Donald Trump Wins Michigan, Mississippi, Adds To Delegate Lead

Another big night for Donald Trump puts him another step closer to being the presumptive GOP nominee.

Donald Trump Victory

After a weekend of doubts thanks to wins racked up by Ted Cruz, Donald Trump once again dispelled the doubts about his campaign with wins in three out of four states headed into what may be the biggest week of the campaign:

Donald Trump won convincing victories Tuesday in the Michigan and Mississippi primaries, as well as the caucuses in Hawaii, suggesting that the intensified GOP establishment assault on Trump’s character and record had not yet wounded the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination.

In Michigan and Mississippi, Trump galvanized huge populations of white working-class voters with his populist economic pitch, nativist rhetoric and outsider appeal to win by double-digit margins, further solidifying the billionaire mogul’s lead in the rollicking nomination battle.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) came in second in the Hawaii caucuses. But he won Idaho decisively, followed by Trump in second and trailed by Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.) and Ohio Gov. John Kasich.

But the night’s marquee event was in Michigan, where late returns showed Kasich and Cruz still competing for second place behind Trump. In Mississippi, Cruz ran a distant second. Finishing far behind in both states was Rubio, who was on track to record some of his poorest results of the season and was in danger of not qualifying for a single delegate in either state, nor in Idaho.

Tuesday’s contests come at a critical juncture for the Republican Party. The runaway front-runner only a couple of weeks ago, Trump was forced onto the defensive over the past week by his own missteps and by a barrage of savage attacks from his rivals and opposing super PACs.

But Trump prevailed — and sought to seize the mantle of the party’s presumptive nominee as he claimed victory Tuesday night.

Speaking from his golf club in Jupiter, Fla., Trump delivered an impassioned and colorful defense of his business credentials, his candidacy and his personal brand itself. He vowed to work to reelect fellow Republicans up and down the ballot this fall and argued that his campaign was the only one truly expanding the GOP coalition.

“The turnout has been just massive for every week,” Trump said. “We will take many, many people away from the Democrats.”

“What we’re going to do is beat Hillary Clinton — and we’re going to beat her badly,” he added, referring to the leading Democratic candidate.

With a starkly different fate on Tuesday night was Rubio, who registered embarrassingly low vote totals in Michigan and Mississippi. Late returns showed him running in last place in both states, although he was hopeful of doing better in Idaho and Hawaii, both states where his campaign had made investments.

Rubio, who spent Tuesday campaigning in Florida, where he is under intense pressure to win, sought to brush aside Tuesday night’s results as the returns began rolling in.

“I believe with all my heart that the winner of the Florida primary next Tuesday will be the nominee of the Republican Party,” Rubio told a crowd in Ponte Vedra Beach. He then directly confronted Trump: “It’s not enough to stand up here and say you’re going to make America great again. You deserve to know how.”

Rubio has struggled to recover from a string of poor finishes in recent contests and has been an uneven performer in the two weeks since he went on the offensive against Trump.

In his victory remarks, Trump mocked Rubio for the attacks.

“He became hostile a couple of weeks ago, and it didn’t work,” Trump said. “Hostility works for some people but not for everybody. He would’ve been better off had he kept the original pitter-patter going.”

The scene at Trump’s victory party was surreal, with members of the Trump National Golf Club Jupiter dressed in cocktail attire sipping wine and nibbling from charcuterie boards and fresh fruit.

“What happened to Marco Rubio!? Aww, poor little Marco!” one attendee said after Michigan was called, borrowing one of Trump’s campaign-trail taunts.

Displayed near the candidate’s podium were bottles of Trump-branded wine and Trump-branded water, as well as piles of raw, unpackaged steaks he said were “Trump Steaks,” to push back against detractors who criticized him over those products.

In Michigan, the night’s marquee contest, Kasich was poised to register a relative surprise. The Midwesterner has been largely counted out of the national race, but Kasich campaigned harder across Michigan than any other candidate, holding upbeat town hall meetings throughout the state.

Late returns showed Kasich locked in a close race for second with Cruz, with each receiving about a quarter of the vote. The Ohioan was banking on a strong finish in Michigan to give him a needed jolt heading into his must-win home-state primary next Tuesday.

Addressing supporters Tuesday night in Columbus, Kasich projected victory there in a week.

