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A good night for Donald Trump – but he’s not inevitable yet

Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton is all-but-inevitable. 

By jonathan Jones

Is it possible that a day when he won seven states was actually a slightly underwhelming Super Tuesday for Donald Trump?

On the one hand, the notion is ridiculous. After all, Trump won the most votes, states and convention delegates yesterday. He is still in a commanding position atop the Republican field – with about 100 more delegates so far than anyone else – and remains the clear favourite to be the party’s nominee.

But given the narrative of Trump dominance that’s been built up by his wins in New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada and most of the polls over the last month, it stopped short of being a really great night for him. He lost to Ted Cruz in Texas, Oklahoma and Alaska. He finished third (behind Marco Rubio and Cruz) in Minnesota, and only very narrowly won from Cruz in Arkansas, from Rubio in Virginia, and from Kasich in Vermont. In only two states – Massachusetts and Alabama – did he get more than 40 per cent of the vote. According to PredictWise, the betting markets were a little underwhelmed too: Trump’s implied chances of the nomination fell from 86 per cent just before polls closed in the east to 78 per cent once the results were in.

Trump’s position is still very strong – not least because Marco Rubio, the man with the best chance of beating him, had a pretty bad night. He finally won a state (Minnesota), but fell short of the 20 per cent threshold needed to win a share of the state-wide delegates in Alabama, Texas and Vermont. He looks likely to come away from Super Tuesday a distant third in the delegate race, with around 120 delegates to Cruz’s 230 and Trump’s 330. (A candidate needs 1,237 delegates to win the nomination.)

Rubio clearly hoped to emerge from Super Tuesday as the last man standing against Trump, but both Cruz and John Kasich had good enough nights to carry on. Cruz’s three wins beat late expectations, but he really needed to do a lot better across the southern states – five of which he lost to Trump – to have a realistic chance of the nomination. Kasich had focused on the two north-eastern states – Massachusetts and Vermont – and managed a close second to Trump in the latter. (He might get second place – albeit a very distant one – in Massachusetts too. He’s 1,000 votes ahead of Rubio with 97 per cent of precincts reported). It’s not nearly enough to make Kasich a serious challenger to Trump, but it might well be enough to keep him in the race a while longer, sucking up potential anti-Trump voters.

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Continuing to demonstrate the huge support from black voters that propelled her to a 50-point win in South Carolina on Saturday, Hillary Clinton won by huge margins in the six states where more than 30 per cent of the electorate were non-white (her worst of these was Virginia, where she won by “only” 64 per cent–35 per cent). She also narrowly beat Bernie Sanders in Massachusetts, which had looked like one of his better states demographically. Sanders won four states: Vermont, Minnesota, Colorado and Oklahoma.

The fact that Clinton won the biggest states by such large margins means that she will take away around 500 delegates to around 350 for Sanders – taking their total of pledged delegates to roughly 600 for Clinton and just over 400 for Sanders. That, coupled with her huge lead in superdelegates, cements Clinton’s position as the almost-inevitable nominee.