By Niall Stanage - 03/02/16 12:39 AM EST
Super Tuesday winners, losers
Tuesday was the biggest day of the presidential primary calendar to date as Republicans and Democrats each fought 11 state contests.
The two top questions as Super Tuesday dawned were whether any Republican could stop Donald TrumpDonald TrumpTrump not budging on releasing tax returns Clinton to offer optimism in historic speech Pelosi hails Clinton's 'milestone' journey MORE’s march toward the nomination and whether Bernie SandersBernie SandersWill Sanders delegates stage a protest? 'Bernie or bust' backers vow to hold Clinton accountable Wasserman Schultz: 'Sometimes you just have to take one for the team' MORE could slow Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonWill Sanders delegates stage a protest? Trump not budging on releasing tax returns Clinton to offer optimism in historic speech MORE’s progress toward the Democratic nod.
Where do things stand as the dust settles?
Trump once again answered the doubters in clear-cut fashion, winning seven of the 10 contests that had been called by just after midnight Eastern time.
Trump said at his victory rally in Florida that he was expanding the appeal of the Republican Party. Whatever the truth of that statement — and many of his critics would vigorously dispute it — there is no question about the breadth of his appeal to GOP voters. He won a diverse collection of states Tuesday from Vermont to Alabama.
The businessman’s strong performance guarantees that he will extend a delegate lead over closest rival Ted CruzTed CruzDem lawmakers rally Muslims against Trump Anti-Clinton super-PAC looks to inflame intraparty tension with Sanders backers The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE. Trump had added at least 192 delegates to his total by 1 a.m., according to Associated Press estimates, while Cruz, at the same time, was certain of only 132. That would leave Trump more than 100 delegates ahead overall.
Trump has also rebuffed the sharp attacks that Marco RubioMarco RubioOvernight Healthcare: Rubio presses Obama to spend Zika money | FDA moves ahead with trans fat ban The Trail 2016: Her big night Dem lawmakers rally Muslims against Trump MORE mounted against him in recent days. Rubio notched a late win in the Minnesota caucuses, giving him a glimmer of hope, but that was his only win of the night. Cruz’s victories in his home state of Texas — the biggest delegate prize of the night — and Oklahoma make it certain he will stay in, too.
A field that continues to contain three major candidates will be just fine with Trump.
On Tuesday night, a reporter asked him whether he felt that he was now the presumptive GOP nominee.
“I feel awfully good,” Trump replied.
Clinton’s edge among black voters helped her crush Bernie Sanders in the South. In Alabama, for example, she was about 50 points ahead of Sanders with 84 percent of results in. Overall, Clinton won seven states to the Vermont senator’s four.
That is expected to leave Clinton ahead of Sanders in the delegate count by a more than 2-1 margin. Clinton already enjoys a prodigious lead among the party officials and others who serve as unpledged superdelegates — and they have no reason to leave her now.
Clinton’s night was not unblemished: Sanders picked up victories in Minnesota, Oklahoma and Colorado as well as his home state of Vermont. But Clinton won the general election battleground state of Virginia and beat back Sanders in Massachusetts, making clear that she can best her left-wing rival on his home turf in the Northeast.
It was telling that Clinton barely mentioned Sanders in her victory speech, delivered in Florida. Instead, she attacked Trump by allusion, asserting that “the rhetoric we’re hearing on the other side has never been lower.”
Clinton is beginning to run a general election campaign. That says everything about the state of the Democratic primary.
Cruz emerged as a winner by default. Having long sought to position himself as the only alternative to Trump, he is now the only non-Trump candidate with multiple victories.
Cruz’s desire for a one-on-one battle with Trump was crystal clear as he delivered his Tuesday night speech at the Houston-area Redneck Country Club.
Insisting that “tonight was another decision point,” he asserted, “So long as the field remains divided, Donald Trump’s path to the nomination remains more likely — and that would be a disaster for Republicans, for conservatives and for the nation.”