“Think about where we started,” Kasich said. “In the contest going forward, the three of us that remain — we are in a virtual dead heat.” He was referring to Trump, Cruz and himself — writing off Rubio, whom Kasich’s campaign now sees as a spoiler.

At stake Tuesday were 150 convention delegates, which were to be awarded proportionally based on candidates’ performances by congressional district in each of the four states. Each state has thresholds for receiving delegates; in Michigan, for example, candidates must finish with 15 percent of the vote or better to qualify for delegates.

For Trump, Michigan represented the first test of his electoral strength in the Rust Belt. His populist pitches on trade, economic development and immigration resonated deeply with the working-class voters who flocked to the polls in huge numbers.

Michigan is the kind of Democratic-leaning state — Pennsylvania is another — that Trump and his advisers have argued he could make competitive in a general election.

Trump faced another test in Mississippi, a heavily Republican Bible Belt state where he had long been favored because of his anti-immigration, nativist rhetoric. He held a massive, raucous rally on Monday evening in Madison, Miss.

In both states, early network exit polling reported by CNN showed vast majorities of Republican primary voters were angry or dissatisfied with the federal government.

That data showed that Mississippi primary voters divided sharply along ideological lines between Trump and Cruz, with 46 percent identifying as “very conservative,” the most of any contest this year. Strong conservatives have been Cruz’s best constituency this year, and he led Trump by roughly 10 percentage points in the preliminary data. But Trump led by at least 20 points among Republicans who identify as somewhat conservative or moderate.

Fully 85 percent of the voters in Mississippi’s Republican primary said they were evangelical Christians, the exit polling shows. Cruz has focused on appealing to evangelicals with a socially conservative message, but in Mississippi as elsewhere, Trump appears to have blocked Cruz from gaining an edge. The early data found Trump with a small edge among evangelical Christians and a 2-to-1 lead among non-evangelicals.

Late returns showed Trump winning roughly half of the vote in Mississippi, similar to the landslides he won in Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee last Tuesday. The fact that Trump’s Mississippi margin mirrored his double-digit wins in those states — as opposed to his much narrower, four-point win over Cruz in Louisiana on Saturday — suggested that Trump’s popularity had not slipped among conservatives despite the heavy attacks on him.

Some recent polls nationally and in key states have contained warning signs for Trump, indicating that his refusal to immediately disavow former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, his debate-stage quip about his manhood, and fresh attacks on his business dealings and character — or a combination of all three — were taking their toll.

Last weekend’s losses in two out of four contests, along with what seemed like signs that his poll numbers were indeed slipping, seemingly put pressure on Trump to prove that his campaign was not losing momentum at the same time that it seemed as though candidates such a Ted Cruz seemed to pick up momentum, especially in the delegate count. Exit polling out of Louisiana, for example, showed people who had decided on who to vote for were breaking for Ted Cruz, while polling out of Michigan seemed to show Ohio Governor John Kaisch. As it turned out, that polling seemed to be an entirely temporary phenomenon as Trump pretty much performed up to expectations in both Michigan and Mississippi, while Governor Kasich and Ted Cruz proved unable to capitalize  on whatever it was in the states that voted over the weekend that caused them to break against Trump. Instead, Trump has returned to his winning ways, and placed himself closer to becoming impossible to catch in the delegate count.

Ted Cruz scored a success of his own last night, of course, in winning the Idaho Caucuses quite convincingly and coming in a strong second to Trump in both Mississippi and Michigan. The Idaho win is tempered, though, by the fact that, once again, Cruz seems to be proving that the appeal of his campaign is limited given the fact that the only states he has one outside of this home state of Texas and neighboring Oklahoma are caucus states where the electorate is, arguable far less representative than it is in ordinary primary states. While it is true that a win is a win and that even the second place finishes have added to Cruz’s delegate total and helped to prove his assertion that he is the only candidate who can really challenge Trump, limited appeal such as this suggests that Cruz’s appeal is far too limited to truly stop Trump in the weeks ahead.

Last night was likely a disappointment to Ohio Governor John Kasich, who had been hoping for strong second place performance in Michigan to lead into next week’s all important Ohio primary. Instead, Kasich finished third behind Ted Cruz, although it was a close third so perhaps Kasich shouldn’t be so disappointed, especially since he scored his highest percentage of the vote of the 2016 campaign so far. Whether that will be enough to help him in his home state remains to be seen, but it seems clear that we’re headed into a do-or-die campaign week for Kasich and his campaign. A loss in Ohio would likely mean the end of his campaign, and perhaps the end of his political career entirely.

