Election Day votes shifted to Ted Cruz in Louisiana primary, after Donald Trump led early vote

Louisiana was added to the growing list of states that GOP front-runner Donald Trump has won after Saturday’s presidential primary, but a deeper analysis shows that the state’s Republicans shifted toward U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz on election day and the difference in delegates awarded may be a wash.

Based on complete but unofficial returns, the state GOP says it expects Trump will get 12 of Louisiana’s statewide delegates and Cruz will get 11.

But the party’s formula also allots delegates based on votes in the state’s six congressional districts.

Each district had three delegates to dole out. Both Trump and Cruz won a single delegate in each of the six districts, but Cruz got an additional delegate from the 4th District centered in the northwestern part of the state.

Factoring in those wins, under the party’s tabulation, both Trump and Cruz would walk away with 18 delegates, and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio would get five Louisiana delegates — one from each of the state’s other congressional districts.

The state’s remaining five delegates remain uncommitted.

Already, some in Team Trump are questioning the math.

Trump took 41 percent of the vote to Cruz’s 38 percent. Rubio came in third with 11 percent, which didn’t meet the 20 percent threshold to qualify for any of the statewide delegates.

Woody Jenkins, co-chairman of Trump’s Louisiana leadership team, said he disagrees with Rubio getting five congressional delegates and questioned whether that could change as the numbers become more firm.

“I just feel like if you only have three delegates, you have to do it proportionately,” he said, noting that in some districts, Trump had nearly four times as many votes but received the same single delegate that Rubio received. He said it raises questions of fairness and voter representation.

But the delegate figure may mean little in the long run.

Louisiana — sandwiched between delegate-rich March 1 Super Tuesday and the upcoming winner-takes-all battles in Ohio and Florida — was never expected to be a heavyweight in the delegate count. Instead, it was seen as an opportunity to gauge momentum moving forward, whether Cruz was gaining on Trump and how voters would react in a closed primary.

Only registered Republicans could vote in Louisiana’s GOP primary.

A late rush on polls had predicted Trump’s win here, but several analysts have noted that he did much better in the early voting period that ended a week before the election than he did on election day.

An analysis shows that Trump took 47 percent of the early vote to Cruz’s 21 percent. On election day, Cruz took 41 percent of the vote to Trump’s 40 percent.

Pollster and Louisiana political analyst John Couvillon said the shift is significant and rarely seen. “Unfortunately for Ted Cruz, the difference among early voters was too much to overcome,” he said.

He said there could be two factors at play.

“There was a substantial shift in the tenor of the Republican campaign in the wake of the Thursday night debate,” Couvillon said of Fox News’ GOP debate that came after early voting but two days before the election.

Cruz and Rubio both lobbed attacks on Trump during the debate.

The other factor that may have made a difference in Louisiana: Rubio abruptly canceled a rally that was supposed to take place in Baton Rouge on the eve of the election.

His campaign said he was recalibrating his efforts and scheduled events in Kansas instead.

Trump and Cruz, meanwhile, each held events in Louisiana on Friday night.

Rubio was tracking at about 20 percent of the early vote in Louisiana — just behind Cruz, but his portion dropped to 10 percent on election day, after canceling his rally.

“That doesn’t create positive goodwill in the area where it was canceled,” Couvillon said.

Overall, a record number of voters cast ballots in Louisiana’s Republican primary — signaling increased interest in the still heated battle for the GOP nomination.

The 36.3 percent Republican voter turnout was nearly double the number of Republicans who voted in 2008 and up significantly from 2012.

“Our candidates have energized our base and attracted thousands of new voters to the fold,” Louisiana GOP Chairman Roger Villere said in a statement, adding that Democrats here didn’t appear as enthused, based on their turnout.

The Democratic primary saw about a 23.3 percent turnout, with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton taking 71 percent of the vote to U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 23 percent.

Based on the Louisiana Democratic Party’s delegate awarding formula, Clinton will get 37 delegates and three alternates, while Sanders will be awarded 14 delegates and one alternate. The party also has eight superdelegates who are unbound and can vote however they wish.

Follow Elizabeth Crisp on Twitter, @elizabethcrisp. For more coverage of Louisiana state government and politics, follow our Politics blog at http://blogs.theadvocate.com/politicsblog.

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