One Day Until Super Tuesday, When Some Clarity (Maybe) Moves In

Screen Shot 2016-02-29 at 10.55.48 AMMAGGIE HABERMAN

Monday, February 29, 2016

Good Monday morning.

A raucous Republican race could gain clarity this week, and Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont could face a dwindling opportunity to prove he can develop support beyond his coalition of younger, whiter voters, as the parallel primaries head into Super Tuesday. 

With roughly a dozen nominating contests in both primaries, the Republican votes present an opportunity for Donald J. Trump to amass a plurality of the 595 delegates available, and to put that much more distance between him and Senators Ted Cruz of Texas and Marco Rubio of Florida. Mr. Cruz is fighting to win his home state of Texas, which votes on Tuesday, while Mr. Rubio is looking to increase his vote totals in congressional districts and to bolster his delegate count.

But it also appears that those in the Republican Party who do not back Mr. Trump are realizing that he could be their problem through the fall. And in the last two days, Mr. Trump has given his opponents a lot of ammunition — by initially refusing to disavow support from the former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, who has praised Mr. Trump’s ascent in the primaries, and by retweeting a famous quote from Mussolini.

Mr. Trump has proved Teflon-like in the campaign so far. But he is now facing the first sustained attacks in the form of television advertisements, and he is doing little to counter them with his own spending. And Mr. Rubio and Mr. Cruz are unloading their opposition research files, including mentions that Mr. Trump avoided the military draft as a younger man and that some news accounts have claimed his businesses had reported ties to organized crime. But the biggest charge that Mr. Rubio hopes will stick is the one in which he has called Mr. Trump a “con man” over and over. With lesser schoolyard taunts, like discussing the size of Mr. Trump’s fingers, he is trying to get in the real estate billionaire’s head.

As for the Democrats, Mr. Sanders is looking to rebound after a deeply lopsided loss to Hillary Clinton in the South Carolina primary, where more than half the voters were African-American. Mrs. Clinton overwhelmingly won black voters. And while it is hard to translate the results from one state to others, Mr. Sanders had a number of paid staff members in South Carolina and worked hard — raising questions about where he will next find success.