For those of you who don’t feel like combing through our live coverage of the “Super Tuesday” presidential contests in the United States, here is a collection of the most compelling insights from the night.
Virginia is a bellwether
Of the states that voted on Tuesday, Virginia was probably the most representative of the country. Its was anyway the most important contest.
Virginia has a large black voting population, but it doesn’t comprise a majority of the Democratic electorate as is the case in other Southern states. There is also a sizable Hispanic minority. Both of which benefitted Hillary Clinton on the Democratic side.
The Appalachian west of the state, bordering on West Virginia, is Trump country. This is the heartland of white, working-class “Jacksonian” America that has fueled the New Yorker’s presidential ambitions. In some counties, he won an outright majority of the votes there.
The swing voters in both parties are the better-educated and wealthier inhabitants of the state’s coastal areas, including the suburbs around Washington DC. The fact that Marco Rubio did better with those voters argues in his favor for the general election. It are voters in the middle in states like Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia who will decide the outcome of the presidential election in November.
Rubio is a weak candidate
Sure, he won nearly as many delegates in Virginia as Donald Trump: sixteen against seventeen. But he didn’t win. The fact that he couldn’t, in what was arguably the most establishment-friendly state on the Republican side yesterday, does not bode well for him.
This website has consistently argued that Rubio is overrated. Republicans who make a living out of politics like him, because all he does is put a fresh face on the same policies that have failed the party in two presidential elections in a row. His social views are awfully reactionary. His foreign policy is more alarmist and blusterous than George W. Bush’s. His economic policy is a throwback to the 1980s. If Republicans nevertheless think he can defeat Hillary Clinton because he’s young and Hispanic, they are deluding themselves.
But who else is there?
Ted Cruz needed to win his home state of Texas and he did. He also won Alaska and Oklahoma. But that only reinforced that he is the factional candidate of the Christian right. And a weak one at that. Trump has been eating into his support from evangelicals everywhere.
Cruz is now ahead of Rubio in the delegate count and will inevitably argue that he is the only one who can stop Trump. But now that the South has voted, the rest of the primary calendar doesn’t look favorable to a hardline conservative like Cruz. Is he going to win in Illinois? Michigan? Ohio? Probably not.
Kasich is going for broker
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the night was that John Kasich effectively tied for first place with Trump in Vermont. Both won six delegates there. The governor of Ohio also picked up a few delegates in Massachusetts and expects to do well across the Midwestern states that vote next.
He is not going to rack up a majority of the delegates or even best Cruz and Rubio for second place. But he could play a deciding role in the nomination contest if — as looks increasingly likely — no single candidate wins a majority of the delegates before the convention takes place in, of all places, Ohio this summer.
Many reporters use the term “brokered convention” to describe such a scenario. We prefer “contested convention” because who are the brokers?
Well, Kasich could be one. If he brings a couple of hundred delegates to Cleveland (assuming he wins all 66 delegates in his home state’s winner-takes-all primary later this month) he would be in a position to dictate terms.
Sanders is not going anywhere yet
The Vermont socialist won the contests in Colorado, Minnesota, Oklahoma and his home state. That gives him enough reason to stay in the race, but ultimately there is no way he will defeat Hillary Clinton.
Last month, we identified three reasons why Bernie Sanders can’t win. None of those arguments look any less persuasive to us today. But it’s true that Clinton hasn’t wrapped this up. The fact that she hasn’t been able to close the gap with young voters is especially worrisome for the Democratic Party long term.