11:19 – Basically, this gives Rubio plenty of reason to pursue his campaign through Florida, at least. If he can win there, he’s got a chance to either get the rest of the party behind only him, or at least to win enough delegates between himself and Cruz to force a convention fight. If Rubio can’t win Florida, however, then Cruz is the only one left who can beat Trump. So we will have the same argument we’ve had since South Carolina for another two weeks.
Have a great evening, folks!
11:10 – Fox News just called Minnesota for Rubio.
10:45 – CNN now shows 79% reporting, and Rubio up by the same percentage.
10:41 – Looks like Rubio is on his way to winning Minnesota. With 53% of precincts reporting, according to the MNGOP, Rubio is up 37.3% to Cruz’ 28%. Trump only has 21.1%.
10:29 – Just landed back at the hotel. Minnesota has begun to report results; with 6% of precincts reporting, Rubio has a nine-point lead over Cruz. However, Fox just called Arkansas for Trump, with Cruz coming in second. Rubio really could use a win in Minnesota.
9:34 – The delegate split out of Virginia is Trump 17, Rubio 14, Cruz 7. It’s going to be much bigger for Cruz out of Texas and Oklahoma when those states report fully enough to estimate the outcome. Trump’s extended his Arkansas lead to seven points over Rubio, and Minnesota’s caucuses have not begun to officially report.
I’m leaving Townhall HQ to go back to the hotel, so I will update when I get back to my room.
9:09 – John’s covering Oklahoma, but it’s worth noting that the AP has called that state for Cruz, too. Unless Rubio can pull off a couple of wins tonight in Minnesota and Arkansas (where he’s trailing by three points with 15% of precincts reporting), it’s going to be tough to argue that he’s got a path to the nomination. Chuck Todd’s correct:
Hard to see how Cruz doesn't nab the second place delegate slot after tonight is all said and done. Tough night for Rubio. Needs MN badly
— Chuck Todd (@chucktodd) March 2, 2016
9:00 – Fox declares Ted Cruz the winner in Texas for the GOP, and Hillary for the Democrats.
8:59 – With 1o% of precincts reporting, Rubio’s only a point behind Trump in Arkansas. Hmmm.
8:55 – Harry Enten writes that Trump’s “winning where we expected him to win … but it doesn’t seem to me to be any sort of blowout” that suggests the race is over.” Delegate allocations matter, and if John Kasich wins Vermont and Cruz wins Texas (and Oklahoma), it leaves the field open for at least another two weeks. However, it’s not clear that there will be enough evidence for any consolidation in the race.
8:33 – Fox just called Virginia for Trump, but Rubio still has room to improve his second-place standing for a slightly better delegate allocation. Rubio might end up with just a couple fewer than Trump if it tightens any further. Cruz, however, is playing with a lead in Texas with a much higher number of delegates and tougher allocation — so Cruz stands to have a much better night on delegates, if Texas holds up.
8:28 – With 17% of the precincts reporting, Cruz is winning in Texas, 38.1/28% over Trump, but Rubio’s hanging in right around the 20% threshold.
8:24 – Laura Ingraham notes on Fox that NOVA voters tend to be linked to federal spending and are more moderate than in what’s called ROVA (rest of Virginia), and that’s right — but Republicans have to score well in NOVA to win Virginia. That’s why Prince William is featured in Going Red, and George W. Bush managed to win PWC, Loudoun, and Fauquier in 2000 and 2004. If Trump’s not scoring well in NOVA, that’s a big red flag for GOP hopes of winning back Virginia.
8:08 – Back to Virginia, where 61% of precincts are now reporting. Trump’s leading 37.3%/30.4%, but Rubio’s scoring well in NOVA, especially in Loudoun and Fairfax. Prince William County, which is featured in my book Going Red, has the two in a virtual tie, with Rubio up 34/33. Cruz is far back in third place at 16.9%.
8:03 – Hearing from friends in Minnesota’s conservative 2nd CD that two caucus sites are standing-room only.
8:01 – Not tracking these states in this post, but worth noting that the nets have called Tennessee, Alabama, and Massachusetts for Trump.
7:52 – Not much is moving at the moment. The vote counting is slow in Virginia. Exit polls show that Trump and Rubio are looking at a tight race, but so far it doesn’t appear that Rubio has shifted enough support to threaten Trump. Second place may be enough, especially if Cruz sinks to a distant third.
