After Super Tuesday, cold, hard delegate math

Presidential candidates will wake up Wednesday morning to the cold, hard truth of delegate math. It might give the front-runners some breathing room, but for the rest of the field the truth may hurt.

What to watch for on the day after Super Tuesday doles out a quarter of all the delegates at stake in the GOP and Democratic nominating contests:

THE TALLY: With 12 states awarding delegates, see how the delegate totals stack up when the dust settles.

With results in some states still in flux, Donald Trump had won at least 139 Super Tuesday delegates and Ted Cruz at least 52. Marco Rubio had won at least 25 delegates, John Kasich 13 and Ben Carson two. There were 595 GOP delegates at stake in 11 states.

Overall, Trump led with 221 delegates, Cruz 69, Rubio, 41. It takes 1,237 delegates to win the Republican nomination for president.

On the Democratic side, Clinton was assured of winning at least 334 of the 865 delegates at stake on Super Tuesday. Sanders was sure to get at least 145. Including superdelegates, Clinton had at least 882 delegates. Sanders had at least 232. It takes 2,383 Democratic delegates to win.

GENERALLY SPEAKING: Watch how front-runners Clinton and Trump position themselves going forward. Do they focus more on their primary election rivals or pivot toward an anticipated general election matchup? Trump said Tuesday night that if Clinton hadn’t straightened out Washington by now "she isn’t going to straighten it out in the next four years." Clinton, in turn, criticized what she called the angry, divisive rhetoric from the Republican front-runner, though she did not name him.

The B-WORD: Trump’s strong showing could generate fresh talk about the possibility of a brokered convention from Republicans who just can’t get on board with the idea of Trump as the eventual GOP nominee.

RUBIO’S ROAD: Rubio’s itinerary reflects his priorities. He campaigns Wednesday in Michigan, which votes March 8. And he’s already putting big effort into his home state of Florida, which votes with a number of winner-take-all-delegates states on March 15. Early voting already has started in Florida, and Rubio has been unequivocal about its importance to him, saying:  "We’re going to win Florida. Florida is not going to vote for a con artist like Donald Trump."

CRUZ’S COURSE:  Watch for a more aggressive Cruz, rejuvenated by victories in his home state of Texas and neighboring Oklahoma. Stressing that he’s the only candidate with victories over Trump so far, Cruz on Tuesday night urged the other GOP candidates to "prayerfully consider coming together" and uniting against Trump. Translation: get out of the race.

GOP SOUL-SEARCHING: Keep an eye on how the GOP establishment does — or doesn’t — reconcile itself to Trump. In the run-up to Tuesday’s mega-round of voting, some establishment figures were vowing they’d never, ever support Trump; others were reluctantly pledging to fall in line behind the eventual nominee, whoever it is.

AM NOT, DID TOO: The rhetoric in the GOP race took a turn for the worse before Super Tuesday, featuring a series of taunts between Trump and Rubio about potential pants-wetting, bad spray tans and overactive sweat glands. Do the candidates elevate the conversation once Tuesday’s big vote is past?

SANDERS’ STAND: Sanders, looking for someplace to shine after wins in Oklahoma and his home state of Vermont, planned to talk strategy over breakfast Wednesday before campaigning in Maine and Michigan, where he hopes his populist message will resonate with union and blue-collar voters.

ENTHUSIASM GAP?  Check out final turnout figures from Tuesday. The first two primary states to vote — New Hampshire and South Carolina — turned out record numbers of Republican, but not Democratic, voters. If that trend continues, it could have implications for the general election.

AIR WARS: Expect to see lots of Trump thumping in the next two weeks. Ahead of Super Tuesday, anti-Trump ads outnumbered pro-Trump commercials nearly 3-to-1. That ratio is likely to grow. Three outside groups, Our Principles, American Future Fund and Club for Growth, have laid plans for millions of dollars in new Trump attack ads. Conservative Solutions, a super political action committee backing Rubio – and blasting Trump — has reserved $6 million of ad time for in the soon-to-vote states of Michigan, Illinois, Missouri and Florida. On the Democratic side, Clinton and Sanders both continue their campaign advertising. From the looks of the ad reservations, Sanders is betting big on Michigan, spending more than two-thirds of future ad money there.

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