Y'see, it's all about the delegates and it appears that Ted Cruz has lifted an entire chapter from Barack Obama's first-campaign playbook and has applied big data to the delegate process. While the press has been focusing on the (popular) vote there have been other elections going on, choosing the actual delegates that will go to the convention and it appears the Cruz campaign has data-mined the shit out of that process. This, ladies and gents, is what a primary campaign ground game looks like. The Cruz campaign has been pushing people they think will be favorable to Cruz to run as delegates, and it's reported that Cruz has personally called every one of them, in all the states. That's a LOT of phone calls and it's likely to pay off. In a way this is like jury selection - it may be that the judge (the vote tally/award process) dictates the verdict. But if the jury gets to make up its own mind then you want to stack the jury with people you think will favor your guy. This is some of what Obama did to Clinton and it appears to be what Cruz has been doing to Trump.
Trump isn't stupid and he has the money to hire good political people. He's going to have folk who can duplicate this method and going forward it's going to be harder for Cruz to stack the jury. But just like Cruz is fighting an uphill battle on delegate counts, Trump now finds himself well behind on the "pick delegates that will favor you" battle. And thus you hear increasing bleating from him about how unfair the RNC rules are. Sorry, Donald, but those are the rules of the club you chose to play in. If you'd like to leave, the door is over there...
So if Trump doesn't win the nomination on the first ballot, what happens? I'd love to know the Vegas odds on this at the moment because Trump's numbers are dropping. He got 35% in Wisconsin and got crushed; Nate Silver has some wonky analysis up at fivethirtyeight showing that Trump needs to be well over 40% in most of the remaining contests to win. At least five of those contests are going to be winner-take-all, meaning Cruz just needs one more vote than Trump to walk away with all the prizes. See above about ground game.
However, not all is roses for Cruz. He's nohow going to walk into that convention with a majority, which brings us to that guy hopping up and down in the corner waving his poll results. Yes, Kasich continues to point out that in polls pitting him 1:1 vs Clinton he beats her. Neither Trump nor Cruz can claim that; on the other hand, the reliability of polls about national elections that are conducted before the primaries finish is notoriously low. I would not be surprised to see those poll numbers reverse sharply after convention time. But Kasich will be pounding the podium after the first Republican ballot asserting that he should be the choice because he can beat Clinton. It may also be a bellweather what Rubio does with his delegates. If he supports Kasich early that could drag a lot of the #notTrump forces over to that side, hurting Cruz a great deal.
Clinton continues to have a lot of negatives attached to her; I suspect she also has a ceiling in the general vote, but it's way higher than Trump's. But one of the things I learned in financial services is that people aren't so much risk-averse as they are uncertainty-averse. Clinton's negatives are by and large baked in. If you already hate her then you're not likely to change your opinion. Likewise, her base seems remarkably solid. Trump (and to some extent Cruz) are loose cannons. If they make voters feel nervous and unhappy while Ms Clinton is busy making them feel reassured (if resigned) then that's entirely to her advantage.
Clinton seems more than a little outraged that Sanders is trying to run an actual campaign. I continue to think it's a good thing he is doing so and hope he continues. But I see nothing new that changes my opinion he's about to get crushed in NY, PA and NJ. He's likely to do better than the polls suggest but the end result will be Clinton stretching out her current lead and Sanders doesn't have a comeback strategy, no matter what I or his other supporters might wish.