Presidential primary front-runners Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton were projected to roll to convincing victories Tuesday night — with Trump projected to sweep all five states holding primaries, and Hillary Clinton projected to beat Bernie Sanders in at least three of them.
Fox News projects Clinton will win Maryland, Pennsylvania and Delaware. It’s too early to call Rhode Island and Connecticut in that contest.
But Trump will complete a sweep in all five of those states. Coming on the heels of his victory in New York state a week ago, it gives him significant momentum heading into next week’s primary in Indiana.
Based on Fox News exit polls, Trump is on track to win over 50 percent of the vote in at least three of those states, a feat he has only achieved once before, in New York. Ohio Gov. John Kasich also is projected to finish second in Connecticut, leaving Texas Sen. Ted Cruz to finish third.
Overall, Democrats were competing for 384 delegates in Tuesday’s contests, while Republicans had 118 up for grabs (not counting 54 unbound delegates in Pennsylvania).
Exit polls released earlier showed Trump in a tight race with Kasich for late-deciders in Tuesday’s contests – but they weren’t enough to change the dynamics of the race in Kasich’s favor. On the Democratic side, early exit polls showed Clinton doing well among seniors and black voters, while Sanders was doing well among young people and independents.
Primary front-runners Clinton and Trump both were looking to Tuesday’s contests to bring them closer to clinching the respective nominations, or at least dispiriting the remaining competition.
According to aides, Trump was expected to pivot in his victory speech remarks to take on Clinton more directly, previewing what he sees as the general election battle.
But an energized Cruz held out hope that he and Kasich can still hold Trump back from the nomination. Speaking to supporters in Indiana, which votes next week, Cruz claimed the campaign was moving “to more favorable terrain” while calling Trump the media’s “chosen” candidate.
“Donald and Hillary, they are flip-sides of the same coin,” Cruz said.
Clinton, for her part, is looking to further isolate Sanders as the Vermont senator struggles to translate his enthusiastic base of support into actual delegates. And Trump likewise is looking to dramatically extend his delegate lead.
It won’t be enough for either to clinch the nomination, but a strong performance for the front-runners would further complicate the path to victory for the rest of the field — especially Sanders.
On the Republican side, though, Cruz and Kasich sought Tuesday to defend their newly announced bid to work together toward denying Trump the 1,237 delegates needed to clinch the nomination before the July convention. Kasich agreed to stand aside in Indiana to help Cruz, while Cruz agreed to stand aside in Oregon and New Mexico to help Kasich.
On Fox News’ “Hannity,” Trump accused the two of “collusion,” saying: “In business, you go to jail for that.”
But in a radio interview Tuesday morning with an Indianapolis station, Cruz countered what they’re doing is “actually coalition-building.”
Still, Kasich appeared Monday to undercut their arrangement by urging voters in Indiana to support him anyway.
And the campaign stumbled on a procedural issue in Oregon, complicating the pair’s efforts in that state. The Kasich campaign missed the March deadline to submit information for a voter pamphlet the state distributes ahead of the May primary. This year, the pamphlet includes Kasich’s name followed by an asterisk indicating he didn’t submit any information. Cruz and Trump, meanwhile, each get a full column explaining their positions and personal histories.
Kasich spokesman Chris Schrimpf stressed that Kasich nevertheless is on the ballot in Oregon.
Whether Cruz and Kasich can prevent Trump from clinching the nomination remains to be seen.
Despite Trump’s solid victory in Pennsylvania, the state’s unique ballot could make it hard for any candidate to secure a big majority. While the statewide Republican winner – Trump — gets 17 delegates, the other 54 are directly elected by voters and can support any candidate at a convention. Their names are listed on the ballot with no information about which hopeful they support.
Clinton is on solid footing in the Democratic race and entered Tuesday’s contests having accumulated 82 percent of the delegates needed to win her party’s nomination. Including superdelegates, Clinton now leads Sanders 1,946 to 1,192. On the GOP side, Trump has 845 delegates, followed by Cruz at 559 and Kasich at 148.
Cruz’s best chances to undercut Trump might be in Indiana, which votes next week, and California, which votes in June.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., cast doubt Tuesday on whether a Cruz-Kasich alliance would do much good in his home state. Asked about their partnership, McCarthy told reporters he’s “not convinced” it will help in California.