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Super Tuesday By The Numbers: Breaking Down Voter Turnout And Delegates


Here's the big take-away from Super Tuesday's elections - Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are now in the driver's seat for the nominations of their respective parties. And it's not so much because they won more states than their opponents yesterday, although they did. It's because they got more delegates. Here to explain the math and what it means for the rest of this presidential election is NPR's political editor, Domenico Montanaro. Thanks for being with us today.


MCEVERS: All right. First, to the Republicans - Donald Trump won seven states last night, far more than his competition. Looking at the numbers, how did he do it?

MONTANARO: Yeah, I mean, Donald Trump had a big - not a huge day. You know, he wound up with 40 more delegates than Ted Cruz, so good day for Ted Cruz. But Trump looks like he's really expanding his base. And talk of this, quote, unquote, "ceiling," you know, really might be a myth. I mean, he won in places as diverse as Georgia and Massachusetts, though he won bigger margins with people who had high school or - high school degrees or less. He also won college grads and, in some places like Massachusetts, even postgrads.

MCEVERS: On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton won seven states, expanding her lead over Bernie Sanders, who won four. And who can she thank for those victories?

MONTANARO: Well, we knew going in after South Carolina that African-Americans were going to be a big part of the night and if she could maintain the kind of margins she did in South Carolina across the South that she would have a big day, and she did. She won upwards of 70, 80 percent in a lot of places in half a dozen states with big African-American populations in those Democratic primaries. She won Hispanics in Texas by a huge margin.

And Bernie Sanders, you know, he continued to win with younger and whiter voters, but, of course, the problem for him last night - they didn't make up enough people for him to come close to a Super Tuesday split with Clinton. And, you know, because delegates hand out - because Democrats hand out these delegates proportionately, it makes it tough for Sanders to catch her unless really something big happens in the next few months.

MCEVERS: All right. Let's talk about turnout for a moment because it could be a clue to what happens in the general election in November, right? I mean, you were crunching the numbers. You found that Democratic turnout was down across the board compared to 2008, but Republican turnout is way up. What's going on?

MONTANARO: Well, it's really amazing. When you look at all of those numbers - didn't matter state by state by state - you saw, in some places, Republicans even doubling their turnout from last time around, Democrats down everywhere almost. And two names for you, really - Donald Trump and Barack Obama. You know, Donald Trump has brought new voters into the fold this year, really pouring gasoline onto the fire of this kind of outrage against President Obama in the years that have marked this Obama presidency. And even though Obama was re-elected and re-elected twice with majorities for the first time since the 1950s, you know, Republicans have swamped Democrats in 2010 and the 2014 midterm elections, and that could be potentially problematic for them.

MCEVERS: But those were midterm elections, as you say.


MCEVERS: People don't get as excited about midterms. How much do they really foreshadow what could happen in November, quickly?

MONTANARO: Right, well, you know, Republicans will be there in droves in November. We've seen that in polling. There's a real enthusiasm gap. Democrats are satisfied with the direction of the country for the most part, but Republicans are not and want a change. You know, all that said, these are primaries. You can't completely extrapolate out to a general election, and most people expect that if Trump becomes a nominee, you can bet that there would be record turnout on both sides.

MCEVERS: That's NPR's political editor, Domenico Montanaro. Thanks.

MONTANARO: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Domenico Montanaro is NPR's senior political editor/correspondent. Based in Washington, D.C., his work appears on air and online delivering analysis of the political climate in Washington and campaigns. He also helps edit political coverage.