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Trump and Clinton remain on top as race heats up

Supporters of Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., cheer as a news program announces Sanders as the winner of the New Hampshire primary during a watch party at Concord High School.

AP Photo by John Minchillo

Supporters of Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., cheer as a news program announces Sanders as the winner of the New Hampshire primary during a watch party at Concord High School.

Igor Komlenovic, News Editor, Puma Press

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The race for the oval office picked up serious momentum as 18 states chimed in with their respective primaries and caucuses in the first week of March. Billionaire Donald Trump maintains his lead over a shrinking but disjointed Republican field, while former first lady Hillary Clinton is slowly pulling away from her grass-roots challenger Bernie Sanders.


Super Tuesday sets the tone

The month kicked off with Super Tuesday nicknamed so because of the sheer number of states holding primaries in one day. This year the count was at 11 states across both aisles with a Republicans-only primary in Alaska and Democrats-exclusive in Colorado.

Starting out in the blue corner, Sanders failed to capitalize on his big win against Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire. Clinton took seven states while Sanders managed to wrestle away only four. The trend of liberal mostly white states leaning towards Sanders continued, while Clinton captured the more crucial southern states with a big African-American population, such as Louisiana, Alabama and Georgia.

In the red corner, Donald Trump won seven of the 11 states, establishing a lead over the rest of the contenders. Florida Senator Marco Rubio severely underperformed, but did manage to take Minnesota, his only win to date.

However the Texas senator Ted Cruz registered some big wins. The senator carried his home state, which alone gave him 102 delegates. In addition to Texas, Cruz also won in Alaska and Oklahoma.


Cruz surges, Rubio plummets

 Over the weekend, Cruz expanded on his three wins. Most surprisingly the hard-nosed, evangelical Texan managed to overwhelmingly defeat Trump in the traditionally moderate Maine caucus. While Trump is still the clear favorite, these wins have established Cruz as his strongest competition.

On the flip side, Senator Rubio continues to fall further away from the nomination. Apart from the win in Minnesota, the Florida Senator failed to win any states. Rubio has placed a distant third in most states, and in Michigan he was upstaged by Kasich and walked away without any delegates. Once touted as the establishment’s best answer to Trump, Rubio has found himself in a must-win predicament when his home state goes to vote next week.


Sanders remains in the race

In terms of delegates Hillary Clinton has built a huge lead over her rival Bernie Sanders, with 760 pledged candidates to his 546. Her lead in regular delegates is further boosted by super delegates, a voting body made up of Democrat party elites who are unchained to their states and are able to change their support at any point during the race. The super delegates serve the Party as a sort of protection against grass-roots candidates deemed too risky for the nomination.

Despite Clinton’s dominance in the delegates, Senator Sanders has stayed in the fight for the nomination. On Tuesday his perseverance resulted in a strong upset in Michigan. The polling average according to realclearpolitics.com had Clinton pegged to win the state by a 20-plus point average; however, when the people of the hard-hit state turned out to vote, Sanders came out with a slim victory.


What comes next?

As mentioned before, voters are watching a long-winded marathon, and the early March primaries serve as a halfway point. The race is becoming much clearer, but this year’s election cycle continues to throw many surprises.

The country has seen the formation of the #NeverTrump superpac campaign, which culminated in Mitt Romney’s public attack on the billionaire frontrunner. Candidates John Kasich and Marco Rubio will compete in their home states next week in what will be must-win scenarios for both of them. According to realclearpolitics.com Trump is leading the polls in both states; with a lead average of 17 points in Florida and a 2.5 in Ohio.

Both states also happen to work under winner-take-all rules, so if Trump manages to win both, he might just clinch the nomination.

For Sanders the odds seem mathematically impossible. However, Clinton needs to amass another 1000 delegates in order to win, and if Sanders can start winning the popular vote, then the super delegates have the ability to swing over and push him towards a win. With the southern states out of the way, the wildcard is once again Florida, a state which carries 246 delegates and has a large Latino American population. The RCP poll puts Clinton at a 31-point lead in the state, so the Sanders campaign must be hoping for another miracle turnaround like the one in Michigan in order to close the delegate count.

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Trump and Clinton remain on top as race heats up