Clinton, Trump on Top After Super Tuesday

     
     (CN) – Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton dominated their rivals Tuesday, each taking seven states. Bernie Sanders won four, Ted Cruz took Texas and Oklahoma, and Marco Rubio prevailed only in Minnesota.
     Trump rolled over his opponents from the Northeast to the Deep South, winning a plurality of votes in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Virginia and Vermont.
     At 4:45 a.m. Wednesday, with more than 95 percent of the votes counted in all Super Tuesday states but Alaska, Trump had amassed 488 delegates this year by unofficial count, with 1,237 needed for the Republican nomination.
     Cruz took 44 percent of the vote in his home state of Texas on Tuesday, to Trump’s 27, and took Oklahoma by a margin of 34 to 28 percent. An unofficial tally gave Cruz 303 delegates early Wednesday.
     Rubio edged his rivals only in Minnesota, where he took 37 percent of the votes to Cruz’s 29 and Trump’s 21. His unofficial delegate count stands at 156.
     Cruz used his two state victories Tuesday night to all but call for Rubio to drop out of the race.
     “So long as the field remains divided Donald Trump’s path to the nomination remains more likely and after tonight we have seen that our campaign is the only campaign that has beaten, that can beat and will beat Trump,” Cruz told a jubilant crowd at the Redneck Country Club, a suburban Houston bar owned by conservative talk radio gadfly and Cruz confidant Michael Berry.
     “God bless the State of Texas and God bless the State of Oklahoma,” Cruz added.
     Fernando Lopez, a 38-year-old tech worker sporting a Reagan-Bush ’84 T-shirt, said he backs Cruz because of his conservatism and his strict reading of the Constitution. Lopez said he stood by Cruz despite his stance on immigration.
     “I’m Hispanic and he hasn’t alienated me,” Lopez said. “He may have alienated some other people, but that’s just the nature of the beast when you take stands on your beliefs. And the fact that he stands by his beliefs makes me respect him even more. I do agree with many of his stances on immigration as far as enforcing our laws as they are written right now.”
     A woman in the packed crowd, listening in, told Lopez: “I like your shirt.”
     “Thank you,” he said. “It stands the test of time.”
     On the Democratic side, Clinton built her lead over the unexpectedly strong challenge from Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who took Minnesota, Colorado, Oklahoma and Vermont on Tuesday, giving him a running total this year of 633 Democratic delegates.
     But with Super Tuesday victories in Texas, Georgia, Virginia, Tennessee, Alabama, Arkansas, and Massachusetts, Clinton’s unofficial count of 997 delegates this year put her more than 40 percent of the way to the 2,383 needed to secure the Democratic nomination.
     Clinton crushed Sanders in the South, taking 78 percent of the popular Democratic votes in Alabama, 71 percent in Georgia, 66 percent in Tennessee and her quasi-home state of Arkansas, and 64 percent in Virginia. She edged him by 50-49 percent in Massachusetts.
     Sanders rolled in his home state of Vermont with 86 percent of the Democratic vote, and beat Clinton convincingly in Minnesota (62%), Colorado (59%) and Oklahoma, which he took 52 percent to 42 percent.
          But due to proportional representation and superdelegates, Clinton was awarded 34 Colorado delegates to Sanders’ 33, though the Vermont senator took 59 percent of Colorado Democrats’ votes to Clinton’s 40 percent.
     Democratic superdelegates can vote however they like at the party national convention, but will be expected to follow orders. This will favor Clinton.
     “America is strong when we’re all strong,” Clinton told supporters at her campaign headquarters in Miami. Taking a cue from Trump’s campaign slogan, Clinton added: “America never stopped being great; we need to make America whole.”
     But it was Trump’s strong showing across the map that dominated national headlines Wednesday morning, indicating the difficulty that Republican Party leaders will have in trying to stop a campaign that seems to be beyond their control.
