Trump and Clinton Score Huge Wins on Super Tuesday

Donald Trump with Chris Christie

Images courtesy of C-Span

Trump and Clinton Score Huge
Wins on Super Tuesday

| published March 2, 2016 |

By R. ALan Clanton, Thursday Review editor


Businessman Donald Trump and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton each racked up massive wins on Super Tuesday, adding to their respective delegate counts and channeling rank-and-file party support in such a way as to make it difficult in the extreme that their intra-party challengers can catch up.

Hillary Clinton slammed dunked big wins in seven states, opening up a delegate lead now more than twice the size of that of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, her only remaining challenger. Clinton also continues to win over the allegiance of African-American voters, a substantial Democratic base group which delivered support to Clinton in excess of 80% in most Super Tuesday states. Sanders won four states, amassing delegates of his own, but is still lagging far behind Clinton, who now has more than 1000 delegates in her column.

Clinton now moves closer to the nomination even as Sanders slips further behind in the delegate contest. Appearing before supporters late on Tuesday, Sanders vowed to fight on, and says he will turn his attention to several Midwestern states, including Michigan, as well as New York and California.

On the Republican side, Donald Trump moves steadily forward on his rapid and now seemingly unstoppable march toward the GOP convention in Cleveland in the summer. Trump racked-up dramatic and big wins in five states, including Alabama, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Arkansas, Virginia and Georgia. Texas Senator Ted Cruz won Oklahoma and his own home state of Texas, along with the Alaska caucuses; Florida Senator Marco Rubio took the Minnesota caucuses, Rubio’s first win in this season. And despite a robust surge by Ohio Governor John Kasich in Vermont, where the fight for the state lasted until late into the night, Kasich was not able to halt the tide for Trump, where the billionaire won the Green Mountain State by 32% to Kasich’s 30.4%.

Retired neurosurgeon and author Dr. Ben Carson, after winning no states and amassing only a small handful of delegates, appeared to be bracing his loyal supporters for the fact that he may suspend his campaign within the next few hours. Carson, despite a significant surge late last summer and well into early fall, was never able to get his message to catch fire with voters—even in Iowa, where polls in September and October showed him leading. Carson issued a statement on Wednesday saying that he has decided not to attend the Republican debate scheduled for Thursday on Fox News.

“I do not see a political path forward in light of last evening’s Super Tuesday results,” Carson said in a statement posted on his website. “However, this grassroots movement on behalf of ‘We the People’ will continue.”

Carson added that despite rumors, his campaign’s suspension is not coming because of financial strain, and some of his top strategists suggest Carson still has cash on hand and cash coming in. Carson said that his withdrawal “is in the best interests of the American people.” Carson added that he will clarify his position on his candidacy at a major speech at the a CPAC (Conservative Political Action Committee) in Washington, D.C. on Friday.

Carson’s departure from the race follows that of former Florida Governor Jeb Bush—once the party’s de facto front-runner—in suspending his campaign. Bush dropped out the night of the South Carolina primary after a weak fifth place finish, and after months of campaigning in Iowa and New Hampshire to little effect.

Trump’s smashing victories across the map may be a harbinger of a Republican Party on the edge of chaos…or revolution…or a transformative new beginning, depending on one’s perspective. GOP officials are reportedly deeply divided on what strategy to employ to derail Trump’s ascension. Trump’s seemingly unstoppable march toward the GOP nomination has also provoked sentiment ranging from anger to dismay to panic among leading Republicans, who now must face the reality of a possible Trump ticket in November.

Some Republican strategists are now worrying openly that if Trump commands the top of the GOP ticket in November, his new ownership of the Republican brand will damage the re-election chances of scores of otherwise safe seats in Congress, and make the task even more difficult in electing new Republicans to the House and the Senate. Dozens more Republicans in Congress today disavowed or disowned Trump publicly, and several major media outlets are reporting increasing discussions by Republican in Washington of creating a Third Party pathway for traditional GOP ideas and themes. For the first time in decades, there is also talk of forming a national “conservative party” to create a vehicle wholly separate from a GOP under Trump’s stewardship.

