By Anna Boisseau (audio)
Brendan Hickey (photos)
Enrica Nicoli Aldini (text)
The atmosphere was upbeat, drinks were pouring and “Hill, yes!” chants filled the dining rooms during a Super Tuesday watch party at Old Crow Smokehouse in River North. As the results rolled in, Hillary Clinton supporters celebrated a large victory for the former secretary of state over the opposing Democratic candidate, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
“Tonight’s victory is very important for the way the Democratic primaries are set. They are very front-loaded and you should do well in the first states,” Clinton supporter Stephen Anderson said.
Clinton scored lopsided leads over Sanders in seven of the 11 states that were voting on Tuesday, substantially strengthening her delegate count. While Vermont was a largely-expected overwhelming victory for Sanders, Clinton was able to secure the neighboring state of Massachusetts against predictions that the Vermont senator would fare better there too.
The most sizable support to Clinton came from the Southern states of Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Tennessee and Texas, areas that are rich in minority voters who have pledged overwhelming allegiance to the former secretary of state.
“This victory shows that the states that we are winning have large African-American and Hispanic populations that support Hillary,” said Delmarie Cobb, press secretary for the Clinton campaign in Illinois. “She has a track record with those communities. They know her and support her.”
Cobb said the popularity Clinton enjoys among black and Latino communities should poise her to win more states as the Democratic primary unfolds. “Look at Michigan,” Cobb said. “She was the first one to bring attention to the water crisis in Flint, which has a large African-American community. You can look at which states are coming up and say that she’s going to win.”
David Evers, regional director for the College Democrats who is coordinating the Clinton campaign volunteer effort at Loyola University, said Clinton’s victory will boost her supporters. “Historically speaking, candidates that do the best on Super Tuesday typically go on to win the nomination,” he said.
As much as Clinton enthusiasts and campaign volunteers had gathered at Old Crow Smokehouse in support of the former secretary of state, many were also awaiting results for the Republican Party. Loud boos welcomed projections from CNN that Donald Trump was winning sweeping victories in most of the 11 states.
“I’m here as a Clinton supporter, but I’m excited to see what happens in the GOP,” Anderson said. “Trump can get such a lead tonight that he’ll become harder and harder to stop.”
Trump triumphed in seven states and strengthened his lead over Senator Ted Cruz of Texas who, besides his home state, won Alaska and Oklahoma. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida only came in first in Minnesota, and the chances that he will be the moderate Republican who puts a stop to Trump’s supremacy seem to be increasingly slim.
The general feeling among attendees at the Clinton campaign’s watch party was that judging from the numbers that rolled in Tuesday night, the presidential race is likely to be ultimately narrowed down to a competition between Clinton and Trump. In light of that, some Clinton supporters said Clinton’s experience, track record and overall more moderate policies are much better suited than Sanders’ radical message to compete against the current GOP frontrunner.
“Hillary Clinton is running a campaign that is already geared toward the general elections,” Anderson said. “That has been going against her so far. She has been very disciplined, while Sanders has geared his campaign toward the primary and has been able to appeal to the left. But you have to be careful not to put yourself too far on the left.”
This is why, according to Anderson, the Clinton campaign is doing just fine to gear up for a likely eventual race against Trump. “The question now is at what point Senator Sanders is getting out of the race,” he added.
City Clerk of Chicago Susana Mendoza said Clinton is the most qualified and experienced candidate to tackle a competition against a Trump who has been successfully capitalizing on people’s frustrations.
“All conventional wisdom has been thrown out in this race. I hope people will stop laughing soon and get serious about these elections,” said Mendoza, who is running for Illinois comptroller in the 2016 special elections and promoted her campaign at Tuesday’s watch party.
“Bernie Sanders is a great man, but people are starting to realize that we want someone who is qualified,” Mendoza said just as CNN projected a Clinton victory in the delegate-rich state of Texas. “As a candidate, you can be very progressive and very pragmatic at the same time, and I think Hillary Clinton fits both qualities well.”