Super Tuesday is perhaps the most important day in the presidential campaigning. Jack Mountford assesses this year’s winners and losers.
Super Tuesday is a make or break moment for presidential campaigns. Yesterday on 1 March, eleven states, ranging from Massachusetts in the north to Alabama and Texas in the south, cast their votes for candidates from the Democratic and Republican parties. As expected, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump made big gains, both carrying seven of the eleven voting states. They now gain critical momentum as the remaining states count down to their own votes. For other candidates, particularly Republicans, the picture is much bleaker.
Super Tuesday is truly a gruelling test. The concept began in 1988 to counteract the so-called “Iowa syndrome.” The Hawkeye State has long been criticised as unrepresentative of the broader American electorate; its population is small and fairly uniform in terms of ethnicity. Yet candidates often spend many months campaigning there, and Iowa’s position as the first primary has given it disproportionate influence over the nomination process as a whole. The purpose of Super Tuesday, therefore, is to introduce candidates to the trials and tribulations of a national campaign. Quite the baptism of fire.
Hillary Clinton was looking to solidify the lead established in the South Carolina Primary on 27 February, and the votes certainly came through for the former secretary of state. Clinton’s so-called “Southern Firewall” held fast, and overwhelming support from black and ethnic minority voter groups propelled her to victory in several key states, including delegate-rich Georgia, Virginia and Texas. Tellingly, Clinton scarcely made mention of rival candidate Bernie Sanders in her victory speech in Miami, instead choosing to direct attacks at Donald Trump. Clearly, Hillary Clinton is preparing for a general election fight.
The night was tougher for Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. Despite a resounding win in his home state and victories in Colorado, Minnesota and Oklahoma, Sanders still trails Clinton heavily in terms of delegate numbers. Currently, Clinton leads 544 to 349, and Sanders’ path to victory is now a lot narrower. Some supporters are beginning to worry that Sanders’ idealism won’t be able to propel him to nomination. Nonetheless, all hope is not lost for Bernie Sanders. Donations continue to flow in and the cantankerous Senator has promised to fight on through all fifty states. “The Bern” hasn’t smouldered quite yet.
In the Republican camp, Donald Trump continues his inexorable and inexplicable march towards nomination. Although the New York businessman didn’t win a clean sweep, Trump gained a majority of states and now has a big lead in terms of pledged delegates. With overwhelming victories in states ranging from Georgia to (perhaps surprisingly) the more moderate state of Massachusetts, Trump has clearly displayed the breadth of his support. And in a break from convention, what followed was a quiet press conference, albeit at one of his Florida mansions. There, Trump pledged to act as a unifying force in the Republican Party. No accusations towards Ted Cruz, no insults aimed at Marco Rubio. As with Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump seems to be posturing a general election campaign. That, to the detriment of many, seems to be increasingly within his grasp.
Similarly to Sanders, Texas Senator Ted Cruz suffered and is down but not out. Carrying his home state as well Alaska and Oklahoma, Cruz has done just enough to assert his position whilst strengthening his claim that he is the only viable alternative to Trump. For Florida Senator Marco Rubio however, the results proved to be a critical setback. Whilst he won the northern state of Minnesota, Rubio’s claim that only he has the political standing to defeat Trump among a polarised Republican electorate now lies in tatters. As for minor candidates John Kasich and Ben Carson, the race now seems to be all but over. Indeed, Carson has announced that he sees “no political path forward“, and is expected to officially end his campaign tomorrow.
Super Tuesday has been a boon for some candidates and a shambles for others. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump continue their respective marches towards presumptive nominations. For others, like Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz, the fight for the nomination just became an uphill battle. Meanwhile, candidates including Marco Rubio have suffered major blows, and the Ben Carson campaign is now dead in the water. But the primaries aren’t over yet. The electoral race will now continue towards Kansas and Kentucky on 8 March. The contest now begins in earnest.
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