Former Republican Presidential candidate—and former Massachusetts Governor—Mitt Romney, has scheduled a “major speech” to Republicans and to the nation for Thursday, and though rumors have been rife that the former GOP standard bearer may jump into the 2016 race, political insiders and those close to Romney suggest that Romney has no plans to enter the race this late in the primary and caucus season. In the meantime, GOP strategists are considering a variety of Hail Mary type scenarios in which party regulars could deny Trump the nomination. One possible solution: a regionalized fight in which candidates other than Trump are given maximum latitude to win on their home or close-to-home turf—Rubio in Florida, Kasich in Ohio, for example. But this plan would work only if every other candidate avoids specific states, an unlikely arrangement considering the struggle which now exists between Cruz, Rubio, and Kasich.

Trump not only again rebooted the GOP field to his favor, collecting vast trove of delegates along the way, but he also effectively reset the field again, forcing his rivals into yet another set of circumstances in which no clear alternative to Trump emerges from the field—once crowded, but now shorn of dozens as Trump steamrolls across the map.

Trump’s Super Tuesday wins were especially big in Georgia, Tennessee and Massachusetts—very different states in terms of demographics, but where he amassed totals which were nearly twice as large as his next closest rival.

In Massachusetts, Trump rolled over second-place finisher Kasich more than 30 points, and Trump’s Bay State total exceeded the combined total of all other candidates—Kasich, Rubio, Cruz and Dr. Ben Carson. The Massachusetts win was seen by some observers as a repudiation of the long-held theory that if all anti-Trump candidates could join forces, their plurality would exceed the “ceiling” in support for Trump.
Senator Ted Cruz
In Tennessee, a state where a vast majority of Republicans describe themselves as evangelical or deeply religious—a state thought to be a potentially strong region for Ted Cruz—Trump won by nearly 40%, leaving Cruz and Rubio roughly tied for second place at 24.7% and 21.2% each. Likewise in Alabama, another state where Cruz and Rubio were expected to perform well, and a state at one time showing great promise for Carson, Trump won 43.4%, twice as much as Cruz, his closest competitor at 21.1%. Carson raked-in 10% in Alabama.

In Virginia, an often pivotal state in the general election and a valuable Electoral College prize, Trump won comfortably, battling back against a late surge by Marco Rubio who was outspending Trump and others in TV advertising in an effort to mobilize suburban Republicans and establishment GOP supporters outside the Beltway. Virginia was seen as the “establishment” center, and a Rubio win there would have not only deprived Trump of a key state, but would have boosted the notion that many within the GOP mainstream are uncomfortable with Trump at the helm of the party in a general election. Instead, Trump won easily in every part of the state except the suburban areas and commuter corridors outside Washington, D.C. In the end, Trump took 34.7% of the vote, to Rubio’s 31.9% and Cruz’s 17%.

Trump won in Georgia with 38.8%, where Rubio and Cruz split the anti-Trump vote almost evenly at 24.5% and 23.6% respectively. Here, the anti-Trump forces could point to the math to show that the combined votes of non-Trump supporters did exceed the total votes for Trump—but only barely. Because of the areas in Georgia won by Trump, he will still take away the lion’s share of the state’s rich slate of 76 delegates. Depending on last moment tweaking and vote counts, Trump may bag at least 36 of Georgia’s delegates.

Cruz won in three states—his home state of Texas, in neighboring Oklahoma, and in the Alaska caucuses. Cruz went on television to declare himself the only viable alternative to Trump, and even asked that Republican voters of future primary and caucus states strongly considering abandoning their support for the other candidates. He also urged all other GOP candidates to drop out of the race immediately.

“Tonight was another decision point,” Cruz said to supporters, “and the voters have spoken. Tomorrow morning, we have a choice. So as long as the field remains divided, Donald Trump’s path to the nomination remains more likely. And that would be a disaster for Republicans, for conservatives, and for the nation.”

