Numbers Going into the Primaries

2016 has arrived, the year of the presidential elections. The last months of 2015 have been more like a countdown. Donald Trump entered the race, and Joe Biden declared his non-intention to run. Bernie Sanders has been slowly closing the gap between himself and Hillary Clinton. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio overtook Ben Carson in the national and polls after the Paris terror attacks.

Presidential candidates are now scrambling to meet primary ballot access requirements. Their poll numbers going into the primaries are the best example, currently, of how the race might change in the coming months. Will the balance swing state by state? Or are the national polls a forecast of an inevitable result? 

Numbers Going into the Primaries: States to Watch Out For

The New Hampshire Primary 2016

New Hampshire is a tiny swing state, with only 4 electoral votes. However, it has the traditional honor of being the first primary that any presidential candidate has to face. Because of its timing and importance, every eye will be on the state this coming February. In the last 10 elections, New Hampshire has voted Red and Blue 5 times each. In the last 6 elections, New Hampshire voted Blue in 4.


Blue, Red, and Independent or Third-Party voters will be watching and discovering which of their candidates has the best fighting chance in the succeeding elections. The candidate does not necessarily have to win. Neither President Obama nor President Bush won the New Hampshire primaries in 2008 and 2000, respectively. However, they caught the eyes of the voters, and the tide turned as the year went on.

Proposed New Hampshire primary election date: February 9, 2016.

South Carolina Republican Primary and Democratic Primary 2016

South Carolina has 9 electoral votes total. In the last 10 elections, the state has swung Red 9 out of 10 times. However, in the 2008 and 2012 elections, the Blue side reached almost 45%, prompting some analysts to suggest South Carolina might be turning into a swing state. Governing magazine considers the state still among those “Safe Republican.”


The entry of the “halfbacks” between the 2012 elections and the 2016 elections is prompting another look at the state. These halfbacks are migrants from Northern states who attempted to resettle in Florida. Finding the standard of living too high (and too crowded) for their liking, they moved to the halfway point: South Carolina. This may change the Democrats’ vote, and change the balance in the 2016 elections.

Proposed South Carolina Republican primary election date: February 20, 2016

Proposed South Carolina Democratic primary election date: February 27, 2016

The Virginia Primary 2016

Virginia has 13 electoral votes: as many as New Hampshire and South Carolina put together. Traditionally, Virginia has been a strong swing state because of the state’s diversity and relative independence. With 50% of its population born out-of-state and 11% out of the country, candidates need to pay attention to the state’s volatility.


The Washington Post suggests that Virginia might just be predictably Red in this election. After the Paris terror attacks, a Virginia that tended Blue because of its diversity and youth might tend Red in favor of security. On the other hand, that same reason might tip Virginia Blue in protest against the strict measures advocated by the leading Republican candidates. Either way, the Virginia primaries will be a crucial fight.

Proposed Virginia primary election date: March 1, 2016

Democrat and Republican Numbers Going into the Primaries

Democrat Numbers Going into the Primaries

According to an NBC News/SurveyMonkey poll, Hillary Clinton is the clear leader: by 17 points over Bernie Sanders, 53% to 36%. Martin O’Malley is behind Sanders by twice 17 points, at 2%. Clinton is maintaining a strong lead, after getting back on her feet in the polls after the last Democratic debates.


Even among voters who are “absolutely certain” of whom they will vote for, Clinton leads Sanders by 9 points, 53% to 54%. Clinton leads Sanders among Moderate voters, winning 57% of them compared to Sanders’ 28%. However, Sanders leads Clinton among Liberal voters 51% to 42%, and holds 65% of the Very Liberal voters compared to Clinton’s 30%.

As might be expected with Obama’s support, Clinton is strong among black voters, leading Sanders 73% to 12%. She also leads with both female and male voters, leading 56% to Sanders’ 32%, and 48% to 42% respectively. However, with white voters, they practically split the field: Sanders leads by 2 points, 46% to 44%.


Generally speaking, as the 2016 primaries start up, Clinton could be expected to have the advantage. Her appeal to black and female voters could bring the swing states her way. However, Sanders has the Liberal and Very Liberal votes, and still has good showing overall. He may yet close the gap as the primaries continue.

Republican Numbers Going into the Primaries

Overall, Donald Trump is leading the field–a fact that has not changed since he first joined the race. He has a 35% rate of support, 17 points ahead of Ted Cruz (18%). Following Ted Cruz, but far enough for moderate comfort, is Marco Rubio at 13%. The absence of Dr. Ben Carson’s name seems to confirm that the Paris terror attacks have lowered his campaign strength.


Among both men and women, Donald Trump is leading the polling fields. He is ahead of Ted Cruz by 18 points (39% to 21%), and of Rubio by 26 (39% to 13%) with the male voters. Female voters, although significantly less, also favor Trump: he leads Cruz by 16 points, 26% to 13%; and Rubio by 15. Rubio is the only candidate with higher favor among female voters than with male.

With white evangelicals and very conservative voters, Trump still led the field–although by much smaller margins. With white evangelicals, Trump was ahead of Cruz by 12 points, 35% to 21%; and Rubio by 23 points (Rubio gained 10% support).


Very conservative voters favored Trump (35%), but Cruz was only 5 points behind, at 30%. Rubio was well behind both, at 8%. Rubio is, again, an outlier; only with him is the support by white evangelicals higher than that of the very conservative voters.

It is plain to see that frontrunner-until-2016 Donald Trump has yet to lose his charm. The Paris terror attacks, while allowing Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio to reemerge in the top 3, has done little to change Trump’s standing. His wide support, even among females and very conservative voters, shows his unpoliticized approach is still a breath of fresh air.


As Ted Cruz edges nearer and Rubio continues in his position, however, the swing states may yet change their minds. Experience in foreign policy and legislation might be the tipping point of the voting, rather than blunt statements and a non-political perspective.

Numbers Going into the Primaries: Premature Judgments or Forecasts?

Going by the numbers, there are two clear winners on either side: Clinton for the Democrats, and Trump for the Republicans. However, going state-by-state is completely different from sweeping the nation or even individual states by polls. The results of each state poll will inevitably have an effect on the standings of the different candidates. The numbers only represent the possibilities as the candidates step into the first rounds of primary elections.

About the author

Esther has a B.A. in Humanities and an M.A. in Political Economy. When she's not writing, she enjoys playing Sequence with her family, training in Aikido, and curling up with coffee and a good book.