GWEN IFILL: Ohio is key, but votes in Florida, Illinois, Missouri and North Carolina could also determine the future of the race for Democrats and Republicans.
For that, we turn to Politics Monday, with Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report and Stuart Rothenberg of The Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report.
Welcome to you both.
Amy, I want to start with you.
For every candidate not named Trump, how critical is tomorrow?
AMY WALTER, The Cook Political Report: Very critical.
Of course, Trump is — it is important as well. But I think there are two people whose future begins or ends tomorrow. One of those is Marco Rubio, who’s been hunkering down in Florida, hoping that maybe that those polls showing him down double digits are wrong and things can turn around in the last few hours here before voting begins. Sort of doubtful.
If he loses his home state, he doesn’t move on. John Kasich, of course, as we just learned in the piece before this, counting on Ohio to deliver him the home state. However, that doesn’t mean that John Kasich is in the hunt for the nomination. All it means is that he denied Donald Trump the ability to sort of run away with the day and amass enough delegates to stay on the path to winning the 1,237 delegates he would need to be the outright nominee before we hit the Cleveland, before we hit the Cleveland Republican Convention.
Kasich would still be a spoiler, in other words, splitting up the votes once again between the Trump and the non-Trump, and probably leading us to what could be a contested convention.
GWEN IFILL: So, Stu, for a while, it was Marco Rubio as a non-Trump and now it’s John Kasich?
STUART ROTHENBERG, The Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report: Well, that’s what it looks like, because Rubio seems to be floundering in the polls in his own state and other states.
Somehow, the air went out of the balloon pretty quickly for Marco Rubio, and now all the attention is on John Kasich. Amy is right. And it’s really sort of funny. This is — Kasich has not put together a national campaign for the Republican nomination.
He’s fought in a couple of states. Michigan, he came in narrowly in third. And it’s almost as if, if he wins Ohio, it’s almost as if he’s the favorite son. And there’s a question as to whether he can broaden his appeal beyond that.
But I think the Kasich people will say, we’re the only game in town. We’re the only establishment game in town. Even though John Kasich says he’s not establishment, that is who backing him.
GWEN IFILL: Let’s say…
STUART ROTHENBERG: Sure.
GWEN IFILL: … at this point.
Amy, aside from Ohio and Florida, which we have heard so much about, we’re also seeing primaries tomorrow in Illinois, North Carolina and Missouri.
AMY WALTER: Yes, and for the two parties, you have very different scenarios playing out here.
The other thing I want to point out is, Ted Cruz is still in this race on the Republican side, and he actually has won more votes and more delegates than John Kasich or Marco Rubio. So, he’s likely to stay in this race as well regardless of where the results are.
He may be able to pick up a win and pick up some delegates in Missouri. He’s also looking to pick up delegates in Illinois. The question of whether Trump goes is not just Ohio and Florida, whether he can sweep those two states, but whether he does well enough in Ohio — I’m sorry — in Missouri and Illinois that he can pick up enough delegates.
Because of the way that they proportion out their delegates there, he could actually get a big lead even while he loses Ohio narrowly to John Kasich. So, the math will be very important to watch.
On the Democratic side, we’re watching for almost a rerun of what we saw on the — in Michigan, which is Bernie Sanders likely to do well Ohio, Illinois and Missouri, Hillary Clinton likely to do well in Florida and North Carolina.
The challenge for Bernie Sanders is that coming close or winning narrowly isn’t enough for him. He needs now to win at least 55 percent of all the delegates going forward in order to have a chance to catch up with her.
GWEN IFILL: So, is this one of those cases — I guess on both sides — in which, Stu, you can win or you can lose and you can still keep winning? Does that make sense? If you’re Hillary Clinton, you can lose and you can still get enough delegates that he can’t catch up.
STUART ROTHENBERG: Right. Right, exactly.
She has this — she has an advantage right now of 200 in terms of pledged delegates that she won, but she has another over 400 superdelegate advantage. And, as Amy said, each of these states is a little different. And states with large — basically, the red states, Secretary Clinton does really well in the Republican states. In the Democratic states, she doesn’t do so well.
So, there’s a tradeoff. In that Michigan-Mississippi contest, she lost Michigan, but she won all those delegates from Mississippi, and she ended up winning, even though all the attention was on how she lost Michigan.
GWEN IFILL: Let’s talk about the down-ballot consequences, because this is not just about the presidential race. Everyone — people who are sitting in the Senate and even the House are watching this all play out very carefully, Amy.
AMY WALTER: Absolutely.
And we’re talking about a state like Ohio. Rob Portman, the freshman Republican senator elected in 2010 rather easily, up for reelection this year, he’s already in a very close race with the former governor, Democratic governor of this state.
With somebody like Trump on the top of the ticket who is as polarizing as he is, it is going to be very tough for Rob Portman not to get pulled under by the Trump phenomenon, and not in a good way. I think he will be a weight on many Republicans running in these swing states, pulling them down.
You could even see that as the House level, too. It is very hard for me to believe that, with Donald Trump as the top of the ticket, that Republicans could hold the Senate. They’d likely lose the Senate. The only question is how many seats they lose.
GWEN IFILL: But that said, Stu, all of the talk, all the chatter this weekend about violence at Trump events, it’s not really losing Trump any support at the top.
STUART ROTHENBERG: There is no evidence of that yet.
Look, Trump supporters were attracted to him very early. They locked in, and their whole world view is his world view. It basically is a sense that he’s fighting against the media, the political establishment. So, of course, when they attack him, when they portray him as inciting violence, they’re just trying to destroy him.
And so his supporters, I think, are pretty solid. Now, I don’t think he’s going to lose support there. Now, it may limit his ability to broaden support at any point, but I don’t think it’s shaken up the race dramatically.
GWEN IFILL: Well, let me ask you both, finally, what are you chances here on Super Tuesday III eve, or whatever we’re calling this? What is your guess about the chances of this leading to a contested convention, Amy?
AMY WALTER: Gosh, you put me on the spot here.
GWEN IFILL: Yes.
AMY WALTER: Let’s see. Why do you do that, Gwen?
AMY WALTER: OK.
I think that — I think Kasich can win Ohio tomorrow. To me, I’m going to look at the margins coming out of Ohio and Illinois before I give you an answer. But I think we could be looking at a contested convention, especially if Ted Cruz also runs well. Stu is totally right. The Trump vote is not moving. It’s a question of where the rest of the vote goes.
GWEN IFILL: Stu?
STUART ROTHENBERG: I don’t know, Gwen.
STUART ROTHENBERG: I would say that I agree with Amy that…
STUART ROTHENBERG: Well, I think Trump’s going to have a really good day.
The question is, can he win enough and how close does he get? Is he going to get 1,237? I’m not sure he’s going to be there, but he may be within spitting distance, and they may not be able to deny him the nomination.
GWEN IFILL: OK. Well, we will be checking in with both of you on that.
Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report, Stu Rothenberg of The Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report, thank you both very much.
STUART ROTHENBERG: Thanks, Gwen.
AMY WALTER: You’re welcome.
GWEN IFILL: We have more politics coverage online, including a story about which GOP candidates have benefited the most from lobbyists. There’s a breakdown at PBS.org/NewsHour.