After his failure in New Hampshire, a pretty poor Super Tuesday and a terrible string of results since, Marco Rubio bet it all on his home state of Florida – and lost. Last night, he finished 19 percentage points behind Donald Trump and suspended his campaign.
So, of the 17 Republicans we started with, we’re down to just three. They are, arguably, the three with the best-defined campaign messages. Ted Cruz embodies the “true conservative”, serving up an all-you-can-eat buffet of red meat for evangelicals and the right. John Kasich is running as the electable, compassionate conservative, with a relentlessly positive and relatively moderate campaign. And Donald Trump is Donald Trump. By contrast, the early favourites – Scott Walker, Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio – tried to be all things to all men. They didn’t cultivate a base of support, they allowed their approach to be dictated by others (mainly Trump), and ultimately they failed.
As well as Florida, Trump won Illinois, North Carolina and (very narrowly) Missouri, but lost Ohio to its Governor, John Kasich. Missing out on Ohio’s 66 delegates (which all go to Kasich) is a setback to Trump’s hopes of winning the 1,237 delegates to claim the nomination without a contested convention. He’s won 47 per cent of delegates so far, and needs 55 per cent of those remaining (some of which will not actually be bound by the votes). That is possible, though, especially with more winner-take-all states to come.
In the 13 contests between Super Tuesday and “Mini Super Tuesday” (or whatever you want to call yesterday), Ted Cruz had done fairly well racking up delegates, winning 138 to Trump’s 127. But last night – though he came a close second in North Carolina and Missouri – he could only manage around 50 to Trump’s 230. As a result, he’s now about 270 delegates behind Trump, and would need an unrealistic 81% of those remaining to clinch the nomination. In reality, his hopes of the nomination rest on denying Trump a majority and then convincing the Republican convention to crown him over Trump.
Kasich may have won his first state, but he now cannot win a majority of delegates. He’s currently 1,091 short with only 1,000 available in the remaining contests. To claim the nomination, he’ll need a contested convention, and possibly also a change to the Republican Party’s rules. Currently, they require candidates to have a majority of delegates from at least eight states to have their name placed in nomination – a target Trump has already hit, and one that looks achievable for Cruz but likely out of reach for Kasich.
On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton put her narrow loss in Michigan last week firmly behind her, winning by big margins in Florida, North Carolina and Ohio, by a smaller margin in Illinois and by a tiny margin (less than 2,000 votes) in Missouri. She extended her delegate lead by another 90 or so (mainly due to her 31-point victory in Florida). She now has around 310 more pledged delegates than Sanders, as well as 440 more superdelegates.
The pace of the race will calm a little now. The fortnight since Super Tuesday has seen 19 contests with 744 delegates on the Republican side and 12 contests with 997 delegates on the Democratic side. The next fortnight will see just three Republican contests allocating 107 delegates (all next Tuesday) and six Democratic ones allocating 273 delegates.
Arizona will be the state to watch in the Republican race next Tuesday. All of its 58 delegates will go to the winner, and stopping Trump from claiming them would go a long way to preventing him from getting to 1,237. The latest polling puts Trump on around 34 per cent there. Can either Cruz or Kasich take advantage of Rubio dropping out and unite the anti-Trump vote behind them, or will they continue to split it, allowing Trump to win once again with a vote share significantly below 50 per cent?
Meanwhile, Sanders may well be able to eat a little into Clinton’s delegate lead, as the upcoming contests are all in relatively friendly territory for him. Still, he’d need a very unlikely 58 per cent of the remaining delegates to take a majority (excluding superdelegates), so Hillary can now turn her attention to winning the general election in November.