WASHINGTON (AP) — After the Super Tuesday primaries and caucuses in a dozen states, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton had tightened their grasp on their party's presidential nominations.
As Wednesday began, the Democratic establishment was pleased. The Republican establishment was in panic mode.
GOP governors and sitting senators across the nation feared aloud that Trump was close to an insurmountable delegate lead, with little sign that Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz was emerging as the clear Trump alternative.
Here are the top takeaways from Super Tuesday:
The billionaire businessman did not sweep Super Tuesday, but he turned in another dominant performance nonetheless.
Trump won seven of the 11 states in which Republicans voted. He charged past days of insults from Sen. Marco Rubio and intense criticism from leading Republican officials across the nation. The strong performance adds to his delegate lead, and the unfortunate reality for GOP leaders is that his grasp on the party's presidential nomination is growing stronger by the day.
The establishment's last opportunity to stop the former reality television star is likely a series of winner-take-all states on March 15. But given Trump's dominance so far, there's little reason to believe he will struggle, especially as his Republican rivals continue to divide the rest of the electorate.
CLINTON BUILDS DELEGATE LEAD
Strong in the South, Hillary Clinton used the Super Tuesday contests to build an advantage over Bernie Sanders that will be difficult to overcome.
When added to her massive lead among the party's superdelegates, Clinton is now in as strong a position to win the Democratic nomination as she's ever been.
Her sweeping victories in large states like Texas, Virginia and Georgia give her an edge that is reminiscent of Barack Obama's delegate lead over Clinton in the 2008 primaries. Obama used a South Carolina victory to build momentum in Super Tuesday and never relinquished his advantage.
Clinton is poised to do the same.
With large states like Florida, Illinois and Ohio looming on the calendar, she is poised to parlay victories that could elevate her to presumptive nominee status.
DESPERATELY SEEKING ANTI-TRUMP
It was a very bad night for the Republican establishment, which is desperately seeking one candidate to emerge as the leading Trump alternative.
That's why no one was happier than Trump to see both Cruz and Rubio score wins Tuesday night.
With Rubio's sights set on Florida's March 15 election, the wins all but ensure that both candidates will continue to fight for the anti-Trump mantle for the foreseeable future. It didn't matter that Cruz dramatically underperformed his original Super Tuesday expectations, or that Rubio's win in Minnesota was his first in 15 contests.
Cruz declared Tuesday night that only he can defeat Trump. Rubio declared that his Trump attacks have only begun.
Meanwhile, Trump started talking about unifying the GOP in the general election.
SANDERS STRUGGLING TO BREAK THROUGH
Sanders picked up at least four wins on Super Tuesday, taking the stage early in the evening to celebrate his victory in his home state of Vermont.
On a night that could have been worse, however, his inability to broaden his base was on painful display.
A week after a South Carolina shellacking fueled by his struggle with black voters, Sanders continued to have difficulty drawing minorities. The performance raised new questions about whether he can put together a diverse coalition to capture the Democratic nomination. Most of Sanders' wins have come in states with large populations of white voters.
Sanders is vowing to take his campaign to the Democratic National Convention in July.
But his limited appeal with the diverse set of voters who twice elected Obama will make it difficult to seize the nomination.
It's unclear why Ben Carson is still in the 2016 race.
The retired neurosurgeon picked up only three of the 595 delegates up for grabs Tuesday.
He exceeded most peoples' expectations by outlasting the likes of Jeb Bush, Chris Christie and Scott Walker. But Carson risks tarnishing his image further by staying in a race he has no chance of winning.
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