Illinois, Missouri Could Be Pivotal for GOP Tuesday

Illinois, Missouri Could Be Pivotal for GOP Tuesday
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The Republican primaries Tuesday in Ohio and Florida have been the focus of most candidates and the media, but two other contests, in Illinois and Missouri, could be just as pivotal to Donald Trump’s march toward the nomination or its demise.

Florida and Ohio have been in the spotlight in part because they could make or break the teetering candidacies of two native sons, Sen. Marco Rubio and Gov. John Kasich. Those states will award 165 delegates between them — but there will be another 121 delegates at stake between Missouri and Illinois, with a small number awarded to the outright winner and the rest allocated by congressional district.

Trump leads in both states, but Sen. Ted Cruz has identified them as potentially fertile ground for his campaign, adjusting his recent schedule accordingly. As Trump and Kasich have homed in on Ohio and Rubio has sprinted across Florida, Cruz has been barnstorming his patch of the Midwest, with five events Monday in Illinois and four stops in Missouri on Saturday.

“Missouri is going to play a key part” in further narrowing the field, Cruz told reporters in Cape Girardeau, Mo., last week.

Cruz’s campaign manager, Jeff Roe, told RealClearPolitics on Thursday that he sees “a real opportunity” in Missouri. “Trump has got a floor everywhere, but when you take the congressional breakdowns and the media markets where we’re participating, we think we have a real opportunity in the state.”

Roe himself hails from the Show Me State and has honed his political craft there over many years. The depth of his Missouri connections has shown itself in some of Cruz’s key endorsements, including from Rep. Sam Graves, who gave Roe his start and later hired him as chief of staff. Last week former Roe client Rep. Ann Wagner also endorsed Cruz.

But Roe’s ties likely won’t give the Texas senator much of a quasi-home-field advantage, Cruz’s allies say. “Aside from endorsements, it probably is a wash,” said Carl Bearden, the candidate’s Missouri co-chair.

If Cruz has focused his resources in Missouri and Illinois, however, the odds are not in his favor to win either state outright. As Cruz has barnstormed each state, Trump has also rolled through, with two rallies in Missouri and one in Illinois, with another in Chicago canceled because of protests.

"We are quite a bit ahead in Illinois, but I don't want to tell you that," Trump told a crowd in Bloomington, Ill., on Sunday. "The more we win by … the more delegates we're going to get." 

Correction: An earlier version of this story erroneously stated that Ted Cruz announced Carly Fiorina's endorsement of him in St. Louis. Their joint appearance was in Miami.

Rebecca Berg is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at rberg@realclearpolitics.com.

 

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