Washington (dpa) – Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton scored major wins in voting on Super Tuesday, positioning themselves as clear front-runners for their parties’ presidential nominations in November elections.
Trump recorded victories in seven Republican primaries: in the southern states of Virginia, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee and Arkansas, as well as the north-eastern state of Massachusetts and Vermont.
Republican 2016 US presidential candidate businessman Donald Trump (C) on stage at a Super Tuesday campaign event in Palm Beach, Florida, March 1, 2016. The Florida presidential primary is March 15, 2016.
While Clinton won in the southern states of Texas, Virginia, Georgia, Alabama, Massachusetts, Tennessee and Arkansas, where her husband Bill Clinton was governor before being elected president in 1992.
Trump is gathering momentum as he seeks to become the party’s candidate in November elections, but his rivals, led by Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, vowed they would soldier on in hopes of stopping the political outsider, whom they say would tear apart the party.
Trump dismissed concerns he is not conservative enough and stressed he would use his business acumen to get things done with Congress.
Even as the Republican Party’s establishment has been moving against Trump, he promised to unite and expand the party.
“I am a unifier,” Trump said in a press conference in Palm Beach, Florida. “Once we get all of this finished, I’m going to go after one person and that’s Hillary Clinton.”
Cruz won the primaries in his home state of Texas and neighbouring Oklahoma, while Rubio won a consolation prize in the north-central state of Minnesota. Ohio Governor John Kasich gave Trump a tight race in Vermont, but ultimately failed to win any states. Former neurosurgeon Ben Carson also won no states, but swore he would remain in the race.
Cruz told supporters he is the only candidate who can stop Trump from winning the GOP nomination and called for his remaining Republican rivals to coalesce behind him.
“So long as the field remains divided, Donald Trump’s path to the nomination remains more likely, and that would be a disaster for Republicans, for conservatives and for the nation,” Cruz said at a rally in Texas.
US Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton holds a campaign rally at a film studio in Miami, Florida, USA, March 1, 2016. Clinton spoke on the so-called ‘Super Tuesday,’ when the largest number of states hold their primary.
Among Democrats, Clinton was again taking firm control of a race that had been considered smooth sailing for her before Senator Bernie Sanders nearly tied with her in Iowa and defeated her by a large margin in New Hampshire.
Sanders was the victor Tuesday in his home state of Vermont as well as Oklahoma and Colorado. He vowed to win “hundreds of delegates” through the proportional system that awards delegates to the party convention where the nominee is officially named.
“Secretary Clinton and many of the establishment people think I am looking and thinking too big. I don’t think so,” the self-declared democratic socialist said, noting that his campaign is “not just about electing a president, it’s about transforming America.”
But at a rally in Florida, Clinton largely ignored Sanders and instead took aim at Trump.
“We’ve got work to do, but that work is not to make America great again,” she said, using Trump’s campaign slogan. “America never stopped being great. We have to make America whole. We have to fill in what’s been hollowed out.”
Looking ahead to the November general election, she declared: “The stakes in this election has never been higher, and the rhetoric we’re hearing on the other side has never been lower. Trying to divide America – between us and them – is wrong, and we’re not going to let it work.”
Trump was dismissive of Clinton, noting her long time on the US political stage and saying if she had not created change by now, she was not able to do so.
Rubio, who had been trying to position himself as the conservative party’s establishment alternative to Trump, continued his own attack on the early front-runner.
“Five days ago, we began to explain to the American people that Donald Trump is a con artist,” Rubio said in a rally in his home state of Florida. “We are seeing in state after state, his numbers going down and our numbers coming up.”
Rubio was the projected winner in Minnesota. He finished in second place behind Trump in Virginia and was in second place in at least two other states. He and others are accusing Trump of appealing to intolerance and failing to clearly reject bigotry.
In a few weeks when Florida holds its primary voters will “send a message loud and clear … that the party of Lincoln and Reagan – and the presidency of the United States – will never be held by a con artist,” Rubio said.