Donald Trump has won the Alabama primary, according to CNN. The result was expected, as polls leading up to Tuesday's vote had shown Trump with a 17-point lead in the state.
We don't yet know whether Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz captured second place in Alabama, but either way, Alabama's result is a bigger blow to Cruz. Cruz's strategy relies heavily on winning evangelicals, Southerners, and conservatives. Alabama is rich in all three, so if Cruz were going to win anywhere, it would be here.
Trump benefited from the endorsement of Sen. Jeff Sessions, an Alabama Republican known for his strong anti-immigrant views. But his Alabama victory also reflected the nationwide support for his populist and sometimes xenophobic views among Republican primary voters.
A key question is whether Cruz and Rubio will gain enough votes to qualify for at least some Alabama delegates. Under the rules of the Alabama primary, a candidate must win at least 20 percent of the vote — either state wide or in a particular congressional district — to be awarded any delegates. The polls showed Rubio just above the 20 percent cutoff and Cruz a few points below it, which means that a few percentage points could mean the difference between them getting five to 10 of Alabama's 50 delegates or getting none at all. If neither Cruz nor Rubio surpasses 20 percent, it's possible that Trump could win all 50 delegates.
Losing Alabama is a terrible sign for Ted Cruz
Ted Cruz's best performance to date was in Iowa, a state rich in evangelical votes, where he narrowly beat Donald Trump last month. If Cruz were going to win the nomination, we'd expect him to be doing well in other states with a lot of evangelical votes — states like Alabama, where 80 percent of Republican primary voters were evangelical in 2012.
That's why evangelical-friendly candidates Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee won Alabama's Republican primary in 2012 and 2008, respectively.
Also Alabama is a Southern state, which should have been a promising sign for Cruz. Cruz's underperformance in Alabama follows a weak result in South Carolina a couple of weeks ago. He got just 22.3 percent of the vote there, slightly behind Marco Rubio and a full 10 points behind Donald Trump.
Cruz made a brief campaign swing through Alabama on Saturday, hoping to shore up support here. But it was overshadowed by a Sunday Trump rally, which attracted a reported 15,000 to 20,000 people.
A gubernatorial endorsement didn't help John Kasich much
Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley endorsed John Kasich last summer, arguing that he was the most experienced candidate and that he could win in November. Kasich also made a campaign visit to the state last fall. But the endorsement doesn't seem to have helped Kasich much.
That probably reflects the fact that Kasich's support is generally concentrated in the Northeast (polls have shown him a close third in Massachusetts, which is also voting today) and his home state of Ohio (where the most recent poll shows him in second behind Trump). In most other states, polls show him a distant fourth or fifth behind Trump, Cruz, and Rubio.