Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders had as good a Tuesday as could have been expected.
Cruz won easily in Utah, and critically, he polled at 69%, well above the 50% threshold the Texas senator needed to take home all 40 of the state’s delegates. The outcome in Utah was never in question, it was just a matter of whether Kasich had enough carry-over momentum from his win in Ohio to keep Cruz under 50%. The answer, it turned out, was definitively “no”. In retrospect, it now seems that Trump’s move to question if Mitt Romney was a Mormon might have been a strategic misstep (even if it was exceedingly entertaining).
As for Bernie Sanders, the avowed socialist took Utah and Idaho - but it’s likely to be far too little, far too late.
Cruz’s win in Utah was the story of the night not because it marked a turning point for the senator, but rather because it effectively means his campaign isn’t completely dead yet. Had he failed to capture all of the state’s delegates and worse, if Trump had reached the 15% threshold needed to split the haul, it would have marked the beginning of the end for Cruz.
But despite wins for Cruz and Sanders on Tuesday, the state that “mattered” went to Trump and Clinton.
Trump cruised (no pun intended) to victory in Arizona, besting “lyin’, lyin’ Ted” by 24 points, while Clinton extinguised “The Bern” with extreme prejudice, winning by 20. Here's what Clinton said after her win:
Clearly, Clinton is already preparing the way for a national campaign against Trump. For his part, Trump had a few choice words for Clinton on national security as well as for Ted Cruz who Trump says is orchestrating a smear campaign by featuring pictures of his supermodel wife in a campaign ad:
Incompetent Hillary, despite the horrible attack in Brussels today, wants borders to be weak and open-and let the Muslims flow in. No way!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 23, 2016
Lyin' Ted Cruz denied that he had anything to do with the G.Q. model photo post of Melania. That's why we call him Lyin' Ted!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 23, 2016
Trump picked up 58 delegates in the state, while Clinton pocketed 75. Here’s a summary of last night’s results along with the new delegate count. Via The New York Times:
And here's a bar chart view:
Trump needs to win 54% of the delegates from here on out to clinch the nomination and avoid a contested convention in July. He won 59% of the delegates up for grabs on Tuesday. "Even with his Utah victory, Mr. Cruz still must win 85% of the outstanding delegates—a task akin to winning a division in Major League Baseball after being 25 games out of first place at Labor Day—when there are only about 30 games left in the season," WSJ reminds us. "To do this he must win upcoming contests in Wisconsin—where each of the state’s eight congressional districts is winner-take-all—and perform well in the late-April primaries in the Northeast, Mr. Trump’s backyard." To quote Trump: "Not gonna happen folks." Here's an interesting comparison with the 2012 GOP race:
A Clinton nomination is now almost assured. "Yes, Bernie Sanders won two states Tuesday night to Hillary Clinton's one, but this ain't the Senate," The Washington Post writes. "It's the delegates that count, and Clinton's delegate lead is enormous."
In other words, America is careening headlong towards Clinton Vs. Trump. What else can we say except: "Get the popcorn".