WHERE WE ARE RIGHT NOW: The runners-up are regrouping.
Bernie Sanders told his supporters today that a winning streak is just around the corner -- “an extremely good chance to win nearly every state that votes in the next month.”
“Starting today, the map now shifts dramatically in our favor,” he said in a fundraising email.
There's an early test of that theory -- his team has been making the case he's poised to win all three contests Tuesday in Arizona, Idaho and Utah, and make a strong showing in the votes that follow in Alaska, Hawaii, Washington state and Wisconsin.
The Clinton team also says Sanders may have a good stretch. And that it no longer matters.
“Looking ahead to the rest of March, Sen. Sanders is poised to have a stretch of very favorable states vote, including 5 caucuses next week, which he is likely to win, and the primary in Arizona, in which he has invested more than $1.5 million in ads,” Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook wrote in a memo to supporters. “Our pledged delegate lead is so significant that even a string of victories by Sen. Sanders over the next few weeks would have little impact.”
Right now, the math is on Clinton's side. She started last night with a big lead. She ended it with a huge one, four more state wins, and big momentum. Leave superdelegates out of it for the moment: Clinton's pledged delegate lead over Sanders is now nearly three times the advantage she held over then Sen. Obama at any point in the 2008 campaign.
"Even if he'd won Illinois and Ohio, it wouldn't have mattered -- unless he won big. Hillary Clinton won big in North Carolina and Florida, helping add to her delegate margin," notes Philip Bump. "...In order for Sanders to pull even with Clinton in pledged delegates, he'd need to win 57.8 percent of the remaining delegates -- meaning, essentially, that he'd need to win about 57.8 percent of the vote in every remaining state, on average."
(Note: as of Wednesday afternoon, the night's fifth contest -- Missouri -- was still without a declared winner; Clinton held the lead by a slim margin, but the race was in limbo pending a recount decision.)
Of course, pledged delegates aren't the only game in town. Last month, Sanders supporters organized to pressure superdelegates to "support the will of the voters." Now the Sanders campaign is reportedly weighing a strategy that would depend on the opposite appeal. Winning the nomination "is not a matter of delegate arithmetic," Sanders strategist Tad Devine told reporters today.
(It may sound as though he is saying the past few decades of presidential nominating contests have all been based on a huge misunderstanding -- sort of an extended national episode of Three's Company. What he meant was apparently: delegates can change their minds. Anytime. Yes, even pledged delegates. Even pledged delegates in states that have laws concerning this sort of thing. In any case, that was his argument today.)
Hillary Clinton herself -- who is experiencing a sort of bizarro 2008, where she's the one winning the Obama coalition and grabbing the pledged delegate momentum -- is treading carefully. “I absolutely respect Senator Sanders," she said Tuesday. "He has a right to run his campaign in any way that he chooses, and I’m proud of the campaign we’ve run."
Also regrouping: the #NeverTrump crew.
"The super PAC that has been leading the charge against Donald Trump aims to keep up the pressure on the Republican presidential front-runner, hoping to prevent him from securing enough delegates needed for the nomination before this summer’s convention," reports Matea Gold.
“'You’re not the nominee until you get 1,237 delegates, and I don’t see how Trump gets there,' said Katie Packer, the GOP strategist helping lead Our Principles PAC, said.
"Packer said supporters of the group — which spent nearly $13 million on a barrage of hard-hitting ads attacking the billionaire real estate developer — plan to confer over the coming days on a strategy. Among the issues under discussion are whether the super PAC should continue to pursue a broad media strategy or focus more narrowly on communicating with delegates in the hopes of swaying their votes if there are multiple ballots at the convention in Cleveland."
(For now, the more traditional push rolls on, with a new Club for Growth buy in Utah.)
Trump launched his own hard sell to Cleveland-bound delegates: Deny him the nomination at a contested convention, he said Wednesday, and "I think you'd have riots."
He's "representing many millions of people," he told CNN's Chris Cuomo: "If you disenfranchise those people, and you say, 'I'm sorry, you're 100 votes short' ... I think you'd have problems like you've never seen before. I think bad things would happen."
(A Trump spokesperson later said he was speaking "metaphorically"; later, on CNN, a supporter argued that "riots aren't necessarily a bad thing.")
The GOP doesn't need to be reminded that Trump has some very, very passionate supporters on his side. Their bigger, more immediate problem is that right now, he also has the math.
"Yes, Trump would have been on even stronger ground than he is today had he won Ohio in addition to his wins everywhere else last night," says Chris Cillizza. "But the idea being circulated by many within the Republican establishment that Trump’s path to the 1,237 delegates he needs to be the nominee is now impossibly narrow is just not right.
