Super Tuesday expectations for Donald Trump were high, but there was no reason to assume he was necessarily going to dominate. After all, the last week has been less than kind to the Republican frontrunner.
There was a debate in which his rivals teamed up on him. There were controversies surrounding his support from white supremacists and his bogus "university." There was the increasingly frantic opposition to his candidacy from within the Republican Party. There was the perception, at least among much of the press, that some of the attacks made by Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz were starting to weaken Trump's support.
But as the dust settles on Super Tuesday, there can be no doubt that Donald Trump is the odds-on favorite to win the Republican Party's presidential nomination. If the frontrunner's easy wins in New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada were the set-up, yesterday was the punch-line.
Trump scored seven victories Tuesday in Massachusetts, Virginia, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, Arkansas, and in Vermont, where NBC News declared him the apparent winner.
And in terms of delegates, Trump added to his advantage and, according to NBC News' tally, now leads the field with 292 delegates, followed by Ted Cruz's 188, and Marco Rubio's 98.
As for the bigger picture, let's again try to cut through the noise and break things down from a pitch-vs-hype-vs-truth perspective.
The Pitch: 7 wins in 11 states yesterday, 10 wins in 15 states since the start of the process. If we weren't talking about a former reality-show host with no experience in public office, the widely held assumption would be that Trump is the prohibitive favorite.
The Buzz: It's probably time to stop asking "if" Trump will be the GOP nominee, and start asking "when."
The Truth: Actually, in this case, the pitch and the buzz are both correct. Trump's rivals have taken their best shots at the frontrunner, and he just keeps winning. Sure, funny things can happen, but no presidential candidate in either party has ever dominated to this extent and failed to win his party's nomination.
The Pitch: Cruz has now defeated Trump in four contests, including three wins on Super Tuesday. Like it or not, it's a two-man race.
The Buzz: Maybe ignoring Cruz for the last two weeks wasn't a good idea after all.
The Truth: Cruz has played the role of the forgotten candidate lately, but he far exceeded expectations yesterday. The media and the Republican establishment will continue to resist this, but the Texas senator has a legitimate claim to being the real anti-Trump candidate going forward.
The Pitch: "We may have lost everything, but at least we won Minnesota!"
The Buzz: Wasn't the last guy to say, "We may have lost everything, but at least we won Minnesota!" named Walter Mondale?
The Truth: Once again, the Rubio hype was no match for the Rubio reality. Super Tuesday was a complete disaster for the senator, not only because he finished third in eight states, but also because he finished below the 20% delegate threshold in three of them. The Rubio campaign went so far as to leak word early last night that the senator might win Arkansas, Oklahoma, Virginia, and Minnesota. He lost three of those four, and came in third in two of them. Even Rubio's media cheerleaders won't be able to spin failures on this scale.
John Kasich and Ben Carson
The Pitch: "We each cracked double digits in two states."
The Buzz: Remind us again why you're still here?
The Truth: Kasich has a legitimate shot at success in his home state of Ohio in two weeks, but short of a convention miracle, neither of these men have a path to the GOP nomination.