Donald Trump pulled further ahead of his competitors with a big win in South Carolina on Saturday and is expected to sail to another victory in Nevada Tuesday, but the real contest comes on March 1, a day commonly referred to as Super Tuesday.
As nearly a dozen states head to the voting booth, more delegates will be up for grabs on this single day than on any other. For Republicans, a quarter of the delegates a candidate needs to win the nomination are in play.
Gathered below are five strategies each of the Republican presidential candidates are likely to execute as the race pushes onward.
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1. Donald Trump
— With the exception of his second-place finish in Iowa, Trump has remained on top, consistently garnering roughly a third of the Republican primary vote (a number that matches his standing in an average of national polls). While Kasich and Carson technically remain in the race, the common wisdom is that the Republican field has now narrowed to a three-way race between Trump, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio.
According to Bloomberg Politics
, polls show that each of them are likely to draw around one-third of the vote, however most polls show Trump edging out the other two by a small margin. "Trump will win everything until it’s a two-person race — and he’s going to win it by a lot," said Russ Schriefer, a veteran of past Republican presidential campaigns, The Washington Post reported
. Trump will therefore seek to keep both Cruz and Rubio in the race.
2. Ted Cruz
— After Cruz finished third in South Carolina, many experts are saying that he doesn't stand a chance of winning the nomination. South Carolina showed that southern evangelicals and anti-establishmentarians are backing Trump, while other Republican constituencies are moving toward Rubio. While national polls show Cruz at second place, the state-by-state math from hereon out is not on his side.
According to FiveThirtyEight
, "The states that are his most natural fits — those with the highest proportions of evangelical voters — are also the least likely to award their delegates on a winner-take-all basis. In other words, Cruz’s votes may not translate into delegates nearly as efficiently as his rivals’." Cruz is unlikely to win a state like Florida, for example. If Cruz stays in the race until the Republican convention, he could siphon off enough delegates from the race to keep both Trump and Rubio from securing the nomination.
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3. Marco Rubio
— The senator from Florida won second place in the South Carolina primary, and got a big boost after Jeb Bush dropped out of the race. Rubio stands to further consolidate the so-called establishment vote if Kasich drops out next. By far the biggest hurdle for Rubio is Ted Cruz.
"Either Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio would have a shot at the nomination, but I don’t see how they can stop Donald Trump while both of them are splitting votes," said Al Cardenas, a former Florida Republican Party and American Conservative Union chairman, Politico reported
. No matter what, Rubio definitely needs to emerge victorious in winner-take-all Florida in order to stay in the race, however Trump is leading him in the polls there. Expect Rubio to attack Cruz in an attempt to knock him out of the race. On the other hand, if Rubio thinks he can win a brokered convention, he may seek to keep Cruz in the race.
4. John Kasich
— Many in the GOP are calling for Kasich to suspend his campaign, as he has no clear path to the nomination. Politico explained
that Kasich "had hoped that if he could be the last governor standing, his record and experience would persuade party power brokers to unite behind him . . . Kasich's theory proved true: Bush's demise did precipitate a unifying push within the establishment — toward Rubio."
5. Ben Carson
— The famed neurosurgeon has no clear path to the nomination after finishing fourth in Iowa, eighth in New Hampshire, and sixth — dead last — in South Carolina. If Carson were to drop out of the race, MSNBC reported
that polling shows Cruz would benefit the most, Trump would benefit nearly as much, and Rubio would benefit a little bit. With that, The Washington Post concluded
, "Carson may well be sticking around in the race in either a vain attempt to resurrect his good name or in a not-so-vain attempt to weaken Cruz as the race continues."
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