Donald Trump may have romped on Super Tuesday, but Ted Cruz managed to win at least two victories — his home state of Texas and neighboring Oklahoma, according to calls by multiple media outlets.
Shortly after polls closed in Texas, Cruz was declared the winner based on early returns and exit polling. Donald Trump took second, Marco Rubio third, and John Kasich and Ben Carson were far back in the single digits. The same order of candidates looked to be the case in Oklahoma, too.
Cruz has had little good news since his Iowa win. But winning his home state especially gives him both a sizable delegate haul and a pretext to stay in the race for some time. After all, Rubio and Kasich are currently trailing Trump in polls of their own home states, which are set to vote on March 15. If they both lose those contests, Cruz may well be the last non-Trump candidate standing.
Still, it's hard to see a path to victory for the Texas senator against Trump, considering how thoroughly Trump has beaten him in so many other states that have voted so far tonight. But Cruz's likely continued presence in the race could somewhat increase the chances that Trump won't win an outright majority of delegates, and that his nomination could still therefore be stopped at a contested convention.
Texas's delegate rules advantage first- and second-place finishers
Texas is the single biggest delegate prize on Super Tuesday (and the second-biggest overall), with 155 Republican delegates at stake there. In theory, they're allotted "proportionally." But in practice, there are several quirks in the rules that make the top candidates benefit more than they would from a straight proportional assignment of delegates.
- First, Texas will just allot 47 delegates proportionally according to the statewide result. The other 108 delegates will be allotted according to the results in each of Texas's 36 congressional districts — three delegates per district.
- Second, to qualify for any of those pots of delegates, a candidate has to get 20 percent of the vote. So anyone who got less than 20 percent statewide wasn't entitled to any of the statewide delegates, and the same holds true for each district.
- Third, those three delegates in each congressional district are allotted in a way that's barely even proportional — the first-place finisher in a district gets two of its delegates, the second-place finisher gets one, and everyone else gets nothing. That means anyone who finishes third or below in a district gets none of its delegates. Since 108 delegates are allotted in this way, that could seriously hurt someone who consistently comes in third in districts.
So the final delegate count from Texas depends a great deal on the results in each of its congressional districts, which will take some time to sort out. Still, Cruz's victory indicates he's well-positioned there; Trump's second place suggests he'll do well too. Meanwhile, Rubio's third place could be a problem for him.
What comes next
Super Tuesday's dust hasn't yet settled, but the Texas results will be at least somewhat heartening for Cruz, whose campaign has been on a downward spiral of late.
That's because so far, Marco Rubio hasn't done particularly well tonight either. At press time, he hadn't yet won a single state. So if Cruz and Rubio are competing with each other to be the main alternative to Trump, Cruz's two state victories do seem superior to Rubio's zero.
Still, it's very difficult to see how Cruz will win the nomination. Super Tuesday was fought primarily in states that were thought to be Cruz Country — Southern states like Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, and, yes, Texas. Cruz did win Oklahoma, but his inability to beat Trump in those other states makes it very difficult to see how he can win the nomination, because the turf only gets more difficult for him going forward.
Overall, though, Cruz's Texas victory and the delegate haul that will accompany with helps complicate the growing push among conservative elites for a Trump/Rubio showdown. If he wants to stay in the race for a while longer, he has the pretext he needs.
And if Cruz stays in the race, it could even benefit the "Stop Trump" effort in the long run. That's because the longer multiple candidates are in the race and draw substantial support, the tougher it will be for Trump to secure the outright delegate majority he needs to win the nomination on the first ballot. If Trump is deprived of this majority, a contested convention that hands the nomination to someone else is a possibility — though such a move by GOP elites would surely be immensely controversial and infuriate Trump's many supporters.