Editor's note: This story has been updated with the final vote and delegate allocations.
Super Tuesday, the most delegate-rich day of 2016’s presidential nominating season, confounded the expectations of both political parties.
Bernie Sanders won four states—Vermont, Colorado, Oklahoma and Minnesota—far more than anyone expected in mainstream Democratic Party circles. As expected, Hillary Clinton won across wide swaths of the South, from Virginia to Georgia to Arkansas to Texas, doing well among black and Latino voters. However, Sanders' surprising wins outside Vermont show that Clinton’s candidacy has weak spots.
Meanwhile, Donald Trump expanded his grip on the GOP nomination, winning seven states, as his foremost challengers, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz had minimal successes. Cruz, as expected, won his home state of Texas and nearby Oklahoma and Alaska. Rubio, who campaigned extensively in Virginia but lost that state, won only Minnesota, a disappointment for a candidate touted by the GOP establishment as the best hope to derail Trump.
On the Democratic side, Clinton has 544 delegates compared to Sanders’ 349 delegates. (Those figures do not include so-called superdelegates, with more than 450 elected Democrats having pledged their support to her.) On the Republican side, Trump has nearly twice as times as many delegates as Cruz, 285 to 161, while Rubio has 87, John Kasich has 25 and Ben Carson has 8.
All the candidates tried to put the best face on what’s been a grueling campaign. Clinton, who was in Florida in anticipation of next week’s delegate-rich primary, praised her team, Sanders’ supporters and then aimed her comments at Trump.
“We are going to work for every vote. We need all of you,” she told a crowd in Miami, saying, “America never stopped being great. We have to make America whole—fill in what’s been hollowed out.”
Clinton continued, “I believe what we need in America today is more love and kindness. Because you know what? It works. Instead of building walls, we’re going to break down barriers and build ladders of opportunity and empowerment.”
At his early evening rally in Essex Junction, Vermont, Sanders made brief remarks and then left, hours before it was clear that he won in three other states. “I’m so proud to bring Vermont values all across this country,” he said, and twice said his campaign “is not just about electing a president.”
His staff issued press releases touting the Vermont win, boasting that they raised more money than Clinton last month—$42 million—and cited a national CNN poll saying they would do better against Republicans than she would next fall. Later in the evening, campaign manager Jeff Weaver sent out an e-mail blast.
“We started off the night winning Vermont, then we won Oklahoma and Colorado, and moments ago they called Minnesota for us as well. FOUR big victories for our political revolution tonight,” he said. “No one thought we would get this far. You proved them wrong. Working people are coming together and voting for Bernie in states across the country.”
On Monday, Sanders told the Washington Post he planned to stay in the race until all the states vote, which his wife, Jane Sanders, echoed later that day. “If you’ve gone to the rallies with us, you’ve seen the hope and the expectation, the fervor and the support for the ideas,” she said. “Bernie’s not going to let those people down. Every state should be able to voice their support for what they believe in."
Clinton also sent out an e-mail blast late Tuesday, acknowledging the race for the Democratic nomination continues. “The stakes in this election couldn’t be higher,” she said. “There is still a long way to go before we have the delegates necessary to win the Democratic nomination, but if we're in this fight together, we will win.”
Trump Locking Down Nomination
On the Republican side of the aisle, Trump showed that he is on track to win the GOP nomination and the rest of the field can do almost nothing to stop him—even though the party’s establishment wing keeps on saying it is numerically possible for their choice, Rubio, to stage a comeback.
Trump won almost twice as many delegates as runnerup Cruz, who won Iowa, Texas, Oklahoma and Alaska, despite party rules that proportionally allocate delegates in 2016’s early contests. Meanwhile, Tuesday’s media exit poll data show that Trump’s base is larger than initially thought. In Massachusetts, where most Republicans are college-educated, Trump won 49 percent of the vote. That shows he’s not just appealing to a less-educated, angrier cohort, as pollsters reported after the initial nominating contests.
“I am a uniter—I know that people find that hard to believe,” Trump said at his rally at a resort in Miami, after criticizing Clinton’s remarks and then taking questions from the press. “We are going to be a unified party… and we are going to be a much bigger party. All you have to do is look at [increasing Republican voter turnout in] the primary states where I have won… That hasn’t happened to the Republican Party in decades.”
The Republican establishment is in a weird state of denial, saying that Rubio—who won his first state on Tuesday, Minnesota—is positioned to come from behind and defeat Trump.
Rubio “doesn’t have to win tonight, but show himself as the most promising alternative to Donald Trump,” Arkansas Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson told NPR, saying many delegate-rich states had yet to vote. Montana’s ex-Gov. Marc Racicot took the same line an hour later, saying he supported Rubio who was “still in a position mathematically” to win.
The opposite seems to be the case. Cruz’s victory in Texas and Oklahoma will undoubtedly keep him going to the next round of states, preventing Republican voters from coalescing around a singular alternative who is not Trump.
In his remarks, Trump predicted that he will beat Rubio in Florida next week, saying that he had a “tough night” on Tuesday and calling him a “lightweight… he’s not going anywhere anyway.”
On the GOP side of aisle, the reality that Trump is the likely nominee will sink in as voting continues. This Saturday, Republicans in Kansas, Louisiana, Maine and Kentucky will hold caucuses. On Sunday, Puerto Rico will hold its primary. Next Tuesday, Florida votes: the first big winner-take-all GOP state with 99 delegates.