Monday 18 December 2017

Trump extends his lead with three more primary victories

Donald Trump supporters make a 'T' with their fingers as they wait for him to arrive for a press conference at the Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter, Florida Photo: Getty Images
Donald Trump supporters make a 'T' with their fingers as they wait for him to arrive for a press conference at the Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter, Florida Photo: Getty Images
Trump faces primaries in Florida and four other states on March 15 Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

John Whitesides

Republican front-runner Donald Trump racked up primary wins in the big prize of Michigan as well as Mississippi and Hawaii, brushing off a week of blistering attacks from the party's establishment and expanding his lead in the White House nomination race.

But in the Democratic contest, Bernie Sanders stunned front-runner Hillary Clinton in a narrow Michigan primary upset, giving his upstart campaign new energy. Clinton won in Mississippi, but Sanders's victory is seen as likely to ensure a prolonged fight to pick a candidate for November's general election.

Mr Trump's convincing win in Michigan restored his outsider campaign's momentum and increased the pressure on the party's anti-Trump forces to find a way to stop the brash billionaire's march to the nomination ahead of several key contests next week.

The 69-year-old billionaire New Yorker built his victories in Michigan, in the heart of the industrial Midwest, and Mississippi in the Deep South with broad appeal across many demographics. He won evangelical Christians, Republicans, independents, those who wanted an outsider and those who said they were angry about how the federal government is working, according to exit polls.

Mr Trump said in several television interviews yesterday that he was drawing new voters to the Republican Party and the establishment figures who are resisting his campaign should save their money and focus on beating the Democrats in November.

"If this party came together... nobody could beat it," Mr Trump said. Asked on ABC if he was ready to wrap up the nomination, he said: "I'd like to."

The results were a setback for rival John Kasich, governor of Ohio, who had hoped to pull off a surprise win in neighbouring Michigan, and for Marco Rubio, a US senator from Florida who has become the establishment favourite but lagged badly in both Michigan and Mississippi and appeared unlikely to win delegates in either.

Speaking at a news conference in Jupiter, Florida, after Tuesday's voting, Trump said Rubio's recent attacks on him had backfired.

"Hostility works for some people; it doesn't work for everyone," the real estate magnate said.

Ted Cruz, a 45-year-old senator from Texas whose recent victories have positioned him as the prime alternative to Trump, won the party's primary in Idaho.

But Mr Trump suggested his rivals had little hope going forward.

Asked if he would consider Mr Rubio as a potential vice presidential running-mate to help coalesce his Republican support and attract Hispanic voters, Mr Trump told MSNBC "Sure," but added he was not yet ready to make that decision.

"Ted is going to have a hard time," Mr Trump said of Mr Cruz. "He rarely beats me."

Mr Trump continues to enjoy a wide lead nationally in the Republican race, although Mr Cruz has been climbing over the past week. Among those who identify as Republicans, Trump has settled in at about 40pc support, according to a five-day rolling average ending on Tuesday in a Reuters/Ipsos poll.

Mr Cruz at 23pc and Mr Kasich at 11pc have been on the rise, largely at Mr Rubio's expense.

The Michigan victory sets Mr Trump up for a potentially decisive day of voting next week. On March 15, Ohio, Florida, Illinois, Missouri and North Carolina - like Michigan, states rich in the delegates who will select their party's nominee at July's Republican National Convention - cast ballots.

The Republican contests in Florida and Ohio award all the state's delegates to the winner. If Trump could sweep those two states and pile up delegates elsewhere next week, it could knock home-state favourites Mr Rubio and Mr Kasich out of the race and make it tough for Mr Cruz to catch him.

Mr Trump said he and Republican House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan recently spoke by phone, telling MSNBC "It was a smart call," in a sign he would be willing to work with the Republican congressional leader.

In the Democratic race, Sanders told reporters in Florida that the results in Michigan were a repudiation of the opinion polls and pundits who had written off his chances in the state. Polls had shown Clinton with a double-digit lead going into the primary.

The US senator from Vermont, a democratic socialist, said the win showed his political revolution was "strong in every part of the country. Frankly, we believe our strongest areas are yet to come."

Ahead of Michigan, Ms Clinton's campaign signalled that the race could be tight. Ms Clinton, her husband, former President Bill Clinton, and daughter Chelsea Clinton all campaigned in the state over the past few days trying to garner last-minute votes.

US Housing Secretary Julian Castro, often seen as a potential running-mate for Ms Clinton, said he does not expect to be the Democratic vice presidential pick. "There's been no conversation whatsoever," Mr Castro told reporters.

Irish Independent

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