Live blog: Super Swing-State Yuuugeday in Florida, North Carolina, Ohio; Update: CNN calls FL for Trump, Clinton; Update: Rubio suspends campaign; Update: CNN calls OH for Kasich; Update: Trump wins NC

posted at 6:31 pm on March 15, 2016 by Ed Morrissey

10:21 – With these three states wrapped up, I’ll direct readers to Jazz’ live-blog for Illinois (Trump) and Missouri. Don’t forget to scroll down and read the excerpt from Going Red, and to enter the contest for 10 advance copies of the hardcover book.

9:54 – And sure enough, CNN picks Trump as the winner in North Carolina. The exits certainly pointed in that direction.

9:36 – Exit data for NC shows Trump winning among both Republicans 44/37 over Cruz, and edging independents 36/34. Republicans made up 68% of the vote, according to the exits. If those figures accurately describe tonight’s electorate, then Trump will win the state by more than four points. How many more delegates would Trump get over Cruz? I’d guess somewhere between 3-6 delegates. Not much of a difference either way.

9:20 – Classy call-out to Marco Rubio from John Kasich during his victory speech. Also, North Carolina has close to half its precincts reporting, and Trump’s up by four points, 40.5/36.5 over Cruz. No one’s calling the race yet, but this lead has been fairly constant over the last 40 minutes.

9:14 – Paul Begala wondered if Ohio Democratic voters got concerned about headlines around talk of violence at Trump rallies and flipped to Hillary to settle their nomination as soon as possible. Interesting theory, but the data to test it can’t be found in the exits as yet.

8:56 – CNN calls Ohio for Hillary Clinton. This was the big prize; many expected Sanders’ Michigan upset would push Ohio into his column too, but she’s up by a 2:1 margin with 12% of precincts reporting. This one turned out to be the blowout that polls had earlier predicted.

8:53 – Kasich tells Wolf Blitzer that he’s “the little engine that can.” He can’t win the nomination outright, but he’s talking about winning most of the outstanding 1009 delegates and going to Cleveland with a delegate plurality. Bear in mind that Kasich has won a grand total of one state — his own. He’s still got fewer delegates than Rubio did when he suspended the campaign a few moments ago.

8:47 – CNN calls Ohio for Kasich. Big result, and it comes surprisingly early. It looks like Trump underperformed his polling a bit, but Kasich more significantly overperformed his polling.

8:44 – Wouldn’t have guessed this in the Ohio exits, either — Kasich actually won among first-time primary voters 48/42 over Trump.

8:39 – In North Carolina’s key county of Wake (featured in Going Red), Cruz has a ten-point lead over Trump with 53% of precincts reporting. That’s a bit of a surprise; Wake County voters seemed less interested in an ideologue, but they also wanted less drama in politics, too.

8:35 – John Kasich salutes Rubio:

8:30 – North Carolina shows Trump up five points with 8.2% of precincts reporting today’s vote, 40/35 over Cruz.

8:29 – Rubio’s speech was good enough to get unanimous applause at a Cruz event in Houston.

8:23 – Rubio announces that his campaign is suspended. It’s the right move, especially given the wide gap in the home-state vote. I’d expect a toss to Cruz in the days ahead.

8:21 – Big data point in the exits — Kasich won among both whites (44/39) and non-whites (50/31) over Trump. If that’s accurate, Trump won’t make up the ground.

8:18 – With 12% of precincts reporting, Kasich’s up by 12 points over Trump in Ohio, 44/32.

8:16 – NBC calls North Carolina for Hillary. Not a surprise.

8:14 – Rubio giving a concession speech and gets interrupted by a Trump supporter. “Don’t worry,” Rubio says, “he won’t get beat up at our event.”

8:04 – A court has ordered some counties in southwest Ohio to keep polls open until 8:30:

8:00 – CNN calls Florida for Trump and Clinton.

7:56 – CNN says it’s about to call Florida, but Trump has already declared victory there.

7:53 – AOSHQDD has 29% of the same-day vote in for Florida, and Trump’s up 46/27. That race is not changing much.

