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LIST: 5 'Super Tuesday' storylines

Students wait in line to vote at the Illini Union on the University of Illinois campus in Urbana, Ill., Tuesday March 15, 2016. Voters in Illinois, as well as North Carolina, Florida, Missouri and Ohio are casting their ballots in primary elections Tuesday. (Rick Danzl/The News-Gazette via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT

Super Tuesday 2.0? 3.0? Titanic Tuesday? Let's just admit it, Glenn Altschuler, Litwin Professor of American Studies at Cornell University, said it best when he deemed March 15th, 2016 "Super Duper-Tuesday."

The results of the primaries taking place in Florida, Illinois, Missouri, North Carolina and Ohio carry significant weight for the 2016 Presidential race, fueling seemingly endless speculation as to how the contests will play out.

Here's a list of five storylines to watch out for as the results start rolling in:

5. Hometown dates

Both Marco Rubio and John Kasich face high stakes on Tuesday as voters in their home states head to the polls. As The Washington Post's James Hohmann described "it is a win-or-drop-out situation for Kasich and Marco Rubio."

The Washington Post deemed Florida's winner-take-all primary in the Sunshine State Tuesday's "biggest prize," noting the 99 delegates up for grabs for whomever triumphs in the GOP race. With 163 delegates already, those 99 would be a major boost for Rubio, who has been promising a home-state victory.

Though experts noted that the polling data at present moment is not promising. If the primary goes the same way as the polls, it could spell trouble for the Florida Senator.

"If Marco Rubio loses decisively in Florida as polls suggest he might," Matthew Wilson, Associate Professor of Political Science at Southern Methodist University, suggested it would be "difficult for him to articulate a rational for continuing his candidacy."

If he loses in Florida, Wilson explained it is difficult for him to make a persuasive case that he's able to win in any other state. Voters, Wilson speculated, may increasingly regard Rubio as someone who is strategically not a viable alternative.

"If Rubio does not win Florida his candidacy is effectively over," James Campbell, University at Buffalo Professor of Political Science, stated.

"If he can't win Florida then he's out," said Gregory Koger , associate professor of political science at the University of Miami

For John Kasich, Koger explained the same logic applies in Ohio.

"It is absolutely essential state for Kasich to win," Koger said.

Unlike Rubio in Florida, Wilson said, Kasich seems to have a better chance at winning Ohio.

The problem, Wilson noted is that Kasich hasn't won anything else, and he's not running to be the President of Ohio, he's running to be The President of the United States.

Kasich's strategy beyond Ohio, Wilson observed "doesn't appear particularly well thought out."


4. Trump

As critical as Ohio and Florida are to Kasich and Rubio respectively, the winner-take-all primaries also have and appeal for front-runner Donald Trump.

The New York Times wrote that Tuesday's primaries "will go a long way toward determining whether Donald J. Trump can win the 1,237 delegates necessary to claim the party's nomination."

If Trump is able to beat Rubio and Kasich, The Times said "it would suggest that he is close to wresting the Republican nomination."

If he loses Ohio and Florida, however, The Times noted "he would face the strong possibility of falling short of a delegate majority and entering a contested Republican convention this summer."

Koger explained that thus far, Trump's problem "is that he's winning a plurality of the Republican votes and delegates," but thus far he has failed to gather the number he needs to secure the nomination.

"So winner-take-all states like Ohio and Florida, they're opportunities for him to take a narrow lead and turn it into a significant number of delegates," Koger explained.

With just 469 delegates going into Tuesday, Trump needs 768 of the 1,392 available to clinch the nomination.

As previously mentioned, there are 99 delegates available in Florida. There are 66 available in Ohio.

While Florida victory would be a "big boon," to Trump, Wilson said it will not "fundamentally change the dynamics of the race."

The bottom line, Wilson explained is that Trump "is getting more delegates than everyone else," yet he is not the favorite among most Republican voters and office holders. Wilson added that in projections of a general election, Trump "loses decisively to [Hillary] Clinton."

"We're still in the very odd situation where the leading contender for the Republican nomination is disliked by the majority of the party."

