Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders won the Minnesota caucuses Tuesday night, the Associated Press reported, marking precious victories on a night when the front-runners in each party were scoring big.
Minnesota, which held both Democratic and Republican caucuses on Super Tuesday, could be an important signal for how other Midwestern states will fall over the next few months. Because it is a caucus state, Minnesota typically favors candidates with organized campaigns who appeal to their parties’ ideological bases.
The state offered up 93 delegates for Democrats on Tuesday, while Republicans competed over 38 delegates there. The caucuses began at 8 p.m. EST and were expected to close by 9 p.m. EST.
On the Democratic side, Minnesota was considered one of Sanders’ most important must-win states. The enthusiasm of his supporters can be an effective force in caucuses, and the state is less than 5 percent black, which is good for him since the Vermont senator has continued to poll much better among white voters than among those of color. Sanders also had the support of Rep. Keith Ellison of Minneapolis, who is black and Muslim. Many said that if Sanders did not win in Minnesota, it would show Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton had swept up much of his momentum with her recent wins in Nevada and South Carolina.
There was little recent polling in the state on either side of the political aisle, so few political analysts predicted Minnesota’s results with precision. However, some said that GOP front-runner Donald Trump could have a tough time in the state due to his lack of campaign infrastructure and his tendency to poll poorly in the Midwest. The Donald was largely expected to do well on Super Tuesday, but ahead of March 1, neighboring Iowa was the only nominating contest he had lost.
Minnesota has also historically gone for candidates who are not the front-runner in the Republican caucuses. In 2012, Rick Santorum won the Minnesota caucuses, while Mitt Romney won them in 2008. This year, Rubio and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz were each hoping to pick up some delegates to help them keep pace with Trump’s ever-growing lead. Both of the senators have been scrambling to slow Trump's momentum, and Minnesota was seen as a place that could help them do just that.