Minutes after the polls closed in Tennessee, several networks, including Fox News and CNN, declared GOP front runner Donald Trump the big winner in today’s GOP Presidential primary in the Volunteer State.
With 7 percent of precincts reporting as of 7:30 pm CST, Trump has 48 percent of the vote, followed by Sen. Ted Cruz in a distant second with 22 percent. Sen. Marco Rubio is in third with 17 percent.
Unless Cruz and Rubio finish with more than 20 percent of the vote, they are in danger of receiving very few, if any, of the state’s 58 delegates to the Republican National Convention.
Since 52 percent of the state’s population is evangelical Protestant according to a recent Pew Research study, and 68 percent of likely GOP voters in the state’s primary self-describe as evangelical Christians, Cruz was originally expected to do well.
But despite his public profession of Christian faith as the guiding light in his personal and professional life, allegation of dirty tricks on the campaign trail since the Iowa GOP caucuses on February 1 have dogged the junior senator from Texas and placed a ceiling on his support among self-described evangelicals.
While he easily wins “committed” evangelicals over the age of 35, “cultural” evangelicals have not flocked to his cause. Even “committed” evangelicals 35 years old and younger have been lackluster in their support of Cruz.
The one and only recent poll in Tennessee, conducted by NBC/Wall St. Journal/Marist between February 18 and Februrary 23 showed Trump with a convincing 18 point lead over Cruz, 40 percent to 22 percent, with Rubio not far behind at 19 percent.
“I’m disappointed, but it is not a shock as Trump had polled consistently ahead in Tennessee,” Judson Phillips, a Cruz surrogate who lives and works in Tennessee, tells Breitbart News.
“Tennessee has open primaries, so I have to wonder how many non-Republicans crossed over and voted in the Republican primary. If what we’re hearing from other states is true in Tennessee, once again we are letting non-Republicans decide who the Republican nominee is,” Phillips adds.
“We thought Donald Trump was going to do well in Tennessee. As it turns out, he’s doing well in Tennessee and many, many states tonight,” State Senator Mae Beavers (R-Mount Juliet), who endorsed Trump and ran as a statewide at-large delegate for Trump, tells Breitbart News.
“Tonight was, without question, a great night for Donald Trump. Most of the delegates are still up for grabs, and it’s time for Dr. Carson and Gov. Kasich to step aside. This is a three person race,” State Senator Jack Johnson (R-Franklin), Rubio’s co-chairman in Tennessee, tells Breitbart News.
“Sen. Marco Rubio can most effectively articulate our conservative principles to the American electorate and defeat Hillary Clinton,” Johnson adds.
“Rubio did not perform as well in Tennessee as we were hoping, but we feel his strong showings across the nation, especially with late decidings voters, show him being in the best position moving forward to defeat Donald Trump and ultimately Hillary Clinton in the general election,” Matthew Tuttle, a Rubio volunteer from Overton County, tells Breitbart News.
Under the Tennessee Republican Party’s rules the state’s 58 delegates to the Republican National Convention are allocated based on the results of today’s primary: 27 delegates are allocated based on the primary results in each of the state’s nine Congressional Districts, while 31 are allocated based on the overall statewide vote in the primary.
Three delegates are selected from each of the nine Congressional Districts on a proportional basis for candidates who pass the 20 percent threshold.
The 31 delegates selected as a result of the overall statewide results are allocated among the candidates as follows:
31 (10 at-large, 18 bonus, 3 RNC) delegates are bound to presidential contenders based on the primary results statewide [Article IX. Rule C. Section 1. and Section 4B.]. About half of the at-large delegates are directly elected and appear on the primary ballot.
If one candidate receives more than 2/3 of the vote or only 1 candidate receives 20% or more of the vote statewide, that candidate receives all 31 delegates.
Otherwise, if 2 or more candidates receive more than 20% of the vote, the delegates are distributed proportionally to those candidates receiving more than 20% of the statewide vote. (Here, the “total qualified vote” is the total number of votes cast to those candidates receiving more than 20% of the statewide vote.)
Otherwise, delegates are distributed proportionally. (The “total qualified vote” = total statewide vote.)
On the ballot, each voter was asked to cast three types of votes.
The first vote was a presidential preference vote. This determines the overall winner statewide and the winner in the specific Congressional District in which the voter resides.
The second vote was for 14 individual delegates statewide, each of whom are committed to a particular candidate. (A few ran as uncommitted.)
The third vote is for 3 individual delegages, each of whom are committed to a particular candidate, in the Congressional District in which the voter resides.
The winning candidate needs 1,237 delegates to secure the nomination at the GOP Convention in Cleveland this July.
Based on the preliminary results, it appears that Trump may well win the majority of the delegates up for grabs. If neither Cruz nor Rubio pass the 20 percent threshold, he could take all 31 at large delegates, and would likely win the lion’s share of the 27 delegates allocated at the Congressional District level.