Editor’s note: This story, originally published Feb. 3, was updated at 10:30 p.m., March 13. With the March 15 primary states, including North Carolina, this article was superseded by a new article focusing on those results.
By the time North Carolina voters go the polls on March 15, the field of presidential candidates could be much smaller than it was at the beginning of the primary season.
But don’t expect to see that reflected on the ballot, which was finalized in early January.
“Ballots will not change, despite several candidates suspending their campaigns,” Jackie Hyland, public information officer for the North Carolina Board of Elections, told Carolina Public Press in an email Feb. 3.
One reason for that is that the election in North Carolina is already underway. “Voting already started with Absentee ballots on Jan. 25, 2016,” Hyland wrote.
Candidates on the North Carolina ballot who are no longer running as of March 13 include:
- Gov. Martin O’Malley, D-Maryland
- Former Gov. Mike Huckabee, R-Arkansas
- Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky
- Former Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pennsylvania
- Former Gov. Jim Gilmore, R-Virginia
- Businesswoman Carly Fiorina, R-California
- Gov. Chris Christie, R-New Jersey
- Former Gov. Jeb Bush, R-Florida
- Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, R-Florida
Sections below show how the presidential primary races have developed to this point, followed by a discussion the significance of Tuesday’s vote in North Carolina and other states.
At the bottom of the article is an estimate of the total delegates for each of the two major parties. This will be updated as the primary season continues.
March 12 (Wyoming and D.C. GOP)
Celebrity billionaire Donald Trump, the Republican front-runner based on delegates, was denied in two small contests won by his rivals on Saturday, March 12.
Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida won the District of Columbia, just ahead of Ohio Gov. John Kasich. No other GOP candidate won delegates in the nation’s capital.
Following a more complicated caucus process in Wyoming, 9 of 11 delegates awarded so far have been gone to Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas who had about 66 percent of the vote, with Rubio and Trump each picking up a delegate. More delegates will be divided among the candidates going forward.
March 8 (Super Tuesday 2)
Former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton of New York won a lopsided victory in Mississippi’s Democratic primary to claim most of the state’s delegates. Trump also won a clear victory in the Republican Party’s more crowded field.
Trump also was expected to win in Michigan, though the race was somewhat closer. Kasich and Cruz also claimed delegates, with more combined than Trump.
In a close Democratic race in Michigan, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont eked out a slight lead over Clinton.
Cruz was the winner in Idaho, with Trump placing second. Rubio and Kasich appeared likely to finish to low to claim any delegates there.
Trump led the field in Hawaii, which reported record turnouts at its caucuses Tuesday, forcing many voting places to stay open past the original deadline. Cruz appeared destined for a second place finish, well ahead of Rubio and Kasich.
March 6 — GOP in Puerto Rico, Democrats in Maine
Rubio claimed just his second victory of the year in his bid to become the Republican nominee as he claimed more than half the vote in Puerto Rico, entitling him to all of the territory’s 23 delegates. with just 151 delegates, Rubio still trailed well behind the front-runners, Trump and Cruz, who had amassed more than 300 delegates each at this point.
On the Democratic side, Sanders won Maine, showing his continued strength in his native New England, where he has won three of four primaries. Clinton also won delegates and remained well ahead of Sanders overall.
Super Saturday (March 5)
A smaller contest than the multi-state roundup four days earlier, Saturday’s primaries nevertheless featured a mix of Southern, Midwestern and New England states with a different lineup for each party.
The results were less favorable to the front-runners in each party than those on Tuesday, where they won most of the states and delegates. The Democratic delegate leader, Clinton, won easily in Louisiana, but lost to Sanders in Kansas and Nebraska.
On the Republican side, delegate leader Trump narrowly won in Kentucky and Louisiana. But Cruz captured two states in Maine and Kansas taking an expected edge in delegates on the day.
Also in the running on the Republican side were Rubio and Kasich. Each will pick up delegates, which are assigned proportionately in these states.
Super Tuesday (March 1)
March 1 elections across several states in the South as well as in other parts of the country forced candidates to compete in many places at once for the first time during this primary season.
Carson, who performed poorly nationwide in the March 1 Republican primaries, announced Friday that he was suspending his campaign. On March 2 he had said he saw “no political path forward.” He did not win any of the 17 states that voted before his withdrawal, but did accumulate eight delegates from Iowa, Virginia and Nevada.
Democratic front-runner Clinton and Republican front-runner Trump each carried the lion’s share of states on March 1. But other candidates also won states and picked up delegates even places where they didn’t win.
Trump prevailed in seven states — easily in Georgia, Alabama, Massachusetts and Tennessee, but much more narrowly in Virginia, Arkansas and Vermont.
