Republican front-runner Donald Trump pulled up primary wins in the presidential race as he easily captured both the Michigan and Mississippi primaries on Tuesday, stoking a furious campaign by the GOP establishment to keep him from arriving at the Republican National Convention with the nomination clinched.
In Mississippi, Trump won around 48 percent of the vote to Cruz’s 36 percent. Kasich finished third and Rubio placed fourth. In Michigan, Trump took 37 percent of the vote as Cruz won over Kasich for second place that amounted to just several thousand votes. Again, Rubio slumped in fourth place, taking no delegates.
In the Democratic contest, Bernie Sanders left front-runner Hillary Clinton astounded as he pulled out a victory in the Michigan primary, giving his upstart campaign new energy. Clinton won in Mississippi, but Sanders’ victory is seen as likely to prolong his insurgent campaign against Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination to pick a candidate for November’s general election.
“This has been a fantastic night in Michigan. We’re very grateful,” Sanders said in a press conference in Miami.
The U.S. senator from Vermont, a democratic socialist, said the win showed his political revolution was “strong in every part of the country. Frankly, we believe our strongest areas are yet to come.”
Trump padded his delegate lead over his chief rival, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas — who scored a win in Idaho — but his victories were even more important symbolically given that they occurred in vastly different regions of the country. The brash millionaire’s convincing win restored his outsider campaign’s momentum.
The 69-year-old New Yorker built his victories in Michigan, in the middle of the industrial Midwest, and Mississippi in the Deep South with broad appeal across many demographics. He won evangelical Christians, Republicans, independents, those who wanted an outsider and those who expressed their anger about how the federal government is working, according to exit polls.
Trump said in several television interviews on Wednesday he was drawing new voters to the Republican Party and the establishment figures who are resisting his campaign should save their money and focus on beating the Democrats in November.
“If this party came together… nobody could beat it,” Trump told NBC’s “Today” program. Asked on ABC if he was ready to wrap up the nomination, he said: “I’d like to.”
The results were a setback for rival John Kasich, governor of Ohio, who had hoped to pull off a surprise win in neighboring Michigan, and for Marco Rubio, a U.S. senator from Florida who has become the
establishment favorite but trailed badly in both Michigan and Mississippi and appeared unlikely to win delegates in either.
Speaking at a news conference in Jupiter, Florida after Tuesday’s voting, Trump said Rubio’s recent attacks on him had backfired.
“Hostility works for some people; it doesn’t work for everyone,” the real estate magnate said.
Trump, a former reality TV star, has showered his campaign with put-downs of rivals and critics. His statements on Muslims, immigrants and women have offended Republicans and his threats to international trade deals alarmed many. Trump has dismissed criticism his statements would be harmful to U.S. interests.
Ted Cruz, a 45-year-old U.S. senator from Texas whose recent victories have positioned him as the prime alternative to Trump, won the party’s primary in Idaho.
Yet Trump said his rivals had little hope going forward, and took particular aim at Cruz.
Trump said he would consider Rubio as potential vice presidential running mate to help coalesce his Republican support and attract Hispanic voters; however he said he was not ready to make that decision yet.
“Ted is going to have a hard time,” Trump said of Cruz. “He rarely beats me.”
Trump still enjoys a wide lead nationally in the Republican race, although Cruz has been climbing over the past week. According to a Reuters/Ipsos poll, Trump has settled in at about 40 percent support, among those who identify as Republicans.
Cruz at 23 percent and Kasich at 11 percent have been on the rise, largely at Rubio’s expense.
The Michigan victory sets Trump up for a potentially decisive day of voting next week. On March 15, Ohio, Florida, Illinois, Missouri and North Carolina – like Michigan, states rich in the delegates who will select their party’s nominee at July’s Republican National Convention – cast ballots.
The Republican contests in Florida and Ohio award all the state’s delegates to the winner. If Trump could win those two states and pile up delegates elsewhere next week, it could rule out home-state favorites Rubio and Kasich out of the race and make it tough for Cruz to follow.
As Trump builds a lead in delegates, anti-Trump Super PACS are spending millions of dollars on advertisements designed to attack Trump’s character in Florida. In the first week of February, just 15% of all GOP TV ad spending was for anti-Trump messages, according to an analysis released Tuesday by Kantar Media CMAG. Last week, that had jumped to 62%. The past three Republican presidential nominees — Mitt Romney, John McCain and George W. Bush — have urged voters to reject him.