Voters In Five States Weigh in on 2016 Election

GOP Presidential Candidates Debate In Detroit
Photograph by Chip Somodevilla—Getty Images

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are already circling each other for a general election showdown, but they’re stuck in the ring with their own parties on Saturday.

Voters in both parties were heading to the polls in Kansas and Louisiana. Republicans added on Kentucky and Maine for good measure, while Democrats had a bonus contest in Nebraska. (Puerto Rico Republicans were set to consider the candidates on Sunday.)

On the Republican side, polling in these states has been sparse, but most signs indicate Trump has the upper-hand based on his aura of inevitability. But it’s worth noting that these contests are likely to be dominated by committed conservatives—and effectively shut out the independents and newcomers to politics drawn by the antics of Trump. The beneficiary should, by logic, be Ted Cruz.

Trump, however, has proved time and again that such predictions prove false. Who would have thought a thrice-married New York billionaire who at times fumbles his faith would connect with the deeply religious voters in South Carolina? Yet, he did.

Part of Trump’s successes to this point, however, has hinged on the rules of the nominating contests. Those shift on Saturday, when all four states’ contests are open only to Republicans, meaning the independents or unaffiliated voters who helped Trump in earlier states cannot participate. That could mean an opportunity for Cruz to get some wins and rack up delegates to narrow the gap with Trump.

It might be a day when fortune’s tide turns for Cruz, especially as Establishment-minded conservatives are willing to consider the Texan they loathe, as their last, best chance to stand between Trump and the nomination. Efforts to rally behind Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida haven’t worked out, as he has just one win in his column. Cruz has three.

But it’s where Cruz has logged victories that has Trump’s team paying attention. Indeed, only four states—Iowa, Nevada, Oklahoma and Alaska—have been restricted to just Republicans so far. Cruz won all but Nevada. Closed primaries have been Trump’s weakness, and his advisers are looking ahead at a string of states where only registered Republicans can vote.

Continuing his streak of zany, Trump planned a 9 p.m. press conference in Florida to react to the results. Ever the showman, Trump eschewed the traditional rally and instead planned to hold forth with his theory of the race. It also would give him a chance to explain why, perhaps, he just saw Cruz best him. Or, as Trump called him repeatedly during this week’s debate in Detroit, “Lyin’ Ted.”

For the Democrats, Clinton comes off a wave of victories and a strong record of 10 wins and five losses, leaving Sanders far behind in the delegate count. She has turned her eyes to Trump, running banner web advertisements against the braggadocious billionaire and lambasting his language in her speeches, calling him divisive.

But on Saturday Clinton will be forcibly pulled back into primary land, with voters heading to decide in competitive states. Sanders rides into Saturday with the advantage of two caucus states, Nebraska and Kansas, which are predominantly white, a demographic Sanders performs consistently well with. He has spent time campaigning in both those states, and top Sanders strategist Tad Devine says that the campaign has been running television advertisements in those two states. Clinton will look for a solid win in Louisiana, which has a high percentage of black voters.

For the both parties, however, the real prize lies beyond Saturday. Michigan votes on Tuesday, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich is hoping his Midwestern modesty propels him to a win over better-polling peers. For Democrats, both Clinton and Sanders believe they have the next best chance at proving they can win a wide swathe of the electorate. A blue state hit hard by the loss of industrial jobs, Michigan is in some ways a natural fit for Sanders, but Clinton’s heavy campaigning in Flint and relationships with the state’s African American-population evens the odds. The pair is set to meet Sunday night in Flint for a CNN debate.

This article originally appeared on

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