It’s another really Super Tuesday coming up on March 15, and this time it’s more Super than ever. Some pundits have dubbed it “Survival Tuesday,” alluding to the possibility that results could literally end the campaigns of a number of presidential contenders.
On the 15th, presidential primaries for both parties will be held in Florida, Ohio, Illinois, Missouri and North Carolina, and a Republican caucus in the Northern Marianas. These states not only represent a large segment of delegates in a pool that is already starting to dwindle, they also make up a big number of swing states, and a strong performance in one could be a sign that the winning candidate will take the state in the general, as well.
For Republicans, this may be a key moment to knock frontrunner Donald Trump out of the lead. Both Ohio and Florida are winner-take-all primaries, and that means a combined total of 165 delegates that could go to candidates other than Trump. Sen. Marco Rubio is lobbying his home state of Florida hard to try to win the vote, although Trump continues to lead the hometown favorite by anywhere between 6 and 24 points. Rubio would literally have to consolidate the entirety of the non-Trump vote in the state in order to win, and that’s exactly his plan.
“I’m telling people in Florida the truth: A vote for Ted Cruz or a vote for John Kasich in Florida is a vote for Donald Trump,” Rubio said in West Palm Beach, according to CNN.com. “Any vote that doesn’t go to me in essence is helping Donald Trump to win. … If Donald Trump wins by one vote, he will take 99 delegates.”
Ohio, meanwhile, is far tighter, with Ohio Governor John Kasich on track to upset Trump and win all 66 delegates. The two are currently tied in polling, and Kasich backers like former Speaker of the House John Boehner and former presidential contender Gov. Mitt Romney are trying to boost him around the state.
Meanwhile, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz appears to be trying to play spoiler in both states, allegedly wanting to try to get Kasich and Rubio to drop out and leave him to go head to head against Trump. Instead, his campaign push could actually give both states and all 165 delegates to Trump, which would actually make him a virtual lock for the endorsement. Considering Cruz also recently announced that whatever happens, he would back Trump as the endorsed candidate, could it be that someone made a backroom deal for a Vice Presidential spot if Trump does get the nomination?
A loss in Florida, which is looking likely, would probably mean the end of Rubio’s campaign, and a loss in Ohio, though less likely, would be the same for Kasich. That would give Cruz the head to head contest he wants, but also likely end any possibility of a brokered convention – pretty much the only scenario in which Trump doesn’t secure enough delegates for the nomination.
“If Trump can win both states, he’s on a glide path to earning a majority of delegates ahead of the July 18 convention. The only way to dethrone him at that point would be for the GOP to throw out its existing convention rules. A move that dramatic won’t happen. It would divide and destroy a party that has always prided itself on adhering to rules,” reports Politico. “But if Trump doesn’t win both states, the GOP is likely to find itself in Cleveland with no candidate above the 1,237-delegate majority needed to claim the nomination. If that happens, the Republican Party’s own rules lock in a quagmire in Cleveland — and likely a multi-ballot, no-holds-barred convention.”
On the other side of the aisle, you would think that the scenarios would be much simpler. After all, there are only two candidates, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was supposed to be a lock on the nomination. Tuesday’s five contests were projected to be the final straw that broke the campaign of Vermont’s Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders. Even now, polls show that everything should go in her favor and that her delegate lead will expand beyond the point where Sanders should be able to overtake her. Polls have her with large leads in Florida and North Carolina, and a smaller lead in Ohio, and Sanders with one or two percent leads in Illinois and Missouri. Since all of these states are proportional, there is little reason to expect Sanders to gain on Clinton delegate-wise, even if he does win two of five states.
Polling can be deceptive though, as we saw in Michigan. For whatever reason, Clinton’s nearly 20 point lead in that state evaporated at the voting booth, either due to voter turnout in favor of Sanders, Clinton supporters who thought she was far enough ahead that they could go vote in the GOP race instead, or some other factor. Polls show intent, but not the actual enthusiasm and ground game that gets a ballot cast and this time, no one in the Clinton camp is likely to take any vote for granted. Especially not after a series of missteps last week, ranging from bizarre praise of the Reagans to what came across as a chastisement of protesters who shut down a Donald Trump rally, both of which could be turning off her progressive base.
By the end of the night, if Clinton pulls off a five state sweep, the race should effectively be decided. Should Sanders win two or more states, no matter how small the margin or how many delegates Clinton actually gains over him, expect the fight to get even more entrenched and continue on far into April or beyond.