Speaking of candidates teetering on the political edge, nobody is in that position more than Florida Senator Marco Rubio. The Florida Senator finished in fourth place in three of the four contests last night, and failed to win a high enough percentage in any state to pick up a single delegate, thus blunting whatever momentum Rubio may have had after winning the Puerto Rico primary on Sunday. None of this bodes well for Rubio headed into Florida, of course, and this is likely to increase the speculation that Rubio may end up dropping out before Florida ever even votes.

Turning to the delegate count, last night’s win erased the gains that Ted Cruz had made prior to voting yesterday. According to the RealClearPolitics projections, Trump now has 458 delegates, compared to 359 for Cruz, 151 for Rubio, 54 for Kasich, and 8 for other candidates who have since withdrawn. What this means is that Donald Trump has won 44.46% of the delegates awarded to date, and now stands 779 delegates short of winning the majority, which means he has to win 54.02% of the remaining 1,442 delegates yet to be awarded to get a majority. Ted Cruz, meanwhile, has won 34.84% of the delegates awarded and would need to win 60.89% of the remaining delegates to get a majority on the first ballot. Marco Rubio, has won 14.66% of the delegates awarded, and seem to already be mathematically eliminated from winning the delegate needed to win on the first ballot at the convention. The same would be true of John Kasich. Given that, it’s obvious that both Rubio and Kasich find themselves in a must-win situation since winning their home states would, at least theoretically put them back in the delegate hunt, albeit barely. For the foreseeable future, the real Republican contest is between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, and that seems unlikely to change.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2016, US Politics, , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. CSK says:

    And afterward this buffoon celebrated with a rambling monologue about his numerous failed business enterprises. I was waiting for him to start hawking the Trump Veg-o-Matic.

    Explain to me again why anyone in the Democratic Party should be worried about the general election.

  2. MBunge says:

    @CSK: Explain to me again why anyone in the Democratic Party should be worried about the general election.

    Watch MSNBC’s election coverage and watch how weirdly out of place Laurence O’Donnell is compared to Maddow, Matthews and others. They all dislike/disdain Trump but O’Donnell’s visceral hatred stands out like a beacon. It’s why he’s been wrong about pretty much all Trump-related stuff this campaign.

    THAT’S what Democrats need to worry about. It’s hard to fight something you can’t even bring yourself to understand.

    Mike

  3. CSK says:

    @MBunge:

    I take your point, but Trump’s negatives are yuuuuuuuuge, and stunts like this just add to them. He gets about 35% of the Republican vote. That means 65% of the voters in his own (current) party can’t stomach him.

  4. Mark Ivey says:

    “Displayed near the candidate’s podium were bottles of Trump-branded wine and Trump-branded water, as well as piles of raw, unpackaged steaks he said were ‘Trump Steaks,’ to push back against detractors who criticized him over those products.”

    You can’t make this s**t up……

  5. Tillman says:

    The Florida Senator finished in fourth place in three of the four contests last night, and failed to win a high enough percentage in any state to pick up a single delegate, thus blunting whatever momentum Rubio may have had after winning the Puerto Rico primary on Sunday.

    I’m not certain what to feel more pity for — Jeb’s [relatively] early flameout, or the tragedy that is Rubio’s dogged persistence. I mean, there was a point in the night during Mississippi’s returns that Carson was drawing more voters than Rubio. Carson, who isn’t running anymore.

  6. gVOR08 says:

    …vast majorities of Republican primary voters were angry or dissatisfied with the federal government.

    That sort of thing can happen after fifty years of one national political party constantly screaming: government is the problem, not the solution; drown in a bathtub; taxes are theft; Kenyan Muslim socialist; privatize everything; jack booted thugs; and so on, and so on. And then refusing to work with the President on anything, no matter how necessary for the country. Seems to me pretty irresponsible.