     Though Trump took an absolute majority of Republican votes in no states, his pluralities were convincing. He took 49 percent of Republican votes in Massachusetts, to Rubio’s 18 percent and Cruz’s 10. Trump’s 43 percent tally in Alabama was more than Cruz’s 21 percent and Rubio’s 19 percent combined. In Georgia, it was Trump 39%, Rubio 25% and Cruz 24%.
     Delegates will be awarded proportionally in all the Super Tuesday states. Now begins a period of winner-take-all races, in which delegate counts will mount quickly for the leaders.
     Rubio’s win in Minnesota on Tuesday was his first state win of the year, but because of the state’s proportional representation, he and Cruz both were awarded 12 delegates, to Trump’s 8.
     Though Republican Party regulars have increasingly turned to Rubio as their best hope against Trump, Cruz’s stronger showing on Super Tuesday leaves him with nearly twice as many delegates as the senator from Florida. Cruz won 57 delegates in his home state of Texas on Tuesday, to Trump’s 20. With 96 percent of the vote counted, Rubio had been shut out of Texas delegates, though only 77 of the state’s 155 Republican delegates had been apportioned as of 4 a.m. In popular vote, Cruz led in Texas by 44 to 27 to 18 percent.
     In Travis County, home to the state capital Austin, heavy turnout saw voters still waiting in line at 9:45 p.m., more than two hours after polls officially closed. With all 81,503 Travis County Republican votes counted early Wednesday, Cruz prevailed with 30.3 percent to Rubio’s 29 percent and Trump’s 25.3 percent.
     Of the 139,237 Democratic votes in Travis County, Sander took 51 percent to Clinton’s 48.5 percent.
     Travis is an atypical county for Texas, being a Democratic stronghold. Though Clinton swamped Sanders in the state, 140 delegates to 48 and 65 percent of the vote to 33 percent, the Sanders campaign continued to “Feel the Bern” with a late-night rally at a tiny bar on Austin’s famous Sixth Street, a centerpiece of the city’s unofficial slogan “Keep Austin Weird.”
     Sanders campaign workers and volunteers mounted the podium to tell their faithful to “continue the revolution,” and insist that the fight was not over.
     A Clinton supporter at the Austin for Hillary office told Courthouse News earlier Tuesday that they expected the former secretary of state and New York senator to carry the Democratic vote due to her long experience in foreign policy, civil rights, and women’s and LGBT rights.
     Texas voters who could not show photo ID on Tuesday were allowed to cast only provisional ballots, then were given five days to present a photo ID to the registrar. Whether this law, passed in 2011, had much effect on the count Tuesday was unclear.
          Cruz won convincingly in Harris County, home to the state’s largest city, Houston, and the third-largest county by population in the United States, with 4.3 million residents. Cruz took 45 percent of the Harris County vote to Trump’s 24 percent and Rubio’s 19 percent, according to an unofficial county by County Clerk Stan Stewart.
     Clinton pummeled Sanders in Harris County, 70 percent t0 29 percent.
     Cruz also prevailed also in Oklahoma, with 34 percent of the vote to Trump’s 28 percent and Rubio’s 26 percent. With 37 of that state’s 43 delegates apportioned, unofficially, Cruz had 14 delegates to Trump’s 12 and Rubio’s 11.
     “Trump won’t be unstoppable after tonight, but he’s definitely going to be in the catbird’s seat,” said Joel Sawyer, an unaffiliated GOP consultant in Columbia, S.C. who for 13 years was director of communications in the South Carolina governor’s office.
     Sawyer said Trump has benefited from the “Prisoner’s Dilemma.”
     “All the candidates in the race wanted him gone, but none of them wanted to cooperate to make to happen,” he said. “You have to remember that only now is there forming an organized, well-funded effort to take him down.
     “We’ll see if it works,” Sawyer said. “Signs point to Rubio and Cruz staying in the race until the convention in July. This race is far from over.”
     As for the Democrats, Sawyer has long said Sanders does not represent an electoral threat to Clinton.
