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Ted Cruz Saw A Massive Last-Minute Surge In Louisiana. Here's What That Could Mean.

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 6/03/2016 Ariel Edwards-Levy
ATHENA IMAGE © J Pat Carter via Getty Images ATHENA IMAGE

Louisiana's Republican primary offered more drama than expected Saturday night, with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) dramatically narrowing the margin after networks had already called the state for Donald Trump. One of the reasons: While Trump won handily among absentee ballots, which were the first to be tallied, Cruz surged among the votes actually cast on Election Day.

The pattern isn't an entirely new one. In primaries this year, Trump has underperformed dramatically among late-deciding voters, sometimes doing only about half as well among those who made up their minds in the last few days as he did among those who committed earlier.

Trump is a well-known and polarizing enough figure that those inclined to support him largely did so right away, while those hoping for an alternative may have struggled to pick from the remaining contenders. He also doesn't have much of a ground game to motivate people wavering either on their choice of a candidate or their decision to vote at all.

In Louisiana, though, the gulf between early and same-day voters is especially wide, and suggests a shift mostly from Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.)  to Cruz -- marking a change from Super Tuesday, when late deciders broke more evenly among the two.

That could point to the strength of Cruz's get-out-the-vote efforts in contrast to that of his rivals. 

It also could indicate that, after a disappointing Super Tuesday for Rubio, Cruz is increasingly seen by GOP voters as the most viable alternative to Trump, with those undecided voters falling into place behind him.

While Republicans are likely to rally around their eventual nominee, regardless of who it is, they're not yet entirely sold on Trump -- but they also haven't been on anyone else. 

Cruz faces a tougher road in the next round of states to vote, many of which are less deeply evangelical and conservative. But if he can expand his base beyond those groups, it bodes well for his future as Trump's most serious challenger.

Editor's note: Donald Trump is a serial liarrampant xenophoberacistmisogynistbirther and bully who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims -- 1.6 billion members of an entire religion -- from entering the U.S.

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