Clinton won lopsided victories in Texas, Arkansas, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee and Virginia.
Republican Cruz won a strong victory in his home state as well as closer wins in neighboring Oklahoma and in Alaska.
Democrat Sanders also carried his home state, along with Colorado and Oklahoma.
Republican Rubio won his first state, Minnesota, convincingly in the GOP contest Tuesday. He placed a close second to Trump in Virginia and was a strong second or third in several other states.
Kasich narrowly lost the GOP primary in Vermont to Trump. So far Kasich has not won any states, but has picked up a few delegates during each phase of the primary season.
South Carolina Democrats
Clinton staged a lopsided victory over Sanders in the Feb. 27 South Carolina Democratic primary.
Already carrying a wide advantage in delegates, thanks in part to super-delegates not chosen in the primaries and caucuses, Clinton widened her advantage. She was expected to pick up at least 39 delegates, with Sanders taking 14.
Trump won a resounding victory in the Nevada caucuses on Feb. 23, coming on the heels of his first place finish in South Carolina. Trump had his best showing to date with more than 40 percent of the vote and was predicted to win 14 of the state’s 30 Republican delegates.
Other Republican candidates jostled for position behind the front-runner, with Rubio and Cruz rounding out the top three. Rubio was predicted to win seven delegates with six going to Cruz.
Carson and Kasich rounded out the field, with delegate claims of one each.
South Carolina Republicans
Republicans conducted their primary in South Carolina on Saturday, Feb. 20. Trump finished well ahead of other candidates winning all of the state’s 50 delegates, but roughly 2/3 of Republican primary voters supported someone else in the crowded GOP field to claim 38 delegates. Rubio battled with Cruz for second place.
Finishing well behind the leaders, Bush announced his withdrawal from the race shortly after his poor showing became evident.
Kasich was in a close race with Bush for fourth place as the votes were tallied. Carson trailed all the other major candidates.
Democrats conducted caucuses in Nevada on Saturday, Feb. 20. with Clinton defeating Sanders.
Clinton claimed 19 delegates, with 15 going to Sanders.
Voters in Feb. 9’s New Hampshire primaries dramatically shuffled the political picture, awarding victories to Trump and Sanders, only a week after those candidates each finished second in the Iowa Caucuses.
Among Republicans, Fiorina was among the casualties, ending her campaign on Feb. 10 after finishing in seventh place and gaining no delegates in New Hampshire. Christie also suspended his bid following his campaign’s sixth-place finish. Carson finished eighth, the lowest among major candidates who actively campaigned in New Hampshire. Gilmore, who did not actively campaign, withdrew after New Hampshire as well.
Trump was expected to claim at least 10 of the 24 Republican delegates being contested. Sanders was projected to take at least 13 of the 23 Democratic delegates.
With only two Democrats still running after Iowa, the New Hampshire vote was a landslide for Sanders in his race against Clinton, who was positioned to claim nine delegates.
Back on the Republican side, Kasich surged to second place after a disappointing finish in Iowa. Kasich was expected to claim at least three delegates. Also mounting a comeback was Bush, narrowly missing third place in New Hampshire, just behind Iowa winner Cruz. They were expected to claim at least two delegates each.
Rubio finished in fifth place after a close third-place finish in Iowa had appeared to boost his campaign.
Rubio blamed a poor performance in a debate on Feb. 6 for his finish well below the level his poll numbers had predicted. During that debate, Christie challenged Rubio, who struggled to respond effectively. While that attack may have hurt Rubio’s showing in New Hampshire, it apparently failed to bolster Christie’s support.
Iowa winnowed field
The first presidential contest for the delegates that will choose the party nominees took place with the Iowa Caucuses on Feb 1. The results quickly prompted some candidates to fold their hands without waiting to see the outcome in New Hampshire and other states.
On the Democratic side, Clinton won Iowa by the narrowest of margins over Sanders. Each claimed just under 50 percent of the delegates. The outcome gave Clinton an estimated 27 delegates to 21 for Sanders.
O’Malley gleaned only a tiny fraction of the vote and secured no delegates. He announced he was suspending his campaign as a result.
On the Republican side, the field had been even larger, but also began shrinking rapidly.
Cruz claimed victory in Iowa to win eight delegates, with Trump finishing second for seven delegates, Rubio a close third with seven delegates and Carson placing a more distant fourth with three delegates.
Paul came in well behind Carson and won only one delegate. He announced Feb. 3 that he was dropping out of the race. Santorum did the same that afternoon after finishing 11th and claiming no delegates on Monday. Huckabee, who also finished well behind the pack in ninth place with one delegates, announced the suspension of his campaign late on Feb. 1.
