1. Does the Cruz-Kasich divide continue?
Tuesday’s primary contests in Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island are all in states that President Obama won in 2012, and Trump is a favorite to win the GOP race in each (in some, by a large margin). But why?
Trump’s vote share has not been much higher in blue states (36 percent) than red states (33 percent), but in several contests his opponents’ supporters have been unable to unite around a single candidate, leaving Trump with the lion’s share of delegates.
Take Michigan, where Cruz and Kasich each won about 25 percent of the vote, allowing Trump to win with 37 percent support even though nearly half of voters said they would be dissatisfied with Trump becoming the nominee, according to network exit polling.
Looking across all contests, Kasich has performed nine percentage points better in Obama’s 2012 states than red states, while it’s the reverse for Cruz, who has 13 points more support in states Mitt Romney won. But Kasich’s better vote share in more Democratic-leaning areas has not been enough to win anywhere beyond his home state of Ohio, and Cruz has lost several close red-state contests in which Kasich’s support was weak but larger than Trump’s winning margin.
Voters' refusal to unite strategically in opposition to Trump may signal a difficulty for Cruz voters joining Kasich’s more moderate ranks (and vice versa), tolerance of Trump becoming the nominee or a doubt that Cruz or Kasich can actually defeat him.
Of course, if Trump wins states with actual majorities -- as it looks as though he might on Tuesday -- none of this matters. Either way, though, Sunday night's deal makes it clear that this kind of thing is what Cruz and Kasich would very much like to end.
2. Can Trump basically run the table?
Trump needs to win about 63 percent of all remaining bound Republican delegates to clinch the party’s nomination, and he is poised to far surpass that pace Tuesday. The delegate allocation rules differ in each of the five states, but here’s a brief state-by-state rundown of what to expect.
Maryland: Trump has a shot at sweeping all of Maryland’s 38 delegates, but is headed for a large windfall no matter what. Trump’s double-digit lead in recent polls makes him a strong favorite to secure 14 statewide delegates, which are all awarded to the top vote-getter. The remaining 24 delegates are allocated to the winner in each congressional district, a test of whether Trump’s statewide support will hold steady in both urban and rural parts of the state. If Trump wins every district, he wins every delegate.
Connecticut: Trump has a chance to secure nearly all of the state’s 28 delegates. The latest Quinnipiac University poll found him with 48 percent of likely Republican primary voters to Kasich’s 28 percent and Cruz’s 19 percent. Trump would take all 13 statewide delegates if he can rise above 50 percent statewide, and he also stands to perform well in congressional districts where the winner is awarded all three delegates, even with less than majority support.
Rhode Island: Trump is likely to pick up the largest share of the state’s meager number of delegates -- 19 -- but will not run the table, with delegates awarded proportionally to candidates who garner at least 10 percent support. A similar process will play out in the state’s two congressional districts. A Brown University survey last week found Trump leading with 38 percent support to Kasich's 25 percent and Cruz's 14 (a large 17 percent were undecided in that survey). More recent automated polling suggests a larger Trump edge.
Delaware: Trump also stands a good chance sweeping Delaware, but it’s the smallest prize of the day. The First State has 16 delegates, and if a presidential contender receives more votes than the others, he gets all the delegates. Although there is little reliable polling in Delaware, his advantages in neighboring Maryland and Pennsylvania are a sign that he should perform well here, too.
3. Who gets second and third?
Trump is the favorite in all five states, but there’s fairly close competition for second place on the Republican side that may help Cruz or Kasich make their case as the top Trump alternative.
Polls show Kasich standing in second position in Connecticut, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island, but Cruz -- who is miles ahead of Kasich in the delegate chase -- is within striking distance in each. Cruz’s challenge is that Tuesday’s electorates tend to be light on strongly conservative Republicans and evangelical Christians, two groups where he has performed best.
4. Will black voters doom Bernie Sanders again?
African American voters have averaged one-fourth of the electorate across Democratic primaries, and black Democrats make up a significant share of the electorate in Tuesday’s contests, which should help Clinton bolster her delegate lead.
In 2008, 37 percent of Maryland Democratic primary voters were black, as were 28 percent in Delaware. They made up a smaller share in Pennsylvania (15 percent), Connecticut (9 percent) and Rhode Island (7 percent). Sanders has hoped his message on income inequality would resonate across racial lines, but this year black Democrats have voted for Clinton over Sanders by a 59-percentage-point margin (79-20).
Perhaps more worrisome for Sanders is his relatively weak standing in northeastern contests in which he had excelled before. Clinton led Sanders by nine points in a Connecticut Quinnipiac University poll this month and had a similar edge in Rhode Island, according to a Brown University poll (a PPP survey showed Sanders with a narrow edge).
Sanders’s lack of any clear edge in states that play to his strengths is a big reason that his hopes of catching up to Clinton in delegates have becoming increasingly impossible.
5. How much will women boost Clinton?
Besides the Democratic contest’s sharp generational divide, gender has been a consistent dividing line. Clinton has held a 24-point average lead ahead of Sanders among female voters, while Clinton has won men by a narrower four points in states where exit polls were conducted.
Sanders’s challenge is that women have made up a clear 58 percent majority of voters across 2008 and 2016 primaries. Eight years ago, women made up 62 percent of primary voters in Maryland, 60 percent in Delaware, 59 percent in Connecticut, 58 percent in Pennsylvania and 57 percent in Rhode Island.
Scott Clement contributed to this report.