WASHINGTON — Let the countdown begin. Super Tuesday, the first multi-state primary day of the presidential contest, throws the campaign into high gear as candidates vie for a huge chunk of delegates on Tuesday.
By late Tuesday night, political watchers will have a better idea of the shape of the race for the White House.
As presidential hopefuls make their final arguments to voters, InsideGov takes a spin around polling data to understand the current state of the race. The stakes are high for both parties, as almost half of the total number of delegates needed to secure the nomination are up for grabs on Tuesday.
As it currently stands, businessman Donald Trump has 82 delegates, beating Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who has 17, and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who has 16. But with 1,237 total delegates needed to secure the Republican nomination, results from Super Tuesday have the potential to shake up the race — or seal the deal for Trump’s insurgent campaign.
Come Tuesday, the largest prize is Texas, which has 155 delegates. Cruz is expected to win there, but anything less than a resounding victory for the Lone Star State senator could damage his campaign. According to data from RealClearPolitics, Cruz leads Trump by almost 10 points.
While a 10-point lead is nothing to sneeze at, consider that Trump won the Nevada caucuses last week by more than 20 points. And in the caucuses in Iowa, whose socially conservative electorate was tailor-made for Cruz’s brand of politics, Cruz didn’t win in a blowout. He beat Trump by only four points.
A win in Texas could get Cruz to 172 delegates, but a handful of Super Tuesday states with a good number of delegates seem to be breaking for Trump. In Tennessee, where 58 delegates are available, a recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll has Trump at 40 percent compared to 22 percent for Cruz.
And a new CBS poll of likely voters in Virginia finds Trump at 40 percent with Rubio at 27. Virginia awards a total of 49 delegates.
Trump also polls well in Georgia, whose 76 delegates make it the second-largest prize on Super Tuesday. As of Feb. 29, Trump has 36.1 percent, while Rubio and Cruz are neck-and-neck for second place, at around 22 percent each.
Trump’s double-digit lead in Georgia comes after some early-on investment. He opened up his first campaign office there in December. His campaign director in the state, Brandon Phillips, said Trump’s ground game there extends to all 159 counties.
If Trump wins just those three states — Tennessee, Virginia and Georgia — his overall count could extend to 265 delegates.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s pre-Super Tuesday delegate tally of 546 gives her a significant advantage over Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 87 delegates. Ultimately, the winning candidate needs to collect 2,383 delegates to become the nominee. As with the Republicans, the biggest prize on Tuesday is Texas, where 251 total Democratic delegates are at stake.
Clinton continues to maintain her big lead in Texas, besting Sanders 62.3 percent to 32 percent, as of Feb. 29. The Clinton campaign has put a lot of resources into the state, dispatching former President Bill Clinton to Houston and Fort Worth on Monday.
Clinton-era Secretary of State Madeleine Albright visited Houston last week as well. Clinton’s team also put up a television ad narrated by actor Morgan Freeman over the weekend in San Antonio, Houston and Dallas, according to a local media report.
A similar polling scenario plays out in Georgia, where Clinton has a more than 30-point lead.
Clinton has been particularly strong in states with larger minority populations — she won the South Carolina primary on Saturday by almost 50 points. Starting in mid February, Clinton released a round of TV ads in Georgia focusing on social justice and gun violence.
However, Sanders snags big gatherings in Oklahoma and passionate crowds in Colorado, both Super Tuesday states. He’s also doing well in his home state of Vermont, and in nearby Massachusetts, which has 116 total delegates available. According to polling data, Sanders is about three points behind Clinton there.
Those handful of bright spots could give Sanders a smattering of wins on Tuesday — plus a needed jolt of momentum after losses in Nevada and South Carolina. But Clinton still looks likely to win enough big states to keep her overall edge for the nomination.
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