Five takeaways from a key night in the race for the White House

The stage appears to be set for a battle between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton

Donald Trump, GOP, 2016,

Image: Gerald Herbert / AP/Press Association Images

With a number of primaries taking place overnight, the path to the White House for both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton got wider and clearer on Tuesday.

The big winner-take-all contests on the Republican side fell to Trump and John Kasich, complicating things slightly for the Republican Party, while it appears that it was a good night for Clinton who claimed victories in a number of states. 

With a huge number of delegates on offer, who were the big winners and losers on Tuesday night?

Marco Rubio calls it a day

The signs were there over recent days and weeks that Rubio's campaign was faltering, but perhaps the size of the defeat suffered in his home state surprised quite a few people, and maybe even Rubio himself.

In a winner-take-all contest, there was nothing on offer for finishing second, but Trump's victory was resounding, as he pulled in 1,065,505 votes to Rubio's 635,219, according to CNN. 

In his concession speech, Rubio stated that it was not in "God's plan" for him to president in 2016, and he added somewhat wistfully, "or maybe ever". That comment may hold more truth than the man that TIME magazine called 'The Republican Saviour' would like to admit. 

In an effort to beat Trump, he tried to get down in the mud and engage in the trading of insults and barbs that the businessman has specialised in throughout his campaign. Ignoring the old maxim that you should never wrestle with a pig, Rubio may have done more damage to his reputation in allowing himself to be taken so far off track and losing those exchanges.

A comprehensive defeat in Florida also shows the hangover of a dispute that has lingered since he announced his candidacy, rubbing some of the GOP up the wrong way, given that it had been seen as a stronghold for their favoured candidate Jeb(!) Bush. That may make his path to a potential run in the future increasingly difficult.

Ted Cruz keeps ticking over

A mixed bag for the Texas senator; despite not winning either of the big winner-take-all contests in Florida or Ohio and not winning the majority of votes in any of the States on offer, he still kept ticking over on the delegate count, finishing behind Trump in North Carolina. 

With Rubio dropping out of the race, Cruz may now get some of the voters that had been supporting the Florida senator. However, he will be worried that states such as Missouri, as well as other areas in the south-east and so-called 'Bible Belt', have all gone to Trump. 

That was meant to be his wheelhouse, the heartland of Cruz's evangelical voter base, and it does not seem to be forming the platform that he needed to push Trump closer. That may be a bad sign for the Texas senator should John Kasich stay in the race to try to force a brokered convention, or should he somehow secure the nomination and enter a general election. 

What's in a name?

Trump had a good night, winning all 99 delegates in Florida as well as finishing top of the polls in Illinois, North Carolina and Ohio, with Missouri too close to call at the time of writing.

However, there were some sour notes that tainted the evening for him, notably based on his refusal to take questions from the media in his press conference and his campaign manager Corey Lewandowski coming under increasing pressure over his behaviour and reported mahandling of a reporter. 

One of the pillars of his campaign has been that he rails against the media, but there were reports that some members of the press had been denied entry to his event in the Mar-a-Lago in Florida on Tuesday night

Furthermore, it seems that votes cast for the delegates in Illinois show Trump voters' aversion to foreign-sounding names may be costing him delegates. 

Dave Wasserman reports that, looking through the figures for the voting in Illinois, voters opted for delegates such as Doug Hartmann rather than Raja Sadiq or Nabi Fakroddin in their thousands, which cost him at least two delegates.

Given his lead, the two votes are unlikely to have a huge effect on his run to the RNC, but coupled with his treatment of the media, he can expect the smaller things to end up playing much bigger than they would have otherwise.

The GOP establishment is battered and bruised

The last hope of the GOP establishment was for Rubio's campaign to get back on track with a win in his home state of Florida, allowing him to stay in the race and head towards the Republican National Convention in the summer. 

With Rubio dropping out, the only other candidate with a win on Tuesday was Kasich, who claimed all 66 delegates on offer in his home state of Ohio. Despite that win, it leaves him with no mathematical route to the nomination as he needs 1,091 to reach the magic figure of 1,237 which would secure the nomination, but there are only 1,027 still available.

However, he remains the GOP's only hope for setting up a contested convention, which would allow them to put forward a nominee that isn't Trump or Cruz, neither of whom are liked by the GOP's establishment. The in-fighting which has dogged this campaign (see Rubio's troubles in Florida above) has damaged the party, and despite calls from Trump and Cruz for members to unify behind one or the other of them, it might spell real trouble come the general election.

Hillary Clinton turns her attention to the general election 

The race in Missouri is too close to call on both sides, but it certainly seems that Clinton was close to a clean sweep on Tuesday as she topped the polls in Ohio, North Carolina, Florida and Illinois.

That increased her lead in the delegate count, leaving Bernie Sanders trying his hand to secure enough superdelegates to see him over the line, something which would be somewhat of a long shot.

With a substantial lead, it was not surprising that she spoke with the air of someone who had already secured the nomination, turning her attention to her most likely opponent in the general election, Donald Trump: "When you are inciting mob violence," said Clinton, "which is what Trump is doing in those clips [from his rallies] there's a lot of memories, they're in the DNA. People remember mob violence that lead to lynching".

Image: Carolyn Kaster / AP/Press Association Images

The common consensus is that Rubio was the candidate Clinton least wanted to see on the ballot, and with him dropping out, it capped of a good night for the former Secretary of State.

However, Trump presents an unknown factor, and while she was confident when speaking to ABC News, stating that she has thick skin and he can run whatever kind of campaign he wants, there is a danger that the threat posed by Trump may once again not be getting the consideration it deserves.