Posted on March 15, 2016 by Palmer Gibbs
After more than nine topsy-turvy months on the campaign trail and various debate stages, the presidential race moves into another crucial multi-s
tate primary day on March 15. Throughout the day, voters will head to the polls in Florida, Illinois, Missouri, North Carolina and Ohio, which collectively allot the second-most delegates in one day during the nomination process.
Dubbed Super Tuesday Part II, 792 Democratic delegates and 358 Republican delegates are up for grabs on March 15. (The first installment of Super Tuesday, on March 1, offered up a total of 1,460 delegates.) While the number of available delegates makes it a critical primary day, Ohio and Florida are also pivotal general election states. Florida has voted with the winning candidate in nine of the last 10 presidential races, while Ohio has done so for all 10 recent races. Doing well in those states on Tuesday means a lot of primary delegates, but it also bolsters a candidate’s perceived general election viability.
Tuesday is big for Rubio and Kasich — not only do both of them need any and all delegates to keep them in the running for the nomination, but politicians can typically count on winning their home state. For instance, on March 1, Super Tuesday Part I, Cruz won Texas handily and pulled off a victory in neighboring Oklahoma.
The situation looks a lot different this week in Rubio’s native Florida, where the first-term senator is down by almost 20 points, according to polling data. He has consistently scored lower than Trump, who calls Florida his “second home.”
Two specific surveys back up the double-digit deficit that polling averages find. The recent Quinnipiac University polls indicate Trump has collected a bit more support in the last week, while Rubio continues to hover at 22 percent. Cruz’s numbers have gone down slightly, while Kasich has seen a slight bump.
Rubio has put all of his chips on winning in Florida, hunkering down in the Sunshine State for the full week before voters head to the polls there. During a rally last week in Sarasota, Rubio told the crowd: “It has to happen here, and it has to happen now.”
Kasich fairs better in his native Ohio. According to polling averages, he leads Trump by about 3 percent there. Two recent Quinnipiac polls show Kasich benefited from a 12-point boost in the three weeks before that state’s primary, a promising upward trajectory at the right time.
One complicating factor for Republicans: Two of the five states with primaries on Tuesday — Florida and Ohio — are winner take all. So, unlike in previous contests, where a second- or third-place finish still meant earning a portion of delegates, only the top vote-getter collects any delegates from the state. If Trump wins Florida, he gets all 99 delegates. Rubio would get zero, with the remaining primary schedule offering few alternative paths to victory for his campaign.
Republicans also caucused earlier today in the Northern Mariana Islands, a U.S. territory. According to news reports, Trump won the nine available delegates there, which is also under the winner-take-all setup.
After a string of victories for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders brought them to a screeching halt with his upset win in the Michigan primary last week. Clinton still has the upper hand on overall delegate count, with 1,235 total delegates to Sanders’ 580, but that surprise victory could have shifted the momentum into his favor.
Clinton continues to hold a big lead in Florida — about 30 points, according to polling averages. But during the last week, one poll shows she has slipped slightly while Sanders has gained a bit of ground.
Clinton still looks poised to pull off a win there, but a strong showing by Sanders would feed into the narrative that his campaign still has legs as the nomination fight continues. Clinton’s so-called firewall among minority voters got put to the test in Michigan last week, and a better-than-expected finish in Florida could give Sanders yet another shot of momentum.
The race also tightened in the last few days in Ohio. According to polling averages, Clinton’s lead dwindled from 39 points on March 6 to about eight points on March 15. A similar scenario is playing out in Illinois, where Clinton clings to a two-point lead. As the visualization shows, as recently as March 8, Clinton had a 31-point lead there.
Delegates will continue to be doled out proportionally for Democrats, which means Sanders can pick up a good number of delegates even if he doesn’t win states outright. Although he still has a significant amount of ground to cover to catch up to Clinton, any big wins for the Sanders camp means he will likely stay in the race for longer. It’s a remarkable turnaround from last summer, when Clinton entered the race as the presumptive nominee.
Much like how Trump’s continued success took the Republican Party off-guard, Sanders’ ability to challenge Clinton’s inevitability status with wins and still-climbing poll numbers indicate there’s plenty of discontent among Democrats, too. Super Tuesday Part II gives voters another opportunity to show that frustration.
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