The race for the White House was shaken up again on Tuesday as primary voters in both parties went to the polls in Michigan and Mississippi, while the GOP held additional contests in Idaho and Hawaii.
So, who had a super Tuesday and who struggled?
Trump was the only unambiguous winner of the night, racking up big victories in Michigan, Mississippi and Hawaii.
The emphatic outcome — marred only slightly by a loss to Ted CruzTed CruzTrump in campaign mode at NRA convention Trump’s hands are tied on 9th Circuit Schumer: Trump's handling of North Korea 'all wrong' MORE in Idaho — was particularly vital because the businessman’s many critics within the GOP appeared to have gained steam.
The anti-Trump forces insisted that a barrage of negative advertising was having an effect and that results from Saturday — when, in four contests, Trump eked out two comparatively narrow victories and suffered two heavy defeats — showed the electoral winds shifting in their direction.
Tuesday put paid to that notion. Trump’s early wins came by double-digit margins, and his performance in Mississippi was especially strong: With 99 percent of returns in, he had won 47 percent of the votes cast.
In his primary-night speech, Trump talked up his capacity to win a general election by drawing new voters to the polls. He highlighted the increased levels of turnout seen in GOP primaries so far this cycle and insisted he could claim Michigan and his native New York in November.
Trump also boasted, “I like to close things out.” He took another large step in that direction on Tuesday.
Sanders delivered the one big surprise of the night, stunning Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonTrump in campaign mode at NRA convention Vicente Fox to Trump: ‘Being president ain’t easy’ When political opportunity knocked, Jason Chaffetz never failed to cash in MORE in Michigan. The margin of victory for the Vermonter was modest — about 2 percentage points — but it came in the face of recent polls that gave the former secretary of State a lead of more than 20 points.
So why did he not make the winners list? Delegate math.
Despite the Michigan shock, Clinton won more delegates on Tuesday than Sanders did thanks to her enormous margin of victory in Mississippi. That means the former secretary of State will add slightly to her 200-plus lead among pledged delegates, which is bolstered by an overwhelming advantage among superdelegates.
Still, Sanders and his supporters will take heart from the Michigan result. They can also argue that it shows he can make inroads with black voters outside of the Deep South. Clinton’s showing with African-Americans in Michigan, where she beat Sanders 65 percent to 31 percent, was strong — but it was also a far cry from Mississippi, where she won black voters 89-11.
Sanders asserted during his Tuesday night speech that his movement is “strong in every part of the country” and that “our strongest areas are yet to happen.”
Next Tuesday will put that theory to the test. Sanders will be looking hopefully in the direction of Ohio, Missouri and Illinois, all of which share some similar demographics with Michigan.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D)
Clinton’s night was the mirror image of Sanders’s, but whereas he will emerge encouraged, she will be disappointed.
If she had won Michigan by anything like the margins the polls had predicted, she could have signaled that the race, as a competitive contest, was coming to an end. After all, she performed very strongly on Super Tuesday and, before that, had thwarted Sanders in early contests in Iowa and Nevada.
Her loss instead ensures the race continues for some time. It also raises questions as to whether Clinton’s more centrist position on trade hurt her in Michigan — and, if so, whether that vulnerability will prove telling elsewhere in the industrial Midwest.
The win in Mississippi and loss in Michigan will also give ammunition to those who argue that Clinton, for the most part, is racking up wins in states where Democrats are unlikely to prevail in the fall.
Clinton remains the prohibitive favorite to become the Democratic nominee. And she can take heart from her large delegate lead. But Tuesday was not a great night by any stretch.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas)
Cruz was not so clear-cut a loser as the others, but he had an indifferent night. He did at least notch one win, in Idaho. But he will be disappointed not to have run Trump closer in Mississippi — or anywhere else.
Cruz’s status as the leading alternative to Trump has been solidified thanks to Rubio’s dismal performance and Kasich’s failure to score any kind of moral victory in Michigan.
But Cruz isn’t in the race to be second. And his chances of being the GOP nominee ticked downward on Tuesday.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R)
Kasich on Tuesday needed a strong second-place finish to Trump in Michigan, adjacent to his home state of Ohio. He didn’t even come close.
With 99 percent of precincts reporting, Kasich had even been squeezed out of second place by Cruz. Both men finished more than 10 points adrift of Trump.
That means Kasich takes no momentum into next Tuesday, when Ohio is the second-biggest prize on offer.
The governor’s road forward has always been narrow, but it keeps getting narrower.
Sen. Marco RubioMarco RubioOvernight Defense: Commander calls North Korea crisis 'worst' he's seen | Trump signs VA order | Dems push Trump to fill national security posts What’s with Trump’s spelling mistakes? Boeing must be stopped from doing business with Iran MORE (R-Fla.)
Rubio had a truly awful night. How bad? He may emerge without a single delegate.
Rubio got about 5 percent of the vote in Mississippi. He got 9 percent in Michigan. He placed last in both contests. And Idaho was hardly much better, with the senator scoring only about 16 percent.
Rubio has staked everything on winning his home state of Florida next Tuesday. But even if that were to happen — and the RealClearPolitics polling average currently has Trump ahead by 16 points — how much difference would it make? It would certainly be a blow to Trump, but it would hardly catapult Rubio toward the nomination. In fact, Florida’s 99 winner-take-all delegates would not, as of now, be nearly enough for Rubio to supplant Cruz in second place.
Rubio, whose entire rationale is his purported electability, has now won a grand total of two contests, while Trump has rolled up 15 victories and Cruz seven.
A host of conservative outside groups are throwing millions of dollars into a last-ditch “Stop Trump” effort. It may be the Republican establishment’s last hope. That hope was dashed by Tuesday’s results.
Trump is not the sort of person to let such a moment pass without comment: “$38 million worth of horrible lies” about him had been propagated, he said on Tuesday night, but the “brilliant” voters had not wavered.
Whether or not the sum of money he quoted is accurate, Trump’s overarching point is fair — and that will send yet another shudder through GOP centrists.
Hopes of a brokered convention
A brokered, or contested, convention — one in which the identity of the nominee is not clear as proceedings open — is a recurring dream for the news media and other obsessive politics watchers. But it may remain a dream, based on Tuesday’s results.
It’s true that Trump did not rack up some devastating haul of delegates on Tuesday night — he may win only about 15 more than Cruz, according to a New York Times estimate at 3 a.m. EST.
Specific numbers aside, however, Trump wakes on Wednesday as an even more clear-cut front-runner than before. That increases his chances of scoring big next Tuesday — and lengthens the odds of stopping him at the convention.