It wasn’t a contest really.
At least not in Arizona, where frontrunners Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton easily won their respective primaries early on in the night. For Trump, it means an addition of 58 delegates to his already lofty haul, putting him at fewer than 500 from the crucial 1,237 that would clinch the nomination. On the Democratic side, 85 delegates were at stake and allocated proportionally, making it all the more difficult for Bernie Sanders to have a chance at becoming the nominee.
Arizona saw a huge number of early and absentee voters, which strongly affected the Republican side. More than 370,000 votes had been cast prior to the actual primary Tuesday, resulting in a lot of wasted votes for Marco Rubio who is no longer in the race. Ironically, the “other” category, which included Rubio, got more votes than Ohio Gov. John Kasich who came in a measly fourth place.
These weren’t surprise victories by any means though.
Trump’s fiery anti-immigrant platform and promises of beautiful walls was a perfect fit for Arizona’s activist right wing. In the weeks before the contest, Trump locked down hardliner endorsements, like former Republican Gov. Jan Brewer and village crank Sheriff Joe Arpaio—which, no doubt, helped him run away with the state.
The road to victory was not without its roadblocks— literally. Trump’s rally in Tuscon last week was marked by violence—a troubling trend that continues to plague the campaign both inside and outside of the rallies themselves.
Sanders, for his part, campaigned hard in Arizona, heading there on the most recent iteration of Super Tuesday, visiting the Mexican border and outspending Clinton 2-1. He repeatedly criticized Clinton for changing her position on whether the children of undocumented immigrants should be deported—but still couldn’t seem to gain any traction with Latinos.
During a speech in California after Tuesday’s first results came in, Sanders was thinking beyond Arizona and said “Unless I’m mistaken, we’re going to win a couple more tonight,” referring to the contests yet to be decided.
He was right.
On Tuesday, he spent time campaigning in Idaho, speaking to more than 7,000 people at the Taco Bell (yes that one) Arena in Boise. And days before that, Sanders drew a whopping 14,000 to an event in Salt Lake City. Both states held caucuses Tuesday and both were very friendly to Sanders.
He demolished Clinton in Idaho, getting 78 percent of the vote and 79 percent in Utah, according to the most recent estimates. But when it comes to delegates, these states awarded only 18 each, while Arizona alone gave Clinton 41.
As has often been the case recently, Clinton, seemed to settle back into a post-primary message focusing her fire on her presumptive Republican opponents, as this race looks all but over for her.
“In the face of terror, America doesn’t panic, we don’t build walls or turn our backs on our allies,” Clinton said in a defiant speech in Seattle. She plans on giving a public address about terrorism at Stanford University on Wednesday and perhaps previewed some of the attack lines within it on Tuesday. “What Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and others are suggesting is not only wrong, it is dangerous,” she said.
It was also a comparatively good night for Cruz, who had an unbelievably strong showing in heavily Mormon Utah, getting nearly 70 percent of the vote and all of the state’s delegates.
Following the endorsement of his one friend in the Senate, Sen. Mike Lee, Utah favorite son Mitt Romney announced he too would be voting for Cruz in the caucus in order to help the effort to stop Donald Trump from becoming the Republican nominee. Rep. Mia Love and Gov. Gary Herbert also endorsed Cruz this week. But the real fortune was foretold in polls of Mormon voters, who simply detest Trump. And in Utah, they matter. A lot.
Because Cruz was able to secure more than 50 percent of the vote—the only Republican candidate to score a majority in a state so far—he earned all 40 of the delegates available.
It was less of a good night for Kasich, but the third-place contender vowed to soldier on. His senior strategist John Weaver said Cruz was given a free pass in Arizona and he has “no good states after tonight.” Nevertheless, it’s still embarrassing to lose to a candidate no longer running for president, as he did in Arizona.
Even with these defiant victories in tow, Trump and Clinton won’t be able to shirk their opponents completely any time soon.
But the race is all but over now.