Three states hold primaries and a fourth will hold a caucus for Republicans today, while on the Democratic side only two states hold contests. But CNN has dubbed it “Super Tuesday 2,” and while that is probably a stretch, there is a lot riding on the results for several candidates. Here are several excerpts from CNN’s piece on what to be looking for:
Mississippi… will test whether [Ted] Cruz's surge in Louisiana -- he closed a massive polling gap and finished within four points on Saturday -- expands to other Southern states, or [Donald] Trump can finish running the table in the Deep South. Idaho could be better ground for Cruz, who has spent more time in the state than other candidates.
All three states, though, pose problems for [Marco] Rubio.
Mississippi and Michigan each require candidates to reach 15% to accumulate delegates. Idaho requires candidates to top 20%. The stronger Trump and Cruz run, the tougher it becomes for Rubio to make any gains at all….
What Tuesday's contests could demonstrate is whether there's enough late movement to help Trump's rivals -- particularly since the week leading up to the debate featured the most explosive Republican debate yet.
Over on the Democratic side, there’s plenty to look for as well, as the Sanders campaign suggested recently:
After Sunday night's Democratic debate, [Bernie] Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver raised eyebrows when he referred to [Hillary] Clinton as a "regional candidate" who struggles to win outside the South.
For Clinton, Michigan will put that claim to the test.
She's increasingly eager to turn her attention to the general election -- and to do that, Clinton needs to turn the tide with white voters, and particularly run up her advantage among women. She has performed better in those demographics since Sanders won in New Hampshire just over a month ago, and Michigan is a good bellwether for Clinton. It's a heavily-populated, diverse state that Democrats absolutely have to have in order to win the general election in November….
A victory in Michigan could set Clinton up for a huge March 15 -- when Florida, Ohio, Illinois, North Carolina and Missouri vote. If Sanders can't win Michigan, he might not be able to win any of those states. A Clinton loss, though, means Missouri, Ohio and potentially Illinois could be in play.
The most interesting thing to look for, however, might be what happens with Ohio Gov. John Kasich:
Ohio Gov. John Kasich has actually jumped ahead of Rubio for third place in Michigan, and is rising quickly, a Monmouth University poll out Monday showed. He appears to have worn well in last week's Republican presidential debate, when he stayed out of the Trump-Rubio-Cruz scrum.
So imagine this scenario: Kasich beats Rubio in Michigan. Then, on March 15, Kasich wins his 66-delegate, winner-take-all home state of Ohio, and Rubio loses his 99-delegate, winner-take-all home state of Florida.
Suddenly, Kasich would become the leading moderate, establishment-type Republican in the race -- and Rubio would lack a path forward….
But to have a shot at the nomination himself, Kasich has to win the Midwest -- states like Michigan, Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin, which have similarly-styled Republican governors and are often general election battlegrounds.
Politico offers a similar guide to today’s contests, including these observations:
Michigan: The Kasich campaign got a jolt of excitement last week when one poll put the Ohio governor ahead of Trump, leading 33 percent to 31 percent. For a candidate who has staked his campaign on the Midwest and once called Michigan a must-win, it was a shot of good news. But the chasers have been far more bitter: Subsequent polls put Trump ahead of Kasich by 15 points (36-21) and 22 points (42-20). The big loser here could be Rubio, as recent polls show him short of the 15 percent threshold to claim any at-large delegates….
Mississippi: Republicans’ all-out assault on Trump is about to be tested, again. When Magellan Strategies polled likely GOP voters on the last day of February, Trump led by 24 percentage points, besting Cruz 41 percent to 17 percent. It was a prelude to Trump’s Super Tuesday romp through the South a day later. Since then, though, Cruz, Rubio and the full might of the Republican establishment have targeted Trump. The poll also came before Cruz’s successes on Saturday, when he surged among Election Day voters in next-door Louisiana. If Trump stumbles here Tuesday, either the poll had it wrong to begin with or there’s real evidence that the party-wide “War on Trump” is working….
Idaho: The good news for Trump here is that, in the lone prominent poll, he led with 30 percent, ahead of Cruz (19 percent), Rubio (16 percent) and Kasich (5 percent). If those numbers hold, Trump would own all the statewide-based delegates, with nobody else clearing the 20 percent threshold.
The good news for everyone else is that the poll was conducted in late February — before Cruz and Rubio turned a pair of debates into anti-Trump pile-on sessions, and before Rubio launched a slew of Trump-style attacks on the billionaire’s appearance and mental fitness. Rubio spent time cultivating the state and its donors in 2015. But Cruz, who spent Saturday night in Idaho, may be best-positioned among Trump’s opponents to get at least a share of the statewide pool, particularly given his recent success in other primaries limited to registered Republicans.
There are also caucuses in Hawaii, but with no recent polling and a relatively weak Republican party in the state, it’s anybody’s guess who might win. The Politico piece suggests the state tends to favor more moderate or establishment candidates, which could favor either Kasich or Rubio, either of whom could desperately use a victory tonight.
Barring a major upset somewhere, it’s unlikely that tonight’s results will have a significant impact on the race. For that, we will have to await next Tuesday, when Illinois, Florida, Missouri, North Carolina and Ohio all vote. But tonight’s outcome will likely help shape the narrative leading into those contests, making today something less than another Super Tuesday but important nonetheless.