Super Tuesday was a win for the front-runners in both parties on a pivotal night in which healthcare policy seemed to play a minor role.
Businessman Donald Trump won at least seven of the more than a dozen states up for grabs in the largest primary day of the presidential election. Hillary Clinton won at least seven for the Democrats.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz won his home state, Alaska and Oklahoma for the Republicans, while Florida Sen. Marco Rubio won Minnesota. Clinton's sole remaining opponent, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, won his home state, Oklahoma, Minnesota and Colorado.
The percentage of Democrats ranking healthcare as the most important issue for them Tuesday ranged from 16% in Massachusetts to 26% in Tennessee. Those voters strongly went with Clinton in the states where she came out on top, according to exit polls. More than two-third's of Clinton's voters on Tuesday, according to exit polls, said in general they'd rather stick with President Barack Obama's policies than move in a more liberal direction.
In Oklahoma, the voters concerned most about healthcare split close to evenly between the two Democratic candidates while more than 80% of them went for Sanders in Vermont.
Democrats mostly chose the economy and jobs as the most important issue that brought them to the polls. In most states, income inequality was slightly above healthcare, while terrorism was chosen least. Republicans chose between economy/jobs, immigration, terrorism and government spending in their polls.
Clinton spoke to supporters Tuesday night in Florida, which has its crucial primary in two weeks. She aimed her speech toward general election voters, praising Obama and calling out top Republican candidates for ugly rhetoric.
She again called for building on the accomplishments of the ACA. She has previously said Sanders' plan would do away with those successes and start from scratch.
“We now insure 90% of Americans thanks to President Obama,” she said. “Now we have to finish the job and get to 100%. We cannot stop now.”
Sanders, who has advocated a single-payer healthcare plan he calls Medicare for all, mentioned it briefly in an early speech in Vermont, along with campaign finance reform, income inequality and climate change.
“As you have heard me say for years, healthcare is a right for all people,” he said.
Trump has been vague about his plan for healthcare and declined to provide details despite direct prodding from Rubio in the most recent debate. Trump said Tuesday only that he would implement something "much, much better' than the Affordable Care Act.
In a lengthy news conference Tuesday night, also in Florida, Trump said that although there is “always some negotiation,” he stands by his comments that Planned Parenthood has helped millions of women. He said he still supports banning funds to the organization because of its stance on abortion.
“I'm going to be really good for women. I'm going to be good for women's health issues,” he said. “It's something I care about.”
Cruz, who was in Texas, took aim squarely at Trump in his remarks, saying he was the only person able to beat Trump. He said Trump had pledged to expand Obamacare into socialized medicine with government control and rationing.” Trump has denied this but has not given details on any healthcare program of his own. Cruz said he would repeal the ACA.
Cruz also again called for Trump to release the recording of an off-the-record interview with the New York Times editorial board, which some speculate may include Trump backing off his commitment to deport undocumented immigrants.
More than 10 states will have their primaries in the next two weeks and both parties' candidates will have two debates during that period.
Texas Rep. Kevin Brady, a longtime representative who faced a stiff primary challenge from Tea Party candidates, was able to avoid a runoff and keep his seat Tuesday.
Brady is chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee that deals with tax issues and Medicare.