Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz waited deep into the night for the Show-Me State to show them some hope on an otherwise bleak Tuesday. Both trailed slightly as the final tallies trickled in.
Mr. Sanders was less than 700 votes behind Hillary Clinton in Missouri in the early morning hours, Mr. Cruz about 1,700 ballots short of tying Donald Trump.
The self-described democratic socialist and Tea Party hero could not differ more in style or substance. Yet they both represent the far end of their party’s ideological continuum, and both appeal to a fervently committed numerical minority. And both are looking to convince supporters that they remain a viable alternative to their front-runner rivals.
Both lost badly in Ohio and in Florida. Both suffered heartbreaking defeats in competitive states earlier in the evening. Mr. Sanders fell 35,000 votes short of a coup in Illinois, where Ms. Clinton was born and reared, and where he campaigned hard on his populist message in areas scarred from the loss of manufacturing jobs and from the global financial meltdown.
Mr. Cruz lost North Carolina to Mr. Trump by a similar margin, the latest in a string of defeats in the old South—where Mr. Cruz had hoped evangelical voters and social conservatives would flock to him and help defeat his profane, thrice-wed New York-born rival.
But even though both scraped close in Missouri, Mr. Cruz’s performance in Missouri at least put him nearer to his party’s nomination. It allowed him to stay in a competitive second place behind Mr. Trump, trailing him 395 delegates to 621, with 1,237 needed to clinch the nomination.
Mr. Sanders, on the other hand, has 774 delegates to Ms. Clinton’s 1,094—out of 2,383 needed to become the nominee at the convention in Philadelphia. Mr. Sanders nonetheless maintained he is “on a path to win.”
At the same time, Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s victory in his native state deprived the belligerent billionaire of 66 delegates, but also meant the GOP contest will continue as a three-person race, complicating Mr. Cruz’s efforts to rally anti-Trump forces behind himself. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio dropped out this evening after the Manhattan developer bested him on his own turf.
Updated to reflect the most recent poll results.
Disclosure: Donald Trump is the father-in-law of Jared Kushner, the publisher of Observer Media.