Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton each earned a series of big primary wins on Tuesday as the two presidential frontrunners looked more likely to be facing off against one another in the race for the White House.
Trump took the Republican delegates in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Vermont and Virginia, while Clinton won her party’s primaries in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.
Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, the favourite of the Republican establishment, won Minnesota.
Republican Ted Cruz, a Texas senator, won his home state and neighbouring Oklahoma, bolstering his argument that he had the best chance to stop the controversial Trump. He also won in Alaska, the last state to finish tallying votes in the early hours of Wednesday.
“Texas was a must-win state for Ted Cruz,” said FRANCE 24’s Washington correspondent, Philip Crowther. “If Trump had won Texas, the pressure on Cruz to exit the race would have been enormous. Instead, many looked to Rubio to give up his campaign, with some describing him as a 'dead man walking' after the crucial night of voting."
Clinton, the former secretary of state, won enough states to take a big step towards wrapping up her nomination fight with rival Bernie Sanders, a Democratic socialist senator from Vermont.
“The stakes in this election have never been higher and the rhetoric we’re hearing on the other side has never been lower,” Clinton, 68, told supporters in Miami. “Trying to divide America between us and them is wrong, and we’re not going to let it work.”
Sanders won his home state of Vermont, along with Colorado, Minnesota and Oklahoma, four of five states he was targeting for victory on Tuesday. He thanked cheering supporters in his hometown of Burlington, Vermont, and assailed the Republican frontrunner.
“We are not going to let the Donald Trumps of the world divide us,” said Sanders, 74, adding that he expected to pile up “hundreds” of convention delegates in voting on Tuesday.
Super Tuesday is the biggest single day of state-by-state contests to select party nominees for the November 8 election to succeed Democratic President Barack Obama. Voting stretches from eastern states to Texas and Minnesota.
Trump, 69, has worried many in the Republican establishment with proposals such as building a wall along the US southern border with Mexico, deporting 11 million illegal immigrants and slapping a temporary ban on Muslims entering the country.
But while his campaign has confounded many Republican leaders, the New York real estate developer cites his high poll numbers as proof he is not dividing the party but expanding its ranks. He preached unity as he looked beyond the day’s voting to campaign in Ohio, which votes on March 15.
With a string of victories on Tuesday, Trump expanded his strong lead over Cruz, Rubio, Ohio Governor John Kasich and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, intensifying worries among Republican leaders that the billionaire could inflict long-term damage on the party.
“The reality is that none of the Republican candidates seem to be able to beat Trump outside of where they live,” former state director for the Obama campaign in Florida, Steve Schale, told FRANCE 24 on Wednesday. “It’s going to be hard for them to stop Trump. He’s a phenomenon – we can’t take him for granted. If too many people believe that [he can’t become president], that’s how he could win.”
Voting with his wife in Houston, Cruz, 45, said he hoped Republicans would see a narrower field emerge on Wednesday.
“For any candidate that wakes up tomorrow morning who hasn’t won any states ... I think it’s time to start thinking about coming together and unifying and presenting a clear choice,” said Cruz, the only Republican to win a state contest besides Trump to date.
Even as Trump advances, many Republican Party leaders do not support him and worry that he would be easily defeated in November if Clinton became the Democratic nominee.
Pivotal election night
The crossfire between Trump and establishment Republicans threatened to rip the party apart at a time when it will need to generate momentum behind a prospective nominee. That worries some Republican strategists looking ahead to the nominating convention in July.
“If Trump continues winning, disappointed party elites will need to reconcile with supporting the party nominee,” Tim Albrecht, a Republican strategist in Iowa, told Reuters.
Schale said that with Trump as Republican nominee, the party has good reason to be concerned. “There’s a real chance that Clinton would pull some votes in the middle that would otherwise vote Republican,” he said.
Clinton took advantage of her strong performance with black voters to cruise to big wins in several Southern states, where African Americans make up a big bloc of the Democratic electorate.
Some Democrats have begun to question whether Sanders should continue his challenge to Clinton, but he made it clear that he had no intention of dropping out anytime soon.
“At the end of tonight, 15 states will have voted, 35 states remain,” Sanders said in Vermont. “And let me assure you that we are going to take our fight for economic justice, for social justice, for environmental sanity, for a world of peace to every one of those states.”
The night was seen as a pivotal point in the course of the long election process. We’re going to see the contours of the general election campaign starting to be drawn after tonight,” FRANCE 24 international affairs editor Douglas Herbert said.
Scroll through our live blog below for rolling coverage of Super Tuesday.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)
Date created : 2016-03-01