Donald Trump rolled up victories in five more states, amassing a north-eastern sweep that gives the Republican front-runner important momentum in his push for the presidential nomination even if his pathway has little room for error.
The New York billionaire scored wins in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Connecticut, Delaware, and Rhode Island — all five states that held Republican primary contests on Tuesday.
It was a dominant performance fuelled by support from nearly all ages and education levels.
In a victory speech at Trump Tower, Trump likened the victories to a boxing ring knockout and suggested it was time for his Republican rivals to drop out.
“I consider myself the presumptive nominee,” he declared as he pivoted toward a potential general election match-up against Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton.
“She’s going to be easy to beat,” Trump said, suggesting Clinton’s political appeal is based on “the woman card”.
“If Hillary Clinton were a man, I don’t think she’d get 5% of the vote,” Trump said.
Anticipating a big night for Trump, chief rival Ted Cruz retreated to next-up Indiana days ago. The Texas senator and Ohio governor John Kasich are fighting to deny Trump the delegate majority and force a contested national convention.
“I got good news for you,” Cruz told cheering supporters at an Indianapolis rally.
“Tonight this campaign moves back to more favourable terrain.”
Tuesday’s outcome marked a setback for the Republican’s vocal anti-Trump movement, which is sceptical about his commitment to conservative values and electability in the general election.
Overall, exit polls found that a large majority of Republican voters in Connecticut, Maryland, and Pennsylvania want the candidate with the most votes in the primaries to prevail at the party convention in Cleveland — and most of them supported Trump. He won across nearly all demographic groups in the three states.
About 6 in 10 Republican voters in Pennsylvania also say the GOP campaign this year has divided the party. While 7 in 10 Democrats in the state say they’ve been energised by the campaign, only 4 in 10 Republican voters say the same.
Trump remains the only Republican who has a chance to reach the 1,237-delegate majority needed to clinch the nomination before the convention. But any major setbacks in the contests ahead could lead him to fall sort of that magic number.
Adding a wrinkle to Trump’s efforts, Cruz and Kasich announced a tentative alliance aimed at undermining him. Under the deal, Kasich will forgo campaigning in Indiana, while Cruz will do the same for Kasich in Oregon and New Mexico.
With Tuesday’s sweep, Trump remains on his narrow path to win the Republican nomination by the end of the primaries on June 7.
He claimed at least 105 of the 118 delegates up for grabs Tuesday. With 950 delegates overall, Trump is more than three-quarters of the way toward the delegate majority, compared with Cruz’s 560 and Kasich’s 153.
In Pennsylvania, Trump collected 17 delegates for winning the state. An additional 54 delegates are elected directly by voters — three in each congressional district. However, their names are listed on the ballot with no information about which presidential candidate they support.
Pennsylvania voter Laura Seyler described herself as “a very solid Cruz fan,” but favoured Trump because he’s “a bigger bully”.
“That may sound strange, but I think that’s kind of what we need,” Seyler, 63, a senior buyer for a direct marketer, said Tuesday at a polling place in Hamburg, Pennsylvania.
Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton was dominant in four Democratic races, losing just Rhode Island to her rival Bernie Sanders.
With Clinton’s four victories, she now has 88% of the delegates she needs to become the first woman nominated by a major party.
Clinton urged Sanders’s supporters to help her unify the Democratic Party and reached out to Republican voters who may be unhappy with their party’s options.
Speaking in Philadelphia, where the Democrats will gather in July for their nominating convention, she said of the Republican candidates: “If you are a Democrat, an independent or a thoughtful Republican, you know that their approach is not going to build an America where we increase opportunity or decrease inequality.”
Sanders conceded that he has a “very narrow path” if he wants to become the Democratic nomination adding: “We’re going to have to win some big victories.”
Sanders has vowed to stay in the race until voting ends in June.
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