7:35 – Hillary Clinton won over 80% of Virginia’s African-American vote. That’s huge, and shows just how limited Sanders is within the Democratic coalition. Even bigger — Cruz lost among Virginia evangelicals to Trump by twenty points:
Trump beat Cruz by 20% among Evangelicals in Virginia.
— Joe Weisenthal (@TheStalwart) March 2, 2016
7:28 – Hmmmmm.
VA GOP exit polls show Rubio won voters under 45, Trump carried voters 45 and older #SuperTuesday
— Jessica Taylor (@JessicaTaylor) March 2, 2016
7:24 – CNN reports that exit polling shows a close race in Virginia between Trump and Rubio, but Cruz trails significantly behind Rubio, perhaps by double digits.
7:07 pm ET – Hillary Clinton has already been declared the winner of the Virginia primary. That’s not a surprise; what may be a surprise is how many Democrats crossed over in northern Virginia to vote against Trump. We’ll see whether a reverse Operation Chaos has any impact.
Original post follows …
Buckle your seatbelts — it’s going to be a bumpy ride tonight for anyone whose name doesn’t rhyme with Shronald Shrump. Eleven states go to the polls and caucuses tonight, and the majority of them will be routs for Donald Trump. Even with the few that promise some competitive potential, Trump either leads or comes close to it. Three states in particular stand out for the most potential for drama — Virginia, Texas, and my home state of Minnesota. All three have different poll closing times — Virginia closes at 7 ET — but it will take a few hours to know what’s happening in all of them. Let’s set it up in order of poll closing times.
Virginia – Trump’s got a big lead here in the RCP average, so the question will be who gets second place. Unlike some of the other states, Virginia allocates delegates proportionally without any qualifying threshold, so any candidate getting at least 1.1% of the vote would get one of the state’s 49 Republican delegates. As such, the key here would be to (a) limit the distance between Trump and the second-place finisher, and (b) put as much distance between second and third as possible. Rubio’s almost five points ahead of Cruz for second; he needs to hold on to show enough life for the next Super Tuesday. A loss for Donald Trump here is very unlikely, but would rattle his narrative of inevitability at least a little. And the exit polls show some good news for Rubio, too:
That should be enough to keep him in strong second — and maybe challenge for the lead, but that’s still a long shot.
Minnesota – Thanks to some rule changes after the 2012 cycle, delegates will now be bound in tonight’s caucuses. Candidates have to clear at least 10% to win at-large delegates, but the Congressional district delegates complicate matters. Polling has been notably light in Minnesota, but in the most recent Star-Tribune poll, four candidates had at least 11% support — the main three plus Ben Carson. Rubio needs a win here more than anyone else, but he barely edged Cruz in that Strib poll 23/21. Don’t expect Trump to do really well in Minnesota, but he might pick up whatever support Carson has shed over the last six weeks, and might end up edging out both Rubio and Cruz. All three will end up with delegates.
Texas – Easily the largest prize of the night, it has 155 delegates to allocate on a hybrid basis. A candidate who wins 50% of the statewide vote will get all of the at-large delegates, and a candidate who gets 50% within a Congressional district will get all three of those delegates. After that, it gets more complicated. Rubio’s RCP average of 18% puts him below the threshold for delegate allocations, but he’s been dropping ads in the Lone Star state, and he’ll undoubtedly score a bit better in some CDs than others. Cruz has a substantial lead in most polls but it will be tough to get to 50% even at the CD level. If he doesn’t score a significant lead in delegates after tonight, his status in the race will become more precarious, as it’s not likely that he’ll catch up in other states tonight.
So what expectations should we set for these contests? Team Marco is already setting the bar low, according to Politico:
Marco Rubio’s top campaign adviser huddled with roughly 40 bundlers and K Streeters Tuesday morning to prepare them for a difficult primary election night—as well as to brief them on the campaign’s plan for what to do next.
Terry Sullivan told supporters at campaign headquarters that the Florida Republican could secure just 100 delegates from Super Tuesday states in one of the scenarios he laid out.
They’d better hope to get more than that. If Cruz wins big in Texas, the Trump opposition will start shifting its focus to Cruz, and Florida may not matter.
Don’t forget that updates will come at the top of this post, in reverse chronological order, with the latest update on top. Keep up with the other primary states in John Sexton’s post, and keep up with our Twitter remarks in AP’s post.