It looks like the story tonight is the steam bleeding off from Bernie-mentum. Hillary romped over Bernie in Ohio and Florida, as well as North Carolina, where she was expected to outpace him pretty easily. Illinois is still too close to call, with 61% of the vote in. Hillary has a narrow but healthy lead, much the situation Bernie was in last week when he won Michigan.
(We might make a mini-story out of the fact that Bernie got a rather healthy chunk of the votes in North Carolina. With 72% of the vote in, he’s holding at 40% to her 55%. But the Bernie scare has been warded off in key, big-prize states on Super-Duper Tuesday, and surely the Hillary faithful and the DNC can heave a sigh of at least temporary relief.)
On the Republican side, is there anyone who didn’t expect Trump to be the big winner tonight? He thumped [score]Marco Rubio[/score] soundly in Florida, nailing down nearly 46% of the vote in spite of Rubio’s home-field popularity, and the big, enthusiastic crowds that have shown up for his final-days campaign swing.
A short time ago, Rubio announced he was suspending his campaign.
[score]Ted Cruz[/score], as anticipated, got closest to Trump in North Carolina, running around 36.5% to Trump’s 40.5% with three-quarters of the precincts reporting. Cruz didn’t do quite as well in Illinois, where he’s in second also with some 28%.
The problem for the runners-up in most of the states tonight is that the primaries are winner-take-all, on the GOP side. That hurts Cruz, although he’s still very much in it in Missouri (where he’s running within 2,000 votes of Trump, in a race still too close to call). If he doesn’t take Missouri, he gets only 24 delegates from North Carolina.
Kasich, by contrast, will get all 66 of the delegates from Ohio, as well as collecting a handful from North Carolina. Trump is in second place in the Buckeye State, of course, with Cruz running a distant third. But that matters to the calculations of the future, not tonight.
Here are some snapshots from today’s work. Still waiting for calls on the Illinois Democratic race, and both sides in Missouri, as of 10 PM Central (11 Eastern).
The close races on the Democratic side:
Obviously, Trump takes a YUUGE jump forward in the delegate count tonight. Fox is noting a cheerful and positive tone from Trump (at least according to commentators like Mike Huckabee), as opposed to a tired, bitter tone from Hillary. And I do have to say I thought Hillary came off as “mailed in,” with little enthusiasm or vigor in her wrap-up of the evening.
Although Cruz is doing as well as or better than expected, he came off kind of flat in his speech as well. My perception of him from Friday night stands: he needs to reassess the conditions in the battle space, and adjust his emphasis and appeal.
Trump got a boost, not a hit, from the misguided attempt to “shut him down” in Chicago. A directly adversarial stance against Trump hasn’t been working for anyone, and it’s not going to work for Cruz. The task now, for the Republican who wants to edge out Trump, is to address the things that energize Trump voters, and show that there’s a candidate who will prioritize those things better and more credibly than Trump will. Attacking Trump head-on as a jerk simply will not work.
As this goes to post: Sanders has pulled ahead of Clinton in Missouri, with 89% of the vote in. He’s up 50.6% to 48.3%. Trump’s narrow lead over Cruz has risen to about 3,000 votes — or 41.3 to 40.9% — with 89% reporting as well.
*UPDATE*: At 11 PM Central/midnight Eastern, it’s still too close to call for the Democrats in Illinois. At the 91% reporting mark, Hillary has pulled only ever so slightly ahead, with 50.6% versus Bernie’s 48.5%, and a margin of less than 38,000 votes.
Missouri is even closer, for both sides. Trump is still ahead by a razor-thin 3,000 and change, with a percentage breakout of 41.2% to Cruz’s 40.8. That’s with 93% of the vote in, but the balance of the count could still tip the total for Cruz. Bernie has about 10,000 votes on Hillary, or 50.3 to 48.6%. My guess is he’ll pull this one out, but there’s no call by a major network that I’ve seen yet.
These contests look to go past everybody’s bedtime east of the Mississippi.
I neglected to mention earlier than Trump won the caucus in the Northern Mariana Islands, which adds 9 delegates to his burgeoning total.