Super Tuesday: Why all eyes are on Texas

With 377 delegate votes at stake, Texas is an especially pivotal battleground for the five remaining GOP candidates. If Cruz pulls off a victory in his home state, he could emerge as Trump's most formidable opponent. 

Pat Sullivan/AP
Presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R) of Texas speaks at a rally in Houston, Monday, Feb. 29.

Today’s the day. After the ballots are counted, the caucuses dispersed, and the polls for Super Tuesday are closed by the end of tonight, Americans will have a clearer view of which two candidates will face off come November.

A total of 1,460 delegates are at stake today, from 12 states as well as American Samoa and Democrats abroad. For the remaining five Republican candidates, the number is 865 – half of the total needed for a nomination. And the 595 delegates up for grabs between Hillary Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders comprise a third of what either needs to come out on top.

By far, the most important state today is Texas. With 155 delegates for Republicans and 222 for the Dems, the Lone Star State is the biggest slice of pie.

But it's not just about size. Texas is the only state in which Donald Trump isn’t projected to win. He's edged out by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who's running neck-and-neck with Florida Sen. Marco Rubio for second place.

For the Republicans, Texas could define the rest of the race. Depending on the results, one of the the two senators may very well be making a concession speech Wednesday morning.

While Mr. Trump safely holds first place nationally, all eyes are on the next best spot. Senators Cruz and Rubio are locked in a tight struggle for second place across the map. RealClearPolitics shows that the Texas native Cruz has a marginal 3-point lead over Rubio, but so far, it’ll be a toss-up. Although Cruz won Iowa, his momentum has waned after placing third in both Nevada and South Carolina.

Expectations are high for Cruz in Texas, where he holds a nine points lead over Trump in recent polls. But it all depends on the margin of victory: Even if Cruz pulls off a win, it wouldn’t be valuable if the real estate mogul – or Rubio – secures a tight margin.

Unless Cruz prevails in a landslide victory, his odds against Rubio are uncertain. But if he carries Texas handily and captures second in a handful of states, he will emerge as Trump’s biggest opponent, making it less justifiable for Rubio to stay in the race.

On the Democratic side, Mrs. Clinton holds a commanding lead over the Vermont senator: RealClearPolitics puts her 30 points ahead of her opponent in Texas. Her projected strength in the half-dozen Southern states on Super Tuesday is generally attributed to her popularity among minority voters. 

As the Texas Tribune reports, this year’s raucous competition will likely fuel record-high turnout in early voting in the pivotal Lone Star state.

"I think this is the year of chaos, uncertainty and breaking all the political rules," Republican strategist Brendan Steinhauser told the online publication. "I think that’ll be true in Texas."

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