Baton Rouge, Mar 6, 2016, (PTI) : Republican Ted Cruz and Democrat Bernie Sanders today clawed their way back into the hotly contested White House race by posting crucial victories in a multi-state vote, even as Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton kept their front-runner status intact by winning in delegate-rich Louisiana.
In the Democratic camp, Clinton was jolted by Vermont Senator Sanders in Kansas and Nebraska but the former secretary of state bounced back to easily win Louisiana, seen as the big prize on ‘Super Saturday’.
In the Republican camp, Texas Senator Cruz scored decisive wins in the Kansas and Maine caucuses, demonstrating his enduring appeal among conservatives as he tried to reel Trump’s significant lead in the Republican presidential race.
Trump, 69, contained Cruz’s advances by winning in delegate-rich Louisiana and Kentucky.
But the Texas Senator’s wins were sure to energise the anti-Trump forces who are desperately trying to stop Trump’s march to the nomination, and they left little doubt that Cruz, who has now captured six states, is their best hope.
However, with today’s result Trump and Clinton consolidated their lead in the race to the White House even as their rivals gave them a tough time by winning key states.
Trump registered an impressive win in Louisiana, the home State of Indian-American Bobby Jindal, and had a narrow win in Kentucky over Cruz.
“Thank you to Louisiana, and thank you to Kentucky,” Trump said in Florida after he was projected to be the winner in Kentucky, where he led Cruz by four percentage points.
68-year-old Clinton, who seems set to be the first woman presidential nominee of a major political party, had a landslide win in Louisiana. But she lost to Senator Sanders in Kansas and Nebraska.
Senator Marco Rubio performed very poorly in all the four Republican primary states following which Trump asked him to drop out of the race.
“I have been in competition all of my life. There is nothing as exciting as this,” Trump said and asked Rubio to drop out of the race following his poor performance.
“I would love to take on Ted (Cruz) one-o-one. I will win Ted one-o-one,” Trump told reporters at a news conference in Palm Beach in Florida.
“Marco has to get out of the race,” he said.
Trump also warned that the party establishment planning to have a third party run would be handing over the White House to the Democratic Party in a platter.
However, Cruz asserted that he is the only one who can defeat Trump and urged other candidates to drop out of the race.
“The scream you hear, the howl that comes from Washington D C, is utter terror at what we the people are doing together. We saw on Tuesday, the Super Tuesday results that were extraordinary. And today on Super Saturday, we seem to be seeing a continuation of that very same pattern,” Cruz told supporters at a rally in Idaho.
“What we’re seeing is conservatives coming together,” said Cruz who so far has won seven states to Trump’s twelve.
Trump exuded confidence that he would get enough delegates to earn the party’s nomination before the July convention.
Campaigning in Puerto Rico, Rubio played down his poor performance and said he would continue his run.
“Here’s the bottom line. There will be more delegates awarded in Florida than basically any other state that voted tonight combined. It’s a winner-take-all state,” he said.
“The states that voted tonight are important and we’re going to leave tonight with more delegates than we had. I’ve explained repeatedly this is a proportional process and every night that we have caucuses like there were tonight in three states, we continue to pick up delegates,” Rubio said.
With an eye on the November presidential polls, Clinton attacked Trump at an election rally.
“We have allowed our politics to be hijacked by extreme ideologues. We all know the stakes keep getting higher, and the rhetoric we’re hearing from the other side just keeps sinking lower,” she said at an election rally in Detroit.
“Instead of building walls, we’re going to be knocking down barriers and building ladders of opportunity and empowerment so every American can live up to his or her potential,” Clinton said after Sanders landed victories in both the Kansas and Nebraska caucuses.
Sanders said the win in Nebraska coupled with a double- digit victory in Kansas put him on a path toward victory.
“We’ve got the momentum, the energy and the excitement that will take us all the way to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia,” he said.
“I feel good about our campaign because the voters are sending a clear message. No matter what the pundits say, it is the voters who will decide this election,” Sanders said.
With crucial wins today, Cruz and Sanders have got momentum as they head toward the key races in Michigan on Tuesday and then winner-take-all races in the large states of Florida and Ohio on March 15.
The real estate tycoon is ahead in the all-important delegate count for Republicans, having now won 12 of the 19 states that have voted since Iowa.