Tuesday's Elections: 3 Trump Wins, Plus A Big Surprise From Sanders
The results from Tuesday's four primary and caucus states are in: three wins for Trump, one each for Clinton and Cruz, and one surprising, narrow victory for Sanders.
Bernie Sanders' tight win over Hillary Clinton in Michigan is the biggest news out of Tuesday night's presidential nomination races. Though Clinton had led consistently in recent polls, Sanders won by less than 2 percentage points with 99 percent of precincts reporting.
Clinton won easily in Mississippi earlier in the evening. On the Republican side, Donald Trump won in Hawaii, Michigan and Mississippi, and Ted Cruz won Idaho.
Here's what you need to know:
The Big Questions Tuesday Night Answered
Could Sanders really hold his own in Michigan?
Sanders' narrow win over Clinton is the biggest story of the night. Recent polls had shown Sanders behind Clinton by double digits.
It may be a sign of at least one of Clinton's vulnerabilities. Sanders had blasted Clinton on trade in Michigan, and his win may prove that that strategy was successful. He had targeted Clinton's past support for trade policies like NAFTA and the Obama administration's Trans-Pacific Partnership, saying that trade pacts kill the kinds of manufacturing jobs that many Michiganders have.
In exit polls, the majority of Michigan voters (58 percent) said they think trade takes away U.S. jobs, and Sanders was strong among those voters, with 56 percent of their vote. With another big-delegate Rust Belt state (Ohio) coming up next week, expect to see the Sanders camp amplify the trade message.
The question is what this does for Sanders. With Mississippi and Michigan taken together, Clinton wins more delegates.
Can Trump rack up more decisive wins?
Yes — but not everywhere.
Prior to Tuesday night, Trump had received more than 40 percent support in 5 out of 20 contests, as NPR's Domenico Montanaro reported this week. Tonight, he notched another of those big wins in Mississippi, where he got 47 percent of the vote.
In that state, it was largely a two-person race between Trump and Cruz. But in Michigan, where Kasich was competitive, Trump came in at around 36 percent. One thing to watch going ahead is — as other GOP candidates drop out — how many of their voters flock to Trump vs. another not-Trump candidate.
What's Rubio's situation?
Marco Rubio didn't even score double digits in Mississippi or Michigan, and in Hawaii and Idaho, he posted third-place finishes. Altogether, he won zero delegates.
The Florida Republican senator has only won one state thus far, with a Super Tuesday win in Minnesota. The question now is what he does next. In a Tuesday interview with Hugh Hewitt, Rubio said he'd stay in the race until the March 15 contest in Florida.
Since it's a winner-take-all state, Florida is a GOP delegate goldmine. And it's Rubio's home state, so he believes he can still rally some support there. The problem for Rubio is that recent polls have him double digits behind Trump in Florida. Of course, polls have been known to be wrong (see: tonight's Democratic race in Michigan). But if Rubio can't pull out a win in Florida, it could be a crippling blow to his campaign.
What Comes Next
The Democrats move straight from a hard-fought primary to a debate — Clinton and Sanders will debate in Miami on Wednesday night. Their last debate, in Flint, featured some of their testiest exchanges to date, so the question is whether the Miami event will be as fiery.
And for politics die-hards who just can't get enough debating, Republicans will meet in their own Miami debate on Thursday. Given that it's a home-turf debate for Rubio just days before that state's crucial primary, he will be the candidate to watch. The question here may be how he tries to differentiate himself.
Then on Tuesday, March 15, five states will hold both Democratic and Republican contests. Given that all five have considerable delegate prizes — and that three of those on the GOP side are winner-take-all — this will be another Super Tuesday of sorts, and one that could make the lay of the land much clearer in both races.
The Delegate Situation
Trump's three wins further distanced him from his competition in the delegate race. Heading into Tuesday night, Trump had 384 delegates, holding an 84-delegate lead over second-place Cruz. On Wednesday morning, Trump had 458 delegates, a lead of 99 over Cruz. A Republican candidate needs 1,237 delegates to win the nomination.
Meanwhile, while Sanders' win is the big news on the Democrat side, Clinton gained more total delegates from Michigan and Mississippi than he did. Going into Tuesday night, Clinton had won 673 pledged delegates, a 196-delegate lead over Sanders. On Wednesday morning, she had 760 pledged delegates, a 214-delegate lead over Sanders' 546.
Currently, Clinton has 1,221 total delegates, counting the unpledged superdelegates that factor into the Democratic race. Sanders has 571. A Democratic candidate needs 2,383 total delegates to win the nomination.
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