Tuesday could be one of the best days of Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump’s campaign.
GOP voters are heading to the caucuses and primaries in 11 states: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, and Virginia.
The states will award more than 500 delegates, more than any other individual day in the campaign and a sizable chunk of the 1,237 needed to secure the nomination.
And according to most recent polls, a plurality of voters appear poised to deliver a resounding victory to Trump.
Recent polls in Virginia, Georgia, and Oklahoma showed Trump with comfortable leads hovering around 10 points over Sens. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz. Trump is even stronger in other states: The RealClearPolitics average of recent polls of Alabama put Trump 18 points ahead of Rubio, while Massachusetts polls showed Trump with a 20- to 30-point lead over Rubio there.
Additionally, the two senators face other hurdles to staying competitive on Super Tuesday. Cruz and Rubio are in danger of not meeting the minimum threshold necessary to pick up delegates in several states.
As Princeton University polling expert Sam Wang noted, recent polling shows that Cruz may have to fight to avoid getting zero delegates in Alabama, Georgia, and Vermont. Rubio faces the same scenario in Alaska, Tennessee, Texas, and Vermont. And as The New York Times reported, Texas could prove troublesome for Rubio, as the Lone Star State only awards delegates to first- and second-place finishers in its individual districts.
Even Trump’s rivals admit that without serious upsets in several Super Tuesday states, the former reality-TV star could be well on his way to locking up the Republican presidential nomination early.
“If he continues with that momentum and powers through and wins everywhere on Super Tuesday, he could easily be unstoppable,” Cruz said on Friday.
There could be some bright spots for the two senators, however — especially for Cruz in his home state of Texas.
A dearth of recent public polling makes a number of other states — including Minnesota, Arkansas, Vermont, and Alaska — difficult to forecast. Cruz led Trump in one poll conducted shortly after the senator’s victory in the Iowa caucuses. One recent poll also found Trump, Rubio, and Cruz locked in a dead heat in Minnesota.
But since delegates in those states are awarded proportionally, Trump is still likely to pick up a solid share of the delegates, even if either senator manages to win any states outright.
Trump’s likely rout is bad news for all of the remaining candidates, including retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson and Ohio Gov. John Kasich. But Trump’s strength in the so-called SEC primary — referring to the Southeastern Conference of college football — could be the most damaging to Cruz’s prospects.
“I view the SEC primary as a firewall,” Cruz said last summer, according to The Washington Post.
But the Texas senator’s strategy has been modified to reflect Trump’s consistent support.
Whereas Cruz once hoped to sweep the South, his strategy is now heavily focused on securing Texas and scoring upsets if he can in states that he once considered very favourable terrain, including Georgia, Alabama, and Oklahoma. Cruz appears to have a comfortable lead over Trump in Texas.
“You can’t beat Donald Trump if you can’t win in your home state,” Cruz said — a shot at Rubio after a poll showed him behind Trump in Florida.
In another sign of Trump’s dominance, many Republicans have accepted that a contested Republican convention is the best-case scenario for them to stop the billionaire from getting the party’s nomination.
As The New York Times reported, the Rubio campaign is openly planning for a contested convention. It reminded donors that if Trump doesn’t win the 1,237 delegates needed to secure the convention outright, Rubio could woo some over once they become unbound after the first several rounds of voting.
Other Republicans have floated separate ideas for potential Trump general-election scenarios.
At least one donor group is exploring backing a third-party candidate instead of Trump, while Republican leadership appears ready to help Republican candidates in state and federal races distance themselves from Trump in order to win.
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