The dust has settled on the biggest day of the 2016 election cycle so far. Super Tuesday not only solidified the front-runner status of both Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump, but also left both parties a bit out of sorts.
GOPers are troubled by the prospect of Trump as their standard bearer, while Democrats are alarmed at their paltry turnout numbers compared to eight years ago. Meanwhile, despite somewhat lopsided results, none of the losing candidates on either side are showing any sign of giving up the fight, which means this already unpredictable primary season is far from over. And with these prolonged fights comes any number of strange moments on the stump. Here are five of the most head-scratching Super Tuesday moments on the GOP side.
“Pay a big price”: Some have hailed Donald Trump’s victory speech on Tuesday as his most presidential yet. He was flanked by an American flag backdrop (as well as a morose-looking Chris Christie, more on that later) and he called on journalists by their first names commander-in-chief-style, but that didn’t tamp down his usual bombast and rote recitation of his infamous “make America great again” catchphrase. In one of his more ominous turns of phrase, he lobbed a veiled threat at Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, who had criticized the front-runner (without mentioning him by name) earlier on Tuesday for not effectively distancing himself from white supremacist supporters.
“Paul Ryan, I don’t know him well, but I’m sure I’m going to get along great with him,” Trump said. “And if I don’t, he’s going to have to pay a big price.”
#FreeChristie: After delivering a fairly joyless introduction of Trump at a victory rally in Florida on Tuesday, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie stood behind his former 2016 rival with a stricken expression which inspired a meme: #FreeChristie. The governor was mocked for playing second fiddle to a polarizing candidate who some pundits believe is bringing about the destruction of the Republican party. His appearance on Tuesday made Trump’s own awkward moment alongside former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin in January look positively buoyant by comparison. Meanwhile, Christie is facing calls to resign in his home state and a new Farleigh Dickinson University poll has shown his already low approval rating has plummeted from 33 to 27 percent.
“Prayerfully” peace out: Sen. Ted Cruz is not known for his congeniality. But on Tuesday he tried to make an earnest plea for party unity in the face of what appears to be an unstoppable Trump juggernaut. The Texas lawmaker’s attempt to persuade his remaining fellow candidates (Sen. Marco Rubio, Gov. John Kasich and Dr. Ben Carson) to “prayerfully” exit the race so he can face the real estate mogul in a one-on-one contest will likely fall on deaf ears. On Tuesday last, MSNBC’s Chris Matthews mocked all the candidates’ lack of graciousness in defeat. “It’s like each is in their solipsistic universe,” Matthews said.
Rubio gives another ‘victory’ speech: Speaking of non-concession concession speeches, Sen. Marco Rubio sounded triumphant (or in denial, depending on your point of view) yet again on Tuesday, despite winning just one of the 15 Republican primary contests so far, the Minnesota caucus. Despite a bevy of high profile endorsements and the presumptive weight of the D.C. Republican establishment behind him, Rubio finished third in most of the Super Tuesday contests. But you wouldn’t have known that to hear him speak to his supporters in Florida, a state that has yet to vote.
“Two weeks from tonight, right here in Florida, we are going to send the message loud and clear that the party of Lincoln and Reagan and the presidency of the United States will never be held by a con artist,” he declared.
Carson can’t quit on Facebook fans?: No listical of oddball campaign moments would be complete without Dr. Ben Carson. The uber-longshot candidate admitted that running for president was never on his “bucket list,” but nevertheless pledged to stay in the 2016 race in part because he listens to “the voices of millions of Americans saying on Facebook ‘you cannot leave us.’” Carson is the one candidate left in the GOP race who has not won a single primary (or even finished second) and he possesses just a eight pledged delegates to date. And yet, he is still raging about the “political class and its minions.”
On Tuesday, after a rambling critique of “special interests,” Carson proceeded to recite the Pledge of Allegiance — with annotated asides for a full 15 minutes. If you recall, Carson has a tendency to show off his memorization skills. At a presidential debate in January, he recited the preamble to the Constitution in his closing remarks, albeit incorrectly.