WICHITA, Kan. (AP) – Ted Cruz claimed the first prize in Saturday’s four-state round of Republican voting, triumphing in Kansas as front-runner Donald Trump tried to pad his delegate lead in the fractious race for president. Democrats in three states were choosing between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.
Count Wichita’s Barb Berry among those who propelled the Texas senator to victory in Kansas, his fifth win of the nominating race.
“I believe that he is a true fighter for conservatives,” said Berry, a 67-year-old retired AT&T manager. As for Trump, Berry said, “he is a little too narcissistic.”
Saturday’s GOP races also included Maine, Kentucky and Louisiana, while Democrats voted in Nebraska, Kansas and Louisiana. These states were largely overshadowed by Super Tuesday contests in the rear-view mirror and critical contests soon to come. But with front-runner Trump yet to win states by the margins he’ll need in order to secure the nomination before the GOP convention, every one of the 155 GOP delegates at stake on Saturday was worth fighting for.
“Everyone’s trying to figure out how to stop Trump,” the billionaire marveled at an afternoon rally in Orlando, Florida.
Earlier, he’d warned in Wichita: “The Republicans are eating their own. They’ve got to be very careful. “We have to bring things together.”
It was anger that propelled many of Trump’s voters to the polls.
“It’s my opportunity to revolt,” said Betty Nixon, a 60-year-old Trump voter in Olathe, Kansas. She said she liked the businessman because “he’s not bought and paid for.”
Overall, Trump has prevailed in 10 of 15 contests heading into Saturday’s voting. Cruz had won Alaska, Oklahoma, Iowa and his home state of Texas. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio had one win in Minnesota.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, too, bid for Republican votes. But both had higher hopes for winner-take-all contests on March 15 in their home states.
On the Democratic side, Clinton hoped that strong support among African Americans in Louisiana would propel her to victory.
Vermonter Sanders, trailing far behind Clinton in the delegate count, had higher hopes of making progress in Nebraska and Kansas, where the Democratic electorate is less diverse.
Tara Evans, a 52-year-old quilt maker from Bellevue, Nebraska, said she was caucusing for Clinton, and happy to know that the former first lady could bring her husband back to the White House.
“We’d be getting two for the price of one,” she said. “I like Bernie, but I think Hillary had the best chance of winning.”
Heading into Saturday’s round of voting, Clinton had 1,066 delegates to Sanders’ 432, including superdelegates – members of
Congress, governors and party officials who can support the candidate of their choice. It takes 2,383 delegates to win the Democratic nomination. There were 109 at stake on Saturday.
With the GOP race in chaos, establishment figures frantically are looking for any way to stop Trump, perhaps at a contested convention if none of the candidates can roll up the 1,237 delegates needed to snag the nomination.
A Trump backer had a stern warning for those trying to block the Trump juggernaut: “If the big, fat GOP don’t like him, they don’t like me,” said 65-year-old Connie Belton, a retired homemaker from Wichita.
Kasich, lagging far behind among the Republicans, acknowledged that a sure way to grab the spotlight for his campaign would be to hurl insults at Trump. But he wasn’t biting.
“I’m with Harry Potter: I’m not going to the dark side,” he told reporters after a rally in Traverse City, Michigan, where Kasich hopes for a strong showing in Tuesday’s primary.
Rubio, for his part, has had no qualms denouncing Trump as a fraud and a “con artist.”
“It’s not enough to say, ‘Vote for me because I am angrier and over the top and am going to do and say things no one is going to do,'” he told conservatives at a conference outside Washington. At a later rally in Jacksonville, Florida, he pleaded for support from the same city “that believed in me” in his Senate race.
Trump, intent on denying Rubio a crucial Florida win, had the thousands at his Orlando rally swear to give him their ballots.
With early voting already under way in the state, Trump told them: “Do it now. Do it today. Do it tomorrow. … Remember, you all swore, you’re voting for Trump, you can’t change.”
Going into Saturday’s voting, Trump led with 329 delegates. Cruz had 231, Rubio 110 and Kasich 25. In all, 155 GOP delegates were at stake in Saturday’s races.
Ahead of a debate Sunday night in Flint, Michigan, Clinton met with about 20 African-American ministers in Detroit on Saturday and said “the future” of the Supreme Court was on the ballot in November’s general election.
Sanders had events in Ohio on Saturday as the Democrats kept close watch on those two big states and their upcoming delegate hauls.
Benac reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Bill Barrow in Jacksonville, Florida; Catherine Lucey in Detroit; Melinda Deslatte in Baton Rouge, Louisiana; John Hanna in Olathe, Kansas, and John Flesher in Traverse City, Michigan, contributed to this report.
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