Donald Trump thanks delegates after securing Republican nomination target
Published 26/05/2016 | 15:26
Donald Trump has thanked North Dakota for putting him "over the top" after the billionaire businessman secured enough delegates to clinch the Republican nomination for president.
Mr Trump also made fun of Democratic front-runner and his likely rival in the race for the White House, Hillary Clinton, for not being able to "close the deal".
The Associated Press confirmed that Mr Trump hit the 1,237 delegate majority on Thursday morning after a nationwide survey of unbound delegates. He has reached 1,238.
With 303 delegates at stake on June 7, Mr Trump will easily pad out his total, avoiding a contested convention this summer.
The New York billionaire addressed reporters on Thursday afternoon before a speech in Bismarck, North Dakota.
He said he has "tremendous support from almost everybody", adding: "Here I am watching Hillary fight and she can't close the deal."
Mr Trump's triumph completes an unlikely rise that has upended the political landscape and sets the stage for a bitter campaign in the autumn.
Mr Trump was able to reach his target thanks to a small number of the party's unbound delegates who told the AP on Thursday they will support him at the convention.
Many on the right have been slow to warm to Mr Trump, unsure of his conservative credentials. Others worry about his crass personality and the lewd comments he has made about women.
But millions of grass-roots activists, many of them outsiders to the political process, have embraced Mr Trump as a plain-speaking populist who is not afraid to offend.
Steve House, chairman of the Colorado Republican Party and an unbound delegate who confirmed his support of Mr Trump, said he likes the billionaire's background as a businessman.
"Leadership is leadership," Mr House said. "If he can surround himself with the political talent, I think he will be fine."
Mr Trump's pivotal moment comes amid a new sign of internal problems.
Hours before clinching the nomination, he announced the abrupt departure of political director Rick Wiley, who was in the midst of leading the campaign's push to hire staff in key battleground states.
In a statement, Mr Trump's campaign said Mr Wiley had been hired only on a short-term basis until the candidate's organisation "was running full steam".
Some delegates who confirmed their decisions to back Mr Trump gave a lukewarm response, saying they are supporting him out of a sense of obligation because he won their state's primary.
Cameron Linton of Pittsburgh said he will back Mr Trump on the first ballot since he won the presidential primary vote in Mr Linton's congressional district.
"If there's a second ballot I won't vote for Donald Trump," Mr Linton said. "He's ridiculous. There's no other way to say it."
Meanwhile, Mrs Clinton has won the Democratic presidential primary in Kentucky after her rival Bernie Sanders said his campaign accepts the state's results.
A review of election results brought no change in the outcome of Kentucky's May 17 primary.
Both candidates earned 27 delegates. But one delegate in the 6th Congressional District has not been awarded yet. Mrs Clinton leads Mr Sanders by about 500 votes in that district.
"We are very pleased that we split," Mr Sanders said.
The Vermont senator sent a letter requesting a re-canvassing of the results on Tuesday. He could have asked a judge to order a recount, but he would have to pay for it himself.
Mrs Clinton leads Mr Sanders by a margin of 271 pledged delegates. But Mr Sanders has vowed to stay in the race.