  7. Joe says:

    @CSK: Mark my words: As Trump clears the partisan hurdle of the primaries where he had to separate his brand, he will tone down his rhetoric, accept a small amount of handling and suddenly the Republican establishment will find him fully acceptable or at least far better than any Democrat who ever walked the face of the earth. Suddenly, large parts of Republican American will forget all the slurs, the bombast, the 4th grade debates or tell you it was overblown and an overreaction. Selling Trump as mainstream will happen.

  8. grumpy realist says:

    @Mark Ivey: As said, Trump is incredibly easy to manipulate. If he were POTUS, the Chinese wouldn’t be able to believe their luck.

    (Plans for future: if Trump wins, learn Chinese. If Cruz wins, emigrate. Off this planet, if possible.)

  9. SenyorDave says:

    @Joe: He will pivot, but for Hispanics, Muslims, blacks I don’t see it working very well. He’ll get most of the white male vote, a decent portion of the white female vote, but I still think he is toxic to large blocs of voters.

  10. CSK says:

    @Joe:

    You may well be right. But if he rachets it down, he runs the risk of losing his fan club, which loves him precisely because he IS a loudmouthed boor with zero grasp of the issues who’s promising to do things he can’t, Constitutionally and otherwise.

    @grumpy realist:

    Easy to manipulate indeed. Look how he fell for Putin.

  11. gVOR08 says:

    @MBunge:

    THAT’S what Democrats need to worry about. It’s hard to fight something you can’t even bring yourself to understand.

    I agree, but Republicans seem to understand the Trump phenomenon even less. National conservative pundits don’t, James doesn’t, Trumps oponents don’t. I caught one of the Club for Growth (sic) anti-Trump ads. A complete misfire, ‘Trump isn’t a true conservative, he doesn’t fight for small government, free trade (sic), deficit reduction, low taxes’. All establishment concerns, not Trump supporter concerns.

  12. Awren says:

    In 2004 Melanija Knavs / Knauss was a citizen of Slovenia
    In 2016 she could be the First Lady Of The United States Of America
    I guess it shows you what massive quantities of money can buy

    I’m not sure what Mrs Trumps views are, but I believe in one British GQ magazine
    she took mutable positions

    Our First ‘Lady’ ? Yikes

  13. Scott says:

    @CSK: @MBunge:

    You can’t look at the voters as rational actors at this stage. Some of the same things that are driving Republican voters to Trump are the same as those driving Democrats to Sanders. These are people who are for blowing up the system, damn the consequences. Because they feel as if there is no alternative. If you want to draw them away, then give them a realistic alternative.

    Similarly, Trump is pointing to immigrants and trade as culprits; Sanders points to the oligarchs and trade. Common denominator is trade and good paying jobs. If you don’t want Trump supporters to engage in dumping on the poor and weak, then you need to give them a different target.

  14. CSK says:

    @Awren:

    Betty Ford: Advocate for breast cancer awareness, substance abuse awareness
    Rosalynn Carter: Advocate for mental health, welfare of older Americans
    Nancy Reagan: Anti-drug, breast cancer awareness
    Barbara Bush: Advocate for literacy and reading
    Laura Bush: Advocate for literacy and reading
    Michelle Obama: Advocate for healthy eating and exercise

    Melania Trump: First First Lady to pose nude for a men’s magazine

    Well, it’s different, I guess.

  15. Mikey says:

    @CSK:

    He gets about 35% of the Republican vote. That means 65% of the voters in his own (current) party can’t stomach him.

    If/when he gets the nomination, this will be irrelevant. They will all fall in line behind him, because as little stomach as they have for him, they have far less for Clinton or Sanders.

  16. Jen says:

    Re: Kasich:

    A loss in Ohio would likely mean the end of his campaign, and perhaps the end of his political career entirely.

    A lot of “ifs” in this statement, but if Hillary decides to select Sen. Sherrod Brown as a running mate, I could easily see Kasich running for Senate and winning.

  17. cian says:

    vast majorities of Republican primary voters were angry or dissatisfied with the federal government.

    Got to call bull on this. Trump will embrace the republican establishment as soon as he can (his health plan is theirs already) and his base will trot along after him and happily vote the same bunch of rotten republican politicos back in just like they always have. For Trump supporters it never had anything to do with ‘culture’ or frustration with the status quo. The guy called out Hispanics, Muslims, African Americans, and liberals and in doing so voiced their bigotry. And they love him for it, and will continue to, even as he bends them over and, as a favour to his natural constituency (the 1%) screws them again. Hope they enjoy it, ’cause it’s all they’ll ever get from that soulless pri%k.

