REPUBLICANS Texas and Super Tuesday
▪ Tuesday’s biggest catch involves the 155 delegates from Texas. If Donald Trump closes the gap significantly or overtakes Ted Cruz, who was leading in recent polls, then it’s hard to see the Texas senator maintaining a viable campaign. That would clear a path for Marco Rubio to challenge Trump from an undisputed second place — at least until Florida (see below). Trump, the super-sized ego, is likely to dominate in most of the other contests on the super-sized primary day. The extremely silly debate business of Thursday will hardly change the top candidates’ momentum. To the also-rans: What really are you waiting for? (Kasich answer: maybe Massachusetts or Michigan, March 8, but he’s even trailing Trump in his home state, Ohio, which votes March 15.)
▪ Kansas Republicans will gather for caucuses on Saturday afternoon, March 5. Leading politicos in the state, including Gov. Sam Brownback and Sen. Pat Roberts, have endorsed Rubio but how much influence they’ll really have is another question. After Tuesday, the Trump train could prove unstoppable and the chase for Kansas’ 40 delegates wouldn’t necessarily change a thing. Depending on how badly he does on Tuesday, Cruz’s operation could claim the state as Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum did in the last two cycles.
▪ March 15 brings another large round of primaries, including Missouri’s. More than 60 percent of convention delegates will be apportioned after voting closes that day, and state parties after that can choose a winner-take-all format. Trump has been leading polls in Florida, and a victory for him could prove embarrassing, if not fatal, for Rubio. Expect to see more of that mud-slinging we witnessed Thursday — buckets and buckets full. Presuming big wins for Trump in the next two weeks, the GOP race could be close to over.
Texas and Super Tuesday
▪ Hillary Clinton holds commanding leads over Bernie Sanders almost everywhere, except perhaps Massachusetts (figures). Sanders, however, has high hopes for Colorado (pun not intended) and Minnesota, both of them caucus states. In our region, Oklahoma presents an interesting state to watch — Democrats there went for Clinton in 2008, but recent polls show Sanders has tied it up. Similar possibilities exist for Arkansas, which Clinton once called home. Clinton’s strength among black voters will help her elsewhere in the south — Georgia, Alabama, Virginia — though it will be useful to examine her margins of victory among minorities, beginning with this weekend’s contest in South Carolina.
▪ Democrats will caucus on Saturday from Roeland Park to way out west. Sanders will do well in hyper-liberal Lawrence and perhaps the Kansas City area, depending on how many of those enthusiastic 7,500 persons who crammed into Bartle Hall last week to see the candidate are from west of the State Line. Outside of those parts, though, pragmatic and more moderate Kansans are likely to stick with Clinton. Obviously the Sunflower State isn’t a make-or-break signpost in the march to the Democratic nomination. But after five years of Brownback’s GOP-led reign, Kansas Democrats are an exceptionally frustrated group. It will be interesting to see if that spills over into the caucuses.
▪ The accumulation of committed super delegates gives Clinton a huge advantage on the road to the convention. One analyst projects that, barring a serious setback for Clinton on the email front or other nagging issues, Sanders would have to win every state from March 1 on by a landslide (55 percent or better) to have a chance at ultimate victory. Not likely. Clinton continues to polish her performances. It’s certain to get nasty down the road.