Cruz added that as of the point in time he was speaking, his has been the only campaign to have beaten Trump in any state (though later in the evening the Minnesota caucuses would be declared for Rubio). Cruz’s triumphant tone also indicated his belief that he alone can overtake Trump, but only if other candidates remove themselves from the contest, and only if they are willing rally around his campaign.

Rubio was clearly having none of that particular talk. The junior Florida Senator was the favorite of the second place finishes in some Super Tuesday states where he nudged out Cruz, sometimes by a small percentage, in other cases finishing in third place behind Trump and Cruz. Rubio, appearing in various network news shows throughout the late evening, attempted to put as upbeat a spin as possible on the situation, but some reporters and analysts were painting a somewhat bleak portrait of the next weeks and months for Rubio. Rubio had hoped to channel the anti-Trump forces—especially those most easily identified as “establishment” Republicans—into his column by the end of the night. But it was not to be, and many political analysts were questioning whether Rubio can remain relevant as long as he is the second choice of most GOP voters. Still, Rubio was able to point to Minnesota, his first win, in which he landed a substantial 36.5% victory over Cruz, who placed second with 29%, and Trump in third place with 21.3%.

Ohio Governor John Kasich also hoped to draw some energy toward his struggling campaign on Super Tuesday, in many cases hoping to be the strong second or third place finisher in an effort—like Rubio—to attract the support of those Republican voters unwilling to back Trump, or unsure of Trump’s ability to beat Clinton in November.

Carson’s withdrawal may help channel some voters toward Cruz, but it is not clear whether Carson’s full demurral will be enough to boost Cruz past Trump even in future primary and caucus states where the evangelical vote is strong.

Complicating things for the Republican brass: Trump is beginning to win more deeply even with demographic, religious and ethnic groups once thought so hostile toward Trump’s often bellicose language as to be virtually eliminated from discussion as potential Trump supporters. Entrance and exit polls conducted by numerous media and polling organizations show that Trump is beginning to convert the support of Latino and Asian Americans—whether Republican or independent—as well as African-American Republicans, who make up a small minority with the GOP. Trump is also attracting large numbers of independent voters, much in the same way that Ross Perot did in 1992, and George Wallace did in 1968. Trump is also winning among Christian conservatives, evangelicals and so-called social conservatives, meaning he is even taking votes directly away from Cruz, whose big win in Iowa came as a direct result of mobilizing thousands of evangelicals to caucus sites in the Hawkeye State.

Tuesday’s exit and entrance polling also showed that Trump is now maintaining a commanding lead among voters who describe themselves as “fed-up” or “angry” with Washington. In some states, according to data collected by CNN, “angry” or “fed-up” voters migrated toward Trump in percentages exceeding 80 and 90%. Within that category, a large number of those voters went on to describe both Cruz and Rubio as “Washington insiders” even though each is campaigning stridently as “anti-Washington.”

But most political analysts wonder aloud if the Sanders campaign is now facing an endless uphill struggle, as Hillary Clinton continues to amass a larger lead in the all-important delegate count.

The big wins for Clinton and Trump burnish their accomplishments in dueling nomination battles rapidly coming to a close. Clinton and Trump each won easily in the previous states of Nevada and South Carolina. Clinton rolled over Sanders in the South Carolina primary by some 76% to 23%, a serious drubbing which called attention to the limitations of Sanders message with many segments of the Democratic Party. Still Sanders continues to draw massive crowds at his mega rallies, a force of energy and enthusiasim he hopes will eventually propel him to the Democratic nomination.

Related Thursday Review articles:

Rubio’s Eleventh Hour War on Trump; R. Alan Clanton; Thursday Review; February 27, 2016.

Clinton’s Huge S.C. Win May Be Reliable Barometer of Super Tuesday; R. Alan Clanton; Thursday Review; February 29, 2016.