Storylines to Watch in This Weekend's Primaries and Caucuses

This weekend marks the next round of states casting ballots.

— -- Today marks the next round of states casting ballots in the 2016 race for the White House.

Democrats are facing off in Kansas, Louisiana, Nebraska and Maine (ending Sunday). Republicans vote in Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana and Maine. These states may be small, but they mark an important day in a race where every delegate will count in July.

There are 178 delegates at stake in the Republican race, bringing the total delegates allocated to more than 900. On the Democratic side, 156 delegates will be at stake.

Here are some storylines to watch:


Will Trump Lose Another Caucus?

  • Democratic Jayhawk fans are not pleased with the choice they face today: participate in the party’s caucuses or watch KU’s last home game of the year. Dozens of fans united in protest this week on the KU campus to complain that the KU-Iowa State’s 3 p.m. tipoff comes just as caucusing begins. Students have asked their school to reschedule the game, so far to no avail. “

    It's the final regular season game of the year, Senior Night, KU is ranked #1 in the country, and Lawrence (and Douglas County) is the liberal bastion of the state,” said KU alum Travis Hare, noting that Nader scored big in Douglas County in 2000. “The game is happening right when the caucuses are happening. Allen Fieldhouse holds close to 20,000 people plus TV watchers all over the state. It honestly could have a major impact on the turnout, particularly for Bernie.”


  • No matter who wins Louisiana, they have no chance of taking all of the state’s 46 delegates, because the allocation is proportional with no threshold. So, even if Cruz does win the state, it is unlikely to be crucial in helping overtake Donald Trump in delegates.


  • KENTUCKY (Republicans Only)

  • This is the first time Kentucky has ever held a caucus, having switched their May primary to a March caucus so Rand Paul could simultaneously run for president and reelection to the Senate. (Obviously, that is not happening anymore). However, the Kentucky GOP seems to be trying to make this as similar to a primary as possible. Rather than stand in corners of the room, the way they did in Iowa, voters will just cast a ballot. But given the massive turnout across the board so far, and the issues the Nevada GOP had with their caucuses, it is worth watching to see if any similar problems will ensue.

  • The only exit poll data we have is from the 2014 midterms, which show that 50 percent of the voters were evangelical Christians. If evangelicals do turn out in droves (which admittedly will be difficult to calculate because we don’t have exit polls) that could do one of two things: cement Donald Trump’s argument that he is their candidate of choice, or give Ted Cruz another chance to prove himself.

  • Neither Rand Paul nor Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has endorsed in this election, and both have expressed vitriol towards Donald Trump. According to a New York Times report, McConnell has said he will drop Trump “like a hot rock” if he is the nominee in the general election, and Rand Paul took on Trump often while he was running for president. It is unclear if that will adversely impact him in this election. It didn’t make a difference in South Carolina, when Sens. Tim Scott and Lindsey Graham endorsed Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush, respectively, but you never know. It is also worth watching to see if McConnell and Paul vote, and if they announce their preference. Paul has said he is not endorsing in the primary, and McConnell backed Paul. And of course Kentucky is also home to County Clerk Kim Davis. It's worth watching if she goes to the polls, too.

  • A fair number of delegates are up for grabs here, but with a 5 percent threshold for both at-large and congressional district delegates, it is plausible all four candidates walk away with something. This allocation plan is not likely to make a dent in Trump’s lead.

    NEBRASKA (Democrats Only)

  • This is only the second caucus in Nebraska. The first was in 2008, when 38,000 people showed up to boost Obama to a victory here. The caucus website asks for “patience, please” when waiting for results, saying that final vote count may not come until “even Sunday morning” as organizers tally results. Twenty-five delegates will be up for grabs in this caucus. There will be 149 sites across the state in all 93 counties. It’s a closed caucus, which means that only registered Democrats can vote.

  • The former president has two events scheduled in the state today in Lincoln and Omaha.

  • Bernie is hoping his attack on Hillary Clinton for supporting free trade deals he says have dislocated Midwestern manufacturing workers will translate to wins (Note: Nebraska is not part of the “rust belt,” so not sure the degree to which he’s targeting their voters with this attack). Not exactly new, but Bernie seems also to have ramped up hits on Clinton for her lucrative speeches before Wall Street audiences (including on the stump in Lincoln this week). Again, without exit poll data, it will be hard to know what motivated voters, but maybe look out for anecdotal evidence.

  • Difficult -- maybe impossible -- to know, but would be interesting if any sign that Nebraska Republican Sen. Ben Sasse’s Trump anti-endorsement pushed voters to Democrats or energized Democratic turnout. Has Bernie or Hillary played off that bite to show that even Nebraska GOP leadership recognizes how much in danger a Republican Party is with Trump as a front-runner?