It’s not exactly Tiny Tuesday. But after weeks of high-stakes, cross-country balloting, today’s presidential contests make for a fairly modest go-round.
Only a few states will be voting. Arizona holds its primary and Utah its precinct-level caucuses. Democrats in Idaho will also caucus.
A mere 149 delegates will be up for grabs on the Democratic side, a fraction of the 2,383 needed to win the party’s nomination. On the Republican side, 98 delegates will be awarded; it takes 1,237 to clinch the nomination ahead of the party’s summer convention.
Despite the relatively meager pickings, Tuesday’s balloting is not without import.
Can Donald Trump finally win majority support?
The New York real estate developer seems poised to take Arizona, claiming all 58 delegates in the state’s winner-take-all primary. His hard-line stance on immigration and signature promise to build a wall along the border with Mexico seem tailor-fit for Arizona, the epicenter of anger over illegal immigration.
The question is how big a win can Trump manage? The GOP contest has moved beyond intangibles like momentum into the hard calculations of delegate math.
Still, Trump has never won a majority of the vote in any state, though he came close in Massachusetts and Florida, suggesting he has a sturdy floor of support beneath him but might also face a ceiling. That could hurt him as the race goes forward, especially if he runs as the Republican nominee in the general election.
Can Ted Cruz hit the magic 50% mark in Utah?
Utah, with its sizable Mormon population, is the rare place where Trump is a considerable underdog. His disparagement of immigrants and exclusionary talk of banning Muslims have not gone down well in a state built by newcomers fleeing religious persecution.
Enter Cruz, who is second to Trump in both delegates and the number of states won. The Texas senator has prevailed in several caucuses and sees an opportunity to walk away with a split decision Tuesday — assuming Trump wins Arizona — which is not a bad way to head into the lull over the next two weeks. (There are no Republican contests until April 5 in Wisconsin.)
The question is whether Cruz can win at least 50% of the Utah vote. If so, he takes all 40 delegates. Otherwise they are divided proportionally.
Whither John Kasich?
The Ohio governor carried his home state last week in a must-win primary and did so handily despite a strong push by Trump. But that is Kasich’s one and only victory and it was on his political turf.
To be anything more than a glorified favorite-son candidate and build the momentum needed to force a contested GOP convention — Kasich’s only shot at the nomination — he needs to start winning elsewhere.
Whither Bernie Sanders?
The first member of Congress to endorse Sanders’ upstart campaign was Rep. Raul M. Grijalva, a liberal Democrat who represents southern Arizona.
Sanders has advertised extensively in the state and drawn sizable crowds. Yet surveys suggest Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton is waltzing to another win in Arizona.
The pollsters got it wrong in Michigan, where Sanders scored a big upset. But after going 0-for-5 last week, the Vermont independent badly needs a victory to quash growing talk that it’s time for him to exit the race, or at least turn his sights on Trump and leave Clinton be.
Signs of a Latino backlash?
Like its two neighbors, California and Nevada, Arizona has a large and growing Latino population that, over time, is expected to turn the state from a solid Republican redoubt into a presidential swing state.
The transformation was expected to take some time, putting Arizona on the competitive map in perhaps 2020. The question is whether Trump, with his incendiary language and insulting comments about Mexicans, has hastened that political shift.
Arizona holds a closed primary, preventing Democrats from crossing over to register their views on Trump. So the best gauge will be turnout on the Democratic side.
A surge in the Latino vote would suggest the community is becoming energized and more politically engaged — the same phenomenon seen in California after passage of Proposition 187, the measure that sought to end public services for people in the state illegally and sparked a major Latino backlash.
Follow @markzbarabak for national & California politics.
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