Super Tuesday is over. Trump and Clinton are the big winners. With the Super Tuesday results, it seems unlikely that any of their opponents will be able to catch them. There remains, however, enough of a slim hope to keep fighting.
At this point in the election season, percentage of vote won becomes less important than the number of delegates obtained. In the early contests, we pay closer attention to percentages because they may be some indication of how candidates may do in future contests. It helps us pick the front runners. By now, over a quarter of the States have voted. Predictions of future support give way to actual support being achieved: that is how many delegates will vote for a nominee at the convention. Ultimately, that is what matters.
Donald Trump won Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Vermont, and Virginia, collecting a total of 203 delegates. Trump failed to achieve 50% in any State but did come in second in every State he did not win, except for one third place finish in Minnesota.
Ted Cruz had the second best night, winning his home State of Texas, as well as Oklahoma and Alaska. He picked up 144 delegates giving him the "Trump alternative" mantel.
Marco Rubio had a particularly disappointing night. Establishment Republicans have been trying to make him the Trump alternative. The voters, however, gave Rubio only a single win in Minnesota. Rubio often failed to make 20% in many states, which is often the threshold to be granted any delegates at all. As a result, Rubio garnered only 71 delegates last night.
John Kasich and Ben Carson failed to win anywhere, only breaking double digits in two States each. Kasich won 19 delegates and Carson 3.
Republican establishment is now running scared. Trump has a clear path to the nomination with only Cruz appearing as a viable alternative. Cruz is presenting himself as such in speeches and calling on the other candidates to end their campaigns so that the anti-Trump voters can move to him. The problem is that the establishment does not like Cruz either. His few years in the Senate has caused most of his colleague to find him disagreeable and unlikable. They don't think they can work with him as President any more than they could with Trump. As a result, it is unlikely Cruz could get the full anti-Trump coalition behind him.
It's also interesting that the only two States that Cruz won outside of his home state were both closed caucuses, meaning independents could not vote in them. Trump seems more popular with independents than with Republicans. Many Republicans may decide that Trump has a better chance of beating Clinton in the general election based on his appeal with independents. Therefore, I still don't see a Cruz bandwagon.
Rubio may continue in hopes that there is some major stumble and realignment, but is looking more like a dead man walking. Perhaps Minnesota gives him hope that he could win elsewhere, but it is not looking likely. If Trump beats Rubio in his home State of Florida in two weeks, as expected, it is hard to see how Rubio can remain in the race.
Kasich and Carson should go. Kasich has wanted to hold out until Michigan later this week and Ohio in two weeks, but is going to get heavy pressure to quit now so his supporters can move to Rubio. Right now Kasich is polling a pathetic third place in Michigan with about 12% support, not even enough to collect a delegate. He is also polling second behind Trump in his home State of Ohio, a winner take all state on March 15. In other words, his best hope of denying a Trump victory in Ohio is to drop out and hope his supporters go to one of the other anti-Trump candidates. I expect Kasich to drop out in the next few days, possibly waiting for his loss in Michigan on March 8 to make it official.
Carson remains fairly irrelevant due to low numbers, but his supporters may go to Trump if he leaves. Carson has made few rational decisions during the campaign, so when he finally drops out seems to be unrelated to his continuing defeats in the polls.
Remember that beginning on March 15, Republican contests become winner take all. If last night had been a winner take all night, Trump would have won 331 delegates rather than 203. Absent a single unifying anti-Trump candidate, Trump will win the nomination as his path gets much easier under winner take all. There will be extreme pressure on many of the remaining four alternative candidates to drop out and make it a two person race. Even so, no one seems ready to blink.
As expected, Hillary Clinton did very well yesterday. She took the whole south, winning Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia, all by more than 30 points over Bernie Sanders. She also won a close victory in Massachusetts, which should have been a strong State for Sanders if he really expects to win the nomination.
Sanders did well though, better than I expected. He won not only his home State of Vermont, but also in Colorado, Minnesota, and Oklahoma. But in the delegate count, Sanders continued to fall well behind. winning 284 delegates to Clinton's 453.
Repeatedly finishing a distant second in a two person race is not a path to victory. Compare this to 2008 when Obama just barely beat Clinton on Super Tuesday, winning 13 States to Clinton's 10 (Super Tuesday was a little more super then). Obama also won a few more delegates than Clinton, although Clinton won a majority of the total popular vote. In short it was considered a virtual tie and both candidates went on to fight another day.
By contrast, Sanders lost most of the States and collected only about a third of the available delegates. Outside of his home state though, Sanders victories came in Caucus States (Col. & Okla.) where candidates appealing to smaller but more dedicated voters tend to win. His other win (Minn) came in a closed primary where Independents could not vote. Again, this tends to benefit more extreme candidates who may not do as well in a general election. Sanders supporters may find solace in the fact that Sanders did fairly well in non-southern States and that going forward, most of the south is now behind us. If Sanders can do well to win in the mid-west and far west, he could possibly pull a come from behind victory. But he will need to win some open primaries outside of New England. In short, Sanders did well enough to continue his race, but he remains a clear underdog.