Donald Trump’s advance toward winning the Republican presidential nomination hits a crucial milestone Tuesday as voters in Florida, Ohio, Illinois, Missouri and North Carolina cast ballots in the first big primaries since violent clashes erupted last week at his campaign rallies.
For Hillary Clinton, Tuesday’s test will be whether she has sewn up the Democratic nomination tightly enough that she can turn more fully to the general election, or if she will need to rededicate herself to beating back her rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
Here are some of the things we’ll be watching:
Can Trump be stopped?
The contests Tuesday will be the first to gauge the effect of millions of dollars in advertising against Trump. The scathing ads attacking his business record, personal temperament and liberal past were funded by wealthy Republicans who cringe at the prospect of Trump leading the party’s ticket in November.
The assault could be too late. Trump has already won 460 of the 1,237 delegates he would need to clinch the nomination before the party’s Cleveland convention in July.
Tuesday’s winner-take-all contests offer the biggest delegate prizes: 99 in Florida and 66 in Ohio. Polls have found Trump a strong favorite in Florida and just behind Gov. John Kasich in Ohio. Trump is also running well ahead of rivals in Illinois, where 69 delegates are at stake.
Trump will also be hard to beat in North Carolina, where 72 delegates will be divvied up. Missouri, with 52, is the least predictable.
What’s the effect of violence at Trump rallies?
The biggest unknown Tuesday is how voters react to racially charged fistfights that broke out Friday in a Chicago arena where Trump was going to hold a rally before thousands of protesters showed up and he canceled it.
The disturbing images played repeatedly on television over the weekend, along with video of a white Trump supporter hitting a black protester in the face a few days earlier in North Carolina, then threatening to kill him. The white man was arrested and charged with assault, and Trump said he might pay his legal bills.
Democratic presidential candidate and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks to supporters at the Palm Beach County Convention Center in West Palm Beach, Fla.(Joe Raedle / Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a primary night news conference at the Mar-A-Lago Club’s Donald J. Trump Ballroom in Palm Beach, Fla.(Win McNamee / Getty Images)
Bernie Sanders speaks to supporters in Phoenix.(Ralph Freso / Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidate and Ohio Gov. John Kasich gestures at his primary election rally in Berea, Ohio.(Matt Rourke / Associated Press)
Ted Cruz is joined onstage by his wife, Heidi, and their daughters in Houston.(David J. Phillip / Associated Press)
Sen. Marco Rubio speaks at a primary night rally in Miami. He says he’s ending his campaign for the Republican nomination for president.(Paul Sancya / Associated Press)
Supporters of Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) watch a monitor as Sen. Marco Rubio drops out of the presidential race.(David J. Phillip / Associated Press)
Republican presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio hugs his family at a rally at Florida International University in Miami.(Paul Sancya / Assoicated Press)
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton hands a phone back to a woman after speaking to the woman’s son at Dunkin’ Donuts in West Palm Beach, Fla.(Carolyn Kaster / Associated Press)
Republican presidential hopeful and Ohio Gov. John Kasich celebrates his primary victory in his home state during a rally at Baldwin Wallace University in Berea, Ohio.(Brendan Smialowski / AFP/Getty Images)
Ted Cruz addresses supporters.(David J. Phillip / Associated Press)
A Bernie Sanders supporter in Phoenix.(Ricardo Arduengo / Associated Press)
Bernie Sanders.(Ricardo Arduengo / Associated Press)
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to supporters at his Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Fla.(Gerald Herbert / Associated Press)
Supporters cheer for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton as results come in at the Palm Beach County Convention Center in West Palm Beach, Fla.(Carolyn Kaster / Associated Press)
Supporters of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton cheer in West Palm Beach, Fla., as early poll numbers from Florida show Clinton leading rival Bernie Sanders.(Jim Lo Scalzo / European Pressphoto Agency)
Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Republican presidential candidate, leaves his polling place in Westerville after casting his primary ballot.(Matt Rourke / Associated Press)
Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Republican presidential candidate, speaks with members of the media after voting in the primary election in Westerville, Ohio.(Matt Rourke / Associated Press)