3. The Trump alternative

Given the party's disdain for Trump, many have been speculating who the best alternative to him is. Having defeated Trump in a handful of caucuses and primaries, Ted Cruz has attempted to paint himself as the only one who can beat the front-runner. Although Cruz already has a hometown victory under his belt, that doesn't mean Tuesday's contests are any less important.

"The stakes are also high for Ted Cruz, who needs to prove that he would be a worthy street fighter in a head-to-head match-up with Trump," Hohmann reported.


Hohmann sourced Post reporter David Weigel, who wrote that while Cruz has been "boxed out by the media's focus on Trump," the candidate is hoping to exceed expectations Tuesday evening.

Koger speculated that Cruz would collect a "significant number of delegates," from Illinois, Missouri, North Carolina.

As Politico's Katie Glueck noted, a recent dedication of resources in Illinois, Missouri and North Carolina "signals that the Cruz campaign sees opportunities to close the gap with Trump," in those states.

As Glueck reported, those three states "award delegates to some degree proportionally or via hybrid models that allow more opportunities to rack up delegates."


Stressing how "every delegate counts," Campbell said that "It's important for [Cruz] to do well."

Koger described the hypothetical scenario in which Kasich wins Ohio and Trump wins Florida. As previously mentioned, that situation likely means Rubio will exit the race. Kasich, Koger said "doesn't have any more Ohios to pull out of his hat," and has no other states where he leads Trump in the polls.

"So going forward from March 16th on Cruz will probably be able to argue that he's the strongest opponent to Donald Trump," Koger explained.

2. Perpetuating the Bern

Another candidate looking to up his delegate count Tuesday is Bernie Sanders, who, after pulling off an upset in Michigan is looking to make heads spin again.

"The game changer would be if Bernie Sanders scores significant wins in the Midwest," Wilson explained, stressing that Sanders "has to be able to break through and win big, diverse states."

Describing the importance of Sanders' Michigan victory, Wilson said the questioned whether he can follow up and has "real viability moving forward."

The "real question," of the Democratic contest, Wilson said is "whether Michigan was an interesting fluke or a sign of things to come."


A win for Sanders in the Midwest could "provide a lot of momentum for his campaign," Campbell speculated.

"Given all of the history and advantages that Hillary Clinton has as a candidate," given extensive campaign experience and the support she's received from Super Delegates, Campbell said "any success by the Sanders campaign indicates a substantial weakness in her candidacy and fuels further support and interest in Sanders' campaign."

Alternatively, if Clinton were to sweep Tuesday's primaries it would "provide a good deal of momentum," Campbell said. One key factor Campbell pointed out is that because Democrats distribute delegates proportionally a Clinton sweep wouldn't necessarily be "a death blow."

"Margins matter," Campbell emphasized.

"It's not just finishing first or not, it's how close you are as well."


Even if Clinton sweeps, Koger expressed skepticism that it would truly mean the end of Sanders' campaign.

While it may "lead to news stories that it was all but decided," Koger noted that Sanders has said he will stay in the race no matter what.

"For him it's about the message," and making the case for his policy ideas, Koger said.

"I don't think he cares if he loses as long as his message is getting out," Koger suggested.

1. Turnout

Given the high voter turnout in the GOP field so far, experts were confident there would be high voter turnout come Tuesday.

Describing tracking done by Politico's Mark Caputo, Koger cited the 2 million Floridians who voted early.

"Based on that," Koger said, he "absolutely," expects turnout to continue to surge.


Trump, Koger foretold will likely argue that this is the result of his supporters coming out in droves.

"I'm sure there's some truth to that," Koger said but noted that there are also people who ordinarily would not vote who will show up at the polls just to vote against him.


"He's so controversial that people are trying to vote for or against him," Koger explained.

"Trump is a mobilizing factor," Wilson said noting that applies whether people are for or against him.

"[Trump] does drive increased interest in the primaries and caucuses."

While experts were clear in their expectations for high turnout, there's more than a few questions we won't know the answer to until polls close tonight. Stay tuned.

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