Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump are beginning to focus on each other in the race for the White House.
Both front-runners were emboldened by commanding victories Tuesday across large swaths of the country.
Clinton previewed a “love and kindness” message while Trump traded his typical rollicking rallies for a sober media conference where he pressed his case that Clinton is a proven failure as a longtime politician. Both spoke from Florida, where the general election is often won or lost. Clinton collected wins Tuesday in eight states, and Trump swept up victories in at least seven, including Virginia, another important general election battleground.
Clinton waltzed into Super Tuesday carrying 545 total delegates; Sanders held a comparatively meager 87 pledged supporters.
Now that voters in 11 states have spoken, representing one-third of total delegates needed to capture the nomination, Clinton appears stronger than ever.
Final tallies from Super Tuesday will add significantly to Clinton’s delegate advantage once the results are confirmed and 859 pledged delegates are awarded proportionally.
According to initial estimates, Clinton will nab a high percentage of Texas’ 222 delegates — the crown jewel of Super Tuesday. She also adds a healthy portion of Virginia’s 99 delegates and Georgia’s 102 reps.
Sanders will get a portion of each state, including the majority of Vermont’s 16 delegates and a goodly sum from Oklahoma, Colorado and Minnesota where he also won.
Clinton’s secret weapon: Superdelegates
The Democratic Party recognizes two types of delegates: pledged and superdelegates.
Pledged delegates are divvied up proportionally and are bound to vote for the candidate their constituency chose. For instance, if Clinton gets 60 percent of the California vote, she receives 60 percent of its pledged delegates.
Superdelegates, on the other hand, are free to vote as they please.
Numerically speaking, Clinton enjoys a fairly smooth path to her party’s nomination thanks to these electoral gimmes.
Clinton has nearly universal support among Democratic Party insiders — also known as “the establishment” — who usually serve as DNC superdelegates.
She has spent decades building political bridges, stumping for Democratic candidates and raising money for allies. Those beneficiaries are ready to scratch her back and become key supporters on the convention floor this summer.
Winning most of Tuesday’s contests means Clinton gets a healthy portion of pledged delegates — not to mention the lion’s share of Democratic superdelegates from state party leaders.
Heading into March, despite Sanders showing strength in select states and pledging to stay in the race indefinitely, Clinton could swagger to the nomination in short order.
Donald Trump dominated Super Tuesday, further transforming his once-longshot bid into a highly plausible nomination.
Going into Super Tuesday, Trump led the field with 82 delegates, followed by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) with 17 and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) at 16. Bringing up the rear are Gov. John Kasich (R-Ohio) with six and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson with four.
Super Tuesday will deposit more delegates into Trump’s rapidly swelling column, which Fortune theorized could put him “within comfortable shooting distance of being anointed by the end of the primary season in early June.”
Cruz won his home state, the largest of Super Tuesday, and Oklahoma. The freshman senator walks away with the largest share of the Lone Star State’s 155 delegates and the rest will be divided proportionally.
Cruz will use this victory to make the case that he’s now the only candidate to beat Trump thrice.
Rubio scored one win in Minnesota, his first victory this primary season. He didn’t interpret his otherwise consistent third-place finishes as campaign-ending, vowing to send a “loud and clear” message in Florida two weeks from now.
So far, such appeals have held little sway over GOP primary voters, who have proven attracted to Trump’s outsider message.
GOP opponents plot
Some of Trump’s opponents are more focused on machinations than primary map mathematics.
To understand their plan, the finer points of GOP delegate apportionment must be briefly explored.
The Republican Party allows fewer unpledged delegates, but muddies the water with a combination of proportional and winner-take-all contests after March 15.
In some upcoming states, the primary’s winner banks the entire balance of delegates if they capture at least 50 percent of the vote. If Trump wins Florida, he gets 99 delegates. If he loses, he gets zip.
Other states assign delegates proportionally. Within that category, some states further require candidates to hit at least 20 percent before claiming any delegates.
If no candidate reaches the 2,382-delegate threshold before July’s RNC meeting, campaign aides are preparing for a contested convention.
As Rubio’s campaign has highlighted, pledged delegates are required to vote for their assigned candidate — but only once. That means if Trump doesn’t capture the nomination on the first round of voting at the Cleveland convention in July, previously pledged delegates can switch their votes.
Several campaigns are praying for a deadlock and already courting delegates in case it comes to pass.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. © 2016 KELOLAND TV. All Rights Reserved.