Tuesday, bloody Tuesday [UPDATED ALL EVENING]

The polls have only just closed in Georgia, but Fox News has already called the GOP contest for Donald Trump. Apparently, it’s the same old story — a big win for Trump; a battle for second place between Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz.

Virginia, mercifully, has not yet been called. Reportedly, Marco Rubio is competitive with Trump in the Commonwealth. Similarly, in Vermont, John Kasich is apparently running well.

Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, has been declared the winner in Georgia and Virginia. Sanders will win his home state of Vermont.

Already the prohibitive favorite, Clinton will likely become the presumptive nominee tonight. Trump may become the prohibitive favorite.

UPDATE: Ben Carson is trailing John Kasich in Georgia, where the Ohio governor is a no-hoper. So far, his share of the vote is less than 4 percent. (NOTE: The doctor is now a little bit ahead of Kasich and slightly above 4 percent). If Carson doesn’t exit after tonight, something is wrong. What’s the point of being routed continuously with no shot at better than a fourth place finish in any state?

TRUMP WINS THREE MORE STATES: Fox News declares Trump the winner in Alabama, Tennessee, and Massachusetts. We see, once again, the breadth of his appeal. In most years with contested primaries, I doubt that the same candidate would win all three of these states.

However, exit polls suggest that Cruz may pull a surprise in Oklahoma.

IN GEORGIA: Cruz and Rubio are right around the 20 percent mark, which I understand to be the threshold for claiming delegates. If one or both narrowly fails to hit 20 percent, it may well be due to Ben Carson’s futile candidacy. (NOTE: We’re now seeing the same thing in Alabama. Early returns have Cruz and Rubio at around 19 percent, with Carson at 7 percent).

IN VIRGINIA: Trump has more than a 25,000 vote lead over Rubio with almost 50 percent of the vote in. Supposedly, a big chunk of the vote from Northern Virginia — Rubio country — has yet to be counted. But with Trump this far ahead, I think he’s likely to prevail.

If Trump does win, it may well be due to John Kasich. The Ohio governor’s focus on Virginia, where he never had much of chance, may have been an attempt to deny Rubio a much needed win. Perhaps Rubio will reciprocate in Ohio, as the various GOP hopefuls continue to clear the way for Donald Trump’s hostile takeover of the Republican party.

TRUMP WINS VIRGINIA: Fox News has called Virginia for Trump. Rubio will get almost as many delegates, but could really have used a win in the Commonwealth tonight. It looks like the Florida Senator will be shut out again unless John “Boss” Hinderaker can deliver Minnesota, a caucus state.

CRUZ HOLDING SERVE IN TEXAS: It’s too early to call the Texas race, but Ted Cruz has jumped out to a sizable early lead. If, in addition to Texas, he can win, say, in Oklahoma, the Cruz campaign can spin this, plausibly, as a decent night. A far cry from what, just a few months ago, he expected from the “SEC,” but decent nonetheless. And better than Marco Rubio’s.

TEXAS UPDATE: Cruz wins it. Trump will finish second. Rubio, as in several other states, is right around the 20 percent threshold he must reach to get any delegates from delegate-rich Texas.

MORE GOOD NEWS: Cruz has been declared the winner in Oklahoma. He’s done well enough tonight to eliminate any question of leaving the race, it seems to me. But success going forward, if he’s to have any, depends on other candidates getting out (and not just Ben Carson).

I don’t see Kasich or Rubio getting out after tonight. Both had uninspiring nights (as things look now), but they are pinning their hopes on Ohio and Florida, respectively. In a way, if you’re a stop Trump guy like me, it’s too bad these states didn’t vote tonight.

A DOUBLE UPSET IN OKLAHOMA: Bernie Sanders wins in Sooner land. I believe Trump and Clinton were expected to win there (though I could be wrong about that), but neither did.

VERMONT AND ARKANSAS ARE STILL UNCERTAIN: Of the states where the polls are closed, Vermont and Arkansas are the ones still in doubt (on the GOP side). Kasich and Trump are neck-and-neck in Vermont. Arkansas looks like a three way race between Trump, Rubio, and Cruz (in that order).

If Trump is denied victory in both states, it can be argued that he underperformed. But I don’t think it can be argued that he received a meaningful setback. Trump will go marching on in fine shape even with the loss of four or five of the eleven super Tuesday states (if it comes to that; so far he’s only lost two).

RUBIO LEADS IN MINNESOTA: Boss Hinderaker is delivering so far. Marco Rubio has an early lead in that state’s caucuses. Ted Cruz is second. Trump is a distant third. It’s still very early, though.

TRUMP HOLDS A PRESSER: In lieu of a victory speech, Donald Trump took questions from the press. Maybe it was Chris Christie’s idea — that’s how he campaigned (never got to give a victory anything, though). Christie was standing behind Trump for this event.

Trump tried to sound presidential, which I suppose was the point of doing a presser. He succeeded for stretches.

But Trump can’t quite pull it off. For example, asked about Paul Ryan, a Trump critic, the tycoon said that he expected to get along great with Ryan. But then he added that if he didn’t, there would be very bad consequences for the Speaker.

I fear there will be very bad consequences for the country if we elect as our president a bully with authoritarian tendencies.

RUBIO BATTLES TO HIT THE DELEGATE THRESHOLD: States in which Rubio is a little bit below the 20 percent threshold he needs to win delegates: Alabama, Tennessee, Texas, and Vermont (he’s very close in Vermont and Tennessee).

States in which he is hitting the 20 percent threshold: Georgia.

States with a 15 percent threshold that he’s hitting (and hitting easily): Arkansas and Oklahoma.

States with a 15 percent threshold that he’s not hitting: None.

States with no threshold in which he will win a goodly share of delegates: Virginia.

ARKANSAS GOES TO TRUMP: Another victory for the tycoon. Rubio and Cruz will get a decent delegate count here, however.

DELEGATE ESTIMATES: The New York Times is offering delegate estimates for tonight. There’s a lot of guesswork in involved, since a more than de minimis share of today’s view is still unreported. For what it’s worth, here’s how the Times estimates it as of 10:45 Eastern Time (its estimates are updated constantly):

Trump 245 delegates (updated to 247)
Cruz 175 delegates (updated to 210)
Rubio 125 delegates (updated to 107)
Kasich 19 delegates
Carson 4 delegates

If we could stay in the current divvying up of delegates mode, Trump could be stopped. But we’re heading into winner-take-all time.

So unless the dynamic of the race changes radically, Trump soon will begin to run the table. And the dynamic can change radically only if the field is reduced to two candidates.

RUBIO EXTENDS HIS LEAD IN MINNESOTA: With more than half of the vote in, Marco Rubio is nearly ten percentage points ahead of Ted Cruz in Minnesota. Trump is in third place with only 21 percent, his worst showing of the year. Keep in mind, however, that Minnesota is a caucus state and we’re talking about a very low number of participants (probably a little over 100,000 when all is said and done).

TIME OUT: I’m going to end this thread and take a break. I’ll put up a summary of the evening in another post later on.

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