Good polling news for Donald Trump in Pennsylvania, but weird electoral process could wreak havoc

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Sunday’s Fox News presidential primary poll in Pennsylvania, a key state if Republicans hope to win the White House in November, brought some good news for Donald Trump. He received 48 percent support among likely Republican primary voters, more than both Ted Cruz (20 percent) and John Kasich (22 percent) combined.

The gender difference in this poll is interesting and encouraging for Trump supporters, yet leaves plenty of room for improvement. Trump is polling at 53 percent with Pennsylvania men. While that currently makes up for the lack of enthusiasm among women voters — with whom he polls at 42 percent — given his many gaffes so far this campaign, surely the only place he can go from here is up.

According to Democratic pollster Chris Anderson, “With Cruz and Kasich splitting the non-Trump vote, Pennsylvania could give the real estate mogul one of his most decisive victories. His 26-point lead in our poll is the second largest of the states he’s won, next to Massachusetts which he won by 31.”

The other good news for Trump is the head-to-head matchup with Hillary Clinton. With other polls showing him losing to her in key states and nationwide, he actually ties Clinton in this one, each with 44 percent support. The gender gap is wide in this one too, as would be expected. Trump has an 18-point lead among men while Clinton has a 15-point lead among women.

The odd thing about Pennsylvania, however, is the type of back-room wheeling and dealing that could end up costing Trump the delegates he needs to win the first ballot. In Pennsylvania, it’s possible that a candidate could win the popular vote and still receive fewer delegates than the people he ran against. How? Pennsylvania has 71 delegates to award, but only 17 of those are bound to vote for the popular vote winner on the first ballot. The other 54? Well, they can do whatever they want, in theory at least. They are supposed to be awarded based on the results in Pennsylvania’s 18 congressional districts, but voters who vote for them cannot be sure who they will support.

According to G. Terry Madonna, director of the Franklin and Marshall College poll, “Some of the way these people are selected — I’m not saying all of them — are party favorites, people who know people. It harkens back a little to the old party boss days, when getting on the ballot depended upon who you knew.”

After the first ballot, all of Pennsylvania’s 71 delegates are free to choose whoever they want. That is when things are likely to get very interesting.

The poll was conducted April 4-7 among a random sample of 1,607 Pennsylvania voters, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points. Pennsylvania’s Republican Primary elections take place on April 26.

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