WASHINGTON – Donald Trump scored victory in the industrial heartland Tuesday, pairing a win in Michigan with one in Mississippi to demonstrate staying power at the top of the Republican presidential pack.
In the Democratic race, Bernie Sanders finally prevailed in a fierce struggle in Michigan, where Hillary Clinton had been favored. But Clinton progressed regardless, passing the halfway mark in the delegates needed for the nomination.
This, after Clinton breezed to a Mississippi victory and split delegates in Michigan – the night’s biggest prize – relatively closely with her opponent.
Mississippi delivered for Clinton as expected, as have other Southern states with substantial black populations. Trump beat a challenge from Ted Cruz in the state and fended off Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Cruz in Michigan before Cruz took a smaller prize in Idaho.
Republicans also held caucuses in Hawaii, with results later.
Ill trade winds
More than half of Democratic and Republican voters in Michigan, along with Republicans in Mississippi, said trade takes away jobs, according to surveys of voters after they cast ballots. In Mississippi, Democratic primary voters were more closely divided, with 4 in 10 saying it takes away jobs and nearly as many thinking it has a positive impact.
Exit polling also found Clinton in Mississippi was supported over Sanders by 9 in 10 black voters, who accounted for nearly two-thirds of Democratic primary voters in the state.
That was yet another stark example of Sanders struggling with black voters.
And Michigan, like previous races, pointed to an age divide for Democrats, with Clinton prevailing with people 45 and older and Sanders leading among those younger than 45.
Going into Tuesday’s contests, Clinton was 58 delegates short of halfway to the 2,383 delegates needed to claim the Democratic prize. Her Mississippi win and share of Michigan delegates put her over that marker.
Of more consequence is her more than 2-to-1 delegate lead over Sanders: 1,134 to 502, before Tuesday’s results.
Trump’s got a longer climb in the splintered GOP affair, but he helped himself in the first pair of races Tuesday night. He ran up his delegate total to 428, with Cruz having 315. Rubio has 151 delegates and Kasich has 52. A total of 150 Republican delegates were at stake Tuesday night.
Trump or any resurgent rival needs a total of 619 to slip past the halfway mark, and 1,237 to clinch the nomination.
Clinton’s lead in delegates is cushioned by her lopsided advantage with the party insiders known as superdelegates, who can support anyone. They can change their mind before the convention, though that is unlikely to happen short of a meltdown of the Clinton campaign.
Republicans will soon turn to a series of winner-take-all contests, and that’s where the numbers can change in a hurry. Two big states, Florida and Ohio, vote next week, and each will give all their delegates to the winner.
All GOP contests so far have been proportional, divvying up delegates among the contenders (with some extra allocation rules added to make it really complicated). All Democratic contests through the nomination race are proportional.
Cruz, the conservative firebrand, has put up the toughest fight against Trump, staying within range in the delegate hunt and aiming to become the last challenger standing against the billionaire if Rubio and Kasich can’t win their home states March 15.
With the Michigan primary, the race came to Kasich’s region and in partial results he was performing strongly against Cruz in a contest for second place, while Rubio trailed.
Rubio has been the mainstream Republican hope in recent weeks, but has only won two contests in 20: Minnesota and Puerto Rico. He’s putting his remaining hopes for a turnaround in his home state of Florida.
Michigan (59 GOP delegates, 130 Democratic delegates)
In the last Democratic debate, in Flint, Michigan, Clinton hit Sanders hard for opposing a 2009 bill that provided billions to rescue the auto industry. The Vermont senator is stressing that he opposed the provision because it was part of a large bailout package for Wall Street. He said he supported an earlier, separate bill to aid the carmakers.
Michigan fell into his column; whether that can threaten Clinton’s big advantage at this point is a question more big states will answer. The two debate again Wednesday night.
Should Trump win the GOP nomination, his path to the presidency could be through the Rust Belt. Michigan offered a window into his appeal in the industrial Midwest as he reached out for the economically disaffected and the angry with a message that has engaged Republican voters more broadly than the party and his rivals expected.
Mississippi (40 GOP delegates, 36 Democratic delegates)
Rubio didn’t campaign in the state; the other Republicans did. Neither Clinton nor Sanders made it there.
In achieving victory, Clinton again benefited from a heavy lift from black voters, exit polls found.
Trump has scored well in Southern states despite the appeal of Cruz’s conservatism and Mississippi was another notch on that belt.
Idaho (32 GOP delegates)
Rubio and Cruz made quick campaign stops over the weekend and both have received notable endorsements, as has Kasich. Billionaire Frank VanderSloot, a GOP mega-donor, backs Rubio. Rep. Raul Labrador endorsed Cruz. Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter said he’d only support a governor, so Kasich was his man. But Cruz prevailed.
Hawaii (19 GOP delegates)
None of the Republican candidates made the long trip to campaign for the small delegate prize in Hawaii’s GOP caucuses. But the Trump-centered debate raging on the mainland played out on the islands, too.
“If candidates are looking to win over the state, then I think they need to be a little bit more open to diversity and a little more centrist about their approach,” Beth Fukumoto-Chang, Republican leader in the state House, said recently.
Nathan Paikai, a minister who led Trump’s campaign efforts in Hawaii, differed with that opinion. “There’s many people out there who say, `I don’t like the way he talks,” Paikai said. “My response is, if it’s a soft tone and it’s a lie, do you believe it? What does it matter about tone?”
Associated Press writers Emily Wagster Pettus and Kevin McGill in Mississippi, Kimberlee Kruesi in Idaho, David Eggert and Jeff Karoub in Michigan, and Cathy Bussewitz in Honolulu contributed to this report.
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Updates with Cruz winning Idaho.
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