PHILADELPHIA (AP) — In a front-runner’s rout, Republican Donald Trump roared to victory Tuesday in five contests across the Northeast and confidently declared himself the GOP’s “presumptive nominee.” Hillary Clinton was dominant in four Democratic races and now is 90 percent of the way to the number needed to claim her own nomination.
Trump’s and Clinton’s wins propelled them ever closer to a general election showdown. Still, Sanders and Republicans Ted Cruz and John Kasich, vowed to keep running, even as opportunities to topple the leaders dwindle.
Trump still must negotiate a narrow path to keep from falling short of the delegates needed to claim the nomination before the Republican National Convention in July. Cruz and Kasich are working toward that result, which would leave Trump open to a floor fight in which delegates could turn to someone else.
With Clinton’s four victories — she ceded only Connecticut to Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders — she now has 90 percent of the delegates she needs to become the first woman nominated by a major party. Clinton kept her focus firmly on the general election as she spoke to supporters Tuesday night, urging Sanders’ loyal supporters to help her unify the Democratic Party and reaching out to GOP voters who may be unhappy with their party’s options.
“If you are a Democrat, an independent or a thoughtful Republican, you know that their approach is not going to build an America where we increase opportunity or decrease inequality,” Clinton said of the GOP candidates. She spoke in Philadelphia, where Democrats will gather in July for their nominating convention.
Sanders, in an interview with The Associated Press, conceded that he has a “very narrow path and we’re going to have to win some big victories.”
Trump’s victories in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Delaware and Rhode Island padded his delegate totals, yet the Republican contest remains chaotic. 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. 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.
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.
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.