Last night saw the primaries 21 and 22 for the Democrats and primaries 24-27 for the Republicans and what a night it was. I’ll get into a state by state break in a moment but first, let’s take a look at the race overall. This is an election like no other- in 2012, Mitt Romney was already nearing 300 delegates by this point in the race while his opponents hadn’t even cracked 100. This time, while both fields are noticeably wider, there are a lot of genuinely viable candidates- Hilary’s brand recognition and vigour vs. Bernie’s populism and passion; Trump’s ‘he says what I want to hear’ vs. Cruz ‘appease all parties’ politics vs. Rubio’s youth and ‘charm’ vs. Kasich’s clean record and amicability. While Trump and Clinton are pulling ahead, there are still just over half the states to go for the Democrats and just under half the states to go for the Republicans so a lot could happen.
And now onto last night’s results
Once again, Bernie Sanders under-performed dramatically in the South as Hilary Clinton carried every county in the Gulf state. Luckily for Sanders, he was able to scrape 4 delegates from the bottom of the barrel after clinging onto the 15% threshold needed to be eligible for delegates.
Bernie’s Southern Troubles
While Bernie Sanders is an appealing candidate and certainly does have the support of many, the South has been the bane of his campaign so far. Alabama saw him collect 19.2% of the vote; he did marginally better in Arkansas and Georgia with 29.7% and 28.3% respectively. He surprised many with a solid 33.2% in Texas but as you can see, Hilary has him beat at every turn when it comes to the Southern states. It’s hard to pin down why but it is most likely due to Hilary’s name recognition and possibly the time she spent in the South as First Lady of Arkansas. Whatever it is, Bernie can spawn hashtags and reap in the votes but he won’t get anywhere near the nomination if he can’t secure more votes in the South.
Meanwhile, Trump eased to victory, taking all but seven counties in the state. His nearest rival, Ted Cruz, settled for a distant second place. Trump was already celebrating in Florida with a bizarre collection of Trump brand wine and what looked like uncooked slabs of meat, furthering speculation that Trump may just be a lizard creature still trying to acclimatize to life as a human. One time strong contender Marco Rubio settled for fourth place, first of many blows to the Floridian’s campaign over the course of the night.
The Tragic Ballad of Marco Rubio
Once heralded as the bringer of a “generational shift” and being labelled as “the one the Democrats should fear”, Marco Rubio started off the campaign a strong platform of attractive neo-Republicanism, young blood revitalising the party. He was also aided by external events, with the Paris attacks in November of 2015 boosting his campaign as people gravitated to towards his established and clear foreign policy plans. However, a general lack of charisma from debate to debate began to showcase Rubio as old blood in a new suit and while his political experience did help him gain credibility early on, his apparent lack of political attendance painted him as a somewhat lazy candidate. Things weren’t helped as he began showing consistently poor results in early primaries. People were just not buying what he was selling and so, after the first four primaries, he had amassed a total of 16 delegates. There was a recent glimmer of hope as he jumped to 97 after Super Tuesday, even winning Minnesota. However, it was too little, too late as Trump and Cruz powered ahead. Again, another boost early this week as Rubio took all 23 delegates in Puerto Rico but that leaves him flailing in 3rd place. If he can’t take Florida on March 15th, I think it will be goodbye to Senator Rubio.
It didn’t look good for Bernie going in. The polls had Clinton taking the Mitten State by a good 20% and with Mississippi painting itself with a picture of a smug Hilary, this could very well be the first major nail in the Sanders campaign coffin. Then the results started coming in and, huh, Bernie was taking an early lead. While promising, it was something that could easily be eclipsed by a strong showing for Hilary in wealthy Oakland County and Detroit. However, when a large portion of Detroit precincts declared, it actually served to keep Hilary in the race, chipping away at Bernie’s 30,000 vote lead, rather giving her the victory she was looking for. Bernie was boosted by wins in Lansing, the state capital and home of MSU, and Ann Arbor, county seat of liberal Washtenaw County and home of UoM. In fact, Hilary only carried nine counties across the state, only keeping the race close with victories in large precinct counties such as Wayne, Oakland and Macomb. That said, she was hindered by the very narrow victories she posted in places such as Macomb County. While the tight victory and the landslide in Mississippi meant that Hilary gained more delegates over all during the night, Michigan is a big win for Sanders in many ways.
No More Halcyon Days for Hilary?
Despite the smile and energy as she addressed crowds in Ohio, the time for smooth sailing looks to be a little rockier now. Hilary, like us all, was probably surprised at the upset in Michigan. Bernie Sanders managed to pull the rug from under her and steal a victory, despite the polls predicting an easy victory for her. While her mass of super delegates provide a comfortable cushion against the Sanders insurgency, the seeds of worries may have begun to take root somewhere in her mind and the extent of this will be reflected in her campaign strategy as we near March 15th when Illinois, North Carolina, Missouri, Florida and Ohio go the polls. Hilary may be confident in a win from those Southern states (Florida, North Carolina and Missouri) but the Midwest is where the real battles will take place. The polls may show Hilary to have a strong lead but then again, she had that in Michigan, a state which borders both Illinois and Ohio. While Hilary is going strong, the Midwest may prove to be her downfall following the shock in Michigan. While its impact may be minimal to the primaries race, this leaves big questions about the general election in November.
In the Republican field, Trump swept across Michigan, cruising to another easy victory. The big shock for the Republican primary was John Kasich denying Ted Cruz second place for most of the night, eventually settling for third place in a race that left .6% between second and third place. Kasich even managed to take a few counties, notably Kalamazoo and Washtenaw. Rubio once again settled for fourth place, his campaign looking increasingly weak and less viable.
Can Trump be stopped?
Trump is worrying a lot of people. Every county by county map is gradually painted red as Trump spreads across a state. Cruz is feasibly the only candidate who can really challenge and that’s why March 15th is so important. If Rubio doesn’t win Florida, he will drop out and will Kasich is a little more cryptic, anything less than an exemplary showing in his home state of Ohio may stall his campaign beyond repair. That could potentially take us down to two candidates and the real question is- who is the second choice for Rubio and Kasich supporters? If it is Trump, then he will become unstoppable. However, if it is Cruz, that might give the TrusTed campaign the push it needs to take the race to the convention in July.
The only non-Trump victory of the night went to Ted Cruz as he took the Western state of Idaho. However, central Idaho showed a solid Trump turnout, with the sentient hairpiece coming in second place. It was a decisive Cruz victory, as many of them have been. That’s the important thing to remember about the Republican race- whoever wins the primary wins it well.
Trump right across the board. There are only 45 precincts across 4 counties and so Trump just snapped them all up. Not a real surprise.
So what’s next?
As mentioned, March 15th is the next big date. Bernie will continue to try and worry Hilary while in the Republican field; it is all to play for. Rubio and Kasich need to prove their worth, Cruz will be looking to close the gap on Trump and Trump will be looking to further consolidate his lead. As I said at the start of this blog, this election is really like no other.