Now What: Super Tuesday And The Emergence Of The Nominees?


Written by Matt Bennett, SVP, Washington D.C. Practice Lead & Liz Wells, Senior Account Executive

Tomorrow is a big deal in the 2016 election. Super Tuesday sees more than a dozen states and territories hold their presidential primaries and caucuses and there will likely be a great deal of clarity on Wednesday morning.

 

Before we get to tomorrow’s races, last week saw some important developments as South Carolina and Nevada voted. Donald Trump won both contests on the Republican side, demonstrating a strong base of support and cementing his position as the dominant front-runner. Hillary Clinton performed similarly well with Democrats, achieving a solid win in Nevada to re-establish her leading position after a bad loss in New Hampshire, and an overwhelming victory (73% – 26%) in South Carolina.

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Now the race goes into overdrive. The majority of delegates in both parties will be awarded in the March primaries and caucuses. February helped to winnow the field on the Republican side and created more competition than expected for the Democrats. The uncertainty of the early contests will now give way to clear pictures of what will happen in both parties.

 

In tomorrow’s voting, there are only a small number of potential outcomes.

 

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton is polling well ahead of Senator Sanders and if the results hold, she will have a clear and likely path to the nomination.

 

On the Republican side, there are two possibilities:

  • Donald Trump holds his polling lead and wins most of the states, forces Ted Cruz from the race (if he can’t win his home state of Texas), and has only to face a weakened Marco Rubio in the Florida primary on March (where Trump also leads). In this scenario, he is the de facto Republican nominee by March 15. As Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo put it, “If Trump does as well on Tuesday as the current polls suggest, he will likely be unstoppable. Not necessarily because the numbers will make him inevitable but because the pageantry of winning will continue to elevate Trump and overwhelm Rubio and Cruz.”
  • Conversely, if Trump underperforms in some states, Rubio has better than expected finishes (including, perhaps, his first victory?) and consolidates establishment support, then the race turns into a two-man slug fest throughout the rest of the March primaries. In this outcome, either candidate could ultimately receive the nomination. But the possibility of neither obtaining enough delegates and a contested convention is very real. Could this open the door for a Kasich insurgency or some other candidate to emerge at the convention? Probably not.

 

In the final Republican debate—number 11, for those keeping score at home—before Super Tuesday,  Rubio and Cruz finally took Trump on directly—but it may be too late in the game to matter. Their attacks appeared to knock the frontrunner off stride at times, but he remained bombastic throughout the debate. The success of the attacks underscored the political miscalculations that delayed Rubio, Cruz and others from direct engagement with Trump throughout the fall. Though Rubio emerged with a much-needed debate win, at least according to the pundits, Trump holds significant leads in the polls in states voting tomorrow, and a clear advantage in delegate math. And he blunted any Rubio momentum by immediately announcing the endorsement of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, and followed that with another endorsement from Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions.

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In the entertainment section, Ben Carson also attended the debate Thursday night, and all we got was this weird fruit salad metaphor.

 

We’re getting to the inflection point in this presidential primary. Answers are coming soon and we’ll start to understand how to engage and communicate throughout the general election as the nominees emerge. It might be all over except for the vote counting.

 

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