GOP Race Narrows to Trump & Cruz, as Clinton Spars with Sanders at Debate
Tuesday, March 08, 2016
In the six weeks of frenzied campaigning since the Iowa caucuses, the presidential race looks more and more like a two-man contest on the right between anti-establishment darlings Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz, as Hillary Clinton solidifies her lead among Democrats. According to the Associated Press’ delegate tracker, after Super Saturday voting, Trump has 384 delegates to Cruz’s 300; Clinton has 1,130 total delegates to Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 499.
Despite early-state voting indicating a close nomination race between Clinton and Sanders, the former Secretary of State began pulling ahead when the primary calendar transitioned to states with more minority voters. On Saturday, Clinton won resoundingly in Louisiana, building off her successes in South Carolina, Nevada and a string of Super Tuesday states in the South — all of which have large African-American and Hispanic populations.
For his part, Sanders logged double-digit victories in Kansas and Nebraska on Saturday, and won the Maine caucuses on Sunday. In late February, Sanders got an A-list boost when Susan Sarandon campaigned for him in Maine, where the actress owns a home.
Sunday’s caucuses saw record turnout, according to local news reports, with long waits at various caucus locations. Final vote counts are still filtering in, but as of press time, Sanders received 64.2 percent of the vote in Maine, almost doubling the number of votes Clinton received.
Sanders and Clinton also went head-to-head Sunday evening in Flint, Michigan, for the seventh Democratic debate. Hosted by CNN, the debate focused on domestic issues, with special attention directed at the crisis surrounding Flint’s lead-contaminated drinking water.
The debate was an at-times feisty affair, with the simmering contention between the two bubbling up as they talked about gun legislation and the bailout of the automotive industry. Clinton claimed Sanders didn’t vote for the auto bailout in 2009, but the truth is more complicated — he didn’t vote for a portion of the bailout because it was tied to a larger bill related to the Wall Street bailout. Sanders was, however, in favor of the concept of the auto bailout, an especially important issue in a state whose economy leans heavily on that industry.
The Michigan primary takes place on March 8, and as the above visualization shows, Democratic voters there seem poised to deliver a victory to Clinton. The day before the primary, she held a 20-point lead, according to polling averages from RealClearPolitics.
On the other side of the aisle, Republican voters continue to show their preference for outsider candidates in a race that has been defined by anti-establishment frustration. In all four states on Saturday, Trump and Cruz came in either first or second, with Kansas and Maine breaking for Cruz and Louisiana and Kentucky going for Trump.
In a departure from recent primaries and caucuses, it was Cruz, not Trump, who delivered double-digit blowouts. Cruz won Maine by about 13 points, and clobbered Trump by 25 points in Kansas.
Cruz also won the straw poll over the weekend at the Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC, a yearly gathering of plugged-in conservatives. He received 40 percent of that poll, while Trump — who canceled his appearance at the conference last minute — came in a distant third, with 15 percent.
Sen. Marco Rubio, who came in second in the CPAC straw poll, won Puerto Rico’s primary on Sunday with 71 percent of the vote. But that’s only Rubio’s second first-place win this cycle, putting the Florida senator at 151 total delegates. He’s pinning his hopes on a strong showing in his home state’s primary on March 15, but polling data shows Trump has a 16-point lead in Florida.
If Trump pulls off a victory in Florida, it’ll mark the first time this cycle when a candidate in either party loses in his or her home state. The Republican primary in Ohio also takes place on March 15, but polling data shows a much closer race there between Trump and that state’s governor, John Kasich.
Before the next big round of primary voting next week, candidates will meet for one more debate. Democrats will debate on March 9 in Miami, and Republicans follow suit on March 10, also in Miami.
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