After a big night that padded delegate leads for both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, the candidates for president in both parties woke up on Wednesday morning still not knowing who will win the final contest of the night: Missouri.
Both the Democratic and Republican primaries in the state are still deadlocked with 99 percent of the vote counted. Clinton leads Senator Bernie Sanders, after defeating him in all four other states on Tuesday night, by a mere 1,531 votes. And Trump is also slightly ahead of Senator Ted Cruz, who also failed to win a state during Tuesday's elections, by 1,726 votes.
In both contests the candidates are separated by less than one percentage point, giving them the right to call for a recount under Missouri law, though none of the campaigns had yet requested as of Wednesday morning.
Although Missouri carries the fewest delegates available of any state that voted on Tuesday night, a Missouri victory would be huge for Clinton if it holds up. It would mark the first multi-primary night in which she completely routed Sanders, preventing him from earning a momentum-boosting win in any state, particularly after his surprise victory in Michigan last week.
Trump, too, had a big night with three wins in the five states that voted. So far, his only loss of the night was in Ohio, to Governor John Kasich who began and ended the night with the fewest number of delegates on the Republican side. Trump, who is solidifying his position as the frontrunner by the minute, took in more than 150 delegates last night and so far has prevented Senator Ted Cruz, who is next behind him in the delegate race, from making much progress in catching up.
Trump's biggest win of the night came in Florida, where he bested Senator Marco Rubio by 20 points and ousted him from the race. Cruz, in particular, sought to capitalize on his fellow senator's loss, casting the election now as a "two-man race" and seeking to push out Kasich as well.
"Only two campaigns have a plausible path to the nomination. … Nobody else has any mathematical possibility whatsoever," Cruz told his supporters Tuesday night. "Only one campaign has beaten Donald Trump over and over and over again."
But Clinton was by far the winner on Tuesday night. Whether she wins Missouri or not, Tuesday night's primaries put the former secretary of state back on a path of inevitability. After Sanders' surprising momentum in early states shook up her campaign and forced her further left on a number of policy issues, including immigration and her position on Wall Street, Clinton is now on a fast-track to the nomination.
Even without Missouri, the former secretary of state ended Tuesday night with 1,094 delegates nearly half of the 1,237 needed to clinch the nomination. Sanders is just over 300 delegates behind her total with 774.
Still, even a close loss means that Sanders will pick up some additional delegates. Missouri allocates its delegates based not only on the statewide winner, but also according to the winner in each congressional district, so Sanders has some opportunities there (and actually leads in most of them, narrowly, now).
Should Sanders make up ground in the final ballots or win in a recount, Missouri has just 84 total delegates to give, and he certainly won't win them all with how close the race has been. Whatever happens in the Show Me State, Sanders will be even further behind in the delegate race than he was 24 hours ago.
The night was a major disappointment for Sanders' campaign, who thought that they could compete, if not win, in several of the midwestern states that voted. Just the day before the primaries, Sanders' campaign sent an email to supporters crowing about recent poll results in Illinois, Ohio and Missouri that showed the campaign either ahead (by one point in Missouri) or just behind the Clinton campaign, telling supporters: "It's just so. damn. close."
But aside from Missouri, Sanders lost both Illinois and Ohio to Clinton on Tuesday night. The latter wasn't even close with Clinton defeating Sanders by 14 points, 57-43 percent. And that win came on the heels of Clinton's double-digit victories in Florida, the big prize of the night, and North Carolina as well.
As results rolled in Tuesday night, the Sanders campaign switched tack, sending a note to reporters that looked ahead to an upcoming rally in Idaho. And while Clinton was giving her victory speech in Florida Tuesday night, Sanders spoke for an hour at a rally in Arizona, which votes next week. But Sanders did not mention any of the results of Tuesday's elections.
Sanders will need to win big in upcoming primary contests in order to stay in the race, which moves to states further West next week. Arizona, Idaho, and Utah will vote in the Democratic race on March 22, while a few days later, Alaska, Hawaii, and Washington state will hold their contests on March 26.
Republicans will compete solely in Arizona and Utah, where Cruz will look to capitalize on a smaller field to help him close the delegate gap.