In a split decision, Ted Cruz and Donald Trump each captured two victories in Saturday's four-state round of Republican voting, fresh evidence that there's no quick end in sight to the fractious GOP race for president. On the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders notched wins in Nebraska and Kansas while front-runner Hillary Clinton prevailed Louisiana, another divided verdict.
Cruz, the senator from Texas, claimed Kansas and Maine, and declared it “a manifestation of a real shift in momentum.” Trump, still the front-runner in the hunt for delegates, won in Louisiana and Kentucky. Despite strong support from the GOP establishment, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio had another disappointing night, raising serious questions about his viability in the race.
Trump, at a postelection news conference in West Palm Beach, Fla., declared himself primed for a head-on contest with Cruz, and he called for Rubio to drop out.
“I would like to take on Ted one-on-one,” Trump said, ticking off a list of big states where he said Cruz had no chance. “That would be so much fun.”
Cruz, a favorite of the tea party movement, said the latest results should send a loud message that the Republican contest for the nomination is far from over, and that the status quo is in trouble.
“The scream you hear, the howl that comes from Washington, D.C., is utter terror at what we the people are doing together,” he declared during a rally in Idaho, which votes in three days.
With the GOP race in chaos, establishment figures are looking frantically for any way to derail Trump, perhaps at a contested convention if no candidate can get enough delegates to lock up the nomination in advance. Party leaders — including 2012 nominee Mitt Romney and 2008 nominee Sen. John McCain — are fearful a Trump victory would lead to a disastrous November election, with losses up and down the GOP ticket.
“Everyone's trying to figure out how to stop Trump,” the billionaire candidate marveled at an afternoon rally in Orlando, Fla., where he had supporters raise their hands and swear to vote for him.
Trump prevailed in the home state of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky senator who has been critical of the front-runner for incendiary comments about Muslims and a halting disavowal of white supremacist groups.
Rubio, who finished no better than third anywhere Saturday and has only one win to his name, said the upcoming schedule of primaries would be “better for us,” and renewed his vow to win his home state of Florida, claiming all 99 delegates there on March 15.
But Cruz suggested it was time for Rubio and Ohio Gov. John Kasich to go.
Campaigning in Detroit, Clinton said she was thrilled to add to her delegate count and expected to do well in Michigan's primary on Tuesday. “No matter who wins this Democratic nomination,” she said, “I have not the slightest doubt that on our worst day we will be infinitely better than the Republicans on their best day.”
Tara Evans, a 52-year-old quilt maker from Bellevue, Neb., said she was caucusing for Clinton, and happy to know that the former first lady could bring her husband back to the White House. “I like Bernie, but I think Hillary had the best chance of winning,” she said.
Sanders won by solid margins in Nebraska and Kansas, giving him seven victories in the nominating season, compared with 11 for Clinton, who maintains a commanding lead in the competition for delegates.
Clinton picked up at least 51 delegates to Sanders' 45 in Saturday's contests, with delegates yet to be allocated. Overall, Clinton had at least 1,117 delegates to Sanders' 477, including superdelegates — members of Congress, governors and party officials who can support the candidate of their choice. It takes 2,383 delegates to win the Democratic nomination.
Cruz will collect at least 60 delegates for winning the Republican caucuses in Kansas and Maine, Trump at least 46, Rubio at least 13 and Kasich eight.
In the overall race for GOP delegates, Trump led with at least 375 and Cruz had at least 291. Rubio had 123 delegates and Kasich had 33. It takes 1,237 delegates to win the Republican nomination for president.