Viewer's Guide: After Super Tuesday, cold hard delegate math
WASHINGTON (AP) — 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. GOP front-runner Donald Trump came into Super Tuesday with 82, Ted Cruz, 18, Marco Rubio 16, John Kasich 6 and Ben Carson 4. It takes 1,237 to win the GOP nomination. Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton entered Super Tuesday with 548 delegates — including superdelegates, the party leaders and members of Congress who can support any candidate. Bernie Sanders had 87. It takes 2,383 delegates to win the Democratic nomination.
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? Even before the Super Tuesday votes were in, both seemed to be looking past their primary rivals. Clinton delivered a scolding that seemed aimed at Trump, saying, "You can't just say whatever pops into your head if you want to be the president of the United States of America." And Trump said of her: "Hillary Clinton does not have the strength or the stamina to be president. ... She cannot do the job."
The B-WORD: A strong Trump showing could generate fresh talk about the possibility of a brokered convention from Republicans who just can't get their arms around 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: Ted Cruz, who placed third in the three contests leading up to Super Tuesday, warned this week that the "Trump train" could become unstoppable if the billionaire businessman rolls to big victories on Tuesday. Can Cruz lay out a path for himself to the nomination post-Super Tuesday?
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, campaigns Wednesday in Michigan, hoping his populist message will resonate with the state's 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.
-- Associated Press