A look at a map of the Republican primary contests prior to Tuesday night looked like the easiest possible crossword puzzle. If you were asked to color in the uncolored "?" state on the map below, what color would you choose?
Presumably red, right? Not hard. Even if we add two more nearby states, it doesn't change much.
The red states are states won by Donald Trump. The yellow ones were won by Ted Cruz. And now we can color in that mystery state, Mississippi.
Louisiana, just to the left/west of Mississippi (the question-mark state), showed an unexpectedly close race on Saturday, with Cruz closing the gap with Trump (at Marco Rubio's expense). Alabama and Georgia (to the right of Mississippi) voted a week ago; South Carolina (over on the coast) waaaay back in February. The key question coming into the night was: Had things changed?
Preliminary exit poll data reported by CNN showed that the electorate shared qualities with where Trump had won previously. The electorate was heavily evangelical, at more than 8 in 10 voters. This was once thought to be a base of support for Cruz, but it's a group that has tilted toward Trump. In Mississippi, Trump edged out Cruz once again.
(The total width of the bars below is the density of the type of voter; the colored bars in past contests indicate how much of that support went for each of the remaining candidates.)
Notice, too, that Marco Rubio didn't perform as well as Marco Rubio with this group in Mississippi.
More than 4 in 10 Mississippi Republicans say they're angry at government -- a group that once again went strongly for Trump. Six-in-10 of this group backed Trump.
Mississippi also had a lot of very conservative voters, nearly half of the electorate. Cruz won this group with nearly half of the vote -- but when there were so many evangelical voters, who backed Trump, it wasn't enough.
Critically, half of Mississippians made up their minds at least a month ago. This was good news for Trump both in the event that he's seen a recent slump and in the sense that he's consistently done well with people who made up their minds that long ago.
This suggests, though, that the question raised in Louisiana has been answered. Trump's strong core of support, it seems, is staying strong.