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Eye On Candidates
March 2, 2016

The Day After Super Tuesday

The results of yesterday’s caucuses and primaries played out about as expected – former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and businessman Donald Trump won a majority of their parties’ contests, while Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders successfully defended their home turf and won a few other states as well. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio finally won a contest (Minnesota’s caucuses) and ran a strong second in Virginia, but few seem to think he did well last night. Ohio Gov. John Kasich finished a close second in Vermont and narrowly edged out Rubio in Massachusetts for second place as well, but otherwise finished in fourth or fifth place everywhere else. Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson finished in fourth or fifth place everywhere.

The media is filled this morning with analysis of what it all means and, perhaps most importantly, where the different candidates go from this point. The Hill offers the following observation regarding Trump, whom it labels (reasonably so) a “winner” last night:

Super Tuesday winners, losers

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…. 

The businessman’s strong performance guarantees that he will extend a delegate lead over closest rival Ted Cruz. 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. 

… 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.

The Cook Political Report concludes that the attacks against Trump aren’t working:

The #NeverTrump movement isn’t working. Despite aggressive - and at times manic - attacks on Trump by Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, the billionaire businessman still managed to rack up wins in at least seven of the 11 states that voted Tuesday. Maybe the onslaught on Trump came too late. Maybe Trump is immune to the attacks. Perhaps it’s a little bit of both. However, I would argue that a big reason why the #NeverTrump movement is failing is because it fails to offer any vision or message beyond the negative. Cruz and Rubio have laid out all the reasons Trump isn’t fit to lead the GOP, but they’ve failed to make a persuasive case for why either of them should be the nominee. It’s not enough to dissuade someone from supporting your opponent if you can’t give them a reason to support you.

Clinton was also a big winner last night, as CNN notes she is close to knocking Sanders out of contention:

Clinton won a swath of delegate-rich Southern states with large minority populations, easily besting Sanders in Texas, Georgia, Virginia, Alabama, Tennessee and Arkansas. And she won the night's biggest toss-up, narrowly defeating Sanders in Massachusetts. The Massachusetts win, in particular, showed that it's not just a minority firewall for Clinton -- she can win states that are predominantly white.

The Democratic nominating contest allocates delegates proportionally, so Clinton hasn't knocked Sanders out of the race.

But she has a date in mind to do just that: March 15.

With all of the momentum, Clinton is aiming for wins in a series of big states -- Michigan on March 8 and then Florida, Ohio, Illinois, North Carolina and Missouri on March 15.

Over at NBC News, Chuck Todd and his “First Read” team conclude the nomination is essentially Clinton’s at this point:

Unless something extraordinary happens, we pretty much know who the Democratic nominee will be -- Hillary Clinton

That's the fairly easy conclusion from last night's Super Tuesday results. Hillary Clinton won seven out of the 11 states (including Massachusetts in Sanders' New England backyard); she racked up 461 delegates to Sanders' 295; and when you add superdelegates, Clinton holds an overall 979-382 lead. That means to catch Clinton, Sanders must win 59% of the remaining delegates -- a near impossible task considering the proportional allocation in all contests. Of course, the unexpected can always occur in politics. And we still have months to go. But Hillary Clinton sure looks like a slam dunk to be the Democratic nominee in July - unless something extraordinary happens (FBI, anyone?). Sanders is vowing to remain in the race, and he has more than enough money to do so. But it will be interesting to watch his tone on the campaign trail. Do his attacks on Clinton get replaced by attacks on Trump? If last night was an indication, he's more focused on Trump than Clinton.

While Sanders won four states, the road ahead for him is difficult. But he intends to continue his campaign, as CBS News reports:

Despite the clear delegate edge for Clinton, who has now won 10 of the first 15 states to vote, Sanders is giving no indication that his campaign will slow down after Super Tuesday, making it difficult for Clinton to wrap up the nomination and focus her full attention on Donald Trump and the Republicans. Already, since her Feb. 27 victory in South Carolina, Clinton has taken on a much more general-election message, shifting away from the pointed comments about Sanders that have been part of her repertoire in the lead-up to the first four contests.

Still, for Sanders, winning four of the five states his campaign was targeting gives him an argument for continuing his campaign further into the calendar. The Vermont senator's success in places like Colorado and Minnesota, both of which use the caucus system, bodes well for him in several early March contests on the horizon: Kansas and Nebraska hold caucuses on March 5, for example, and Maine holds caucuses on March 6.

While Clinton and Trump clearly had the best nights, Cruz is also being called a winner, as CNN explains:

Cruz did exactly what he needed to do: He won his home state of Texas by a resounding margin, and he tacked on Oklahoma and Alaska -- allowing him to continue his argument that he is the only Republican who can beat Trump….