7:45 – With 6% in from North Carolina, Trump’s up 41/31 over Cruz.

7:40 – Interesting data on exits about angry vs dissatisfied voters. The former are breaking toward Trump in a big way in Ohio and North Carolina; the latter go to Kasich in Ohio and Cruz in North Carolina.

7:37 – Votes trickling in for North Carolina now. If Cruz can outperform the exits, we might have a big surprise, but NC is totally proportional — so a close win either way will have only a minimal impact on delegate allocation.

7:30 – CNN is projecting 45/38 Kasich in Ohio based on exit polling. Hmmmm. In North Carolina, Trump edges Cruz 39/35 in the exit polls.

7:29 – Florida’s reported almost a million of the votes, and so far Trump’s up 44/27. According to Ace’s DD, 6.4% of precincts have reported their Election Day voting. The panhandle precincts close at 8 ET.

7:19 – The number of precincts reporting on Fox (and CNN) are for early and absentee voting. NYT and AOSHQDD have better actual precinct reporting numbers.

7:17 – Another exit-poll nugget — 55% of GOP voters think illegal immigrants should be offered legal status.

7:13 – First results are coming in from Florida, and it’s looking like a big night for Trump. The early vote put him up 45/24 over Rubio at AOSHQ Decision Desk, and with 11% of precincts reporting (early voting) on the Fox chyron, it’s 47/24.

7:10 – CNN’s prediction market gives Kasich an 88% chance of winning Ohio tonight as of this point in time. I’m surprising it’s trending that strongly.

7:05 – Ugh. 41% of Ohio Republican voters would consider a third-party candidate if looking at a Trump-Clinton general election matchup.

7:04 – Kasich is leading among Democrats too, 54/42. That looks like good news for Kasich. They are splitting the evangelical vote too at 38/38.

7:00 – Wouldn’t have guessed this, but Kasich’s edging Trump among Ohio independents 41/38 in the early exits.

6:57 – This quote from CNN’s exit poll analysis can’t be right, can it? “Republicans continued the trend of saying they felt betrayed by their party, but only about a third or more Republican voters in the five states said they were angry with the federal government.” Does that say only a third of Republican voters are angry at the federal government? Huh?

6:53 – Illinois Dems find Hillary’s policies more reasonable than Bernie’s 75/21, but 47% think trade costs US jobs against 40% who think it creates jobs here.

6:51 pm ET – I didn’t mention it in the original post, but it’s a big day for Democrats, too. Ohio and Illinois are the two biggest showdown states across the aisle, and Ohio might be the biggest surprise for Bernie Sanders. Keep an eye on that race too, as will I.

Original post follows …

Forget the Super Tuesday of two weeks ago. Today’s Super Tuesday will tell us whether we have a race at all after tonight. Five states are up for grabs, and the three of them in the Eastern time zone will be key swing states in November — Florida, North Carolina, and especially Ohio. I’ll take liveblogging duty for these three states, which coincidentally are three of the seven key swing states researched in my upcoming book Going Red.

Barring some sort of miracle for Marco Rubio and unforeseen disaster for Donald Trump, Florida will probably get called for the latter not too long after the 7 pm ET poll closing time in the state (although perhaps later for some Panhandle precincts?). Trump has an 18-point lead in the RCP average and looks like a lock for the state’s winner-take-all haul of 99 delegates. Trump also has a double-digit lead in North Carolina and its proportional allocation of 72 delegates, with Ted Cruz in position to take a significant haul, leaving John Kasich and Rubio with a few to split. North Carolina’s polls close at 7:30 pm, but it may take a while to see the exact allocation of delegates.

Ohio will be the big prize, and the big focus, in Eastern time zone states. It’s both winner-take-all for 66 delegates, and a mixed-open primary in which each voter has to choose one party primary in which to participate. That format has helped Trump in the past, but he’s trailing slightly in polling to Kasich, who has yet to lose an election in Ohio — a nearly 40-year record. Kasich needs a home-state win, and Trump needs to put the nomination away by taking the home states of two rivals. Polls close here at 7:30 ET, and this one may take a while. My friend Salena Zito told TEMS viewers today that she’d normally pick Kasich to win it, but a lot of Republican absentee ballots went to registered Democrats — and she thinks that favors Trump. On the other hand, Fox’s look at early exit polls showed this:

Hmmmm. As always, updates will go to the top of this post in reverse chronological order, putting the latest update at the top.

