Saturday’s seven presidential primary races offered a leg up to challengers Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders, seemingly slowing down the momentum of frontrunners Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
Bernie Sanders won the Democratic caucuses in Kansas and Nebraska; Ted Cruz won Republican caucuses in Kansas and Maine. Sanders could add a third feather to his cap on Maine Democrats caucus on Sunday.
After a Super Tuesday in which Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton dominated their respective parties’ primary contests, it would be tempting to look at these results and think that a major corner has been turned. Make no mistake, it was a good day for Cruz and Sanders. But for Republicans and Democrats alike, the status quo is still very much in place.
Clinton was expecting to have a mediocre weekend. The states voting on Saturday and Sunday on the Democratic side have favored Sanders. All of them have small African-American populations, a voting bloc that has overwhelmingly supported the former Secretary of State. Meanwhile, Clinton is ahead in polls by more than 20 percentage points in Michigan, a major Democratic primary state that casts its votes on Tuesday. She is also leading big in Florida and Ohio, both of which vote on March 15. If she stays the course and avoids any major pitfalls, she may very well wrap up the nomination by the end of the month. Sanders will likely stay in the contest for as long as possible to keep spreading his message, but Clinton is in the driver’s seat.
Then there are the Republicans. Trump won two contests on Saturday: the caucuses in Kentucky and the primary in Louisiana. Cruz can claim a big victory on Saturday, adding some force to the argument that he’s the best positioned to stop Trump’s steady march to the nomination. But looking at the big picture, he remains in essentially the same place as he was before Saturday began. Looking ahead, it’s a three-man race in Michigan, with John Kasich leading in the most recent polls in that state. Trump leads in the critical primary state of Florida, and he’s in a tight race with Kasich in Ohio.
Marco Rubio was the big loser of the night. After South Carolina, Rubio was declared the establishment favorite for the nomination; since then, he’s won a single state, Minnesota, and has emerged as an also-ran in most other contests. If he were to step out of the race, he might be able to help Cruz take on Trump. So far, though, he has resisted, at least until his home state of Florida votes.
The Republican picture looks more or less like it did before Saturday’s voting began. Trump seems on track to secure the Republican nomination before the party’s convention in July. That currently leaves his three rivals with a single option: leave the contest as uncertain as possible, for as long as possible, and vie for a win at a brokered convention.