     “Rather, he’s forced her to talk like a primary candidate instead of a presumptive nominee,” he said. “He’s pushed the conversation to the left. Clinton wants their race to be over as quickly as possible so she can run back to the middle.”
     Turnout was heavy across the country Tuesday, with few problems reported beyond some precinct confusion and technical glitches at some polling places.
     In North Texas, morning turnout was so heavy it temporarily overwhelmed the polls in some places, causing voters to wait half an hour or longer to cast their votes.
     Georgia voters in one DeKalb County precinct were delayed early Tuesday when technical issues at Briarlake Elementary School left precinct officials with one working computer to verify voters.
     In another Atlanta-area polling place, in Rockdale County, the Honey Creek Elementary School precinct was moved to the Rockdale Board of Elections Office due to a Norovirus outbreak. The Rockdale County Board of Elections requested an emergency court order to move the polling location, which the county said affected 1,897 voters.
     Minnesota Republican Party spokeswoman Katie Boyd said the party was expecting twice as many voters or more than turned out for Republican caucuses in 2008, when about 65,000 participated.
     She attributed the interest to the solid teams Cruz and Rubio had in place, and to grassroots support for Trump.
     “There’s no question people are much more engaged than they have been in previous years,” Boyd said.
     There were no big surprises in Tennessee, where primary voters favored Trump and Clinton, as polling indicated.
     A Middle Tennessee State University poll in February showed 33 percent of Republican voters for Trump, with Cruz second at 17 percent. In the event, Trump took 39 percent to Cruz’s 25 percent and Rubio’s 21 percent. With 99 percent of the vote counted, Trump had been awarded 30 delegates to Cruz’s 12 and Rubio’s 2. Fourteen more Tennessee delegates had not been distributed by 4 a.m.
     Though just 47 percent of Tennessee Democrats in the MTSU Poll said they favored Clinton, and 15 percent backed Sanders, Clinton prevailed among the undecided, taking 66 percent of the vote Tuesday, and 45 Tennessee delegates, to Sanders’ 32 percent and 22 delegates.
     Tennessee voters braved rainy conditions for much of the day. Despite the rain a poll worker in Murfreesboro said Tuesday afternoon he thought turnout had been high for a primary election.
     Middle Tennessee State University student Colton Mason, 25, told Courthouse News that the Republican debates this year have been displays of “demagoguery and showmanship” while the Democrats held substantive debates.
     Mason, a Sanders supporter, said his main concern is “the corrupting influence of money in politics.” Mason said he wants his 2-year-old son to live in a “compassionate and educated” nation.
     But he expects Clinton to lock up the Democratic nomination.
     “I expect Trump and Clinton to get this one,” Mason said. “Tennessee is Trump’s demographic and Hillary is well-liked here.”
     Jennifer Gentry, 40, said she backs Trump because he “speaks what most Americans are thinking.”
     Erica Irvine, 29, called the overall field of candidates “a joke” but said she favors Clinton.
     Candidates and their surrogates racked up the miles on land and in the air as Super Tuesday approached.
     Former President Bill Clinton campaigned for his wife on Monday in San Antonio, telling his audience, “She wants us all to rise together.”
     He returned to the theme of togetherness repeatedly during his 15-minutes speech, saying, as his wife did Tuesday night, that Hillary Clinton is not striving to make America “great again,” but to make it “whole again.”
     “America is great,” he said. “But we’re not whole.”
     Hillary Clinton campaigned in Minneapolis for the Minnesota caucus, which did not get under way until 6:30 p.m. Her first stop was an impromptu visit to The Mapps Coffee shop near the University of Minnesota, where she posed for selfies and glad-handed all comers.
     Her next stop was a lunchtime dive into the crush of a busy Midtown Global Market.
     Minnesota, which Sanders took 62 percent to 38 percent, 43 delegates to Clinton’s 35, was considered one of the few battleground states for Democrats on Tuesday. Sanders made three trips to the state in recent weeks. After a last rally in Minnesota he flew home to vote in Vermont, where, as expected, he swamped Clinton, taking 86 percent of the votes, and 13 delegates to her 4.