Chris Thomas of Atlanta, Ill., walks from the Atlanta-Eminence Community House after casting her vote on Illinois’ primary election day Tuesday.(Steve Smedley / Associated Press)
An election judge adjusts a flag at the entrance to the polling location inside the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center at Jesse Owens Park in Chicago.(Armando Sanchez / Associated Press)
Supporters hold signs for Republican candidates in front of a polling precinct for the Florida primary in Miami.(Rhona Wise / AFP/Getty Images)
A voter leaves a polling place during primary voting in Stark County in Wilmot, Ohio.(Brendan Smialowski / AFP/Getty Images)
A woman arrives to vote in the primary election Tuesday in Westerville, Ohio.(Matt Rourke / Associated Press)
Stickers are set in a paper dish at a polling place during the primary election in Westerville, Ohio.(Matt Rourke / Associated Press)
Bryant Rogers, center, prepares to cast his ballot in the primary election in Kent, Ohio.(David Maxwell / EPA)
Poll worker Linda UmBayemake of Kent, Ohio, wears a voting sticker on her forehead during the primary election in Kent.(David Maxwell / EPA)
Voters arrive before dawn to cast their ballots in the presidential primary at the Apalachee Bay Volunteer Fire Department in Crawfordville, Fla.(Mark Wallheiser / Getty Images)
Supporters of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump take a photograph together as they wait inside the Tampa Convention Center before a town hall meeting on Monday in Florida.(Brian Blanco / Getty Images)
Anthony Borbell sports a tattoo of GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump during a rally Monday in Vienna Center, Ohio.(Brendan Smialowski / AFP/Getty Images)
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton greets supporters at Grady Cole Center on Monday in Charlotte, N.C.(Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio greets supporters while campaigning for president at That Little Restaurant on Monday in Melbourne, Fla.(Win McNamee / Associated Press)
Republican presidential candidate and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz speaks at a rally at Abbington Banquets on Monday in Glen Ellyn, Ill.(Bob Chwedyk / AP)
The violence in North Carolina and Chicago led news organizations to string together video of Trump repeatedly condoning violence against protesters (“I’d like to punch him in the face,” he said of one in Las Vegas), even as he stated over the weekend that he does not condone violence.
In previous contests over the last six weeks, voters who made up their minds in the last few days before an election had tended to reject Trump, polls have found.
Will Marco Rubio drop out?
After losing nearly two dozen contests, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida must win his home state to remain a viable contender for the nomination.
But that would require a sudden Trump collapse in Florida. Polls have found him running far ahead of Rubio.
A Florida loss would leave Rubio with no feasible path to overtake Trump in the chase for delegates, making it all but impossible to raise enough money to sustain his campaign.
Could Democrats see a Michigan repeat?
Clinton’s surprise defeat in Michigan on March 8 didn’t dramatically alter the math required for her to win the nomination — thanks to her big win in Mississippi, she won more delegates on the night — but it nonetheless scrambled the race. For starters, the result showed that public polls, which had Clinton up by double digits, were way off, raising questions about the accuracy of surveys showing her leading in other states as well.
Michigan also proved Sanders’ strength in a Midwestern industrial state. His strategy was to sharply criticize trade policies that he says have cost manufacturing jobs.
For her part, Clinton has announced new proposals intended to protect car manufacturers under the massive Trans-Pacific Partnership global trade deal in the works. But it’s unclear whether that will be enough in Ohio, a state that was among the slowest to recover from the Great Recession.
What will happen in Chicago?
Clinton has been able to count on strong support from black voters, winning their votes by big margins in Southern states like South Carolina and Mississippi. However, her advantage among black voters wasn’t as wide in Michigan, and now Sanders has set his sights set on Chicago.
The city has been riven by protests over police violence, especially the shooting death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, and much of the anger has been directed at Mayor Rahm Emanuel. In his appeals to activists, including black residents angry at the mayor, Sanders has called on Emanuel to resign. Clinton, whose ties to Emanuel date to his work in her husband’s presidential administration, has been more circumspect in her comments.