×

Questions that will be answered after Tuesday's primary results

Voters headed to the polls on Tuesday in Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. The results are likely to effectively end the Democratic race and push Donald Trump closer to the magic number of 1,237 delegates he needs to lock down the Republican nomination before the GOP convention in Cleveland.

Bernie Sanders may not drop out by the end of the day but he's going to be close to the exit, even if he wins Rhode Island. All that's left now is negotiating terms of the Sanders surrender. And Hillary Clinton does not sound like someone inclined to give much ground to Sanders beyond perhaps a prominent spot at the Democratic convention.

A woman arrives at a polling station to cast her ballot during Pennsylvania State primary presidential election on April 26, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Eduardo Munoz Alvarez | AFP | Getty Images
A woman arrives at a polling station to cast her ballot during Pennsylvania State primary presidential election on April 26, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Here's what Clinton had to say on MSNBC on Monday night about whether she felt the need to move closer to Sanders' positions on Wall Street reform and other issues to appease the Vermont senator and his liberal legions: "I've got 10.4 million votes. I have 2.7 million more folks, real people, showing up to cast their vote, to express their opinion, than Senator Sanders. I have a bigger lead in pledged delegates than Senator Obama when I ran against him in 2008 ever had over me. I am winning."

Translation: You think I'm going to kowtow to you Bernie? Think again.

On the Republican side, the big question Tuesday will be what happens in Pennsylvania, where 54 of 71 delegates will be unbound at the GOP convention. Pennsylvania awards just 17 bound delegates to the statewide winner.

Both Trump and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz have released the names of delegates in each of the state's 18 congressional districts they say will support them in Cleveland. But it will be up to voters to arm themselves with that information before going into the voting booth.

Even if Trump rolls on Tuesday night, a big part of the story will still be the Cruz-John Kasich pact to divvy up Indiana (Cruz) and New Mexico and Oregon (Kasich). The one that matters is Indiana. If Cruz can win there on May 3, Trump's path to 1,237 delegates gets quite difficult. But to do that, Cruz probably needs Kasich to specifically direct his supporters in the state to vote for Cruz, something Kasich so far seems unwilling to do, which could render the deal essentially meaningless.

The other key on Tuesday is Trump's margins. If he wins big across the board, his delegate math will get much easier. And if he tops 50 percent in multiple states, the argument for a contested convention will get weaker. It's already looking pretty flimsy with Trump hitting 50 percent for the first time in the NBC news tracking poll.

The other major development heading into Tuesday's voting: Trump's revolt against new adviser Paul Manafort's efforts to make him seem "presidential" by toning down his rhetoric and cozying up to GOP elites in Washington. As Politico reports, Trump is bristling at the changes and is not happy with Manafort's high-profile media role. The GOP front-runner is returning some power to top campaign aide Corey Lewandowski.

As I wrote here last week, the idea of a more polished and presidential "Trump 2.0" was always ridiculous and doomed to failure. Trump is who he is, a loudmouthed, unfiltered rage machine who trashes anyone and anything that gets in his way. And his supporters love it. Trump can be magnanimous in short doses following a victory. But within hours, the real Trump always re-emerges.

That Trump — the raging American id — is an immensely powerful force in the Republican primaries. But Trump's complete inability to shift gears to a more sedate and measured approach also means he's likely to lose by an enormous margin to Clinton in November. Americans don't love Clinton but they really despise Trump. Nearly 70 percent of Americans have a negative view of the real estate magnate, an unprecedented number for a major party presidential nominee. Clinton doesn't fare a whole lot better, but her numbers are likely to rise once the general election arrives while Trump is likely to maintain the allegiance of his fervent primary supporters but have a very hard time expanding his appeal to core constituencies he will need to win in the fall, including women and Hispanic voters.

Anything can happen in the crazy world of the 2016 presidential campaign. But the final outcome still seems likely to be a Trump nomination in Cleveland followed by a crushing loss to Clinton in November.

—Ben White is Politico's chief economic correspondent and a CNBC contributor. He also authors the daily tip sheet Politico Morning Money [politico.com/morningmoney]. Follow him on Twitter @morningmoneyben.