In the latest round of multi-state primary contests, Democrats moved closer to picking a presidential nominee, while Republicans continued to narrow the field.
Hillary Clinton secured victories in Florida, Ohio and North Carolina tonight, solidifying her grasp for the Democratic ticket. Clinton’s commanding lead in the delegate count – she has 1,488 to Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 704 – puts her in a position to become the first woman in U.S. history to win a major party nomination. 2,383 delegates are needed to clinch the nomination.
Republican Donald Trump claimed Florida from Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, but he couldn’t snatch Ohio from its governor, John Kasich. Voters continue to back Trump’s most controversial proposals, with two-thirds of those who participated in Tuesday’s GOP primaries saying they support temporarily banning Muslims from the United States.
Rubio’s shattering home-state loss ended his campaign. “After tonight, it is clear that — while we are on the right side — this year we will not be on the winning side,” he said.
The GOP field is down to Trump, Kasich and Texas Senator Ted Cruz.
Trump celebrated the night – he also won North Carolina and Illinois – at a splashy victory rally at his Mar-A-Lago mansion in Palm Beach, Florida.
He has 619, or half, of the 1,237 delegates needed to claim the GOP nomination. His loss in Ohio gave traction to Republicans who want a mainstream candidate on the ballot this fall.
Kasich took a subtle jab at Trump, who has been criticized for heated rhetoric.
“I will not take the low road to the highest office in the land,” Kasich said.
Trump has encouraged supporters to confront protesters at his events and is now facing accusations of encouraging violence after skirmishes at a rally last week in Chicago.
The atmosphere at Trump’s events has deepened the concern over his candidacy in some Republican circles. Rubio and Kasich have suggested they might not be able to support Trump if he’s the nominee.
The latest casualty in an unpredictable election cycle, Rubio was touted as a youthful and upbeat candidate who could appeal to millennial minorities.
He had strong second place finishes in New Hampshire and South Carolina. But he faltered during the last debate with N.J. Gov. Chris Christie and attacks against frontrunner Donald Trump did little to bolster his candidacy.
He continued those attacks tonight in his concession speech, underscoring Republican concerns about Trump.
Rubio urged Americans to “not give in to the fear, do not give in to the frustration.”
Trump’s closest competition – Cruz – has kept relatively close to the businessman in the delegate count. He has been urging other candidates to drop out so he can take Trump on one-on-one.
As of 10 p.m., the Democratic races in Illinois and Missouri were still too close to call.
In Florida tonight, Clinton looked to November and criticized Trump’s positions on torture and immigration. “Our commander-in-chief has to be able to defend our country, not embarrass it,” she declared.
Clinton kept up her large margins with black voters, a crucial group for Democrats in the general election. Democratic voters were more likely to describe Sanders as honest, but more likely to describe Clinton’s policies as realistic, according to exit polls.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.