The early result from Georgia is not surprising: Donald Trump has been declared the winner, with Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio battling for second place. That’s based purely on exit polls, which show:
- Trump 40 percent;
- Cruz 23 percent;
- Rubio 22 percent.
As I explained earlier, that doesn’t mean Trump will run away with the delegate count. These three should easily cross the 20-percent threshold needed to qualify for statewide delegates, so Trump should get a little less than half of those. Depending on how the race shakes out in each congressional district, Cruz or Rubio could finish fairly close to him when all the delegates are awarded. He’ll almost certainly get a smaller share of the delegates in Georgia than he had in the first four states combined.
As for the rest of the country, it could be a better night than expected for the non-Trumps. Exit polls in Virginia show Rubio might finish ahead of Trump there, buoyed by a very strong showing in the D.C. suburbs. In fact, if John Kasich were not still in the race, Rubio most likely would have run away with the vote in Virginia. As it is, they’ll probably come out even in the state’s straight-proportional system.
The only other state where the polling stations have closed is Vermont, and there Kasich and Trump are neck-and-neck according to the exit polls.
With Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Minnesota still voting but believed to be competitive states for the non-Trumps — not to mention Alaska, about which no one seems to know much in the way of expectations — there’s a chance Trump wins six or fewer of the 12 states up for grabs today. If that happens, it should dramatically change the narrative from the huge wins he racked up in the last three states.
UPDATE at 9:37 p.m.: Texas and Oklahoma have been called for Cruz, a huge boost to his fortunes after a tough loss in South Carolina. He and Rubio are also within a few points of Trump in Arkansas; I guess it turns out Cruz was running in the Southwest Conference Primary, not the SEC Primary.
Virginia was called for Trump. The (apparently) 3-point loss for Rubio is a bitter one; few thought he was going to win it going into today, but his campaign seemed to get its hopes up during the day and saw their man in a virtual tie in the exit polls. If Rubio had won a state before today, such a narrow loss might not have stung so bad. As it is, what looked like a breakthrough turned into another runner-up showing. Rubio was never going to be able to avoid a loss in Florida on March 15, but it’s unclear to me if that alone will be enough. And his task in his home state may be getting harder with reports that Florida Gov. Rick Scott is endorsing Trump …