Republicans make final bid to derail Donald Trump's campaign
Published 15/03/2016 | 02:30
Donald Trump could face charges for inciting a riot over violence at a recent campaign event, officials in North Carolina announced last night.
The news comes as moderate Republicans launched a last-ditch attempt to derail the controversial front-runner as he looks set to take a giant leap toward the party's presidential nomination in the Mega Tuesday primaries.
Voters in Ohio, Florida, Illinois, Missouri and North Carolina are due today to make their decision in a make-or-break round of elections, with Mr Trump holding clear leads in four of those states.
Ohio emerged as potentially the key battleground and the businessman remained tied in polls with John Kasich, the popular local governor.
An anti-Trump group launched a last-minute $1m advertising blitz in Ohio accusing the billionaire of outsourcing manufacturing jobs to China.
Mr Trump cancelled an appearance last night in Florida and instead scheduled a last-minute rally at an airport in Youngstown, Ohio, seeking to make a final push.
Mr Trump continued to deny his inflammatory rhetoric against immigrants, Muslims, and Hispanics had contributed to violence at his recent rallies. He said: "There is no violence, These are love-fests. There's very little disruption really."
Officials in the city of Fayetteville, North Carolina, apparently disagree.
A white Trump supporter punched a black protester last Wednesday at a chaotic rally there, and local police are now weighing whether to charge Mr Trump for inciting a riot.
In Florida, the home state senator Marco Rubio was trailing Mr Trump by up to 20 percentage points but vowed he would "shock the country" with an upset. Mr Rubio made a final plea to voters, saying: "We have to win here in Florida. I'm asking you to believe in me now."
Today, a quarter of the 1,237 delegates needed to secure the Republican nomination are at stake. Going into the showdown, Mr Trump already had 460 delegates, Texas Senator Ted Cruz had 370, Mr Rubio, 163, and Mr Kasich 63.
In the Republican race, states that have voted so far awarded delegates proportionally based on the popular vote. But in Florida and Ohio, all the delegates will be awarded to the winner, making them key to victory. Florida awards 99 delegates and Ohio 66.
For months Mr Kasich (63), had refrained from engaging in the vicious sniping that has characterised the race.
But on the eve of the vote he turned on Mr Trump, saying: "Do we go to the dark side, with negativity, the gnashing of teeth, or do we go to the hopeful and the light side?"
Mr Trump responded by calling Mr Kasich a "baby".
Mr Cruz said a Trump nomination guaranteed four more years of Democrat control of the White House. "We elect Hillary Clinton and we destroy the country if Trump is the nominee," he said yesterday.
Among the Democrats, Clinton carries an edge of more than 200 pledged delegates into today's contests and could effectively block rival Bernie Sanders' path to victory with a sweep of the large states.
While the delegates will be awarded proportionately, Clinton's support with super-delegates - elected officials and party leaders free to back whomever they'd like - puts her in a strong position to win.
According to one analysis, Clinton holds 1,231 delegates, more than half the amount needed to clinch the nomination. Sanders has 576.
But Sanders pulled an upset last week in Michigan, where polls had shown Clinton leading by as many as 20 points. (© Daily Telegraph, London)