The month of March is arguably the most decisive during a primary season, and in the aftermath of Super Tuesday five days ago, not-so-super Saturday nonetheless carried its fair share of delegates, with a Democratic contest in Nebraska, a Republican ones in Kentucky and Maine, and both parties’ candidates competing in Kansas and Louisiana.
Bernie Sanders, whom it might behoove to paraphrase Mark Twain and declare “the reports of my campaign’s death have been greatly exaggerated,” scored wins in Kansas and Nebraska, with frontrunner Hillary Clinton winning big in Louisiana.
The big story on the Republican side also did not involve its frontrunner, Donald Trump, although his wins in Kentucky and Louisiana added to his delegate lead. It was Ted Cruz’ wins in Kansas and Maine that solidified his status – at least in delegate count if not ideology – as the formidable Trump alternative. “I am the only candidate who has consistently beaten Donald Trump,” he said, even though he has lost to Trump more often than he’s beaten him to this point.
The other big story from the Republican side was the poor showing by Marco Rubio, who to date has lost 18 of 19 primary/caucus contests. The news is significant because Rubio is the remaining establishment candidate, and even that by default, because the far more traditional establishment favorites – Jeb Bush, Lindsey Graham, George Pataki, and Rick Perry – all dropped out long ago.
Though primaries continue through the week, the big day is March 15, when Rubio’s Florida and John Kasich’s Ohio are in play. If both lose their home states – and at this time, Kasich has a much better chance of winning Ohio than Rubio Florida – it seems they would pack it in.
Ironically, if it becomes a two-man race between Trump and Cruz, then Trump, the ultimate outsider, becomes the establishment candidate by default insofar as he is not a pure, unabashed Tea Party conservative like Cruz is.
Even more ironically, though there are polls that show both of them beating Hillary in the general election (though there are polls that show the opposite too), neither does so as convincingly as third-place Rubio. And the one who defeats Hillary by the widest margin is last-place Kasich.