     The only Republican candidate who set foot in Minnesota during the campaign was Marco Rubio, who held a lunchtime rally Andover, a suburb of the Twin Cities, where he was introduced by former Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.
     During the event Rubio repeatedly lambasted Trump, who he said knew little of the intricacies he’d have to understand as president, including what a “nuclear triad” is.
     “Trump thinks a nuclear triad is a rock band from the ’80s,” Rubio said. Trump famously stumbled early in the campaign when he could not identify the nuclear triad as the capability to deliver atomic weapons by strategic bombers, intercontinental ballistic missiles and submarines.
     Rubio then landed a one-two tailored to his Minnesota audience, saying the state’s former Governor Jesse Ventura “was an embarrassment.”
     “So is Trump,” he said.
     Unlike most of his competitors and Clinton, Trump did not bother to make election-day stops in any of the Super Tuesday states. He flew to Columbus, Ohio — which doesn’t vote for another two weeks — with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
     Christie, who dropped out of the presidential race after the New Hampshire primary and endorsed Trump on Friday, called Trump the only Republican with a prayer of beating Clinton in November.
     Trump appeared to be on a victory lap even before the votes were counted Tuesday, telling a crowd of 5,000 at the Signature Flight Support facility at Port Columbus International Airport: “Winning Ohio is so important, it’s going to send a signal like nothing else.”
     Ohio is a bellwether state in presidential elections: it has picked the presidential nominee in every election since 1960. It’s also the home state of John Kasich, and Trump likely saw his visit as a dig at the governor who has steadfastly refused to drop his own presidential bid.
     Trump then flew to Louisville for an appearance before heading to Palm Beach, where he watched the results roll in.
     Still in midair Tuesday, Trump engaged in a Twitter war with South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who has endorsed Marco Rubio for president.
     Trump was angered that Haley joined the chorus of Republicans — led by former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney — that he release his income tax returns.
     The skirmish began after Dan Scavino, the Trump campaign’s social media director, tweeted a video of Haley dismissing the issue of Romney’s tax returns in 2012, and expressing concern about Trump’s failure to release his own returns.
     Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski then Tweeted a link to an article mentioning Scavino’s Tweet, noting that the article described Haley as a “liability” to Rubio.
     Trump then reTweeted that Tweet, but didn’t let it go at that.
     In his own Tweet, he wrote “The people of South Carolina are embarrassed by Nikki Haley!”
     Haley responded with a Tweet of her own.
     “Bless your heart,” she said.
     Sawyer, the South Carolina political consultant, chimed in: “I don’t think Nikki Haley wants to be on any short or long list for Trump’s [vice president], especially considering their Twitter exchange today.”
     Citing betting markets such as Predictit, Sawyer said the smart money appears to be pointing to a general election race pitting Trump against Clinton.
     Should that happen, Sawyer said, “I think there are a lot of Republicans that will sit out between those two choices. I think some will even vote for Clinton, albeit a far lesser number than just stay home.”
     He added: “It’s hard to envision a scenario outside of a Clinton indictment that Trump could put together a winning November coalition. … I’m not sure that there is a figure that exists that would instill enough confidence in the donor class to get on board. Their view of him is hugely negative … they see him as a downright dangerous figure.”
     In Alaska, where the Republican caucus is called the “presidential preference poll,” turnout at the Eagle River polling places outside Anchorage was brisk after polls opened at 3 p.m.
     Eagle River is home to active and retired military personnel, many of whom commute to downtown Anchorage to work.
     Sarah Hale, a 38-year-old X-ray technician whose husband is in the Air Force, told Courthouse News she was undecided going into the caucus and that none of the choices made her happy.
     “It might be a flip of a coin when I get up there,” Hale said. “I’m just really not happy with the lack of good solid candidates overall – both parties – whole dang thing.”
