As everyone looks to the ides of March and Mini-Tuesday, when the big-ticket contests of Ohio, Florida, and Illinois will accelerate the nomination process, let us not forget that today will shape that event.
The Democratic Party goes to the polls in Michigan and Mississippi, where Hillary Clinton is expected to win and dominate, respectively. Clinton will win more delegates than Sanders by the end of the night, making Sanders supporters post even more irrelevant images of the remaining contests on my Facebook feed and causing them to further squint at the delegate math. Michigan is tailor-made for Bernie’s protectionist message and the first test of his Rust Belt appeal. If there does exist some pro-Sanders John Henry voting block, as his campaign has insisted, Sanders should win Michigan going away.
Speaking of desperate, Marco Rubio needs to win the Hawaii Caucuses today, not a strong second or a solid third, but a win. Little Marco might not survive another 3rd place victory speech. The Republicans are also voting in Michigan and Mississippi, where Trump is favored. Anyone who’s ever been to Mississippi, even if that means locking your doors and driving at high speed, knows Trump will dominate there. The state slogan is “High School or Less.” Cruz has been campaigning heavily throughout the state, not to try and win, but to prevent Trump from hitting 50% of the vote in any congressional district, which is the winner-take-all threshold for the three delegates in each. Michigan will be more interesting, as it is the first contest to really test the local strength of John Kasich. Trump’s performance in Michigan will determine the resolve of the Never Trump movement going forward into Mini-Tuesday. Republicans in Idaho also vote in a closed primary, which should be a tight race between Cruz and Trump.
For the anti-Trump forces to have any viability, Trump must not start winning states with a majority of the vote, as a typical front-runner would at this stage in the primaries. That would directly undercut the Never Trump argument for stealing the nomination.