While the biggest day of primary season so far—Super Tuesday on March 1—wrapped up two weeks ago, this Tuesday March 15 (Super Tuesday III) holds a number of high-stakes contests that could make or break the presidential race for the four Republicans and two Democrats still in the running. Ohio, Florida, North Carolina, Illinois and Missouri will all be casting primary ballots today so PolitickerNJ decided to round up what each of the remaining six has to gain or lose from today’s races.
Unless there are some real upsets, expect the number of candidates to thin out after these races. Today’s races have a huge number of delegates on the line so, if margins are big enough, the results will all-but-decide who gets each party’s nomination.
- Florida Senator Marco Rubio. Rubio, perhaps, has the most to lose today. In his home state of Florida, Rubio is polling behind frontrunner Donald Trump by a double-digit margin. An inability to pick up his home state would mean his campaign would likely need to come to a halt due to an increasing inability to raise funds after a loss. Also, Florida is a “winner take all” state. That means that if Rubio loses, all 99 of the state’s delegates will go to Trump if he wins as predicted.
- Ohio Governor John Kasich. The sitting Ohio governor is popular in his home state but today will determine whether or not that popularity is enough to push him to a victory over the wildly popular Trump. Recent polls have put Kasich and Trump in a tight race in the Buckeye State. Even if he wins, Kasich is still likely to have a difficult road ahead. Like Florida, Ohio is “winner take all” so it is possible that Kasich will come out of a victory in the state with all 66 of the delegates at stake. Even so, it is likely his campaign will falter following Ohio just because of the sheer delegate numbers. Republicans need 1,237 delegates for the nomination. Trump currently leads the pack with 469 while Kasich trails the rest of the Republican candidates with only 63. A win in Ohio could reenergize the campaign but it would be Kasich’s first win. Kasich is also banking on a strong showing in Illinois, another “winner take all” state. As will Florida, however, polls put Trump in a solid lead there.
- Texas Senator Ted Cruz. The Texas senator is hoping that Tuesday’s primaries will leave the GOP with a two-man race moving forward. Without Kasich and Rubio in the mix, many of their supporters would likely back Cruz, as would much of the GOP establishment that has been clinging to the two candidates. So far, Cruz has been a steady second to Trump. Cruz currently has 370 delegates (to Trump’s 469). He is likely to come in second in Missouri, Illinois and North Carolina. Because North Carolina is a proportional delegate state, a strong finish there could keep Cruz in the race and bump up his delegate count as he prepares to duke it out with Trump all the way to the July 18 Republican National Convention.
- Donald Trump. It is looking like today will be a big victory for Trump. Polls have him ahead in every voting state other than Ohio. That means that Trump could likely end the night as the indisputable frontrunner for the nomination and solidify the spot he has held since the race began. The anti-Trump fervor has been growing significantly among those in the GOP establishment, however, so it is likely that voters backing one of the other three Republican candidates will coalesce behind whoever is left that isn’t the Donald (likely Cruz). Regardless, it looks as though Trump will be one of the official options for the party’s nomination in July
- Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. When he first entered the race, few thought Sanders would pose much of a threat to the formidable former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. In Ohio, polls are currently putting Sanders at about 11 points behind Clinton. Normally, that margin would favor Clinton but the upset in Michigan (where Sanders beat Clinton despite poll numbers having her in the lead by over 20 points) means that the margin of error for Sanders might be larger than in past elections. In fact, in the majority of the contest today (with the exception of Florida and North Carolina), Sanders’ margins in the polls fall within the range of the upset he pulled off in Michigan. For Sanders, that means he is hoping for lighting to strike twice. If he does win in any state today, that could mean more confidence from the electorate and less criticism that he is an “unelectable” candidate. Clinton is still expected to come out on top today, but expect Sanders to stay in for the long haul until the July convention in Philadelphia. After today, there is a shift more in Sanders’ favor which means he still will try to catch up to Clinton in an effort to become the Democratic nominee.
- Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Clinton is likely to win by huge margins in Florida and North Carolina, partly due to her popularity with African American voters, a group less likely to favor Sanders. Wins there could solidify Clinton’s frontrunner status (she currently has 768 pledged delegates to Sanders’ 554) and make it harder for Sanders to grasp the eventual nomination. Democrats give delegates proportionally and have the superdelegate system, two factors which also bode well for Clinton as she pursues the nomination. The majority of the party’s superdelegates are with her and proportional wins mean that, even if she loses by a narrow margin as she did in Michigan, she will still likely come out of today’s contests with a solid number of delegates.