Keeping us up to date on the US primaries, Grace Segers looks at the Republican and Democrat front-runners
Trump and Clinton amassed large wins in the primaries on 15th March, cementing their positions as frontrunners of the Republican and Democratic races. Trump easily swept Florida, which apportions its ninety-nine delegates on a winner-take-all basis, and had significant wins in Illinois and North Carolina. At the time of writing, he had only a slight lead over Ted Cruz in Missouri. Governor John Kasich won in his home state, Ohio, which also gives its sixty-six delegates on a winner-take-all basis, thus justifying underdog Kasich’s role in the race. Marco Rubio suspended his campaign after a devastating second-place finish in his home state, Florida. On the Democratic side, Clinton defeated Bernie Sanders with large leads in Florida, North Carolina, and Ohio, and also crucially won Illinois by a narrow margin. At the time of writing, Clinton was also leading in Missouri.
Trump wins big, but not big enough
Trump’s wins on Tuesday were, to use the real estate mogul’s parlance, “yuge.” While he didn’t win Ohio, he has now amassed 621 of the 1,237 delegates needed to obtain the Republican nomination. By comparison, Kasich, Tuesday’s other winner, has 138, less even than the failed Rubio. Cruz currently has 395 delegates.
It’s still uncertain whether Trump will be the party’s nominee for president. With Cruz and Kasich still in the race, Trump will have a difficult time obtaining the remaining delegates needed for the nomination. Furthermore, Rubio’s suspension of his campaign makes Kasich the heir apparent to the “establishment” mantle voters and GOP leaders. Since entering the race, Kasich has run a campaign based on positivity. But in an election year defined by angry voters, his only real path to the nomination would be a contested convention.
After Trump lost Ohio, it is increasingly likely there will be a contested Republican convention in July, meaning the party’s nomination may be chosen by party machinations, instead of by the popular vote. Many GOP insiders see the Republican convention as the last, best hope to stop a Trump candidacy—assuming, of course, that Trump goes quietly and doesn’t run a third party campaign.
Clinton restores confidence
After Sanders’ shocking victory in Michigan last week, the pressure was on for Clinton to win. She was expected to prevail in Florida and North Carolina, due to those states’ large number of minority voters. However, Illinois, Ohio – where Sanders largely focused his campaign – and Missouri were very much in play for Sanders, who hoped to capitalize on the momentum from proving popular amongst working class Democrats and independents last week.
Fortunately for the Clinton campaign—and for pollsters who had been confused by the failures of polling to predict the Michigan results—she swept Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, with a narrow win in Illinois and a probable victory in Missouri. Clinton can succeed in battleground Midwestern states, which will be incredibly important in the general election.
Clinton, who now has 1,094 of the 2,383 delegates needed to win the Democratic nomination, has almost completely shut Sanders out. It would mathematically improbable for Sanders to win the nomination now. Clinton seems aware of this, targeting Trump rather than Sanders in her acceptance speech; a pivot towards a general election race. Sanders, however, remained unwilling to end his campaign, and it is likely that he will stay in the race until the Democratic convention.
Farewell Marco Rubio
Rubio, who swept into the Senate in 2010 as a tea party insurgent, finally admitted defeat. In many ways, Rubio represented the new face of the Republican Party with his charismatic rags-to-riches story; unfortunately for him, Republicans didn’t want a new face. In an electoral cycle in which voters are clamoring for the man who is peddling retroactive and nativist positions, the representative of a hopeful future was destined to fall.
Rubio ran his campaign expecting the Republican Party to consolidate around him. Many donors did, but average voters generally did not. From the beginning, he appeared an inexperienced upstart, a perception cemented after his disastrous performance in a debate before the New Hampshire primary, and a spate of juvenile name-calling with Trump in late February. Rubio is young, only forty-four, so he might bounce back; but his inability to succeed emblemizes the unusual nature of 2016: he was just the wrong candidate for a highly unusual year.
Now that Rubio has dropped out of the race, the GOP’s fault lines are clear: voters will have to choose between the populism of Trump, the radical conservatism of Cruz, and the centrist conservatism of Kasich. The prevailing candidate, who may be chosen by a contested convention, will have a difficult time consolidating a base that has fractured seemingly beyond the Republican Party’s control.
Featured image credit: Wikimedia Commons