Donald Trump rolled up victories in five more states Tuesday, giving the Republican front-runner fresh momentum in his push for the presidential nomination even if his pathway has little room for error.
The New York billionaire scored wins in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Connecticut, Delaware and Rhode Island. The five states held GOP primary contests Tuesday. He performed well across nearly all age groups and education levels.
At a rally late last night at the Trump Tower in Manhattan, Trump came down hard on his remaining Republican rivals, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich as well as Democrat Hillary Clinton, his likely opponent in November if he captures the GOP nomination.
With New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, standing behind him, Trump said last night’s victories sealed the fate of Cruz and Kasich.
“We have millions more votes than Cruz. We have millions more votes than Kasich,” Trump said to cheers. “This is one decisive victory. . . . As far as I’m concerned, it’s over.”
Trump then trained his sites on Clinton, who less than an hour before criticized him several times for his stances on immigration, foreign policy and abortion rights.
He framed Clinton as a candidate prepared to use her gender as her only Election Day calling card who “wouldn’t get five percent of the vote if she was a man.”
In fact, Trump said, the bruising battle over the past year with well over a dozen rival Republicans vying with him for the Republican nomination, will eventually be proven to have been far more difficult than a fall presidential campaign against Clinton.
“I will beat Hillary easily,” Trump told his supporters. “When I’m one on one with Hillary she’ll be easier to take down.”
He called Clinton a “flawed” candidate who lacks the strength and stamina to be president.
Trump called on Cruz and Kasich to drop out of the race, saying “they have no path to victory” as both trail him in the number of delegates needed to win the GOP nomination.
Trump said he considered himself the “presumptive” Republican nominee following last night’s victories.
“In my mind it’s over,” he said.
Trump’s victories were overwhelming, winning his closest race by just about 30 points.
The businessman is the only candidate left in the three-person race who could possibly clinch the nomination through the regular voting process, yet he could still fall short of the 1,237 delegates he needs.
Cruz and Kasich are desperately trying to keep Trump from that magic number and push the race to a convention fight. The Texas senator and Ohio governor even took the rare step of announcing plans to coordinate in upcoming contests to try to minimize Trump’s delegate totals.
That effort did little to stop Trump from a big showing in the Northeast, where he picked up at least 105 of the 118 delegates up for grabs.
Trump has railed against his rivals’ coordination, panning it as a “faulty deal” and has also cast efforts to push the nomination fight to the convention as evidence of a rigged process that favors political insiders.
He used his speech Tuesday night to chide his rivals for their efforts against him.
“Its called collusion,” Trump said as supporters cheered. “In business, people who collude go to jail.”
Cruz spent Tuesday in Indiana, which votes next week. Indiana is one of Cruz’s last best chances to slow Trump, and Kasich’s campaign is pulling out of the state to give him a better opportunity to do so.
“Tonight this campaign moves back to more favorable terrain,” Cruz said during an evening rally in Knightstown, Indiana.
His event was held at the “Hoosier gym,” where some scenes were filmed for the 1986 movie, “Hoosiers,” about a small town Indiana basketball team that wins the state championship.
Yet, even with Cruz using Heart-of-America small-town basketball as a campaign backdrop, Trump was 700 miles east talking up the presidential endorsement tossed his way, by legendary former Indiana University basketball coach Bob Knight.
Despite his solid win in Pennsylvania, the state’s primary system means 54 of the delegates elected by voters will be free agents at the GOP convention, able to vote for the candidate of their choice.
Yet there’s no doubt the GOP is deeply divided by his candidacy. In Pennsylvania, exit polls showed nearly 4 in 10 GOP voters said they would be excited by Trump becoming president, but the prospect of the real estate mogul in the White House scared a quarter of those who cast ballots in the state’s Republican primary.
In another potential general election warning sign for Republicans, 6 in 10 GOP voters in Pennsylvania said the Republican campaign has divided the party — a sharp contrast to the 7 in 10 Democratic voters in the state who said the race between Clinton and Sanders has energized their party.
With Laura Figueroa