Super Tuesday marks last stands against Trump, Clinton
The first truly large scale test of the 2016 presidential candidates’ appeal, Super Tuesday, is upon us. With most of the votes happening in the south, the event has often been called the “Southeastern Conference (SEC) Primary,” but a primary in Massachusetts and caucuses in Colorado, Vermont, North Dakota, Alaska, Minnesota, and some American territories will also contribute to the largest single day delegate windfall of the calendar. The outcomes of the day will likely spell doom for several candidates who underperform, but a few upsets can revive the candidacies of some of the struggling candidates. There are several key states that will determine the rest of the race.
Colorado is one of a number of caucus states that Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) hopes will revive his candidacy which is flailing after a brutal defeat in South Carolina. Colorado is a swing state in general elections, but the Democrats can lean very far left in primaries. Furthermore, the caucus environment favors Sanders, with his strong grassroots movement rife with activists, as opposed to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Current polling has the candidates about tied in the state, and a Sanders victory could help him preserve his candidacy.
Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) has made significant ad buys in Atlanta. While businessman Donald Trump will be hard to beat outright in Georgia, the delegates are allocated proportionally and Rubio has done well in cities thus far. If he manages to increase his share of the vote by 4 percent or so, it could end up putting more delegates to his name and helping move his candidacy forwards.
The Bay State is demographically favorable to Sanders, featuring a largely white and liberal populace. The mixed primary could also help Sanders as Republicans defect either out of a preference for grassroots style candidates or a desire to face Sanders in the general election because he might be an easier target. Polling currently shows Clinton somewhat ahead of Sanders amongst registered Democrats, but that lead could evaporate in the coming days due to both the structure of the primary and the recent focus Sanders has had on New England’s most populous state.
The Minnesota caucus could be pivotal in both races.
On the Democratic side, Sanders’ built-in caucus advantages could help him, as can the very liberal nature of Minnesota’s Democrats. Sanders taking caucus wins can also help him claim to be the voice of the Democratic base, which could help sway some superdelegates who feel uneasy with the accusations of bias towards Clinton flying at the DNC.
On the Republican side, Ohio Governor John Kasich has largely staked his presidential campaign on a strong showing in the midwest. Minnesota is one state where a second or strong third place finish is possible and will help him form an argument that he has a chance and isn’t just siphoning votes away from Rubio.
The Oklahoma primary is historically a difficult one to gauge. Culturally, Oklahoma has strong influences from both the south — strongholds for Trump and Clinton — and the midwest, which influences the state’s politics heavily. This is a state where both Kasich and Sanders can make powerful statements with better than expected finishes or completely flop based on whichever strain of Oklahoman dominates the ballot box. As of right now, Clinton appears to have a very slight edge over Sanders while Kasich has largely ignored Oklahoma and it seems to be amongst his worst states. Polling has been very sparse, however, and it is unclear who is doing well in the state.
In the polls that have been released, Rubio has been close to toppling Trump. If Rubio is able to finally break the narrative of endless second place “wins,” he could give himself significant momentum going into the rest of March and can mount a more credible challenge to Trump.
Texas is a gargantuan delegate haul, with 255 delegates available to the Democrats and 155 to the Republicans, the largest state in both races on Tuesday. Clinton currently holds a lead over Sanders that might be large enough to put the Sanders candidacy to bed if it persists, but on the Republican side, it is the one state where Trump is not the favorite going in. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) will be looking to cash in on a home state advantage to try and offset the gains Trump will make in other states. Some polls have shown Cruz with massive separation from the field while some have shown him just barely leading Trump. If Cruz can put together a big win, he could help his candidacy recover from consecutive finishes behind Rubio and a media narrative that increasingly ignores him.
Vermont is Sanders’ home state and he is currently leading polls by close to 90 percent. Vermont’s 16 delegates is only a slight haul, but having a win that emphatic on Super Tuesday, especially in a caucus state, can help him control the narrative on his candidacy coming out of Super Tuesday and possibly weather the blow of his likely massive losses in the SEC primary.
Virginia’s moderate brand of politics has resulted in Kasich and Rubio making hard plays for good showings in the state. If Kasich is able to mount a second place finish, it could help his candidacy survive to Michigan and Ohio, states where his profile is high and he might be able to win if he builds momentum. Rubio has made a hard play for the suburbs of DC located in northern Virginia and could potentially grab a state victory. Recent polling has been sparse but has shown Rubio within striking distance of Trump while Kasich is far behind but steadily gaining in polls.