2016 US Elections: Super Tuesday Republican primaries: Trump appears to be consolidating lead

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March 1, 2016

HOUSTON — Billionaire Donald Trump appears poised to take full control of the Republican presidential race Tuesday evening as results come in from GOP contests in 11 “Super Tuesday” states stretching from New England to the Deep South to Alaska.

March 1, 2016

HOUSTON — Billionaire Donald Trump appears poised to take full control of the Republican presidential race Tuesday evening as results come in from GOP contests in 11 “Super Tuesday” states stretching from New England to the Deep South to Alaska.

Recent surveys showed Trump leading in nearly all of the states. The biggest exception was Texas — the state with the most delegates at stake, and the home turf of another Republican candidate, Sen. Ted Cruz.

In the Democratic race, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton seemed poised to dominate in many of the Super Tuesday states — including in the South, where she has relied on strong support from black voters. For her rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders, at least one victory seemed guaranteed: He was the overwhelming favorite in his home state of Vermont.

The first polls of the night will close at 7 p.m. Eastern time in Georgia, Vermont and Virginia.

Each party has a slightly different slate of contests Tuesday: In Colorado, Democrats are caucusing, but Republicans are not. In Alaska, Republicans are voting, but not Democrats.

In the other 10 states, both parties’ voters are choosing. It was unlikely that Super Tuesday would end either party’s race — but it could seriously reshape it, if Trump and Clinton are able to build huge new leads in the count of delegates to the parties’ conventions. That could make it harder for their rivals to convince donors, or voters, that they have a path to victory.

A man wears an "I voted" sticker after voting at the Mt. Zion Methodist church in Oak Park, Virginia in Madison county on March 1, 2016, during the Super Tuesday primary voting.

Americans began voting in the crucial Super Tuesday primaries and caucuses in what is deemed the most critical day in the presidential nominating process.

Faced with a massive day of voting across nearly a dozen states, candidates made their pitches to Americans on air and in photo ops at polling spots in areas poised to support them.

Many voters — including in Virginia, where voting began at 6 a.m. — were noticeably unenthusiastic about their choices on the presidential primary ballot, even as they felt obligated to turn out.

In Arlington, Va., one defense contractor, Nick Bryant, said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) is the only one on the GOP ballot looking for the middle ground.

“Out of the options, he’s the better one, but I wish he had more experience,” said Bryant, 54. “If both parties dig in their heels and stick to their guns, how do we govern? I really like Kasich, I like his calm and even tone, his demeanor. But you have to get ratings now, and he hasn’t.”

In suburban Richmond, where a tea party unknown named Dave Brat unseated then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in a primary two years ago, some voters were still in a throw-the-bums-out mood.

“The establishment had its turn and didn’t get the job done,” said Ben Alred, a 52-year-old middle school history teacher who cast his ballot for Trump at Maybeury Elementary School in Henrico County.

“My feeling is, we need someone who can make definitive decisions and has no ties to the infrastructure in Washington,” he said. “He’s definitely someone who’s not aligned with any party too deeply.”

Elsewhere in the country, voters confronted each other, an extension of the name-calling that has taken place among several of the candidates themselves.

At a polling place in Houston where Cruz cast his vote Tuesday, Francisco Valle, 74, held a sign depicting Trump with a Hitler-style mustache and his right hand raised; it read, “absolutely no Mexicans.” Valle also hung a sign with the letter T and word “Trump” in the shape of a swastika with “STOP” written beneath.

“I am here because I want to make awareness of a movement that is very dangerous to all the minorities, because Hitler started the same way,” said Valle, who is Mexican American. “He blamed the Jews for all the problems, and now Trump is blaming the Mexicans for the problems.”

At one point — before Cruz arrived — another voter, William Bruso, interrupted Valle when he answered questions for members of the Spanish-language media.

“Since most of us here speak English, can you repeat what you just said in English for everyone to understand, sir?” said Bruso, who was wearing a Cruz sticker and said he was half-Hispanic. “This is America, you know.”

And in some states, Democrats decided to vote for Rubio as a way of embarrassing Trump.

Tom Paquin, a resident of Cambridge, Mass., said in an email that his decision to back the Florida senator “might be the only Republican vote in this part of town.”

“Given Trump’s support in my state among the Neanderthals in western Massachusetts, I doubt it’ll make much of a difference,” Paquin added. “But I’m hopeful enough common-sense conservatives will rally behind the establishment choice, as vague a choice as it is with such a diluted field.”

Meanwhile, a handful of candidates gave interviews with morning anchors in an effort to sway undecided voters. In a telephone interview with the Fox News Channel, Trump called on Rubio to drop out of the race.

Calling him “Little Marco Rubio” — a phrase he has taken up, along with “Lying Ted Cruz” — he said of the Florida senator: “I think he has to get out. You know, he hasn’t won anything, and Ted Cruz very rightly points out, you know, Marco has not won.”

In a separate phone interview,George Stephanopoulos of ABC’s “Good Morning America” asked the GOP front-runner whether he categorically rejects the support of all white supremacists, a controversy that erupted over the weekend when Trump did not immediately disavow former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke during a CNN interview.

“Of course I am. Of course I am,” he responded. “I mean, there’s nobody that has done so much for equality as I have. You take a look at Palm Beach, Florida, I built the Mar-a-Lago Club, totally open to everybody. A club that, frankly, set a new standard — a new standard in clubs and a new standard in Palm Beach — and I’ve got great credit for it. That is totally open to everybody.”

Trump also suggested that he is expanding the GOP’s base of support by appealing to Democrats and independents, even though some say he is alienating some traditional Republican backers.

“We have tremendous numbers of people coming in, and the Republican Party is growing larger,” he said. If it fails to do that, he added, “it’s not going to win.”

While voting results could give Trump a critical boost over his closest rivals, a well-funded super PAC is ramping up its effort to discredit the New York businessman with a new television advertisement that portrays him as a predatory huckster who scammed working- and middle-class Americans.

The 60-second ad, which will begin airing Wednesday on stations across the country at a cost of more than $1 million, centers on Trump University, the billionaire mogul’s for-profit enterprise that promised to teach students the tricks of the real estate trade and is now defunct and the subject of a fraud suit.

The attack echoes themes that Rubio, who is trying to unite the GOP’s anti-Trump forces under his own banner, has advanced as he has addressed swelling crowds in suburban areas.

Cruz, who has been partly overshadowed by Rubio in recent days, arrived with his wife and two daughters at a polling place at a Houston community center Tuesday morning. Speaking to reporters before voting, he told reporters that the overall delegate count Wednesday will send a clear signal as to who can halt the billionaire’s rise.

“Tomorrow morning, what is likely to happen is Donald Trump is likely to have a whole bunch of delegates. We’re likely to have a whole bunch of delegates, and I think there will be a big, big dropoff for the rest of the field,” he said. “I believe it would be an enormous mistake to nominate Donald Trump, so I speak to unity for Republicans.”

But if the polls and roaring crowds that greeted Trump in Virginia and Georgia on Monday were any indication, he is steamrolling toward a triumphant showing Tuesday. Republican primaries or caucuses will take place in 11 states — seven across the South, as well as in Alaska, Minnesota, Massachusetts and Vermont — and the only one Trump is not expected to win is Texas, where Cruz appears to be the favorite.

Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, who remains a long shot for the GOP nomination, said Tuesday on Fox News Channel’s “Fox and Friends” that he plans to remain in the race, because his supporters are expressing their beliefs through his candidacy.

“And I think they have a right to be heard,” he said. “At some point, the people will wake up. The question is, when will that happen?”


Courtesy: Washington Post