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The Primary Battle Heats up in Pennsylvania and Delaware

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From left, presidential candidates Ted Cruz, Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, and John Kasich//Photos courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Often, the voters of Pennsylvania and Delaware have little say in what happens in the presidential primaries. With the election held in late April, nearly three months after the Iowa caucus, with well over half of the states and territories having already voted, the contests are generally decided well in advance. But this year, in two much-contested primary races, Pennsylvania and Delaware voters just might have a say in who the candidates will be come November.

Throughout most of election season, the candidates for both the Republican and Democratic parties have seemed cut and dry—Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton easily won and took leads in the early months. But recent months have been tumultuous, with Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders usurping some of the power in their respective parties. That power has wavered throughout, most recently in the New York state primary, which took place on April 19, making Tuesday’s election the next big battle ground.  

Democrat Bernie Sanders made a significant run toward closing the gap with Clinton in late March, winning Idaho, Utah, Alaska, Hawaii and Washington. But in the New York primary, his campaign was dealt a blow, though one he could potentially recover from. He currently trails Clinton by 246 delegates.

For the Republicans, Cruz still flails 301 delegates behind Trump. Cruz’s campaign has sustained on small victories, propelled forward on Super Tuesday when he won his home state of Texas. At the end of March, he upped the ante, soundly taking Utah, where former presidential candidate and governor Mitt Romney stumped for him. Despite his deficit, he is holding on in hopes of preventing Trump from gaining the necessary number of delegates—1,237—to secure the parties’ nomination. Trump remains 393 delegates short of securing the nomination.

Contested conventions aren’t common in modern American politics. It’s been 40 years since either party faced one, but it’s possible that this July the Republicans will face one when they gather in Ohio. In 1976, Ronald Reagan was running against sitting president Gerald Ford when both were seeking the Republican nomination. The contest didn’t last long and Ford was able to secure sufficient delegates for the nomination.

Cruz isn’t alone in pushing for a contested convention. Also still in the fight towards the presidency is Ohio governor John Kasich, albeit at a distant third place. Kasich’s only outright victory was Ohio and to date has gained fewer delegates than Marco Rubio, who suspended his campaign following a loss in his home state of Florida last month.

Both Pennsylvania and Delaware voters have a chance to impact the race when they vote on April 26. Delaware is a winner-take-all state for the Republican party, and though it has a smaller number of delegates—just 16 for the Republicans and 31 for the Democrats—could help bolster any of the candidates. Pennsylvania, a winner-take-most for the Republicans, could make an impact, as well.

Because of the oddities of state-by-state rules on delegates in the Republican party, only 17 of Pennsylvania’s delegates will be awarded on Tuesday, going to the winner of the state. The remaining 54 won’t be divvied up until later, remaining unpledged. This varies from the Democrats, who dole out delegates proportionally by winner.

A senior adviser on the Sanders campaign, Tad Devine, told The New York Times, “We could win enough delegates in Pennsylvania and Indiana to catch up further to her (Clinton), and we have good opportunities all the way through California.” He conceded that they would need “some big wins” to fully catch up to Clinton.

Ultimately, it is a numbers game, one which is still very much playing out. Recent polls indicate that Trump will win Pennsylvania, as will Clinton. Earlier this month, Quinnipiac University released polling data suggesting that Trump will win 39 percent of votes, followed by Cruz at 30 percent, and Kasich at 24 percent in Pennsylvania. The gap is closer on the Democratic side, which has Clinton winning with 50 percent and Sanders trailing at 44 percent.

The Quinnipiac poll took it one step further, polling for hypothetical candidates for the presidential election among Pennsylvania voters. The results found that a Democrat president would likely triumph, with both Clinton and Sanders defeating Trump and Cruz. Only Kasich, it found, would defeat a Democratic candidate—soundly over Clinton, and marginally over Sanders.

The candidates have been campaigning hard in the region, with television ads and in-person appearances throughout the week. Despite the oddities in delegate division, the voters of these two states have a voice and some say in the direction of this election going forward, which doesn’t look to be anywhere near the finish line, yet.

Voting will begin in both states at 7 a.m. on Tuesday and close at 8 p.m. Also voting on April 26 are Connecticut, Maryland and Rhode Island. Find your Pennsylvania polling location here. Delaware residents can find their polling location here