net gain of delegates (per Real Clear Politics) with the winning margin, the picture changes.
Donald Trump has won more net delegates in five states than Cruz won in his dominant performance in Kansas. South Carolina, a winner-take-all state (with unimportant qualifiers for our purposes right now) yielded Trump nearly as many net delegates as Cruz got by crushing Texas.
That's a big part of the problem for Cruz: He needs to win states, but he needs to win by a lot in smaller states to eat into Trump's delegate total. And it reveals why Sen. Marco Rubio's having won one state is such a problem. He gets delegates in most states, but he isn't really eating into anyone's lead at all.