If all you want from Super Tuesday is a headline, the best bet is that this will be what you get: “Trump and Clinton Win.” The front-runners for the Republican and Democratic presidential nominations are front-runners in the majority of states that will vote today. The whole point of Super Tuesday, as it was established decades ago, and as it has continued to operate, is to advantage front-runners and to disadvantage challengers to the dominant narrative. Polls from the states that are voting and caucusing today favor Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton.
That matters, as the front-runners are likely to collect a lot of delegates on a day when 595 of the 1,236 that are needed to secure the Republican nomination, and when 865 of the 2,382 that are needed to secure the Democratic nomination, will be selected. But the headlines (and the conventional wisdom that keeps trying to curtail the competition on both sides) will not begin to tell the whole story of this Super Tuesday—or of the evolving Democratic and Republican races.
Here are some tips for reading the results from the 11 states (and American Samoa on the Democratic side) that will be caucusing and voting today:
1. Trump will win a lot of states and delegates. But what will Texas Senator Ted Cruz and Florida Senator Marco Rubio get? To go forward in a serious way, Cruz must win Texas by a credible margin and either win or run very well in states where he has focused energy during this campaign: especially Georgia and Alabama. Rubio must win somewhere; the senator has yet to finish better than a weak second anywhere, and he will have a very hard time going forward as the also-ran.
2. Ohio Governor John Kasich is going forward, no matter what—aiming for coming contests in Michigan and then his home state. He is surfing over, around, and under Super Tuesday, doing a lot of media interviews and trying to come out as the last man standing against Trump. But Kasich has to show strength somewhere; he needs to collect a reasonable number of delegates. Keep an eye on Massachusetts, where Kasich has campaigned and enjoys the endorsement of The Boston Globe. A second-place finish there might help him make the argument that he’s the best alternative to the billionaire.