Super Tuesday: It's all about Texas
UPDATE: Senator Ted Cruz has lived to fight another day. Earlier today, he called his home state of Texas a must-win. In the end, he carried it comfortably.
The evangelical social conservative also managed to win neighbouring Oklahoma as a dozen mostly southern states voted on Super Tuesday. He was also ahead in Alaska in the early vote count.
But, otherwise, it was a mauling, with Republican frontrunner Donald Trump extending his lead on the pack with large wins in eight of the other states that held primaries today.
The optimal result for establishment Republicans would have been for Senator Cruz – widely regarded as too extreme and unlikeable to win a White House race against Hillary Clinton – to have lost Texas, forcing him out fo the race and allowing the anyone-but-Trump vote to rally around a single candidate: Senator Marco Rubio, who is shaping up to win slightly more delegates than Mr Cruz today and is projected to win Minnesota.
Cruz and Rubio did just well enough to give each incentive to stay in the race a while longer. Ohio governor John Kasich, who registered in single digits in 10 of the 12 Super Tuesday states, says he'll hang in until at least March 15, when his home state of Ohio holds its primary. He has a decent shot of winning, which will likely see him decide to stay in the field, prolonging the vote-splitting agony for establishment Republicans.
Once again, the not particularly God-fearing Mr Trump proved his broad-based appeal today, winning a slew of bible-belt states that, on paper, should have been heartland territory for the evangelical Mr Cruz.
On the Democrat side, Senator Bernie Sanders won his home state of Vermont, plus Oklahoma, Minnesota and possibly Colorado, but was demolished by Hillary Clinton in every other Super Tuesday state.
For Ms Clinton's party, Super Tuesday has served its historic firewall function of over-stretching and effectively killing off an outlier candidate.
For the Republicans, not so much.
EARLIER: It's Super Tuesday in the US: the day a dozen mostly southern states hold primaries on the same day.
The key race will be in delegate-rich Texas, where polls show a tight race between Donald Trump and local senator Ted Cruz. If Mr Cruz can't carry his own state, his campaign will be effectively over (ironically, not necessarily a bad thing for the anti-Trump camp as it will rally support around a single anyone-but candidate, Senator Marco Rubio).
As Mr Cruz told reporters as he went to vote, "There is no doubt, any candidate who cannot win his home state has real problems."
Super Tuesday was conceived to be a firewall against outlier candidates, and to accelerate the nomination process.
In previous years, it's done just that: the winner of the most delegates on Super Tuesday has almost always gone on to clinch their party's presidential nomination (an exception was John McCain in 2008).
This year, polls indicate it's a done deal that Donald Trump will win most Super Tuesday states. Outside of the key race in Texas, Senators Rubio and Cruz are expected to share second placings.
On the Democrat side, polls show Hillary Clinton with huge leads across the board across Bernie Sanders. The Vermont senator was competitive in early states, and even won New Hampshire but, after today, he'll be relegated to also-ran status.
Meantime, process this (warning: language):