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Super Tuesday victories will shape parties’ nominations

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump listens during

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump listens during a news conference in Greenville, S.C. on Aug. 27, 2015. Credit: AP / Richard Shiro

Already leading in most polls, businessman Donald Trump says he will try to “run the table” on Super Tuesday, when 14 states cast ballots for the Republican presidential nomination.

If he does, rivals and “establishment” Republicans might have “no way” to stop him from becoming the party’s nominee, according to Merle Black, a political scientist at Emory University in Atlanta.

“I think Trump is going to take Georgia. I think he’ll take all these states,” Black said.

The Democrats also face important votes Tuesday.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is riding a wave from Saturday’s historic landslide win in the South Carolina primary over Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders as she enters Super Tuesday. The big primary day is dominated by southern states with similarly large African-American populations that helped her win South Carolina by 50 percentage points.

Tuesday’s contests include primaries and caucuses in Alabama, Alaska (GOP only), American Samoa (Democrats only), Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Dakota (GOP only), Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia and Wyoming (GOP only). Trump has been leading in most polls. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has an advantage in Texas and Arkansas.

Republican primaries will account for nearly 600 delegates, with 1,237 needed for nomination. More than 800 delegates will be up for grabs for the Democats, out of the 2,383 need for nomination.

The next significant round comes March 15, when Florida, Ohio, Illinois and other states hold contests. Florida, Ohio and Illinois are states in which the winner would get all the delegates. Sen. Marco Rubio is looking for a home state win in Florida and Ohio Gov. John Kasich is hoping for a surge in the Midwest.

“Between March 1 and March 15, the lion’s share of delegates will be awarded,” said Lee Miringoff, Marist College pollster. “It’s getting late.”

Cruz, Rubio and Kasich are hoping the party will unite around on of them to beat Trump. (Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson has been running at the bottom of most GOP polls.) But they have to do better than that than finish second, Black said.

“They have to win a state. They can’t just keep finishing second” and claiming victory, he said. He dismissed Rubio’s claim that finishing second in South Carolina propelled him “one step closer” to the presidency, saying: “Trump went five yards and you went one step.”

Cruz edged Trump in the first state to hold a contest, Iowa. But the brash billionaire has won the next three — New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada, states that often point the way to the party’s nominee.

The lateness of the hour is why Rubio and Cruz went on the attack against Trump in last Thursday’s GOP debate, Miringoff said, to try to “change the direction of the campaign.”

Rubio attacked Trump’s business record, his inheritance from his father and lack of specific plans on many of his promises. Last Friday, Rubio went further, calling Trump a “con artist.”

That was perhaps a reply to Trump calling Rubio a “choke artist” during the Thursday debate. Last Friday, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who dropped out after a disappointing finish in New Hampshire, endorsed Trump and called Rubio “desperate.” Newt Gingrich tweeted that Republican leaders “better begin thinking about Trump as the future.”

Rubio, since former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush dropped out, has been trying to get Republicans to rally around him. His campaign is putting forth the idea Rubio doesn’t have to win any states Tuesday and can still take the nomination.

But it’s not clear he’s convincing anyone yet.

“You’d be saying the same thing too: ‘We can go on losing for months and still win.’ Ridiculous,” said Larry Sabato, a University of Virginia political scientist and longtime scholar of presidential and congressional elections.

Cruz, who calls himself the one true conservative in the race, is under enormous pressure to fare well Tuesday. If he can’t win in the Deep South, where can he? Sabato asked.

“These are supposed to be his strongest states,” Sabato said. “The percentage of evangelical Christians doesn’t get any higher.”

On the Democratic side, after wins in Iowa, Nevada and South Carolina, Clinton is also trying to redirect the rhetoric of the campaign from Sanders to front-running Trump and his “Make America Great Again” campaign, by saying “America has never stopped being great!”

Polls show Clinton is favored to win in Georgia, Alabama, Minnesota, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia and is strong in every state.

After winning New Hampshire and running close in Iowa, Sanders hopes to win some states and win delegates in most states Tuesday to slow Clinton’s momentum. Polls show his best chances to win are in Massachusetts, Oklahoma and his home state of Vermont and to win a share of delegate-rich Texas.

“This is the time when wins and losses take a back seat to delegate counts,” said Miringoff. “Clinton already has a lead . . . and it is likely to grow after Tuesday. ‘Inevitable’ may again be a word that describes the front-runner,” he said.

Political scientist Doug Muzzio of Baruch College said Sanders needs to win Vermont, Massachusetts and Colorado at least, and warned that another poor performance on Tuesday may sink his campaign.

“If he wins only Vermont and Massachusetts, he’s finished,” Muzzio said.

With Michael Gormley

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