The race for the Republican presidential nomination continues after Donald Trump won a decisive victory in the key state of Florida but lost to John Kasich in Ohio.
Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton extended her lead with wins in Florida, Ohio, Illinois and North Carolina. Meanwhile Marco Rubio dropped out of the Republican race after losing in his home state of Florida to Mr Trump.
The billionaire has also won in Illinois and North Carolina. But his victories cause a headache for the Republican party because many senior members are concerned by his policies and tone. Five big states on Tuesday chose their preferred candidate for November’s presidential election.
The winners for both parties in Missouri are yet to be called with Mrs Clinton locked in tight competition with challenger Bernie Sanders and Mr Trump fighting Ted Cruz. “We have to bring our party together,” Mr Trump said in Palm Beach, Florida, as the results came in on Tuesday evening. He was hoping the votes would give him a clear path to becoming the Republican choice for the White House. However, John Kasich secured his first win in the Republican contest in the state of Ohio where he is governor.
In his victory speech, Mr Kasich said he wanted to create a “climate of opportunity” for future generations and praised the campaign of Marco Rubio. And then there were three. After Senator Marco Rubio’s crushing defeat in his home state of Florida at the hands of Donald Trump, he had little option but to end his campaign for the presidency. At the Mar-a-Lago, Mr Trump’s sumptuous gilded palace-cum-private members’ club in Palm Beach, this was cause for big celebration.
He didn’t just win. He won big. And he won in three other states too. But perhaps unusually – even uniquely – for a man who has totally dictated the media narrative since he convulsed the Republican race by entering the fray last June, the focus might just be on the state that he lost, rather than the states he won.
For John Kasich’s victory means that the battle for the Republican nomination not only goes on, it could go all the way to the convention in July. And in the Donald J Trump ballroom (what else was it going to be called?) Mr Trump gave a victory speech that sounded anything but victorious. It was low key, understated – and he had the air of a man who was weary of the punishing campaign schedule.
Two weeks ago after Super Tuesday he seemed much more confident of winning the Republican nomination than he did tonight. And tellingly, while he was magnanimous in victory by praising Marco Rubio for running a tough campaign and talking about his bright future, Governor John Kasich didn’t get a single mention. As if defeat in Ohio hadn’t happened. Maybe it was an oversight – or maybe the Teflon man has found politics suddenly getting a lot more sticky.
Earlier Mr Rubio announced he was suspending his campaign on stage in Miami. He said the US was in the middle of a “political storm”, and voters were angry and frustrated. In Florida, Mrs Clinton gave an upbeat victory speech in which she chastised Mr Trump and said “Americans were hungry for solutions”. She listed student debt, affordable childcare and inequality as issues she pledged to address.
Florida and Ohio are particularly important in the race for the Republican nomination because the winning candidate gets all of the delegates on offer – 99 in Florida and 66 in Ohio. Those delegates go to the national convention in July where the presidential nominee will be chosen. But Mr Trump’s latest victories come amid increasing condemnation of his campaign within the Republican Party, and after a string of violent incidents at his rallies.
Some senior Republicans have said they would never support him, and on Tuesday it emerged that a group of leading conservatives are planning ways of stopping Mr Trump from winning the Republican nomination – including rallying around a third-party candidate. “Please join other conservative leaders to strategize how to defeat Donald Trump for the Republican nomination,” they wrote in a letter to attendees, according to Politico.