Ironically, Santorum was the upset winner in Iowa in 2012, as was Huckabee in 2008. But neither showed much traction this year in a crowded field. Both were pursuing the same conservative evangelical voters who mostly gravitated to Cruz in this year’s Iowa vote.
Several Republican candidates did not attempt to compete seriously in Iowa, staking their hopes on upcoming primary battles New Hampshire. Those include former Bush who nevertheless finished sixth in Iowa and claimed one delegate, Kasich who finished seventh in Iowa with one delegate and Christie who placed 10th in Iowa with no delegates. Other candidates who competed in Iowa were Fiorina, who came in seventh with one delegate, and Gilmore, who placed 12th and last with no delegates and only 12 votes from Iowans.
This brings the primary battles, with whoever remains standing, to Tuesday, March 15 when North Carolina voters will have their say.
Thanks to absentee and early voting, many in North Carolina will have already decided, but votes won’t be tallied or count toward delegate totals until the polls close on March 15.
Also voting that day will be Florida, Illinois, Ohio, Missouri and Republicans in the Northern Mariana Islands.
As of Sunday, March 13, 43 percent of all GOP delegates had been awarded. Tuesday will see 367 more delegates, or almost 15 percent of the total for primary season, awarded.
On the Democratic side, about 17 percent of all delegates, including super-delegates, will be pledged Tuesday. About 38 percent of Democratic delegates have been pledged so far.
Although North Carolina is a major state with many delegates on the table, much of the focus on the Republican side will be on Florida, Illinois and Ohio because whoever wins those large states will claim all the delegates, unlike North Carolina and other states that award delegates proportionately. Democrats have a more complicated system, which is essentially proportional for all states.
Depending on the outcomes, the day’s vote has the potential to be decisive for each party. Or the contests could drag on.
A few more states and territories will conduct primaries, caucuses and state conventions during the rest of March and early April. A big prize will come April 19 when New York votes, followed the next week by Pennsylvania and a number of smaller northeastern states.
Other votes are set for May and June, with the biggest state, California, participating in a bloc of late primaries on June 7.
North Carolina voters are also set to return to the polls June 7, but only to select congressional candidates, thanks to a court decision that forced legislators to redraw the state’s district map.
When the all the presidential caucuses and primaries are done, still the end might not be yet.
If no candidate has enough delegates to claim a nomination outright, the decision goes to the party conventions. That appears unlikely with only two main candidates on the Democratic side, but the Republican delegate count could be more complicated if several candidates remain in the race.
There’s plenty of historical precedent for that happening, in fact it was quite common through the early 20th century. But it’s been a long, long time since either of the major parties has witnessed a brokered convention.
Delegate math through March 12 (will be updated)
Republican candidates need to win 1,237 of the party’s 2,472 delegates to claim their nomination. The Republican National Convention will be July 18-21 in Cleveland. Currently no candidate has a majority of delegates. Two percentages are given in parenthesis following each total — the percentage of the delegates selected to this point and the percentage of the total delegates. If no one has more than 50 percent when the primaries are over, then the party convention will pick a nominee, not necessarily from among the candidates who were on the ballot.
- Donald Trump, 460 (42.95%, 18.61%)
- Ted Cruz, 370 (35.55%, 14.97%)
- Marco Rubio, 163 (15.22%, 6.59%)
- John Kasich, 63 (5.88%, 2.55%)
- Ben Carson, 8 (out) (0.75%, 0.32%)
- Jeb Bush, 4 (out) (0.37%, 0.16%)
- Carly Fiorina, 1 (out) (0.09%, 0.04%)
- Rand Paul, 1 (out) (0.09%, 0.04%)
- Mike Huckabee, 1 (out) (0.09%, 0.04%)
- Chris Christie, 0 (out) (0.09%, 0%)
- Rick Santorum, 0 (out) (0%, 0%)
- Jim Gilmore, 0 (out) (0%, 0%)
Democratic candidates need to win 2,383 of the party’s 4,764 delegates to claim their nomination. The Democratic National Convention will be July 25-28 in Philadelphia. Totals here include several hundred super-delegates who commit independently of voter choices. Of these, 465 have pledged to Clinton with 25 pledged to Sanders. However, some of those super-delegates could switch candidates if it becomes apparent that one or the other represents a liability to the party. Clinton currently holds the majority of all delegates combined, though just under 38 percent of all delegates had been awarded as of March 13. Because only two Democratic candidates will win delegates, the person with the most delegates will win and there’s no chance of the brokered convention that remains a possibility for Republicans.
- Hillary Clinton, 1,231
- Bernie Sanders, 576
- Martin O’Malley, 0 (out)