Presidential primary front-runners Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton were projected to roll to convincing victories Tuesday night, with Trump projected to win Maryland, Pennsylvania and Connecticut – and Clinton projected to beat Bernie Sanders in Maryland on the Democratic side.
Based on Fox News exit polls, Trump is on track to win over 50 percent of the vote in those three states, a feat he has only achieved once before, in New York.
Meanwhile, Clinton is leading Sanders in Pennsylvania, though it is too early to project a winner in that state or in Connecticut.
Delaware and Rhode Island also held primaries Tuesday, but there are no exit polls in those states.
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 Ohio Gov. John 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.
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 eyeing a potential primary sweep across the Northeast, 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, Texas Sen. 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.