Political Insider

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Lessons from Georgia’s Super Tuesday vote

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton scored complete victories in Georgia in Tuesday’s primary, trouncing their opponents as they edged closer to their parties’ nominations.

Here’s a few things that we learned:

Ted Cruz has an evangelical problem: Georgia and other Southern states were supposed to be a bulwark of support for his candidacy, but instead, Trump and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio have siphoned off evangelicals who made up the Texas senator’s voter base. CNN exit polls showed that roughly seven in 10 Republican voters described themselves as evangelical or born-again. And more than 40 percent of them – a plurality – supported the thrice-married billionaire over Cruz. This despite a vaunted organization in Georgia, strong support in rural areas and repeated visits to the state over the last year. “He was supposed to have that Southern firewall,” Rubio said. “That didn’t happen.”

Hillary Clinton has tapped into the Obama coalition: The former secretary of state followed her rout of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in South Carolina with a victory of similar proportions in Georgia. She dominated Sanders in the race for black voters, who made up about half the Georgia party’s electorate. Eight in 10 black voters backed Clinton, and she kept it close among white men in Georgia. Clinton's Massachusetts victory also gave her a foothold in the more liberal New England states - and an argument she can win the left-leaning flank of her party. Sanders now faces a daunting delegate deficit - and even bigger tests in the industrial Midwest states of Ohio and Michigan voting in the next week.

Hillary Clinton speaks at a campaign event at Miles College on Saturday. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

Marco Rubio has to win Florida. The Florida senator made no bones about it at his Tuesday speech: After struggling in most states on Super Tuesday - he won only Minnesota's caucuses - he has to win his home state on March 15 to remain viable. He cobbled together a coalition of suburban Republican moderates - he had strong performances in Cobb, Fulton and DeKalb counties - and won over many of the late-breaking voters. He picked up enough delegates to stay competitive, and a band of GOP donors promises to fuel his campaign withanother $25 million. But he trails in Florida polls and Trump won't make it any easier for him there. “We’re going to spend so much time in Florida.”

Donald Trump seems unstoppable. His victory in Georgia was complete. The narrative that he relies exclusively on poorly educated voters was shattered, again, in the Peach State and other Super Tuesday states. Exit polls here showed him leading in almost every category of voter, including college graduates and wealthier households. Even if Ohio Gov. John Kasich dropped out and all his supporters backed Rubio, he still wouldn't have caught Trump in most states. After picking up the bulk of the Republican delegates up for grabs, it’s hard to make the case that Trump is not the presumptive nominee. And if any other candidate were in the same position, they would be. Case in point: Among the victories Trump scored Tuesday was Virginia, the literal seat of power for the Washington Republican establishment.

Read more about Trump’s victory here.

Read more about Clinton’s victory here.

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About the Author

Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.