Candidates Batten Down the Hatches Ahead of ‘Super Tuesday’

By Olivia Ryan

It has been a turbulent few weeks in the U.S. Presidential campaign, with no signs of slowing down. Since the Iowa caucuses, the Republican field has been whittled down to six and Hillary Clinton is looking nervous after Bernie Sanders won 60% of the vote in the Feb 9 New Hampshire primaries.

Those primaries served victories to Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump and Governor John Kasich. Importantly for his campaign, Jeb Bush came out just ahead of fellow Floridian Marco Rubio, who suffered a setback during the Feb 6 Republican debate. Governor Chris Christie, who has now suspended his campaign, dealt a harsh blow when he told the audience to look out for Rubio’s “canned lines” and then interrupted with “There it is everybody, the 25-second memorized speech” at an opportune moment. Unfortunately for his debate performance – and his performance in the primary – Mr. Rubio played straight into Christie’s accusations by repeating a similar line about President Obama four times that night. It was a successful attack by Christie when “Robo Rubio,” whose poll numbers had been steadily rising, ended fifth.

For the Democrats, Clinton suffered a harsh blow from a state that historically has supported the Clintons: it was New Hampshire in 1992 that got Bill on a steady track to the nomination. In 2008, Hillary revived her campaign by winning New Hampshire after losing to Barack Obama and John Edwards in Iowa. In exit polls, 91% of voters who cared most about honesty and trustworthiness voted for Sanders and 5% for Clinton, continuing a trend from the Iowa contest. However, 69% of voters said they wanted someone with experience in politics to win the nomination, a group that narrowly favoured Mrs. Clinton.

Looking ahead: the South Carolina Republican Primary and the Nevada Democratic Caucus will be held Feb 20, after this issue goes to print. Despite his slip ups in New Hampshire, Rubio has gotten the endorsement of South Carolina governor Nikki Haley which should bolster his numbers. Jeb Bush was finally starting to look solid after a good performance at the Feb 13th debate, and called upon his brother, former President George W. Bush, in a last-ditch effort to bring himself up in the polls. Sadly this came to no avail after having to suspend his campaign. Trump, despite looking increasingly red-faced and full of air in debates, is still polling at 36%, with Cruz in second with 19%. Moderate John Kasich is not expected to do as well in a very conservative, southern state, but a poor result in this state will not be the end of his campaign.

On the other side, Nevada is a state that Clinton “should” win, but polls are showing it will be a tight race.

The next major event in the 2016 elections is Super Tuesday on March 1. This is one day where more delegates can be won than on any other single day of the primary calendar. It encompasses a more diverse demographic, important for the Clinton campaign since she polls much higher among black and minority voters. Because it includes so many states and varieties, it is generally noted as a candidate’s test for national electability (though it does not ensure the nomination: Hillary won 12 states to Obama’s 11 in 2008).

Through March 8, 11 other states will hold either a primary or a caucus – the chance to win over 300 delegates for each party. Sanders should be particularly worried, as Clinton seems to appeal more to minority and southern voters.

It remains to be seen if and when Donald Trump’s campaign will falter, though cracks are beginning to show in debates – audiences are becoming less shy about booing when he interrupts other candidates and many were unimpressed with his use of expletives in describing other candidates. It’s probably safe to expect Ben Carson to suspend his campaign soon. Kasich is hoping to win in the northeastern states – he is not wasting his time or money campaigning by campaigning in states where he is considered too moderate to win – and Ted Cruz might continue to do well among these southern states.

If she does well on Super Tuesday, Clinton is a shoe-in for the nomination. The Republican side is much less clear. As it has been so far in this election, anything can happen.

Photograph: DonkeyHotey via Flickr

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