Why you should care
Because even a rather small Tuesday primary slate can speak volumes.
Call it Sandwich Tuesday. That’s short for yesterday’s chicken salad of presidential contests — sandwiched between last week’s Super Tuesday and next week’s big-ticket Tuesday, when states like Florida, Ohio and Illinois head to the polls. Republican front-runner Donald Trump racked up victories in Michigan, Mississippi and Hawaii, losing to Ted Cruz in Idaho. On the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders scored a big upset over Hillary Clinton in Michigan but got trounced in Mississippi.
In delegate terms, it was a low-calorie affair, with Trump and Clinton each netting a mere 15 to 20 more than their rivals. But the real story behind yesterday’s snack lunch was what it suggests will be served at next Tuesday’s big dinner: Trump Steaks. Here are some morsels to whet your appetite:
1. Bernie: Still in It to Win It
Sanders’ surprise win in Michigan, where polls had shown Clinton leading by an average of 20 points, ranks that prediction “among the greatest polling errors in primary history,” writes FiveThirtyEight’s election guru Nate Silver. And even though the Vermont senator’s narrow victory was drowned out by Clinton’s lopsided 83 to 17 percent triumph in Mississippi, the win will give him some much-needed momentum as they head into less Clinton-friendly states farther north. He also won about 30 percent of African-American votes in Michigan, suggesting that Clinton may not be able to rely on her Black support to carry her in those contests. She’s still the likely nominee, but her poor performance among white and independent Michiganders should make Democrats a bit more nervous about her chances against Trump.
2. Donald Trump Has Not Peaked
The “War on Trump” has done little to sink the real estate mogul’s soufflé. Trump’s poor showings over the weekend, when Ted Cruz took home the most delegates and victories in Maine and Kansas, appear to have been a mere speed bump on the road to the nomination after three more victories yesterday. Trump also dominated after the polls closed, sucking up 45 minutes of airtime on networks with a rambling press conference in which he even pitched some of his products. And if Trump wins in the yuge winner-take-all contests in the home states of Marco Rubio (Florida) and John Kasich (Ohio) next Tuesday — polls suggest he will — then there could be very little that anti-Trump forces can do to prevent him from winning the nomination.
3. Time Is Running Out for the Anti-Trump Candidates
Last night demonstrated yet again that the three remaining Trump alternatives are driving one another into irrelevancy. Kasich invested a lot of time and energy in what was supposed to be a game-changing performance in Michigan — he didn’t even manage a silver medal. Still, he’s limping on toward his home state, as is Rubio, the great establishment hope who’s looking increasingly like its last establishment hope, Jeb Bush.
After next week, Cruz may well be the last non-Trump man standing. Still, as Trump’s convincing victory in Mississippi shows, Cruz continues to underperform among evangelicals — supposedly his base. Establishment figures and donors are already holding their noses and lining up behind Cruz as the last viable alternative to Trump, but it looks like it could be too little, too late.