In honor of the Going Red hat trick, I’ll offer a brief excerpt from my chapter about Ohio. It focuses on Hamilton County (Cincinnati) and its working-class voters — the people who have felt eclipsed by the ideological battles in Washington and just want a candidate who can make things work properly again. Who does that sound like? It could sound like either Kasich or Trump, but certainly might lean more to the latter. Keep an eye on that southwest corner of Ohio, which for decades was more Republican than the entire state until 2008:

Few political realities are as enduringly true as the Republican Party’s need to carry Ohio in presidential elections. The next time a Republican nominee wins the White House while losing Ohio will be the first time it has ever happened in the era of the two-party system. Since 1856, there have been forty presidential elections, and Ohio has only chosen the losing party five times (and all five were in support of Republican candidates). But that support hasn’t carried over to the post-Watergate area. In every election since 1976, the GOP has lost its iron grip on Ohio, and the state has become a bellwether for the national result. …

Mostly, though, Hamilton County voters want someone who gets things done. “People are pretty pragmatic down here,” Lou says. “Tell me something is going to work. Don’t give me all of this [ideological] stuff. What’s going to work? How do you attack the problem? Give me something I understand. I want to understand how that is going to affect my family.”

Commissioner Hartmann agrees. “We’ve still got a tremendous amount of challenges in this country, and I think problem solver is going to carry the day,” he says. “Democrats won because they projected more of an ability to focus on the economy that affects their lives. That’s going to again determine the next presidential election in the next cycle—who can do the best job at being a problem solver and fixing a lot of these problems.”

Competence and pragmatism will attract people to the Republican candidate, says Zac Haines. “Say let’s make government more efficient and more effective,” he advises, but “then you have to go a step further. Why are we doing these [policies]? Make sure people who need help get it quicker, better, and faster,” Haines answers. “And so we don’t have to raise taxes and have jobs, and good companies who provide jobs don’t leave our state and or go upstate. That’s the extra step. We don’t go the extra step. We’ve got to finish off the answer.”

As Triantafilou puts it, “If we could just sink the putt.”

For at least the last fifty years, Ohio has been a true bellwether state for presidential elections. No Republican presidential nominee can win without Ohio, and Democrats face a tricky path to victory when Republicans hold it.

Mathematically, this may not seem so cut and dried, especially with the decline in Ohio’s electors over the last fifty years. Politically, though, the failure to carry Ohio demonstrates a lack of connection to working-class voters, in the Rust Belt and beyond. John McCain lost Indiana in 2008, another state normally considered a Republican favorite in presidential elections, and Barack Obama showed that the old Reagan Democrat coalition of working-class Rust Belt voters had become vulnerable to splintering in presidential elections, if not in midterms. But with Obama retiring, the GOP no longer needs to attack the emotional connection he had with these voters, and Republicans have a window of opportunity to make a new case for their brand of leadership.

After two straight shocking losses in Hamilton, Republicans should understand that they need to reconnect with voters and demonstrate that they have recovered in what should be a GOP stronghold. But a loss in Hamilton would almost certainly doom Republicans in Ohio, and with it, their hopes of winning back the White House.

Reprinted (or Adapted) from GOING RED: THE TWO MILLION VOTERS WHO WILL ELECT THE NEXT PRESIDENT—AND HOW CONSERVATIVES CAN WIN THEM Copyright © 2016 by Ed Morrissey. To be published by Crown Forum, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC, on April 12.

We’re giving away ten free hardcover copies of the book in advance of publication tonight, too. In order to win, follow the instructions on Going Red‘s official Twitter account, @GoingRedBook, and the rules on the official website GoingRedBook.com:


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