Et tu, Hawaii?
That, my friends, was a consequential Super Tuesday Jr.. It might have been only four states and not nearly the delegates of the two Tuesdays that surround it, but last night might have just catapulted us on an irreversible trajectory. In both parties.
Now that you’re sufficiently teased, let’s get to the Republicans.
Republican Junior Tuesday
And here’s what they mean for the candidates, in reverse order of finish.
Rubio’s Requiem: Good lord, Rubio. While I expect him to get one of the three undetermined Hawaii delegates to avoid the ignominy of a shutout, the wheels have now totally fallen off the Rubio wagon. Even his not terrible third place performances in Idaho and Hawaii did nothing to help him. As a friend of mine quipped, “The man never met a threshold he couldn’t miss.” His campaign was at least on life support after Puerto Rico. Last night someone tripped over the plug. (I think it was Chris Christie.)
Moving forward, all eyes are on Florida, but not because it might turn things around for him. His campaign is dead in the other 49 states. Frankly, Rubio might even drop out with a Florida win. His sole remaining purpose in the primary is to deny Trump Florida’s 99 winner-take-all delegates.
Some wonder if he’ll drop out before then. A loss in his home state, the story goes, would end his political career. No future Senate or governor bids. Just lobbying or *shudder* a cable news show. Moreover, some argue that if he drops out, he’d allow Cruz, who clearly has much more national momentum than Rubio, to have a shot at taking Florida instead, whereas if Rubio stays, the two split the anti-Trump vote.
Don’t count on Rubio dropping out, though. The way he sees it, he’s the only candidate that can truly catch Trump there, and he’s probably right. Considering the hundreds of thousands of early voting that has already taken place, which has favored Rubio 2 to 1 over Trump, the other candidates are virtually eliminated. He won’t drop out if he’s currently leading the actual vote in Florida. The only hope and prayer is a Rubio surprise. If he can somehow redirect the narrative in the next six days, he thinks he has a shot. That redirection might start tonight with a Florida town hall on MSNBC. He’ll take his lumps, be self-deprecating, then start to redefine his candidacy. While many Republicans would sooner defend Obamacare than watch MSNBC, any notable moments will make their rounds across the media.
Kasich’s Comeback: The third place Michigan result was a bummer; he was shooting for second place, and I thought he’d get it.
That being said, he fell only 0.6 percent short of Cruz there and actually equaled him on delegates. The fact that he, with his paltry 38 delegates over the entire Republican Primary, went toe-to-toe with the big boys shows that his northern strategy is still viable. He still needs that Ohio win or face Rubio’s fate, but if he gets its 66 delegates, it’s on to April, where Wisconsin, Connecticut, Maryland, Rhode Island, Delaware, and Pennsylvania vote, with 71 delegates from Pennsylvania alone. Kasich will remind you that Trump’s best states are almost over; he might be reaching escape velocity, but if Kasich stops him in Ohio, Kasich can be a very annoying gadfly for the next month, stinging him from the moderate center while Cruz pinches from the conservative right.
Cruz’s Consistency: Last night yielded good news and bad for the Cruz Campaign. The good news was that his two-man race narrative gained some steam. Cruz was the only one besides Trump to win a state, and Cruz finished second to Trump in the three states Trump won, including Michigan, which isn’t exactly a tailor-made Cruz state. Ultimately, Cruz picked up nearly 40 percent of the night’s delegates — not too shabby.
- Trump 461
- Cruz 360
- Rubio 154
- Kasich 54
Cruz is now over a hundred delegates back, his biggest deficit of the primary, with fewer delegates remaining, and barely any states still favorable to him. His only path is if all non-Trumpeters unify behind him, and even then…
Trump’s Triumph: We may remember last week as the short-lived low point of the Trump Campaign. This nadir was caused by Cruz surging on Super Tuesday and Saturday, Romney coordinating an establishment denial of Trump, and Trump’s most embarrassing debate yet. Trump is finally vulnerable, we thought.
But then he won big in Mississippi, the heart or Cruz’s evangelical South. He won in Michigan, an example of a big, northern, moderate state that was supposed to be more resistant to him. He won in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, where few expected him to win a caucus (which Cruz had normally dominated) that did not allow independents to partake (a group with which Trump excelled) in a state with a relatively low white population that could care less about a southern wall (both of which made Rubio a possibility). He’s winning all over the country and is now an overwhelming favorite to be the Republican nominee.
A consequential Junior Tuesday, indeed. I’m depressed. My precious brokered convention — my only Christmas wish — took a major hit.
There are three contests between now and next week’s big Tuesday, though none of them are a state:
March 10: US Virgin Islands caucuses (9 pledged delegates)
March 12: Washington DC caucuses (19 pledged)
March 12: Guam caucuses (9 unpledged)
I won’t rule out breaking those down, but I won’t guarantee it either. Of course, the day we’re really looking forward to is March 15 — “Ides of March Tuesday” — where 367 delegates are on the line, including three sizable states where the winners will get all the delegates.
Florida Primary (99)–winner-take-all
North Carolina Primary (72)
Illinois Primary (69)
Ohio Primary (66)–winner-take-all
Missouri Primary (52)–winner-take-all
Northern Mariana Islands Primary (9)–winner-take-all!!
I’ll surely take a close look at these in the next six days — you know, if my Virgin Islands analysis affords me the time.
Next, a breakdown of the Democrats’ Junior Tuesday.