Still, Cruz has his own challenges. Trump has won at least 10 contests to his three.
And Trump’s wins in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia and Tennessee have demonstrated his success in cutting into Cruz’s expected strength among Southern evangelicals.
Cruz’s path to the nomination is very steeply uphill — but he is now even more clearly the second-place GOP candidate. And he has the rationale to keep going for some time.
Christie’s decision to endorse Trump on Friday — blunting the new anti-Trump offensive from Rubio — outraged some party insiders. It was a significant gamble from the New Jersey governor. But the potential upside is simple: Christie could become the first truly significant establishment figure to back the eventual winner.
By inching close to his goal, Trump helped Christie, too.
Rubio’s late victory in the Minnesota caucuses wasn’t enough to rescue his night.
A candidate who purports to be the most electable choice has now won one GOP contest of the 15 held to date. He came up short in Virginia, his best hope of scoring a more substantive surprise.
As of midnight, it remained unclear whether Rubio was going to score the 20 percent of the vote required to win any delegates at all in a number of states.
The mere fact that Rubio’s win came so late in the night also meant Trump and Cruz had the opportunity to paint him as a loser in their speeches. “He hasn’t won anything, and he’s not going to win very much,” Trump jabbed.
Rubio can probably survive the night, but he emerges from Super Tuesday facing gale-force headwinds.
In one sense, Sanders performed adequately on Super Tuesday, winning four contests.
But Sanders aspires to win the nomination, not merely run Clinton close, and by that measure the barriers keep getting higher.
His consistently weak support among African-American voters was evident in results from the Deep South. Sanders also lost Massachusetts, a state where his campaign had high hopes. MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow described that result as a “disappointment” for the Vermont senator.
Sanders’s prodigious fundraising will let him stay in the race for some time. But the idea of him as the nominee looks less plausible with every big night in the race.
The Ohio governor, who has been largely sidelined since his second-place finish in the New Hampshire primary early last month, got a sliver of light on Super Tuesday. He was only a few points behind Trump in Vermont and ran at a respectable level in Massachusetts, drawing about 18 percent of the vote there.
But none of it is enough to catapult Kasich into serious contention for the nomination.
And he will likely face even more pressure from establishment forces to withdraw, especially considering that Rubio plausibly could have beaten Trump in Virginia had it not been for the Ohio governor’s presence in the race. Trump’s margin of victory over Rubio in the commonwealth was just 3 points, and Kasich won 9 percent of the votes cast.
Kasich has fought an optimistic campaign, but he’s running out of road.
The anti-Trump forces in the GOP now confront the fact that they might be too late.
Even those who are less emphatic are in a difficult position.
Speaker Paul RyanPaul RyanPaul Ryan rewrites 50 years of poverty history Peter Thiel does not make the GOP pro-gay Ryan calls out GOP in anti-poverty fight MORE (R-Wis.) for instance, has tried to stay out of the presidential race until his party settles on a nominee. But Ryan put that impartiality aside as voters in the Super Tuesday states were going to the polls, objecting to Trump’s initial failure to denounce former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke during a Sunday appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
It didn’t work.
Ryan, like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellPeter Thiel does not make the GOP pro-gay Reid: Trump is a 'hateful con man' McAuliffe: Clinton won't move TPP without changes MORE (R-Ky.) and other senior members of the party, must now decide how far they can go in trying to stop Trump — apparently in defiance of their voters’ wishes.
More broadly, the Super Tuesday results were the worst of all worlds from the establishment’s point of view: Trump dominated, but Cruz did well enough to stay in the race, and Rubio disappointed.
Romney opened up on Trump via social media in recent days, suggesting there could be a “bombshell” hidden in his tax returns and branding his failure to instantly disavow David Duke as “disqualifying and disgusting.”
But Republican voters paid him little mind, showing just how much the party has changed in the past four years and how little sway Romney holds.
As of midnight, Carson’s share of the vote had reached double-digits in only one state, Alabama. There is simply no rationale for him to stay in the race.