  18. Gromitt Gunn says:

    Damn, Rubio’s status as a non-entity was sealed last night. Pretty sure he came in behind Carson in at least one of those states.

  19. gVOR08 says:

    @cian:

    And they love him for it, and will continue to, even as he bends them over and, as a favour to his natural constituency (the 1%) screws them again.

    I stumbled across a post from 2009 at TAC by Daniel McCarthy that seemed to me insightful. He defines “high church” and “low church” conservatives and lists five characteristics of low church conservatives. My short summaries:
    1. Values faith over works. What counts is intentions and what’s in the heart. Which can’t be known, so professions of purity suffice.
    2. Anti-clericalism. Limbaugh carries greater authority than some pointy headed climatologist. Limbaugh has been affirmed by the congregation.
    3. Cultural separatism. Conservative movies, Conservepedia, FOX News, etc.
    4. “the eschaton is imminent”. Every political battle, no matter how trivial, is a part of the final conflict between light and darkness.
    5. Right makes might. “Moral truth is easily known, and nothing should stand in the way of its application in policy.”

    I was always puzzled that Gingrich could be seen as a good family guy after his philandering and multiple marriages. No 1 is how. He says he’s a good family guy, so he is. Once you’re in, you’re a made guy, you’re part of the elect. And that doesn’t change. Trump really could shoot someone in Times Square and they’d still follow him. They “know” what’s in his heart and understand he has to lie to others.

    Trump can’t be bought, he was born bought.

  20. Moosebreath says:

    @gVOR08:

    I posted this earlier in another thread, but it seems to fit well with this discussion:

    I thought this was a good read on the reasons why the Republican base is up on arms and not listening to the Establishment:

    “What’s interesting about Kraushaar’s column isn’t the novelty of the thesis but the persistence of the metathesis. Republicans have worked for years to radicalize their base against Obama, to persuade them that something truly different and terrifying is going on, and in that project they have enjoyed a catastrophic success.

    Now elite Republicans are panicking as they watch their base turn to different and terrifying kinds of politicians in response. But even as the strategy of calculated hysteria destroys them, they can’t seem to stop arguing that the Obama era — as represented, in this case, by Obamacare — has been a scary aberration in American politics.

    Republicans desperately need to persuade their base that this moment isn’t as dire as they think it is and a more conventional class of political figures is appropriate to meet it. But doing so would require such a radical revision of the party’s core narrative — a narrative they themselves believe — that it’s become effectively impossible.”

  21. Joe says:

    @CSK: The “new, improved” Trump will still occasionally smile and wink at his base. It’s not that hard. His handlers will cringe, make a loud noise somewhere off stage and complain about the media obsessing over nothing. You will feel creepily gas-lighted.

  22. gVOR08 says:

    @Moosebreath: Thanks, good article, but I think Ezra’s base assumption is wrong. Establishment GOPs are panicking now, and desperate to do something about Trump now. They will shortly realize that they’ve never really cared about anything except electing someone with a R after their name. They’ll decide they can deal with Trump, especially as he pivots and starts courting them. Dems fall in love, Rs fall in line.

  23. JKB says:

    Why they (Democrats and Republicans) fear the Trump. Because they fear Trump will act as their most recent favored son has during their time in the office.

    “The worst thing that can happen to a socialist is to have his country ruled by socialists who are not his friends.”
    –Ludwig von Mises

    The worst thing that can happen to the supporter of an imperial president is to have elected an imperial president who is not his crony.

    Republicans & Democrats Applauded When Their Guy (Bush and Obama) Grabbed for More Presidential Power; Now, They Are Terrified to Give it to Trump

  24. gVOR08 says:

    @JKB: We fear the thought of Trump as president for the same reason we feared the thought of Palin as president. Same reason we’d fear an unruly six year old with a gun.

  25. An Interested Party says:

    The worst thing that can happen to the supporter of an imperial president is to have elected an imperial president who is not his crony.

    It’s all so confusing…on the one hand, conservatives complain that Obama is a fumbling, mumbling fool who can’t get anything done and on the other hand they complain he’s this horrible imperial dictator who’s wielded all of these terrible powers…they really should make up their minds…