Super Tuesday – Winners and Losers

Sam Mitchell, Contributing Editor

The primary season is wrought with numerous trials and triumphs as the race bounces throughout the early months of the election year from state to state, changing geographic regions and shifting ideologically with every bound. Come March, however, the campaigns are forced to grow from the small campaigns of Iowa and New Hampshire. They are forced to radically expand their organization and fundraising efforts, reach out to voters across the country, and prove that they have what it takes to run and successfully execute a national campaign.

This day is known as ‘Super Tuesday’. It is the day on which many states hold their primaries or caucuses. On this day, which fell on March 1st for the 2016 race, over a dozen states held their contests, for a total of 595 delegates up for grabs for the GOP and 893 delegates available for the Democrats. On Super Tuesday, some candidates can win big, converting momentum into real votes and party support, while others flounder, unable to turn small successes in demographic pockets around the country (like the predominantly white New Hampshire or evangelical Iowa) into national victories. Although enough delegates are left to provide ample room for a comeback, the results of Super Tuesday will set the tone for the rest of the election season.




Donald Trump – The frontrunner for the GOP nomination had a very strong showing, winning seven of the eleven states with Republican contests outright and placing second in three. Trump had strong victories in Massachusetts, beating Rubio and Kasich, who tied for second, by 31 percentage points, Virginia, where he bested Rubio by 3 percentage points, and Georgia, where he fought off the Senator from Florida by 14 percentage points. The significance of this is that Trump has verified what polling had only predicted: he is not only competitive in states in every part of the country, but popular enough to win elections, often by huge margins. His delegate lead continues to grow and, according to the New York Times, it is now exceedingly likely that Trump will be the nominee, even with victories that are much more modest than the ones he has posted of late.


Ted Cruz – Although Cruz did not win enough delegates to make up his growing deficit against Trump, he did accomplish two important goals for his campaign. The first is winning his home state of Texas. This was a vital victory for Cruz, both because of its large number of delegates and because losing a home state in which one was very popular is typically seen as a sign of extreme weakness, and could have been the death blow for the Cruz campaign. The second success was in demonstrating that he was the only viable alternative to Trump by winning more states than him, taking home vastly more delegates than him (209 to 90), and tying him in number of second places (both had 4). It does not appear that Cruz has what it takes to take the mantle of frontrunner from Trump, but he has left this election with the results to support a mandate, however unlikely it may be, to consolidate anti-Trump sentiment within the Republican party.



Marco Rubio – The freshman Senator from Florida is the favorite candidate of the establishment wing of the Republican party. Unlike in previous elections, this has not led to much support from voters. Rubio took home only one state, the very liberal state of Minnesota, and failed to make much headway elsewhere in the country. When he did finish second, he was often bested by double digit percentage points. Rubio didn’t expect to come out of Super Tuesday with a strong delegate lead – most of the states were Southern and conservative. However, he needed to do well in liberal and swing states like Virginia, Vermont, and Massachusetts, both of which he lost to Trump. This indicates that when the other liberal and swing states come around, like Florida and Ohio, which are both winner-take-all and have huge delegate prizes, he will also lose them. Those states are now must-wins for the Rubio due to his ever-increasing delegate deficit.


John Kasich – The Ohio governor had hoped to consolidate Republican moderates around his campaign, winning in similar states to those which Rubio hoped for: Minnesota, Massachusetts, Vermont, and Virginia. However, although he won some very liberal counties, he failed to win a state, placed second only twice, and came home with very few delegates. Facing serious pressure from establishment Republicans to drop out and throw his support to the anti-Trump movement, this weak showing only compounds previous questions about his inviability as a candidate.




Hillary Clinton – Winning seven out of the eleven Democratic contests, all but Massachusetts by about 30 percentage points (and giving her best performance in Alabama, where she bested Sanders by 61 percentage points), Clinton gave a strong, although not unexpected, performance. She took home 426 delegates to Bernie’s 260 and increased her lead to over 200 delegates. More than the simple numbers of the races, Hillary had success with a number of more subtle but more important factors. After her win in the Nevada caucus, exit poll data was heavily disputed regarding which candidate fared better among Hispanic voters. This has apparently been put to rest; in Texas, exit polls have showed the Clinton-Sanders split to be anything but close in the Hispanic population – NBC News reported that Hillary took home 70% of Hispanic Democrats. It is largely this support that she rode to her 66%-33% victory over Senator Sanders on Tuesday. Additionally, this support will be vitally important in the upcoming contests in other states with large Hispanic populations. Primarily, the delegate-rich state of California (38% Hispanic) and the upcoming winner-take-all state of Florida (23% Hispanic) will likely see the consequence of this particular demographic. Additionally, the former Secretary of State proved that her strong victory in South Carolina was no quirk and that her strong support among African Americans was no anomaly. Her so-called ‘Southern firewall’ demonstrated its efficacy; she swept the deep South (the closest Southern vote was in Virginia, which she won 64%-35%). NBC News reported that Clinton was still winning around 80% of the African American vote in the South on Super Tuesday. Although there is still plenty of time for shifts in support to occur and plenty of delegates left to be awarded before a nominee is chosen, Hillary Clinton’s delegate lead is certainly a boon to her campaign and her strong support among minority voters bodes well for the races still to come.



Bernie Sanders – The Democratic primary season is far from over, and there is certainly still a path to the nomination for the Senator from Vermont, his walloping on Super Tuesday will give his campaign less leeway in the months to come. To be sure, he had a strong performance on Tuesday: he won his home state by over 70 percentage points, won three other states outright, and nearly won Massachusetts away from Secretary Clinton. However, Bernie needed a stronger showing, especially among states with large minority contingents, to demonstrate that he has a legitimate ability to lead a party in the general that is strongly supported by minority voters. According to fivethirtyeight, a statistics blog, President Obama won 93% of the African American vote and 71% of the Hispanic vote in 2012. If Bernie Sanders wants to lead the Democratic Party, he not only needs to woo minority voters in order to win vital states like California and Florida, he also needs to convince them that he deserves their support, as the minority vote has become a bastion of American liberalism and a vital part of the Democratic Party since John F. Kennedy and the Civil Rights movement. So far, Bernie has had big wins in New Hampshire and Vermont, states which are 94% and 95% white (according to the US Census Bureau), respectively. He has fared well in Oklahoma and Minnesota, which are both over three quarters white. He has struck virtual ties in Iowa and Massachusetts, which both have predominantly white populations. The only state he has won with a minority group in double digit percentage points is Colorado, which is over 20% Hispanic. There was no exit polling, but it appears that Sanders and Clinton split the Latino vote in this state. Super Tuesday has by no means been the death of Sanders’ political revolution, but if he wants to last through the primary process and come out on top, it is absolutely vital that he finds a new way to make his message connect with minority voters.
If Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump can build upon the successes they enjoyed on Super Tuesday, it appears that they will be their party’s nominees. Growing delegate leads and strong implications in vital demographic groups compellingly suggests that these two frontrunners will maintain their leads. However, it is not unprecedented for candidates to make a comeback; Bernie Sanders could finally break through in the African American community with his message of economic inequality, Marco Rubio could pull out a surprise victory in moderate states like Michigan and Ohio to pull himself back into the race, or Ted Cruz could consolidate anti-Trump sentiment if Rubio continues to flounder. As Americans across the country exercise their democratic responsibility and select a candidate to represent their party, the implications of the Super Tuesday contests will undeniably reverberate well into the summer.