One of the greatest things about political speeches is that often what is said is the least important aspect — it’s what was ignored, how the message was presented, or even the demeanor and tone of the speaker that is most telling.
While Ted Cruz’s statement that any Republican not having a win yet should depart the race was the understatement of the Republican establishment of the evening, his message came out like a sigh of relief that his home state of Texas and Oklahoma came to the rescue of his dwindling campaign. Now within striking distance of Donald Trump, Cruz’s frustration is apparent in the prospect of having to continue with the establishment vote split too many ways.
Rubio, considered the big loser of the night by the live CNN commentators, seemed almost giddy of his first win in Minnesota. He forcefully pressed forward his strategy of taking down Trump, insistent that it was working. While he seems to be the only one to think that a one-state win is a workable strategy for the long-haul, he’s not leaving the race anytime soon.
But of all the speeches, Sanders, Clinton, and Trump all stood out the most — for their messages, hints to the future, and at times almost strange changes in tone.
Sanders claims to be in it for the long-haul to the Philadelphia convention. He had an energetic crowd and a forceful message of the inequalities he’s fighting against, but he realizes that he lags far behind in the delegate count. Sanders sees his campaign as a tool to force the Democratic platform and tone for 2016, even if he already knows he’s probably not going to win.
The Democrats frankly need this energy; they are facing a very angry, enthusiastic Republican voting bloc that seems to be outpacing them in money (though split many ways at this point), energy, turnout, and fervor.
Sanders sees his campaign as a tool to force the Democratic platform and tone for 2016, even if he already knows he's probably not going to win.
Almost hoarsely shouting to her enthusiastic crowd, Clinton’s message was on target for trying to unify the liberal movement within the Democratic Party. While Trump would take a small jab at Clinton’s appeal for unification and reconciliation, her task in the immediate future is to figure out how to pander to the Sanders electorate, how to press forward without offending either the establishment or the progressives, and how to maintain a marketable message for the independents, swing-voters, and centrists.
It was Trump’s speech that was a work of art: a deliberately planned, low-key, out-of-character message of cooperation as the definitive front-runner.
As soon as Chris Christie took the stage to introduce him, you could tell a deliberate switch to a low-key tone. Where all the other candidates had almost out-of-control crowds, Trumps supporters were almost subdued to the point of forgetting to applaud during Christie’s planned ‘applause breaks.’
But when Trump took the stage, he spoke in a quiet (at least for him) voice, took very few jabs, responded little to the overt criticism he’d received from Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell, and was even relatively polite when the reporter from Sirius XM noticeably irked him.
In a pack of ranting and raving politicians, who were trying to rally, energize, and enthuse the voters, Trump almost seemed like the calm voice of reason with his message of how he was going to cooperate where necessary for the good of the country.
Even the live CNN commentators were forced to note that this speech was one of Trump’s most presidential sounding speeches yet, and who knows what kind of momentum he could get if more of the Republican base saw him as a true presidential prospect.
So now, the race continues to Kansas on Saturday, a rare treat for a fly-over state, where each of these candidates is going to have to make a deliberate stand. Cruz, Rubio, and Sanders all have planned stops this week in Kansas.
Cruz has to maintain his central U.S. credibility and is focusing on the large population center near Kansas City. Rubio desperately needs a win at any cost and is focusing his efforts on the Wichita area, the second largest population center.
Sanders needs to start connecting his ‘heartland’ wins, creating a geographic bulwark against Clinton’s incredible performance in the South. A repeat of Oklahoma’s success, sweeping the rural counties, would be devastating to Clinton’s overall strategy against him, and would prove that his progressive strategy is not isolated only to the traditional Democratic strongholds.
Among the front-runners, Clinton has to prove that she can win against Sanders in an area dominated by large college towns. It is no coincidence that Sanders will be campaigning at the University of Kansas. Kansas has five state universities spread throughout the state. Clinton must prove that she can win in these areas while still taking the larger cities.
Trump needs a Kansas win in the worst sort of way. He needs to bag one of the ‘reddest of the red’ states to prove his conservative credentials, something he was hoping for in Oklahoma but wound up splitting the conservative rural counties with Rubio.
So in reality, and almost absurdly, the Super Tuesday speeches were a strategic statement on how the candidates were moving on to Kansas, and we only have to wait a few days to see the results.