WASHINGTON – Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton’s decisive Super Tuesday victories in the contest to win their parties’ presidential nominations have left rivals with few strategies to turn around the race.
The outcome, as a quarter of American voters had their say, was a setback for the Republican establishment’s attempts to stop Trump as his outsider blitz threatens to split the party and damage its goal of winning control of both the executive and legislative branches of government in November.
Trump, the trash-talking New York billionaire, and Clinton, the former secretary of state, each won seven states in the biggest day in the primary campaign, building their leads in the delegate counts that will determine each major party’s nominee in national conventions this summer.
While Trump’s rivals promised to fight on, Republicans remained deeply divided over the preferred alternative. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio won only liberal Minnesota. Sen. Ted Cruz took his home state of Texas, neighboring Oklahoma and Alaska.
Clinton also won seven of the nearly a dozen states that weighed in Tuesday. Sen. Bernie Sanders won his home state of Vermont as well as Minnesota, Oklahoma and Colorado.
In his victory speech, Trump sent a chilling message to the Republican establishment. After he professed to have good relationships with the party elite, he warned House Speaker Paul Ryan, who declared earlier Tuesday that “this party does not prey on people’s prejudices.” Trump said that if the two don’t get along, Ryan is “going to have to pay a big price.”
Clinton, meanwhile, called for “love and kindness.”
Sanders promised to take his fight all the way to the summer nominating convention.
The next round of voting in a busy March comes Saturday, with Louisiana’s primary, Republican caucuses in Kentucky and Maine, a Democratic caucus in Nebraska and caucuses for both parties in Kansas.
Both Trump and Clinton spoke from Florida, which votes later this month and is where the general election is often won or lost.
Both Rubio and Cruz said they would continue the battle to take down Trump. Cruz had been counting on more appeal in the Southern states and among evangelical Christian voters. Rubio and the other Republicans still in the race, John Kasich and Ben Carson, struggled to convey optimism even as they vowed to fight on. Rubio and Kasich’s home states of Florida and Ohio vote on March 15
But Trump is rolling toward the 1,237 delegates needed to secure the Republican nomination.
He won at least 203 delegates Tuesday. Cruz collected at least 144 delegates and Rubio picked up at least 71. Overall, Trump leads with 285 delegates, Cruz has 161, Rubio has 87, Kasich has 25 and Carson has eight.
Increasingly, Republican leaders talk of a contested convention in July as their best remaining option for stopping Trump, whose divisive rhetoric about immigrants and ethnic and religious groups has some fearing a Republican disaster in November.
Clinton is well on her way to the 2,383 delegates needed on the Democratic side. She is assured of winning at least 457 of the 865 delegates at stake Tuesday. Sanders gains at least 286. When including superdelegates, or party leaders who can vote as they like, Clinton has at least 1,005 delegates and Sanders has at least 373.
Clinton held on to older voters and strongly prevailed among Hispanics and African-Americans, according to exit polls conducted for The Associated Press and television networks by Edison Research. Trump, a political newcomer, pulled in two-thirds of voters looking to install an outsider in the White House, while Republican voters seeking an experienced candidate were split between Rubio and Cruz, both first-term senators.
Speaking from his gold-flecked Mar-a-Lago resort, Trump asserted that his candidacy is a “movement” and he claimed he would unify the party by training his attacks on Clinton.
Clinton tried to turn Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan on its head, saying the country instead must be made “whole again.”
Trump ridiculed her comments. “She’s been there for so long,” he said. “If she hasn’t straightened it out by now, she’s not going to straighten it out in the next four years.”