With 1 percent of the vote in the state of Arizona reporting, the Associated Press called the state of Arizona for Donald Trump. And just like that, Trump closes out the night's three Republican contests with an expanded lead in the delegate count.
Once again, we point to the Republican Party's inconsistent allocation rules. Arizona, unlike most of the previous Republican contests, is winner-take-all. With 58 delegates at stake, Trump gets all 58 — his second-largest single-state haul behind Florida. (In third and fourth are Illinois and South Carolina.) Even if Ted Cruz wins all of Utah's delegates — which he can do if he gets 50 percent of the vote there — Cruz only gets 40 delegates for his trouble. There's also a contest in American Samoa, but that only offers nine delegates.
So Trump, whose goal coming into the night was extending his lead, will extend his lead.
What's interesting in Arizona, as noted by Cook Political's Dave Wasserman, is that Cruz — seen by many as the only option to stop Trump — trailed the collective vote for people who had already dropped out in early voting. By the time nearly half the vote was in, the split looked like this:
That's largely a function of the early vote. As votes continued to come in, Marco Rubio — who dropped out a week ago — trailed Ted Cruz by a smaller-than-you-might-expect amount. People who voted for Rubio before he dropped out, of course, still had their votes counted. This reinforces the idea that Cruz would have benefited from a smaller field much earlier in the race.
That's the subtext to Trump's net-delegate gain. Again: Cruz may get all 40 delegates in Utah, meaning that Trump's net gain will end up being about 18. (Samoa is unusual for a number of reasons.) That's good for Trump — but not as good as if he'd been able to split the Utah delegates with Cruz to some extent. After all, the race now isn't really between Trump and Cruz. It's between Trump and 1,237 — the number of delegates he needs to earn before the convention to stave off a fight on the floor once he gets to Cleveland.
Earlier today, we noted that Trump needed to win about 53 percent of the outstanding delegates in order to hit that mark. Taking 58 of 98 on Tuesday puts him above that target.
Trump wins twice.