Going in to Super Tuesday II last night, two essential questions were at the centre of everybody’s minds.
1. Could Bernie Sanders win big and derail Hillary Clinton on her way to become the Democratic nominee?
2. Can Donald Trump still be stopped from winning the Republican nomination?
The first of these questions now appears answered. Sanders didn’t only need to win states on tuesday, he needed to win them in a way that narrowed the delegate gap between him and Hillary Clinton. With the states in the Democratic primary allocating delegates proportionally, and given Mrs Clintons large delegate lead, he could now go on to win every single state, and still end up losing the race. After his surprise win in Michigan, where polls had him trailing Clinton by double digits, Sanders supporters were hoping for a repeat of this miracle in Illinois, Ohio, and Missouri. As it turns out, Clinton took all five states with Sanders coming close only in Missouri and Illinois. Even though the states coming up next tend to favor the Vermont senator, his chances to actually win are minuscule at this point. Baring an indictment of Clinton, or another unforeseen scandal, she is almost certain to go on to the general as the Democratic candidate.
The second issue, that of Mr Trump, is as of yet unresolved. Yes, Trump won big last night, but whether it will be enough to eventually clinch the nomination is still far from certain. Up until now he has won 621 of 1237 delegates needed to win outright. After Rubio has dropped out following his devastating loss in Florida, Trump will find himself in a three-way race against Cruz and Kasich. If both contenders to the frontrunner pick up a couple of delegates here and there and win some states, they could well prove able to deny him the delegates needed to secure the nomination. In that case the nominee will be decided in an open convention, were most delegates are bound to support their nominee only in the first round of voting. After that, the horse trading will begin, and with many Republicans interpreting their votes for Cruz and Kasich specifically as a vote against Donald Trump, the convention would have the legitimacy to elect another candidate, even if Trump ends up winning the most delegates, but falls short of a clear majority.
One person that is surely rooting for Donald Trump is Hillary Clinton. While the Donald has been highly effective at mobilizing new Republican primary voters, he will almost certainly also be highly effective in turning out Democrats to vote against him in the general election. While the same is probably true for Ted Cruz, who is disdained by many across party lines, Governor John Kasich, who’s campaign has picked up new steam after he won his home state of Ohio, is a different story. Polls have him beating Hillary Clinton in the general and with many of Bernie Sanders’ supporters likely not to show up on election day if they don’t feel obligated to protect the free world from a madman like Trump or Cruz, he would go into the race for the White House as the favorite.