Trump had a very good night as expected. He won Massachusetts going away with almost 49% of the vote as of 10:30 Eastern, and carried Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee with similar ease and by very large margins. Despite a challenge from Rubio in Virginia, Trump held on to win. With 69% reporting, Trump was leading Cruz 34-28% in Arkansas and will probably be able to claim that as another win. Kasich was running very closely with Trump in Vermont with 75% reporting, and he might overtake him by the end of the night.
Cruz did well enough for himself with wins in both Texas and Oklahoma. He had been leading in Arkansas polling and trailing in Oklahoma, and he ended up swapping places with Trump in both states. Cruz did better than his polling suggested he would in a number of Southern states, and that allowed him to reclaim his position as the strongest competitor against Trump. Cruz bested Rubio in almost every Southern state, and he won his home state, while Rubio outperformed both Cruz and Kasich in just one primary state.
In many places, Rubio came in third. He ran competitively in Virginia, but came up short despite overwhelming support from the D.C. suburbs. In states with 20% thresholds, Rubio was on the cusp in several places but was falling short in Vermont, Texas, and Alabama as of 10:30 Eastern. Kasich had pulled ahead of him in Massachusetts. The Minnesota caucuses are Rubio’s one chance to win somewhere today, and early returns suggest he should prevail there, but that just underscores that Rubio doesn’t compete all that well in most primaries with larger electorates.
Even if Rubio wins in Minnesota, he will have very little to boast about, and he still lags badly behind Trump and Cruz in both wins and delegates. While Cruz had a less successful night than originally planned, he has no incentive to drop out, and Kasich’s decent showing (and possible win) in Vermont will guarantee that he stays in the race through the middle of the month. Things didn’t go as horribly for Rubio as they could have, but they went badly and no one can credibly pretend otherwise. That won’t stop Rubio’s fans from trying to do just that over the next few weeks, but it shouldn’t be taken seriously.
Trump easily won five contests, and could have seven wins all together by the end of the night. The Cruz win in Oklahoma was the only completely unexpected result of the day, and that was offset by Trump’s likely Arkansas win. Trump showed again that he can assemble his broad coalition of Republican voters in both the South and the Northeast in numerous contests, and he did so with virtually no advertising before Super Tuesday. He outperformed the “very conservative” candidate in states with large numbers of evangelicals, and he beat the would-be moderate candidate in the Northeast, and defeated the party elites’ favorite on D.C.’s doorstep. Unless something dramatically changes, Trump has to be considered the presumptive nominee, and the other candidates are just jostling with one another to lay claim to second place.