Super Tuesday was just two weeks ago and represented the season's biggest haul of delegates for candidates on both sides of the aisle. It was important in the sense that it winnowed the list of candidates seeking the Republican nomination but there’s an argument to be made that today’s voting in Florida, Illinois, Missouri, North Carolina, and Ohio is even more important.
Some of the states in today’s GOP contests are winner-take-all. A victory in a place like Florida or Ohio means taking all of the state’s delegates to the convention, upping the odds that the Republican party will move forward with Donald Trump an increasingly powerful contender in their leadership conversations. On the Democratic side, today’s contests in Illinois and Ohio offer a chance for Bernie Sanders to capitalize on the labor support he pulled together in Michigan. So it’s a big day. How will it play out?
Let’s take the Republican contest first. Tonight will be the last night we’ve got Marco Rubio to kick around as he’s headed for a loss in Florida, which will go to Trump. Rubio will come in second, but that won’t be enough and he will drop out of the race.
Last week’s cancelled Trump rally in Illinois may have scared that state’s voters and I think that things will be close in Illinois, with Cruz closing in on Trump and winning by the slimmest of margins. Next door to Illinois, polling in Missouri is non-existent but Missouri is a southern state with a large collection of evangelical voters, with whom Ted Cruz has tended to do well. Cruz won Kansas next door and I’m feeling good about Cruz in Illinois so what the hell…..I call the Show Me state for Cruz.
That leaves North Carolina and Ohio. Kasich is the incumbent governor of the Buckeye State and he will win Ohio with Trump coming in second.
And so it boils down to North Carolina, where Trump leads the polls. He won South Carolina and he will win Florida; I call North Carolina for Trump.
The final GOP total for the night will be one victory for Kasich and two each for Cruz and Trump. That doesn’t provide much clarity in the Republican contest, so I think we can expect that that GOP establishment will continue to dither. Each day that they do so raises the prospect of a divided GOP heading into the convention and then the general election. That, of course, is the price a party pays when it has no one willing to lead.
The Democrats are also voting today. It will be a big night for Hillary Clinton; she will prevail in Florida, Illinois, Missouri, and North Carolina. Florida is a southern state with plenty of northeastern Democratic retirees and she’s polled well there all along. Illinois is her home state and has a powerful African American voting bloc. Missouri and North Carolina are southern states; the sorts of places where Hillary does well.
But the night won’t be a complete victory for Clinton; Sanders will edge out a victory in Ohio, where the state’s Democratic voters look a great deal like Michigan Democrats. From here, the Democrats head west where Sanders should do well.
The upshot: neither of these contests are over.