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Super Tuesday Battle Lines Drawn for Trump, Rubio, Cruz

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Trump took the top spot in South Carolina. (AP)

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Monday, 22 Feb 2016 08:47 AM Current | Bio | Archive

After Donald Trump's victory in (34 percent of the vote) in South Carolina, with Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz taking second and third place respectively,  the GOP “big three” drew their beads on Super Tuesday, when no less than 14 states that will choose national convention delegates.

With a record turnout of more than 737,000 votes, Trump’s “to hell with the GOP establishment” persona and hardline on illegal immigration clearly played well among Palmetto State voters (who are permitted to cross over and vote in the Republican primary regardless of which party they are affiliated with).

Nine of the 14 states choosing delegates on Super Tuesday are "open primaries," permitting participation by non-Republican voters. These are Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, and Virginia.

Eight of the 9 will hold primaries, with Minnesota choosing delegates by caucus. A total of 434 convention delegates will come out of these states.

In five other states — Alaska, Colorado, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and Wyoming — 165 delegates will be chosen in venues that are "closed" to non-Republicans. Only Wyoming will hold a primary, with the other four holding caucuses.

“Donald Trump is now [legendary winning racehorse] Secretariat and goes into to Super Tuesday with the wind at his back,” veteran North Carolina GOP consultant Marc Rotterman, who is so far neutral in the presidential race, told me after Trump was called the winner, “The deep South states of Alabama, Arkansas, and Georgia are tailor made for him.

“Oklahoma goes for Trump. Rubio will compete with Trump in Colorado and perhaps Massachusetts and Vermont. I’d rate those states to close to call.”

Rotterman expects Trump, Rubio and Cruz to fight it out in Tennesee, that Virginia will be a toss-up between Trump and Rubio, and that Cruz’s home-state of Texas is a “must win” for the senator.

Rotterman added that the issues of illegal immigration, trade and jobs “all work in Trump’s favor.”

Along with those positions, the billionaire developer’s unusually strong appeal to evangelical voters is likely to help him in the Southern states that will vote on Super Tuesday.

Several exit polls in South Carolina Tuesday showed that mainstream Protestant Trump   — even with his three marriages and occasional use of salacious words — topped evangelical Christian Cruz among primary voters who consider themselves “evangelical” or “born again.”

“Evangelical voters are clearly looking for something different and willing to reach out to a someone who is not a member of their community,” said Furman University professor John Guth, who has written extensively on the role of evangelicals in modern U.S. politics.

Guth cited the precedent of evangelical voters voting resoundingly for infrequent churchgoer and divorcee Ronald Reagan over born-again Baptist Jimmy Carter in 1980 because they felt Reagan embraced their agenda more.

He added that “evangelical Christians are terrified of Muslims and terrorists who execute Christians and Trump clearly talks the toughest of all the candidates about doing something about this.”

Despite the promising picture that lies ahead for Trump on Super Tuesday and in the Nevada Caucuses Feb. 23, backers of both Rubio and Cruz were quick to make the case that their candidate would be the beneficiary of Jeb Bush’s exit from the race after placing fourth in South Carolina (Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Dr. Ben Carson remain in the race but came in fifth and sixth on Saturday).

“As more and more candidates withdraw there is a narrower field, and the opposition to Mr. Trump is less divided,” Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., a Rubio backer, told me, noting that Bush’s exit “was not about him but about bad timing. The concept of a continuation of a family in power was not something voters were going to accept at this time in history.”

Former State Attorney General Charles Condon, who helped run the Cruz campaign in South Carolina, observed that “Sen. Rubio had the endorsement of our governor [Nikki Haley], junior Sen. [Tim Scott], and a very popular Congressman [Trey Gowdy] and he still barely managed to edge out Ted Cruz for second place. He’ll never have a political landscape as favorable to him again. Ted will, especially in some of the Southern states. He’ll be able to buy a ticket to the national convention after Super Tuesday.”

Whether Cruz or Rubio are able to overcome Trump in at least some of the states on Super Tuesday may well determine whether either will be able to buy a ticket.

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.


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After Donald Trump's victory in (34 percent of the vote) in South Carolina, with Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz taking second and third place respectively, the GOP “big three” drew their beads on Super Tuesday, when no less than 14 states that will choose national convention delegates.
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