Remember the night that Donald Trump won both Alabama and Massachusetts? It was an impressive feat given the difference between the two states when it comes to politics (and much else).
Tonight, Trump seeks another impressive double: Mississippi and Michigan. He’s heavily favored in Mississippi and is off to a good start in Michigan — leading John Kasich 37-30 with about 7 percent of the precincts reporting.
The focus tonight will probably be on whether Trump clears 35 percent of the vote (or whatever threshold one finds significant) and by how much. We’ll also be looking at whether Kasich can stay within shouting distance of Trump (assuming he doesn’t win Michigan), with an eye towards next week’s big primary in Ohio, the governor’s home state. And we’ll be judging the extent of Marco Rubio’s apparent collapse.
But if we take a step back, we can’t help but be impressed that Trump has been so successful in the Deep South, in New England, and now (it seems) in the industrial Midwest.
TRUMP WINS THEM BOTH: Trump has already been declared the winner in Mississippi and Michigan. In Mississippi, he is flirting with the the 50 percent mark. In Michigan, he’s about half way between 35 and 40 percent. These results suggest that Trump is not stalled.
Cruz may close do well in Idaho and the Hawaii caucus. But this is already a very good night for Trump, I think.
THE RACE FOR SECOND IN MICHIGAN: Trump now leads Kasich by 38-26 in Michigan. Does this give Kasich momentum going into Ohio? I wouldn’t think so. (The good news is momentum may not matter when it comes to Kasich’s defense of home turf.)
Furthermore, Cruz is closing in on Kasich for second place. He trails the governor by only 3 points with a third of the vote in. Some are speculating that the vote that’s not yet in is weighted towards areas where Cruz is popular (rural areas, presumably). We’ll see.
HERE’S AN ODDITY: A CBS exit poll in Michigan found Cruz beating Trump head-to-head by a margin of 46-37. Yet in the actual voting among a four-member field, Trump is capturing 37 percent of the vote. I think we can discount this exit poll.
CRUZ NOW IN SECOND PLACE IN MICHIGAN: Ted Cruz has slipped past John Kasich into second place in Michigan. The margin is around 4,500 votes, or 0.4 percentage points. 91 percent of the vote is in.
I’m not sure how much the race for second matters. Cruz and Kasich will both pick up a dozen or more delegates — more combined, apparently, than Trump. Both will be mildly encouraged by tonight’s results, Kasich because it’s rare for him to crack 20 percent (I can’t think of another state where he has); Cruz because second place or a very close third in the industrial Midwest is respectable for him and because Marco Rubio did so poorly.
But Donald Trump will be the most encouraged of all.
CRUZ HEADING FOR VICTORY IN IDAHO: In Idaho, about 30 percent of the vote is in. Cruz leads Trump 40.7 to 30.0. Rubio is in third place with 18.2. It certainly appears that Cruz will win Idaho.
32 delegates are available in Idaho. Hawaii, where I think Cruz will do well, has 19 delegates. And Cruz will pick up at least a dozen delegates in Michigan, it looks like. I’m not sure about Mississippi.
So in terms of delegate count, Cruz will be able to say that he is still on course to block Trump from winning the required number of delegates. However, what Trump demonstrated tonight is that he’s still on track to prevail in major winner-take-all primaries, at least as long as there are more than two candidates. It is these primaries that hold the key to Trump’s quest to get to the magic delegate number.
Rubio is the big loser tonight. He brings negative momentum, if there is such a thing, to Florida.
SIGNING OFF: I’m not going to stay up for the Hawaii returns. Not that big of a political junkie.