US presidential hopefuls Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton and Republican Donald Trump took big steps toward securing their parties’ presidential nominations on Tuesday with a series of state-by-state victories, but their rivals vowed to keep on fighting.
On Super Tuesday, the presidential campaign’s biggest day of nominating contests, Trump, 69, and Clinton, 68, proved themselves the undisputed frontrunners.
Now they are under pressure to show they can unify voters in their respective parties and avoid a potentially disastrous split in their ranks that could hurt them in the Nov. 8 election.
US networks projected Trump won seven states, with victories stretching into the deep south and as far north as Massachusetts, adding to a sense of momentum he had built last month by winning three of the first four contests.
Clinton’s victories in seven states were just as impressive, but in many ways predictable, propelled by African-American voters in southern states such as Arkansas, where she and former US president Bill Clinton began their political careers.
Trump’s rivals, US senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, emphasized their determination to remain in the race.
Photo: AP / Aaron Lavinsky / Star Tribune
Cruz, 45, won his home state of Texas, and neighboring Oklahoma and Alaska, bolstering his argument he had the best chance to stop the brash billionaire.
Florida’s Rubio, a favorite of the Republican establishment, was projected the winner in Minnesota, his first victory.
Clinton’s rival, US Senator Bernie Sanders, also won his home state of Vermont, along with Colorado, Minnesota and Oklahoma, and vowed to pursue the battle for the nomination in the 35 states yet to vote.
He lost to Clinton in Massachusetts, a fifth state he had hoped to win.
Super Tuesday was the biggest single day of state-by-state contests to select party nominees for the Nov. 8 election to succeed Democratic US President Barack Obama.
At a news conference in a chandeliered ballroom at his seaside Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, Trump, who has never held public office, dismissed furious criticism aimed at him by establishment Republicans.
Faced with a party in turmoil over his ideas to build a wall between the US and Mexico, deport 11 million illegal immigrants and bar Muslims from entering the nation, Trump declared he had expanded the party by drawing in disaffected blue-collar Democrats who like his tough-on-trade rhetoric.
“I am a unifier,” he said. “I would love to see the Republican Party and everybody get together and unify, and when we unify, there is nobody that is going to beat us.”
The rivals of both Trump and Clinton aim to knock them off their pedestals in contests ahead in Michigan, Florida and Illinois.
Clinton, who still faces a well-funded Sanders, despite having taken control of the Democratic race, was eager to assail Trump as a way of getting Democratic voters used to the idea of her as the nominee.
“The stakes in this election have never been higher and the rhetoric we are hearing on the other side has never been lower,” Clinton told supporters in Miami. “Trying to divide America between us and them is wrong, and we are not going to let it work.”
Sanders thanked cheering supporters in his hometown of Burlington, Vermont, and assailed the Republican front-runner.
“We are not going to let the Donald Trumps of the world divide us,” Sanders said, adding that he expected to pile up “hundreds” of delegates in voting on Tuesday.
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