Clinton, Trump widen gap over presidential rivals in latest US primaries; Rubio drops out

WASHINGTON, March 16 (KUNA) — Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were the big US presidential primary winners on Tuesday on a pivotal day that saw Florida Senator Marco Rubio drop out after losing his home-state Republican contest to Trump.
Former Secretary of State Clinton won the Democratic primaries in Florida, Illinois, North Carolina and Ohio, while her democratic socialist challenger, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, was slightly ahead of Clinton in Missouri with 99 percent of the votes in. But early on Wednesday, Missouri was too close to call.
New York billionaire Trump won the Republican primaries in Florida, North Carolina and Illinois, but lost Ohio to that state’s governor, John Kasich.
Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who runs second to Trump in Republican delegates, was running neck and neck with Trump in Missouri with 99 percent of the votes counted. As with the Democrats, Missouri was too close to call by early on Wednesday, although Trump had a razor-thin lead.
Clinton, the former senator from New York and former first lady, headed into Tuesday’s contests with a lead over Sanders of more than 200 pledged Democratic delegates. She was expected to be ahead by more than 300 delegates by the time all the votes were counted from Tuesday.
“Boy I will tell you, this is another Super Tuesday for our campaign!” Clinton exclaimed at a primary night party in West Palm Beach, Florida. “We are moving closer to securing the Democratic party nomination and winning this election in November.” Clinton aimed her fire on Tuesday night at Trump, not Sanders.
“Our commander-in-chief has to be able to defend our country, not embarrass it. Engage our allies, not alienate them. Defeat our adversaries, not embolden them,” she said.
“When we hear a candidate for President call for rounding up 12 million immigrants, banning all Muslims from entering the United States — when he embraces torture, that does not make him strong, it makes him wrong,” Clinton said.
Trump told supporters in Palm Beach, Florida, on Tuesday night, “We are going to go forward, and we are going to win. But more importantly, we are going to win for the country.” With his victory in Ohio, Kasich vowed to stay in the Republican race, and Cruz showed no signs of slowing his drive to stop Trump.
Kasich’s strategy is to prevent Trump from securing the 1,237 delegates needed to clinch the Republican Party nomination at its convention in July in Cleveland, Ohio, leading to a brokered convention that denies Trump the nomination.
Kasich, who has refused to engage in insulting campaign tactics, said he would continue campaigning that way. “I will not take the low road to the highest office in the land,” he said. “We are going to go all the way to Cleveland and secure the Republican nomination.” At a late-night rally in Houston, Texas, Cruz said he is the only possible avenue to stop Trump. “Nobody else has any mathematical possibility whatsoever,” Cruz said. “Only one campaign has beaten Donald Trump over and over and over again.” The rest of this month’s Democratic contests are mostly in smaller states with fewer delegates, so Sanders faces difficult odds of stopping Clinton from claiming the Democratic presidential nomination in July at the convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Half the states have now voted, and more than half the delegates have been pledged.
The next four weeks feature six Western states with caucuses, a format that tends to favor Sanders, and two primaries that appear within reach for the senator — Arizona next Tuesday and Wisconsin on April 5.
Rubio, the 44-year-old Cuban-American once viewed by the Republican establishment as the best candidate to take on Democrat Clinton in the fall campaign, made his withdrawal speech in Miami on Tuesday night. He appeared to predict defeat for Republicans in November.
“We live in a republic, and our voters make these decisions,” Rubio said as his supporters booed Trump’s victory in Florida, a winner-take-all state that awarded Trump 99 delegates.
“America is in the middle of a real political storm, a real tsunami, and we should have seen this coming,” Rubio said. “While we (Republicans) are on the right side, this year, we will not be on the winning side”. (end) rm.hb