WASHINGTON — Five states held primaries on Tuesday night. Some people won, others lost.
– Hillary Clinton: It’s a delegate game at this point and Clinton’s massive win over Bernie Sanders in Florida alone would have made her a winner from these primaries. But, she also won Ohio — a place where the Sanders folks were sneaky confident in their chances — and North Carolina.
Yes, Sanders may win Missouri and Illinois is very close between the two candidates. But, remember: Winning isn’t enough for Sanders. He needs to win big states by a lot if he wants to make up real ground on Clinton’s large delegate lead. On Tuesday night, he didn’t do that. Again.
— John Kasich: When you have a “must-win” state and you win that state, you make the winners column. Period. That Kasich will get a boost from beating Trump is remarkable considering that Kasich won 86 of Ohio’s 88 counties in his 2014 reelection race and is a beloved figure among Republicans in the state. But, still, he won. The Kasich team should enjoy the night because the delegate math is, well, impossible for him. He would have to win more than 100 percent of the remaining available delegates to get to the 1,237 delegates he needs to be the party’s nominee. No matter, argued the Kasich campaign in a memo released Tuesday night. “With the electoral map shifting significantly in our favor, Governor Kasich is positioned to accumulate a large share of the almost 1,000 remaining delegates and enter Cleveland in strong position to become the nominee,” wrote chief strategist John Weaver. Um, ok. Kasich now seems likely to hang around at the periphery of the Trump-Cruz race for the next few months, hoping to collect delegates and lead a revivifying of the GOP establishment in the event the convention deadlocks and he emerges as a consensus candidate. “We are going to go all the way to Cleveland,” Kasich promised Tuesday night.
— Donald Trump: The Republican establishment is desperate to conclude that Trump’s loss to Kasich in Ohio makes this a bad night for the real estate mogul because his path to the 1,237 delegates he needs to formally lock up the nomination got more difficult. Or did it? As the Cook Political Report’s David Wasserman has noted, Trump’s clear statewide margin in Illinois appears to be trickling down to the state’s 18 congressional districts. And, remember that the winner of each congressional district gets three delegates while the statewide winner (Trump) gets 12. If Trump carries, say, 15 of the state’s 18 districts, he would net 57 delegates of the state’s 69 delegates — almost nullifying the 66 he lost in Ohio. Trump also won North Carolina and overwhelmingly in Florida. It’s possible that the math between Ohio and Illinois will ultimately work against Trump when all the votes are counted. But, he remains the only candidate in the GOP race with an even semi-credible path to securing the nomination before the GOP convention. That was true before Tuesday night and is just as true after Tuesday night. And Trump has now won at least 18 of the 32 contests (depending on the Missouri outcome) so far in the Republican race. Pretty good.
– Rick Scott: No, the Florida governor didn’t endorse any of the Republican candidates in his home state primary. But, there was no doubt that Scott carried an admiration for Trump. Scott, I believe, remains very much in the mix to be Trump’s vice presidential pick given how strong Florida came home for The Donald. Of course, Trump has to win the nomination first.
–Early poll closings: Five states. None closing later than 8 p.m. Eastern Time. God bless you Florida, Illinois, Ohio, North Carolina and Missouri. My sleep cycle thanks you.
– Marco Rubio: Losing your home state is one thing. Losing it by double digits? When you could see that loss coming from a mile away? (The last poll in Florida that showed anyone other than Trump ahead? It was in mid-July! And Jeb Bush, not Rubio, was the one who was ahead!) Rubio, I suppose, didn’t want to bow out before Florida voted since he said it would pick the nominee.
But in retrospect that might have been the right move in order to save some face for what remains a promising political career ahead. Rubio’s speech announcing that he would leave the race functioned as an indictment of Trumpism and a ground-laying for a future presidential (or gubernatorial) bid. And it was quite good, showcasing the potential that everyone in the GOP believed it might make Rubio its nominee this time around.
On the bright side, we’ll always have this:
– Bernie Sanders: Sanders will go on from this Tuesday of voting. He will continue to raise money. There will be states to come that Sanders will win. His movement will continue on. But, running a serious national campaign designed to influence the eventual nominee is a very different thing from running a serious national campaign to be the nominee. Tuesday night confirmed that the former is Sanders’s near-certain lot in this race. That’s not a bad place to be. But, it’s not a place that gets you to the winner’s circle.
– Republican establishment: With Rubio’s decision to leave the race, the establishment is left with two options to stop Trump: Cruz and Kasich. Cruz is hated by the party establishment — h-a-t-e-d — and Kasich’s chances of winning are roughly the chances that I run a 4.4 second 40-yard-dash anytime soon. It’s not totally impossible but it’s very, very, very, very unlikely. Rubio was long the establishment’s golden boy. But voters didn’t agree. If you doubted that the Republican establishment was toothless in the face of the revolution sparked by Trump, Rubio’s demise should convince you. The two most likely GOP nominees for president in 2016 are Trump and Cruz — a total nightmare scenario for establishment GOPers when this campaign started.
— “Super” Tuesdays: Let’s just stop. CNN ran “Super Tuesday 3” signage for days. Can we agree on two things going forward: 1) We never, ever call another Tuesday “super” for the rest of this election and 2) We spend 20 minutes some time between now and the 2020 primary season figuring out what to call each week in which more than one state votes? This shouldn’t be that hard. Deal? Ok. Super!