"According to NBC’s delegate calculations, Trump needed to win 52 percent of the remaining delegates if he had carried Ohio in addition to his Florida and other wins last night. Now? He needs 55 percent of the remaining delegates. Yes, 55 percent is more than 52 percent. (Good math!) But, it is far from insurmountable — particularly when you consider that the bulk of states still to vote are clumped in the West and the Northeast/Mid-Atlantic, places that should be more friendly to Trump than the South and Plains-centric calendar to date.
"...There was very little actually evidence last night to justify the amount of celebrating within the party establishment about Trump’s 'demise.' That doesn’t mean that Trump will get the 1,237 delegates he needs — either before the Cleveland convention or during it. But, what it does mean is that he remains in the pole position in this race as the only candidate with a real case to win the nomination outright between now and June 7 when the primary process comes to an end."
Donald Trump is turning his attention to the general (or trying to):
But it's not over just yet. It isn't just the convention fight John Kasich and Ted Cruz both say they're ready for; Cruz's campaign still says there's a chance he could grab the advantage before then. This is mathematically still possible. It's realistically... improbable.
The Cruz team circulated a memo yesterday it had prepared before last night's results were in, report Dan Balz and Katie Zezima. “'Not only can Cruz achieve a majority of delegates before the July convention, our projections indicate the Senator has a clear and realistic path to achieve 1,262 delegates while Trump is most likely to receive a total of 827 delegates,' the memo stated.
"The memo went on to state that those projections were valid regardless of what happened Tuesday night and even if both Kasich and Rubio stayed in through next week’s contests and Utah and Arizona.
"Cruz’s strategy included a series of assumptions beyond the expectation of being able to dominate a two-person race. One is that Cruz can win primaries that are open only to Republican voters and not to independents. Roe noted that all but a few of the remaining 22 contests are closed.
"In the three states where Cruz came closest on Tuesday, however, he only won among self-identified Republicans in Missouri while losing them in North Carolina and Illinois, according to CNN exit polls."
COMING SOON TO A TRAIL AD NEAR YOU: President Obama's Supreme Court nomination of Merrick Garland.
GOP leadership is still pledging no vote on the nomination, even as a string of GOP senators agree to meet with Garland. On a related note: Here's the fall politics of the SCOTUS fight, in two charts:
NOW, FOR THE CAMPAIGN #PROTIP OF THE DAY: Before putting a volunteer on national TV, sometimes it pays to make sure they're not sporting any visible markings that may be white power tattoos. Like, say this:
or this (explanation here):
IN WHICH JOHN KASICH LEARNS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU ACTUALLY WIN A PRIMARY:
Where did all these camera come from pic.twitter.com/AbLDFqD4ZN— daveweigel (@daveweigel) March 16, 2016
Big Kasich crowd at Villanova, with a few hundred people stuck outside pic.twitter.com/Q6Znm0NF9I— daveweigel (@daveweigel) March 16, 2016
Pennsylvania doesn't vote for another six weeks (April 26)
It begins pic.twitter.com/I73xuuuWJu— daveweigel (@daveweigel) March 16, 2016
can you imagine hanging this in your own home pic.twitter.com/1A4Fdt9vGv— andrew kaczynski (@BuzzFeedAndrew) March 16, 2016
TRAIL MIX: Voters this year don't actually appear to be much angrier than usual. Adjust your narratives accordingly.
-- Marco Rubio tells donors: ‘We had a great season’
-- Sorry, Salt Lake City: Next week's Fox debate there was canceled today after two-thirds of the field said they wouldn't be there. Shorter version: Donald Trump effectively canceled next week's debate. (Although: it's unclear why John Kasich thought about the prospect of 90 Trump-free minutes of airtime on national cable and said 'no thanks.')
-- A Trump presidency makes The Economist's top 10 "global risks," ahead of jihadi terrorism threat. Sad!
-- The pundit deconstruction of Clinton's election night delivery ("Smile.") did not sit well with some of her supporters, who are definitely not smiling.
-- Florida's governor endorsed Donald Trump the day after Donald Trump won the Florida primary. With Rubio out, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley backed Cruz (there's no path for fellow governor Kasich, she said.)
-- Sorry, John Boehner: Paul Ryan has gone Sherman-esque: "No, I am not going to be the president. I am not going to be the nominee."
-- Ted Cruz was once bitten by an octopus.
YOUR DAILY TRAIL PIT STOP: STUFF SURROGATES SAY. Newly-minted Trump supporter had a message to share Wednesday: Stop with the attacks, people.
We have a responsibility to tone down the rhetoric. We're not each other's enemy.— Dr. Ben Carson (@RealBenCarson) March 16, 2016
You may be thinking: Why this tweet, and why now? Who could he have been--
Yesterday was amazing—5 victories. Lyin’ Ted Cruz— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 16, 2016
had zero. Things are going very well!
Happy Wednesday, everyone!