But in the GOP primary right now, when Cruz or Rubio rises, the other falls -- and Cruz had the better night Tuesday.

Rubio, on the other hand, is widely viewed as a loser of the evening. From the Cook Political Report:

Marco Rubio is the night’s biggest loser. Yes, he can say he won a state (Minnesota). Yes, Cruz should have done better tonight than he did. But, at the end of the night, Rubio came in third place almost everywhere else. The fact that Rubio lost Virginia, a state that is tailor-made for a candidate with his profile, was a particularly harsh blow. It is really hard to see how he wins his home state of Florida. Whatever hope the Rubio team had of becoming the consensus Trump alternative died last night. 

As for Kasich, his second-place showings in two states are likely to prolong his campaign, to the detriment of Rubio according to CNN:

There's a reason John Kasich is facing calls from Republicans to get out of the race: he's a spoiler to candidates trying to topple Trump.

In Virginia, for instance, Kasich took 9.4%, and Rubio lost to Trump by 2.8%....

Expect a chorus of party brass to press Kasich to depart before Ohio's March 15 winner-take-all primary. If Rubio could win both Florida and Ohio on that day, he'd gain 165 delegates in one fell swoop.

But with Kasich in the race, that won't happen.

Politico offers similar sentiments:

If Rubio ends 2016 as an also-ran — and that appears increasingly likely after a deeply disappointing Tuesday — he might have the feisty Ohio governor to blame. Rubio, a perennial silver and bronze medalist, won only Minnesota on Tuesday and came within 30,000 or so votes of inserting himself back in the middle of the race with an upset of Trump in Virginia.

Rubio, a well-liked candidate without a fixed constituency who mercilessly battered Trump for the last week, finally found his people in the high-income, high-education, high-Trump-hating D.C. burbs. And he might have won too — if the damn-near-moderate Ohio governor didn’t appeal to the same demographic and gobble up 100,000 votes. Trump underperformed, but he still beat Rubio by 35 to 32 percent, and holds a commanding advantage over the Florida senator ahead of his home-state primary in two weeks.

As for Carson, there’s not much commentary discussing him, which is probably a signal that he’s not viewed as a viable candidate at this point. The Hill was one of the few outlets to even bother referencing him with the following:

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.

Following last evening’s results, The New York Times offered a piece featuring possible paths forward for Cruz, Rubio, and Sanders, whom they apparently see as the only remaining viable alternatives to their parties’ current frontrunner:

For days, Mr. Cruz has dispensed with any pretense that he can rise above Mr. Trump in a fractured field. It must be one-on-one, his team says, and it must happen soon.

Accordingly, Mr. Cruz plans to hammer Senator Marco Rubio of Florida as an obstacle for conservatives hoping to take down Mr. Trump, reminding voters that to win, one has to eventually win….

For Rubio, a win in Florida in two weeks seems to be the most important piece of the puzzle that puts him back on track to win the GOP nomination:

While there are a handful of states that Mr. Rubio believes he can do well in over the next two weeks — Illinois, Missouri, Michigan — Florida is the most vital to his survival….

A loss would be much more than the symbolic gut punch of losing your home state. Since it is a winner-take-all contest, it would deny Mr. Rubio the 99 delegates he needs to remain a legitimate contender.

As for Sanders, he faces a steep climb to get back into the Democratic nomination contest, but he has the resources to do it:

Tad Devine, Mr. Sanders’s senior campaign adviser, said the senator and his top staff were meeting on Tuesday to decide how best to allocate their money. The campaign said it had raised more than $42 million in February. It did not say how much cash it had left after its February expenses, but Mr. Sanders has said that he has the money to fight on….

Jeff Weaver, Mr. Sanders’s campaign manager, said the campaign would consider running television ads in Maine, Kansas and Nebraska, where caucuses are being held this weekend, and Ohio, which votes on March 15 and has the third-largest number of delegates in play, after Florida and Illinois. It has also been running ads in Michigan, the biggest state voting on March 8, and on black radio stations in several states.

Mr. Weaver said that Mr. Sanders will seek to broaden his support among black voters in the Midwest — something he failed to do in South Carolina and on Super Tuesday — by tying Mrs. Clinton’s stances on trade policies to the unemployment rates in once-prosperous industrial cities.

The frontrunners for both the Democratic and Republican nominations emerged from Super Tuesday with their leads intact, and while neither of them delivered a knockout blow to their rivals, the results yesterday made the already daunting task of overtaking them much more difficult.