Super Tuesday is in the books, and the dichotomy between the Republicans and Democrats has grown even more apparent.
It was not a day of surprises, but instead more a time for crystallising the current state of politics in America, with two very different storylines set to collide later this year.
Democrats Slowly Uniting
Hillary Takes the South
As projected, Hillary Clinton won emphatic victories in southern states on Super Tuesday. Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia were all taken by Hillary, largely due to her strength with African American voters.
Hillary won 87% of the African American vote in South Carolina, a primary that was prescient of further southern states. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont has struggled to connect with this bedrock demographic of the Democratic Party, and the results of Super Tuesday were the electoral consequences of this shortcoming.
Hillary Wins Big With Massachusetts
Clinton’s victory over Sanders in Massachusetts, even if only by a whisker, was particularly notable. A relatively liberal north eastern state, lacking a large African American population, and close to Sanders’ state of Vermont, Massachusetts was ripe for a Sanders’ win.
Instead, though delegates from the state are divided, Hillary moves on with an impressive Massachusetts victory under her belt.
Bernie Sanders Alive, But Facing An Uphill Climb
Senator Sanders won Colorado, Minnesota, Oklahoma, and his home state of Vermont. The quartet of states was a nice haul for what was originally an outsider candidacy, but it wasn’t the day Bernie needed.
On the face of it, Bernie’s loss on Super Tuesday was not catastrophic. He won an estimated 321 delegates to Hillary’s 486. The problem is that he remains behind in polls across the country while Hillary accrues endorsements from throughout the Democratic Party.
Elizabeth Warren’s Yet To Play Her Role
Elizabeth Warren, Senator of Massachusetts, is a hero of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. A highly respected figure, many supporters wanted her to run for president this year, as Clinton’s detractors point to Warren as their preferred ‘first woman’ president.
Senator Warren has yet to endorse any candidate. Some of Sanders’ supporters have criticised Warren for not giving her approval of Bernie’s campaign. However, it seems that Warren is instead settling into a role of peacemaker. Should Clinton sew up the Democratic contest before their convention in July, Warren can help unify the party behind their nominee.
On the 5th of March Kansas, Louisiana and Nebraska go to the polls, closely followed by Maine on the 6th. Polling in these states has been limited, but Bernie should be competitive in Maine at least, while Hillary will easily take Louisiana to add to her southern shelf.
More broadly, the party will probably continue to slowly rally behind Clinton, particularly as the Republican alternatives appear so alarming.
As for Senator Sanders, he definitively did not win Super Tuesday, but he wasn’t killed either. It would be premature to write his campaign off at this point, but he does need a concerted surge in support if he is to upset the race at this point.
Republicans In Turmoil
The Republican Party is tearing itself apart. Traditional conservative-minded voters and party members cannot get on board with Donald Trump, yet the real estate giant is whipping up populist anger amongst the grassroots that cannot be contained.
Prominent conservative thinkers like Erick Erickson, former editor of the popular blog RedState, are distancing themselves from Trump, and elected officials such as Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse has publicly announced his opposition to a the billionaire’s nomination.
There are a number of reasons Republicans are rejecting Trump. On the one hand there are his relatively liberal views on certain social issues, particularly defending Planned Parenthood, a government organisation that provides abortion services to women. Others point to his electability problem, by alienating educated women, hispanics, and African Americans. Some simply dislike Trump the man: a bully, brandishing his ignorance over policy issues as a banner for Tea Party support.
Though a few Republican politicians and pundits are jumping on the businesman’s bandwagon, there are deep fissures within the party.
It is unlikely that Trump-defectors will funnel towards the Democratic nominee, but it could make for an especially chaotic Republican Party Convention in July. It also brings into question the possibility of a third party candidacy, should Trump win the nomination. Consider Mitt Romney returning simply to pull down Trump, or even Paul Ryan, Mitt’s youthful former running mate and current Speaker of the House, charging into the fray to ‘save the party’, tearing it apart in the process. Senator Sasse has also been tipped as a potential champion of the anti-Trump cause.
This is visceral politics, and calls into question the very purpose of the Republican Party.
Trump, Trump, Trump
Breathe out, it happened. Donald Trump won seven of the eleven states up for grabs on Super Tuesday.
This was exactly the day Trump was waiting for. Dispelling his doubters with a gut punch to the Republican establishment, crushing the anti-Trump rivals who remain. It will take time to break down how Trump performed with individual groups, as his support among hispanics is a particularly important.
On a state by state level, Trump was dominant. He won Alabama, Massachusetts, and Vermont with 20 point leads over his closest rivals, and came in second in three of the four states he lost.
Ted Cruz had a relatively successful Super Tuesday. The abrasive Senator from Texas took his home state comfortably, winning 17 points over Trump. He also picked up neighbouring Oklahoma as well as far-flung Alaska.
Perhaps more importantly, Cruz took respectable second places finishes across the southern states of Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee and Georgia. All told, Cruz is now settled at second place behind Donald Trump overall, with 226 delegates to the billionaire’s 319.
Marco Rubio, Losing Virginia, Falls Behind
Super Tuesday was not a good day for Marco Rubio. The Florida Senator won only one state, and a small one at that: Minnesota.
More damaging than this, Rubio failed to be truly competitive in no other state besides Virginia, where Trump won by 3 points. After the last Republican debate Rubio declared the contest a three man race between himself, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. However, judging off the numbers seen on Super Tuesday it would seem that Ted Cruz has almost every right to claim to be the only chance to defeat Trump.
Rubio isn’t done: he is competitive across parts of the mid west and western states. However, it is beginning to feel like Marco Rubio is the candidate who everyone expected to find a surge of support that never materialised. Minnesota alone simply won’t cut it.
The Return of Mitt Romney
A day after Super Tuesday the 2012 Republican nominee unleashed a tirade of criticism against presumptive Republican favourite Donald Trump.
The former governor of Massachusetts labelled Trump a “phoney” and “fraud”, playing on similar language used by Marco Rubio over the past two weeks. Romney has gradually been building his criticism of the divisive Trump, but it is unlikely that the billionaire’s supporters will be swayed by the indictment: Trumpism is a reaction against establishment politics, and there are few more establishment figures than Romney.
Romney urged Republicans to tactically vote for each candidate per state that had the best chances of beating Trump, but declined to endorse an alternative. Mitt may continue to speak out against Trump over the next few weeks.
Kasich and Carson Need To Find The Exits
At this point it’s becoming a bit of a farce than Ben Carson is still in the race.
The retired and celebrated neurosurgeon only managed to break 10% support in two of the eleven states on Super Tuesday, and his sleepy campaign only added a measly three delegates, when even John Kasich pulled 19.
That’s not to say Kasich doesn’t need to go too. Almost all his delegates came from Vermont and Massachusetts, where he remains popular, but he lagged far behind the top three candidates elsewhere. Kasich’s gambit is based on the logic that, come March 15th, if he can win his home state of Ohio, then he remains viable.
Carson has no such strategy, and early reports on Hangover Wednesday suggest he is soon to quit the race.
The Thursday after Super Tuesday Fox News holds another Republican debate. Ben Carson is not appearing this time, but expect plenty of fireworks.
On March 5th Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana and Maine go to the polls. None of these states look particularly promising for Marco Rubio, and Trump will likely extend his lead through these primaries.
The map changes significantly for the Republicans from mid-March, as states begin to award delegates based on a ‘Winner Takes All’ approach. At that point it wouldn’t matter how well Cruz or Rubio did in second place: all delegates would go to Trump if he won.
America is steadily inching towards Trump winning this nomination, while in the background the traditional structure of the Republican Party is falling apart.