Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton piled up more victories on Super Tuesday, further raising the question of whether they can be stopped from winning the presidential nominations of their political parties.
Trump – the celebrity billionaire – won the Republican vote in seven states on the busiest day of the nomination season, while Clinton – the former secretary of state and first lady – also gained victories in seven states March 1 in her effort to win the Democratic nod.
Even in winning seven states, Trump did not dominate to the extent pre-Super Tuesday polls seemed to indicate he would. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas won in Alaska, Oklahoma and his home state, while Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida won the Minnesota caucus.
Cruz managed to gain only 25 fewer delegates than Trump, winning 209 to the frontrunner’s 234, according to The New York Times at 1 p.m. Eastern Time March 2. In the total delegate count, Trump has 316, Cruz 226 and Rubio 106. Ohio Gov. John Kasich and famed neurosurgeon Ben Carson trail with 25 and 8 delegates, respectively. In a statement released March 2, Carson suggested he might drop out of the race. “I do not see a political path forward in light of last evening’s Super Tuesday primary results,” he said.
In the Democratic race, Clinton won an additional 486 delegates on Super Tuesday for a total of 577, while Sen. Bernie Sanders, a self-identified socialist from Vermont, gained 321 delegates for a total of 386, The Times reported. That does not count superdelegates, where Clinton holds an overwhelming 457-22 advantage.
A Republican candidate must obtain 1,237 delegates to win the nomination, while a Democrat must gain 2,383.
“There is just about no chance of [Trump] being defeated for the nomination at this point unless either Cruz or Rubio can be persuaded to leave the race,” said Hunter Baker, associate professor of political science at Union University in Jackson, Tenn.
“Hillary Clinton is going to continue to steamroll Bernie Sanders,” Baker told Baptist Press in written comments. “African-American voters trust the Clinton name, and that is showing in the results so far. In addition, it seems that Democrats in the South aren’t as crazy about the socialist label as some of their counterparts up north.”
Trump’s gains continue to mount – even with the backing of some self-identified evangelicals and conservatives – in spite of his inconsistent policy positions, multiple marriages and insults of others on the stump. His refusal Feb. 28 to disavow the endorsement of former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke may have hurt him on Super Tuesday, although Trump later repudiated Duke’s support.
Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said of Super Tuesday, “Last night’s results reveal a deeply divided electorate and quickly shifting society, without and within the Bible Belt.
“Christians above all others should be leading the way in calling for the conservation of moral principles and a just society,” Moore said. “In the midst of this unpredictable and fevered election cycle, we need more than ever for Gospel Christians to engage in the public square and at the ballot box, remembering that we are Americans best when we are Christians first.”
Bruce Ashford, provost and professor of theology and culture at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, said, “For a number of reasons, conservative evangelicals are deeply concerned about the prospects of a Trump nomination. His candidacy is questionable on many of the issues that evangelicals care about, such as human dignity and religious liberty.”
While Cruz and Rubio continue to make the case “they are able to stop Trump,” Ashford said, both “are longshots to win the nomination, though the door is not yet closed.”
Trump, Baker said, “has vastly outperformed any reasonable expectation of what he could accomplish when he joined this race as what seemed to be a novelty candidate. He is the clear frontrunner and has significantly expanded the size of the GOP primary electorate.”
Baker said he had endorsed Rubio “on the logic that he would be a better general election candidate, but an awful lot will have to happen for him to get there. It’s hard to imagine Cruz being persuaded that he should be the one to leave when he has a total of four wins in his pocket, while Rubio only has one.”
Barry Creamer, president of and professor of humanities at Criswell College in Dallas, said, “Ironically, and unfortunately in my opinion, the Ted Cruz win in Texas may actually affirm the movement pushing Trump closer to the Republican nomination.”
Cruz, Creamer said, “probably won Texas for the very same reason that Trump is still winning in the majority of other states” – the feelings of betrayal and disenfranchisement by conservative voters toward the Republican Party.
“It seems likely that voters in Texas support Ted Cruz now for a reason similar to why they elected him to the Senate – because they agree with his stand against D.C.’s status quo, not solely, as many probably want the case to be, as a protest to the Trump campaign,” Creamer said.
The seven states in which Trump won March 1 were Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Vermont and Virginia. Clinton took first place in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia, while Sanders won in Colorado, Minnesota, Oklahoma and Vermont.
The next stops in the nomination journeys come March 5, when both parties hold primaries in Louisiana and caucuses in Kansas. The GOP also will have caucuses in Kentucky and Maine, while Democrats hold a caucus in Nebraska. On March 6, the Democrats will caucus in Maine; the Republicans will have a primary in Puerto Rico.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)