WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Ted Cruz cinched double-barreled victories in Kansas and Maine, and Republican front-runner Donald Trump captured Louisiana on Saturday, fresh evidence that there’s no quick end in sight to the fractious GOP race for president. The two men were in a tight battle for bragging rights in Kentucky.
On the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders notched wins in Nebraska and Kansas, while front-runner Hillary Clinton snagged Louisiana, another split decision from the American people.
“God bless Kansas,” Cruz declared during a rally in Idaho, which votes in three days. “The scream you hear, the howl that comes from Washington D.C., is utter terror at what we the people are doing together.”
The Texas senator defeated Trump easily in Kansas and Maine, and Trump rolled to victory in Louisiana, underscoring that his appeal knows no geographic limitation. Partial returns showed Cruz and Trump locked in a close race in Kentucky.
Cruz, a tea party favorite, attributed his strong showing to conservatives coalescing behind his candidacy, calling it a “manifestation of a real shift in momentum.”
With the GOP race in chaos, establishment figures frantically are looking 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 marveled at an afternoon rally in Orlando, Florida, where he had supporters raise their hands and swear to vote for him.
Despite the support of many elected officials, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio came up short, raising serious questions about his viability in the race. Cruz suggested it was time for some Republican candidates to quit the race.
Rubio said the upcoming schedule of primaries is “better for us,” and renewed his vow to win his home state of Florida, claiming all 99 delegates there on March 15.
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, Nebraska, 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 so far in the nominating season, compared to 11 for Clinton, who still maintains a commanding lead in competition for delegates.
Sanders, in an interview with The Associated Press, pointed to his wide margins of victory and called it evidence that his political revolution is coming to pass.
Stressing the important of voter turnout, he said, “when large numbers of people come — working people, young people who have not been involved in the political process — we will do well and I think that is bearing out tonight.”
With Republican front-runner Trump yet to win states by the margins he’ll need in order to secure the nomination before the GOP convention, every one of the 155 GOP delegates at stake on Saturday was worth fighting for.
Count Wichita’s Barb Berry among those who propelled Cruz to victory in Kansas, where GOP officials reported extremely high turnout. It was Cruz’ fifth win of the nominating race. Cruz had won Alaska, Oklahoma, Iowa and his home state of Texas.
“I believe that he is a true fighter for conservatives,” said Berry, a 67-year-old retired AT&T manager. As for Trump, Berry said, “he is a little too narcissistic.”
Overall, Trump had prevailed in 10 of 15 contests heading into Saturday’s voting. Rubio had one win in Minnesota.
Like Rubio, Ohio Gov. John Kasich has pinned his hopes on the winner-take-all contest March 15 in his home state.
Clinton picked up at least 48 delegates to Sanders’ 37 in Saturday’s contests, with delegates yet to be allocated.
Overall, Clinton had at least 1,114 delegates to Sanders’ 469, 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.
In the overall race for GOP delegates, including partial results for Kansas, Trump led with 347 and Cruz had 267. Rubio had 116 delegates and Kasich had 28.
Cruz will collect at least 36 delegates for winning the Republican caucuses in Kansas and Maine, Trump at least 18 and Rubio at least six and Kasich three.
It takes 1,237 delegates to win the Republican nomination for president.
Benac reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Bill Barrow in Jacksonville, Florida; David Eggert in Warren, Michigan; Catherine Lucey in Detroit; Melinda Deslatte in Baton Rouge, Louisiana; John Hanna in Olathe, Kansas, John Flesher in Traverse City, Michigan, and Ken Thomas and Stephen Ohlemacher in Washington contributed to this report.
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