This was the day that could make or break several presidential campaigns for Democrats and Republicans. Tuesday’s primaries ended Marco Rubio’s 2016 presidential dream and provided Hillary Clinton a win in Ohio and perhaps an unstoppable path to a nomination. And when does Donald Trump keep his promise to be more “presidential”? Now the campaigns review, adjust and move on.
After a conference call with Rubio on Tuesday night, Jason Roe, a consultant for the Florida senator’s campaign, said he could see Rubio running for president again. “The world is his oyster,” Roe said. Despite polls showing Rubio trailing in his home state, Roe said he had been hopeful that as voters saw more of Trump’s behavior, they’d back the senator. “But people are angry with an establishment they think has failed them. And Donald Trump is a big middle finger to that establishment,” he said.
“All the things that he did conventionally would be a perfect recipe for success, but there is a very angry element of American society,” Roe said of Rubio’s campaign. Trump, he added, is “someone who attracts the very people that I think he’s betraying. It’s hard when folks are not rational.”
Without Rubio, it “largely shapes up as a race between Trump and Cruz, but Kasich is going to be part of that conversation,” Roe said. “It’s going to be very difficult for Trump to get a majority of delegates before the convention,” he added, predicting that the nomination “will be sorted out” there.
Analysts and strategists weigh in with their thoughts and advice:
True “Trumpiness”: “Trump’s late widening margin in Florida proves you can’t beat Trump at ‘Trumpiness’ and personal smears and Ted Cruz should learn that lesson.
“Trump, for all his successes, still can’t crack 50. It’s always been his enemy and he makes no moves to embrace enough people to get there. He campaigns with a bulldozer and he most enjoys running over the people he needs for his own construction crew.
“This election should put to rest for all future strategists the myth that you don’t have to win either New Hampshire or Iowa. Every candidate is suited to one of the two and they’re usually the cleanest shot for a win because you don’t face an opponent with momentum. Yet every cycle, brilliant people in multiple campaigns convince themselves they’re going to be the first-ever late bloomer. You just have to commit to win one of the two and do it.”
— Brad Todd, a Republican strategist
Cruz needs alliances: “On the ‘R’ Side, it’s all about keeping Trump under 1,237. That’s the ball game.
“Cruz needs alliances and that’s been the point he has sold as a positive: He doesn’t make alliances.”
— Stuart Stevens, former Mitt Romney strategist
A contested convention?: “The Republican party is now going to have to make a choice between Trump’s populism and Cruz’s conservatism with a growing likelihood that there will be a contested convention. The establishment’s best hope of having any kind of say in the race is with Kasich who would have to grow his delegate lead to effectively negotiate his support for one of the other candidates.”
Ron Bonjean, a veteran Capitol Hill communicator and GOP strategist
Focus on down ballot: “Republicans are going to Cleveland in July to have a televised family discussion over who (is) best to defeat Hillary Clinton in November. But it would be wise for us to shift focus down ballot to ensure we retain majorities in the Congress and in state capitols across the country.”
— Mark Braden, a Tennessee Republican operative who has managed Senate campaigns in the South and worked on John McCain’s 2008 presidential race, was backing Chris Christie
A mic drop moment: “The Democratic primary is over. The only leg Sanders had left to stand on was his claim that Hillary couldn’t win in the states that decide the presidency in the general election. This big kiss from Ohio and Florida is basically a mic drop moment for Hillary. She’s already started moving away tonight from attacking Sanders and toward uniting Democrats to stand up to whoever comes out of the mess in Cleveland.”
— Lanae Erickson Hatalsky, vice president for Social Policy and Politics at Third Way
Trump tough to beat: “One cranky old guy saw his hopes snuffed out tonight, while the other cranky old guy beat up his opponents in four of five states like Trump supporters beat up protesters.
“More seriously, the expectation that Trump’s vote was capped at 35 percent and he would wither as the field narrowed is clearly not true. Even after Kasich won Ohio, Trump is going to be tough to beat.”
— Glen Bolger, a Republican pollster
A bright future: “Marco Rubio ran a bold, conservative, and optimistic campaign for president. CFG Action has supported Senator Rubio since he first ran for Senate, and, in the Senate and on the presidential campaign trail he has remained a strong and consistent fighter for economic freedom. For the sake of the country, we hope and expect that he has a bright future in elected office.”
— David McIntosh, president, Club for Growth Action, a political arm of the Club for Growth
Tough road to Cleveland: “In sports, even if you have a big lead, you never want to leave your opponents hanging around. The same is true in politics. While Trump had an undeniably good night, Kasich’s win in Ohio and Cruz’s consistently solid performance throughout the primary means those two candidates are going to be hanging around until the convention. That is going to make it a whole lot tougher for Trump to get to the magic number of 1,237 delegates before Cleveland.”
— Ian Prior, Communications Director for American Crossroads/Crossroads GPS
— Simone Pathé, Eric Garcia, Alex Roarty and Mary C. Curtis compiled this report.
Roll Call Race Ratings Map: Ratings for Every House and Senate Race in 2016
Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone.