MAX FURIGAY ’19
Back in September, I wrote that it was “patently ridiculous” that people thought Donald Trump would win the Republican nomination, stating that he had “zero support from Republican elites, is almost no one’s second choice, and may not even be a Republican.” I predicted that “as soon as the field clears, moderate Republicans will rally around literally anyone else other than Mr. Trump and his candidacy will soon seem no more than a bad dream.”
This was an unfortunate prediction. At press time (the morning of Super Tuesday), Mr. Trump commands a sizable lead in his party’s delegate count and is the favorite to win almost every single primary or caucus on March 1st. I’m not even going to try and guess what the screwed-up electorate that is the GOP will do next. However, I’d like to point out some things to watch for after all is said and done on Super Tuesday.
First of all, if you are a Ted Cruz fan, Super Tuesday is do-or-die. Come Wednesday, if Mr. Cruz does not perform overwhelmingly better than expected (meaning, he wins more than just Texas or beats Rubio out for second more often than not), he will almost certainly not have a chance at the nomination. This is because Super Tuesday skews Southern and conservative: if Mr. Cruz cannot perform in these states, he will surely flounder even more when it comes to the more liberal primaries later in the month. In addition, he is already under mounting pressure to suspend his candidacy in order to allow Republicans to coalesce around Marco Rubio and thus avoid a Trump candidacy. A weak performance by Mr. Cruz would almost certainly spell the end of his plausible path to the nomination—although since Mr. Cruz has proven himself to be quite a contrarian (to say the least) it’s possible he could try to stick it out a bit further, even in light of a poor showing.
If you prefer Mr. Rubio, watch for a John Kasich dropout later this week: Mr. Kasich and Mr. Rubio are by far the most overlapping candidates. Mr. Rubio also must perform well, but his situation is not as urgent as that of Mr. Cruz, and I’ll get to that in a second. As long as Donald Trump doesn’t have a blowout victory against Mr. Rubio, there is still a path to his nomination. An important thing to note: In Texas, a candidate must win at least twenty percent of the vote in order to qualify for any delegates at all. Mr. Rubio is dangerously close to this margin, and falling below it would be very bad for him, as all of his delegates will then be reapportioned to his GOP rivals.
Which brings us to Donald Trump. Mr. Trump is ahead in many of the Super Tuesday polls, while he remains virtually tied with Mr. Cruz in Texas. If Mr. Trump wins Texas, it’s another feather in his cap and another nail in Mr. Cruz’s coffin. It is likely that Mr. Trump will win the plurality or majority of Super Tuesday states. The significant element is his margin of victory—the March 15th states are much more competitive between Mr. Trump and Mr. Rubio, so modest Trump delegate wins might be negated by larger losses on the 15th. The winner-take-all states of Florida and Ohio are the most important states for the Republican nomination right now. If Mr. Trump wins Florida notwithstanding the fact that it’s Mr. Rubio’s backyard, the Rubio campaign is in trouble. So while Super Tuesday is still important to these two candidates, the true test will come in two weeks.
If you are a fan of drama, pay attention to surges in the delegate count for John Kasich, Ben Carson, and Ted Cruz. All three of them (perhaps Mr. Cruz to a lesser extent) do not have much of a shot to the nomination, but the more delegates they draw away from the two frontrunners, the greater the chance of a contested Republican convention this summer, which would certainly be a high-stakes, hyped political blockbuster.
On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton has steadily been cementing her already almost inevitable victory. The most significant states on Tuesday are Vermont, Minnesota, Colorado, Massachusetts, Oklahoma and Tennessee. These are the states, based on demographics and delegate math, that Bernie Sanders must win in order to be “on track” for the nomination, not taking into account Mrs. Clinton’s massive superdelegate lead. Mr. Sanders is slightly favored in Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Colorado, and he is probably going to blow Mrs. Clinton out of the water in Vermont. He is behind in the polls for both Tennessee and Oklahoma, but really needs to win these states on Tuesday. In short, watch Massachusetts, Minnesota, Tennessee and Oklahoma on the Democratic side. Sanders needs to win all of them on Tuesday for his campaign to stay on pace for a victory this summer. But if you’re a Sanders supporter, Super Tuesday might not be too pretty.
MAX FURIGAY ’19