Voters in five states weighed in on the 2016 presidential race Tuesday, and one of them ended the hopes of a not-so-favorite son.
Here are top takeaways from “home-turf” Tuesday:
If the U.S. Senate holds any votes next week, don’t be surprised to see Marco Rubio there.
A little less than six years ago, Rubio surged to national prominence, winning a Florida Senate seat with nearly 50% of the vote in a three-way race that included the incumbent governor, Charlie Crist. From that point on, he was on a fast track in GOP politics, with Time magazine in early 2013 putting him on the cover with a headline “The Republican Savior.”
But his campaign stumbled and he was continually hectored for missing votes and being an absentee senator — among other things.
And on Tuesday, his home state couldn’t save him from the dominant force that is Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. The New York billionaire defeated Rubio by nearly 20 points to capture all of the state’s 99 delegates. The Florida senator had vowed before the results came in to press on no matter what, but the magnitude of the loss forced him to acknowledge he was not on the “winning side” this year.
Where does Rubio go from here? Hard to say. His Senate term ends at the end of the year, and he didn’t hedge his bets like Rand Paul, who is seeking re-election to his Kentucky Senate seat after falling short in his White House bid. And a Trump-Rubio ticket? Don’t count on it.
“While it is not God’s plan that I be president in 2016 or maybe ever,” Rubio told supporters in Miami in announcing the suspension of his campaign. But we would not be surprised to see him on some ballot for some office sooner rather than later.
Kasich takes care of his home court
Where Rubio got blown out in his home state, Ohio Gov. John Kasich kept his long-shot bid alive with a win at home. For Kasich, it marked his first win after weeks of contests in which he’d largely been overshadowed by the acrimonious campaign between Trump, Rubio and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. Ohio always loomed as his do-or-die state, and with its winner-take-all 66 delegates and Rubio out of the race, Kasich’s win allows him to, presumably, emerge as the latest preferred establishment candidate. He even had 2012 nominee Mitt Romneycampaigning with him on Monday.
But being the preferred establishment choice hasn’t exactly worked out so well this year. Just ask Rubio. With Trump amassing delegates in every state but Ohio on Tuesday and no obvious state remaining on the calendar where the Ohio governor is likely to pose a serious challenger to the front-runner, it’s not clear what his next move is. But unlike Rubio, he’s still in the race.
And Tuesday night he promised his supporters he would keep going “all the way to Cleveland” — even though he was speaking from Berea Ohio, about 20 miles from Cleveland, where the Republican convention will convene this summer.
Bernie, Hillary is so over you
While Hillary Clinton picked up more delegates in last week’s contests, the headlines in the Democratic race were all about Bernie Sanders’ upset win in Michigan. His broadsides against Clinton on trade and Wall Street ties struck a chord with the state’s lower middle-class voters and suggested the Democratic front-runner may have her work cut out for her in other Midwest contests, beginning on Tuesday.
Apparently not. Clinton decisively won Ohio, and among voters with incomes between $30,000-$50,000 — a group that favored Sanders by 10 percentage points a week earlier, according to exit polls — Clinton had a narrow edge in Ohio. Meanwhile, just as she has throughout the South in 2016, in Florida, she didn’t just win; she won huge, underscoring the challenge for Sanders going forward. Yes, he still has the overwhelming support of young people and in states where independents can vote in the Democratic primary, he’s getting their support. But that’s not nearly enough anymore — not when Clinton already has an overwhelming lead among superdelegates. Unless the Vermont senator can start winning big states, by big margins, Clinton’s lead among pledged delegates will simply be impossible to overcome.
Cruz has one less ‘not-Trump’ competitor
Cruz has been arguing for weeks that he can win if he could get it down to a one-on-one race with Trump. And with Rubio dropping out, he gets closer to that.
But it may be too late. By the end of the night, Trump’s delegate lead over Cruz will have gone from about 100 to well over 200. So while Cruz told supporters he had a very good night, he fell further behind the front-runner. And with Kasich at least nominally reinvigorated, Cruz still has to fight for attention in the anti-Trump lane.
The Bernie blackout
In one of the oddest moments of the night, Sanders took the stage in Phoenix to address his supporters while the results in Missouri and Illinois were still in doubt … and none of the TV networks covered it. Trump was taking the stage at the same time, and if one thing has become clear this year, it is this: You do not get to eat into Donald Trump’s airtime.
Sanders spoke for an hour, the longest victory speech of the night. We’re sure there are highlights on YouTube somewhere.
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