- Clinton wins Arizona, Sanders claims Utah and Idaho caucuses
- Front-runners Clinton and Trump maintain their delegate leads
Donald Trump and Ted Cruz split victories in Republican presidential contests in Arizona and Utah on Tuesday, setting up a showdown in Wisconsin to determine whether the billionaire is on his way to the party nomination or the effort to stop him has momentum.
On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton won the Arizona primary and Bernie Sanders dominated the caucuses in Utah and Idaho. The outcomes allowed Clinton to maintain her overwhelming lead in delegates and to begin looking toward the general election, even as Sanders vowed “major victories in the coming contests” to slow her march to the nomination.
Trump’s victory in the Arizona primary handed him all of the state’s 58 delegates and maintained his lead. But Cruz’s dominant win in the Utah caucuses, where he was on pace to get all of the state’s 40 delegates, allowed him to keep alive his hopes for consolidating support among Republicans opposed to Trump. While Cruz has a steep hill to climb to claim the nomination outright, he may be able to keep Trump from collecting the 1,237 delegates needed before the party’s convention in Cleveland.
The next major contest for Republicans is the April 5 primary in Wisconsin. Cruz and Ohio Governor John Kasich, a non-factor in Tuesday’s contests, will try there to defeat Trump to increase the chances of a contested convention where they can compete for the nomination. The real estate mogul continues to seek broader Republican support to win outright, arguing that the party otherwise would lose the general election.
“Hopefully the Republican Party can come together and have a big WIN in November,” Trump said in a Twitter message after the results on Tuesday.
Trump won the Arizona primary with 47 percent of the vote, beating Cruz and Kasich in a race he dominated with his populist and anti-immigration messages. With 99 percent of precincts reporting, Trump was drawing almost 65,000 more votes than Cruz and Kasich combined.
Tuesday’s Republican contests were the first since Senator Marco Rubio of Florida dropped out of the presidential race, and he was still a factor in the Arizona primary because more than half of the vote was expected to come from early balloting. Rubio garnered 13 percent of the vote, beating Kasich’s 10 percent, according to Associated Press results.
Cruz’s campaign had argued that he was surging after Rubio’s exit. Nathan Sproul, a Republican consultant from Tempe who was the Florida senator’s campaign co-chairman in the state and now is backing Cruz, estimated that 90 percent of Rubio’s supporters who hadn’t already sent in ballots went to Cruz.
The big question in Utah was whether Cruz would get more than 50 percent of the vote to win all of the state’s delegates and avoid having them awarded proportionally, and he was winning with 69 percent with 88 percent of the vote counted, according to the AP. Kasich was running second and Trump third.
“It is really indicative of what we’re seeing nationwide, which is we are seeing Republicans uniting behind our campaign,” Cruz said on the Fox Business Network on Wednesday.
Cruz had suggested that Kasich could be a spoiler in Utah, and both 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney and Utah Governor Gary Herbert backed the Texas senator as a way to block Trump. Romney even recorded a telephone call saying a vote for Kasich was essentially a vote for the billionaire.
Kasich, who had the backing of Mike Leavitt, the former Utah governor and Cabinet official in George W. Bush’s administration, held campaign events in Utah and ran television ads seeking to earn delegates. He argues that the contests now shift to states friendlier to him and that no candidate will reach the required number of delegates before the convention, where he can prevail as the best candidate to win the general election.
The Ohio governor is a distant third in delegates with 143, behind Cruz with 465 and Trump with 739, according to an AP delegate tally.
Trump isn’t popular in Utah, where two-thirds of residents are Mormons and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints took the unusual step last year of responding to Trump, who proposed barring Muslims from entering the U.S., by issuing a statement supporting religious pluralism, a political science professor at Brigham Young University.
At a rally in Salt Lake City last week, Trump praised the intelligence of members of the Mormon faith before joking of Romney, "Are you sure he’s a Mormon? Are we sure?"
On the Democratic side, Clinton won Arizona with 58 percent of the vote, while Sanders carried Idaho with 78 percent and was garnering almost 80 percent in Utah with most of the vote counted there, according to AP.
Voters went to the polls on a day at least 31 people were killed in bombings in Brussels, for which Islamic State claimed responsibility. The threat of terrorism and how the U.S. should respond dominated much of the campaign discussion throughout the day. Trump, who has called for closing the U.S. border, had said he was proven more correct about terrorism than any other candidate while Cruz said police should “patrol and secure” Muslim neighborhoods.
The attack and the Republican reaction was Clinton’s focus at a rally in Seattle on Tuesday night, indicating she’s now looking past the nomination race to the November election. Without mentioning Sanders, she said the presidential election is about “fundamentally different views of our country, our values and our future.”
“In the face of terror, America doesn’t panic. We don’t build walls or turn our backs on our allies,” Clinton said. “What Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and others are suggesting is not only wrong, it is dangerous. It will not keep people safe.”
Coming off five losses last Tuesday, Sanders heavily invested his time and money in Tuesday’s three western states, particularly Arizona. Sanders held several large rallies in Phoenix, Flagstaff, and Tucson, and held a press conference on the U.S.-Mexico border.
His campaign spent $1.3 million on TV advertising in Arizona, where he aired ads in English and Spanish, according to NBC, citing data from SMG Delta. He also spent $109,000 in Idaho and $352,000 in Utah. Hillary Clinton spent just $600,000 in Arizona.
Sanders was pinning his hopes on winning in Utah and Idaho, though the two states have 64 total delegates combined compared with 85 in Arizona. Delegates in the Democratic contests are awarded proportionally. There were long lines and heavy turnout reported at caucus sites in Utah and Idaho, with some voters waiting two hours to cast ballots in Arizona, according to the AP.
“It’s all about, in this second half, chipping away at the lead that
she’s established in the first half,” Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver said in an interview.
Clinton holds a delegate lead of 1,681 to about 930 for Sanders, according to an AP estimate. That includes superdelegates, who are party leaders and lawmakers who aren’t bound to candidates by primary or caucus votes.