     Retired military woman Elene Cole, 50, said she back Rubio because of his “strong Christian values.”
     Paris Morthorpe, 55, a musician, said she was still undecided, but added: “Anybody but Trump.” Her Australia-born husband Glen, a naturalized U.S. citizen, said he found the election process “pretty fair.”
     A voter who declined to give her name said she hadn’t intended to vote for Trump until a motivational speaker friend who knows the billionaire persuaded her that Trump was raised with “Christian values.”
     “He is patriarch for 900 people who work in Trump Tower and knows how to care for his employees and their families,” the woman said of Trump. “I would love a female president, but not Hillary. She has too much baggage, covered-up things and lies.”
     And in Alabama, tornado warnings in some counties did not keep voters away from the polls. In the Birmingham suburb of Pelham, longtime Democrat Stephanie Kies said she forsook her party to vote for John Kasich, the Republican governor of Ohio.
     “I have never voted Republican before, but I chose to vote that way today mainly to give any other Republican candidate my vote and just so it would be one less towards Trump,” she told Courthouse News.
     “We teach our kids not to be crass and bully others around, but I feel if you vote for Trump and don’t see him for what he is, you are part of the problem.”
     Fellow Pelham resident David Russell disagreed. He said Donald Trump has “sparked a nerve” in America and that because Trump is a businessman, he can tackle the country’s deficit.
     Russell, originally of New York, said he has always been a Trump fan and he is tired of having to be politically correct. He said Trump “is basically speaking about what I’ve wanted done in this country for the last 12 years.”
     Following his strong Super Tuesday showing, Trump arrived back at Mar-a-Lago, his Palm Beach Island estate, accompanied by Gov. Chris Christie.
     The Republican frontrunner held a press conference around 10 pm, surrounded by an intimate group of supporters and a horde of media packed shoulder to shoulder in his small chandelier-lined ballroom.
     Trump rehashed the rhetoric that has propelled him to the front of the Republican field. He spoke about building a “very serious wall” on the Mexican border, seizing control of international trade and implementing tax cuts for the middle class.
     He told the crowd he is a “truth-teller” and a “unifier.”
     “The Republican party has become more dynamic. It’s become more diverse,” Trump said. “We’re taking from the Democrats. We’re taking from the Independents.”
     “I am a unifier. I would love to see the Republican Party – and everybody – get together and unify.”
     Trump looked ahead to the Florida primary and did not miss an opportunity to jab at Rubio.
     “We’re gonna spend so much time in Florida. We got about a 20 point lead. I know that a lot of groups, a lot of the special interests, a lot of the lobbyists – the people that want to have their senator [Rubio] do exactly as they want – they’re going to put 20 to 25 million [dollars] into it over the next two weeks. … Frankly I think that’s fine. He’s not going anywhere anyway,” Trump said.
     He focused much of his speech on the familiar theme of corporate exodus:
     “You look at countries like Mexico … they are destroying us in terms of economic development: companies like Carrier Air Conditioning just moving into Mexico, Ford moving into mexico, Nabisco closing up shop in Chicago and moving into mexico. We have to stop it folks. I know how to stop it. We’re gonna create jobs. We’re gonna create jobs like you’ve never seen,” Trump said.
     As the event was transpiring, planes from the international airport nearby soared overhead and shook the walls of Mar-a-Lago, undoubtedly to the chagrin of Trump, who has been battling Palm Beach County for years, demanding that the air traffic be directed away from his land.
     Click here to see the rules on how each state’s delegates are awarded.
     
     Reporting was contributed by Courthouse News reporters Aimee Sachs in Atlanta, Emma Gannon in Denver, Ryan Kocian in Austin, Izzy Kapnick in Palm Beach, Erik De La Garza in San Antonio, David Lee in Dallas, Cameron Langford in Houston, Julie St. Louis in Anchorage, Kevin Lessmiller in Nashville, and Tracey Dalzell in Birmingham, Ala.

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