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The Silver Lining For the GOP Establishment on Super Tuesday

Chuck Todd: If Ted Cruz loses Texas on Super Tuesday, 'he's out' 5:37

It's still too early to say the Republican Party's establishment wing is on deathwatch for the 2016 presidential campaign, but time is running out. And Super Tuesday is not shaping up well for that part of the party, with polls in most March 1 states showing Donald Trump holding a commanding lead.

Even if the establishment is in for a tough Tuesday night, however, there are places you might be able to look for hopeful signs for Florida Sen. Marco Rubio or Ohio Gov. John Kasich.

If the establishment is looking for a silver lining - or a lifeline - going into next week, below is a list of key places they will need to do well on Tuesday.

Georgia: On the whole, Georgia looks quite a bit like South Carolina in its racial and ethnic composition. That should favor Mr. Trump. But the establishment should look to do well in a few pockets in the state.

  • Fulton County and greater Atlanta: Polling data analysis from the American Communities Project shows the establishment candidates do well in Big Cities and dense Urban Suburb counties. Fulton, Cobb and Gwinnett counties are in those categories and are above the state average for income and education. Mr. Trump tends to do better in area with lower income and education levels.
  • Clarke County: Home of Athens and the University of Georgia, it holds more better-educated voters and younger voters, two groups that are not Mr. Trump's strong suit.

Tennessee: Many of the same rules that apply in Georgia are at work in Volunteer State, where Mr. Trump appears to have a large advantage in the polls.

  • Davidson County and greater Nashville: Increasingly Nashville is taking on a more cosmopolitan air, with a vibrant economy and an influx of people from other places. Its population is well educated and young compared to the state averages.
  • Montgomery County: A big military population around Fort Campbell here tests whether that vote is leaning toward the establishment or Mr. Trump.

Texas: This is Sen. Ted Cruz's home state and polls show him leading here, but Texas is very big and very complicated with a lot of different environments in play.

  • Dallas and Tarrant: The Dallas-Fort Worth area may presents some hopes for the establishment in Texas, particularly Dallas County, which is a bit more politically moderate.
  • Travis County: If the establishment candidates don't have a good showing in Travis (home of Austin), they are likely not going to have a good showing anywhere in Texas. It is a college town that is also a state capital; those kinds of counties tend to be good for the establishment candidate. Mr. Rubio won them in Iowa (Polk County) and South Carolina (Richland County).

Virginia: Polls show the state is Mr. Trump's to lose, but it also may hold Tuesday's must-win territory for the establishment.

  • Northern Virginia: When all is said and done, this area - the cities of Alexandria and Arlington and the counties of Fairfax and Loudoun - is arguably the most important place in the country on Tuesday night for the Rubio and Kasich campaigns. If they can't win here, the home of defense contractors, lobbyists and bureaucrats, the establishment is in very big trouble.

Regardless of the potential bright spots ahead on the calendar - Ohio and Florida in particular on March 15 - the road ahead will look remarkably daunting if NoVa doesn't produce big numbers for Mr. Rubio or Mr. Kasich.