WASHINGTON – Republican leaders on Sunday grappled with the prospect that the best hope for stopping Donald Trump’s march to the nomination may be Ted Cruz – the only candidate who causes as much heartburn among party elites as the billionaire businessman, if not sometimes more.
The Texas senator split contests with Trump in Saturday’s voting, bolstering his argument that only he can defeat the real estate mogul. Trump and Cruz are now significantly outpacing Marco Rubio in the delegate count, further shrinking the Florida senator’s narrow path to the nomination.
Rubio did pick up a victory Sunday in Puerto Rico’s primary, his second win of the 2016 cycle.
Rubio rejected the idea that anti-Trump Republicans should rally around Cruz, arguing that the likely scenario is a long fight that leaves the party without a presumed nominee heading into the July convention.
“To be fair, it’s hard to imagine at this moment the way things are going anybody getting to” a majority of 1,237 delegates, Rubio told the Associated Press Sunday night. “Even Trump, he’d have to win over half the remaining delegates to get there and he’s not on pace to that now. We’ll see what happens. It’s a very unusual political year.”
Democrats, meanwhile, held caucuses Sunday in Maine. Sanders won that contest, beating Hillary Clinton for his eighth win of the 19 contests already held.
In the Republican race, the wary interest in Cruz from more mainstream Republicans is the latest unexpected twist in a nominating contest where talk of a contested convention or third-party candidate is becoming commonplace.
“If Ted’s the alternative to Trump, he’s at least a Republican and conservative,” South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham said. While Graham made sure to note that it’s “not like I prefer Ted Cruz,” he encouraged Rubio and Ohio Gov. John Kasich to “decide among themselves” whether they can be a realistic alternative to Trump.
Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, said Cruz is indeed “emerging” as the chief anti-Trump candidate.
Trump has warned Republicans that they’ll lose his voters if they try to take the nomination away from him.
“We have a tremendous number of people coming in and a tremendous number of people showing up to vote,” he said Sunday.
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