Trump and Clinton cement their claims to front-runner status







Donald Trump takes the stage in Spartanburg, S.C., last night.&nbsp;(Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)</p>


Good morning from GREENVILLE, South Carolina.

Marco Rubio will edge out Ted Cruz for second place in the Republican primary here. With 100 percent of precincts reporting, the Florida senator received 165,881 votes to the Texas senator’s 164,790. Jeb Bush dropped out after getting less than 8 percent of the vote.

But the big stories out of last night are Donald Trump’s decisive 10-point win and Hillary Clinton’s 5.5-point victory in the Democrats’ Nevada caucuses. The billionaire and the former Secretary of State are now each in the driver’s seat, front-runners to win their party’s respective nominations. Both won two of their first three contests and are strong favorites to win the fourth (Nevada for Trump this Tuesday; South Carolina for Clinton next Saturday).

— The deeply-divided anti-Trump factions in the GOP really only have three weeks to get their act together if they’re going to stop the first-time candidate. If Donald wins Cruz’s home state of Texas on March 1 and then Rubio’s home state of Florida on March 15, it’s difficult to see how the convention in Cleveland does not become his coronation. “Let’s put this thing away and let’s make America great again,” a confident Trump said last night.

— Cruz failed to carry a single county, including here in the deeply-religious Upstate, which should be tailor-made for someone with his profile. As National Review executive editor Rich Lowry put it, “If tonight is any indication of his strength versus Trump, how is Cruz going to win any March 1 state besides Texas?”

— While Rubio got his groove back after the fifth-place finish in New Hampshire and benefits from Bush being out, it’s not at all clear which will be the first state he actually wins. Remember only a few weeks ago top people linked to his campaign were saying they could win South Carolina outright.

— “As the campaign moves soon from a series of isolated contests in single states to primary days with multiple contests across a much wider terrain, Trump holds some key advantages,” Dan Balz explains in his column today. “The principal one is that the race will become ever more nationalized, favoring someone who has shown mastery for dominating media coverage at the expense of his rivals. A second is that his coalition appears similar to that of past winners of the nomination, as he is doing better than the others among Republicans who call themselves ‘somewhat conservative’ or ‘moderate,’ rather than those who say they are ‘very conservative.’ … A third is that against a divided opposition, Trump can continue to win primaries and caucuses with less than half the vote. That could become significantly more valuable starting on March 15, when states award delegates on some version of a winner-take-all basis.”

— NBC’s Chuck Todd notes that Trump won by double digits despite defending Planned Parenthood, saying George W. Bush lied about weapons of mass destruction as a pretense to invade Iraq and getting into a war of words with Pope Francis.

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