- Sanders defeats Clinton in Michigan as she wins Mississippi
- Cruz running second in Mississippi, Kasich second in Michigan
Donald Trump won both the Michigan and Mississippi Republican presidential primaries on Tuesday, the two biggest states voting on Tuesday, extending his control of the party’s nomination race despite unrelenting attacks on him in recent days as the other contenders fight for enough delegates to block his path.
On the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders upset Hillary Clinton in Michigan, a state where he’d hammered the former secretary of state on job losses from trade deals. Clinton won a commanding victory in Mississippi with the overwhelming support of black voters.
Republican primary voting helped solidify Trump’s status as the front-runner while the Democratic results exposed some of Clinton’s political weaknesses as she continues her march to the nomination.
Trump won the Michigan primary with 37 percent of the vote in early returns. Ohio Governor John Kasich and Texas Senator Ted Cruz were fighting for second place with about 25 percent each, with 85 percent of the vote counted. It was a tough night for Marco Rubio, who was a distant fourth in early returns in both Michigan and Mississippi. Cruz won the primary in Idaho, where Trump came in second. Rubio was third and Kasich fourth.
In Mississippi, Trump had 48 percent with almost 90 percent of the vote counted, followed by Cruz with 36 percent. Kasich had 9 percent of the vote and Rubio 5 percent.
In a victory speech in Jupiter, Florida, Trump surrounded himself with some of his branded products, including water, steaks and wine.
“There’s only one person that did well tonight -- Donald Trump,” he said.
The front-runner called for unity among Republicans, as he stressed the importance of his party winning up and down the ballot in November’s general election. “With all of these people coming over, we’re going to have something very, very special, if I win and if I get to go against Hillary,” he said.
He also responded to critics who have bemoaned what they have called unpresidential behavior and comments, saying, “I can be more presidential than anybody, if I want to be.”
Trump has been subject to heavy criticism from Cruz and Rubio and establishment leaders in the party, led by 2012 nominee Mitt Romney, who have said Trump’s behavior and ill-defined policies make him unfit to led the party and country. They are seeking to defeat Trump by preventing him from gaining the needed delegates before the party’s convention in July.
Despite the attacks, the real estate mogul won the most Republicans and independents in Michigan, according to exit polls published by CNN. Trump had the most votes from those who describe themselves as somewhat conservative voters, tied with Kasich among moderates and Cruz won the very conservative voters -- though Trump led among evangelicals, who the Texas senator has targeted.
Trump also carried men, white voters and those without a college degree, exit polls showed. He emphasized bringing manufacturing jobs back to the state, appealing to the blue-collar voters in areas such as Macomb County north of Detroit, home of automotive plants and parts supplies and mostly white, union-member voters. Those voters were the inspiration for the label “Reagan Democrats,” who supported Republican Ronald Reagan in the 1980s.
Tuesday’s contests are a warm-up act for even more crucial ones to be held a week later that will include primaries in Ohio and Florida, where the winner in each state will get all of the delegates. Trump victories in both states could help give him an insurmountable delegate lead and momentum.
Kasich in particular had hoped for a strong showing in Michigan because he has staked his campaign on winning his home state on March 15, and Michigan’s industrial base and working-class roots have Buckeye State similarities.
The Ohio governor is hoping a victory in Ohio with its 66 delegates, will prevent Trump from all but locking up the nomination and start a new phase of the campaign. Trump is seeking to prevail in Ohio and defeat Rubio in Florida to claim all 99 delegates there.
Trump was leading in the polls before the vote in Mississippi, after he won every southern state contested so far by large margins with the exception of Louisiana on Saturday. His other win on Saturday was in Kentucky. He lost Kansas and Maine to Cruz.
Trump’s weekend victories also were narrower than polling had indicated, leading some observers to suggest that attacks over crude language and ill-defined policies from 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney and others may be having an impact.
Besides Mississippi, Michigan and Idaho, results are pending from Hawaii. Michigan is the biggest prize of the night for Republicans, with 59 delegates at stake, followed by Mississippi with 40, Idaho with 32 and Hawaii with 19. Hawaii is a caucus state, and Cruz has done well in those types of contests.
In Idaho the Republican Party changed its contest to a primary after Romney easily won the state’s caucuses in 2012. Both Cruz and Rubio had campaigned there over the weekend.
Heading into the latest round of voting, Trump led the delegate chase with 384, followed by Cruz with 300, Rubio at 151 and Kasich with 37, according to an Associated Press tally. It takes 1,237 delegates to win the Republican nomination.
Clinton went into the night with a delegate lead of 1,134 to 499, including superdelegates, elected officials and other party leaders who can switch allegiances, according to an Associated Press tally. She was on track to win more delegates than Sanders on Tuesday, with Mississippi having 41 delegates and Michigan 147. A total of 2,383 delegates is needed to win the nomination.