The GOP’s runner-up candidate for the presidency, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), won Republican caucuses Saturday night in Kansas and Maine to slow down the frontrunning Donald Trump, who took narrow victories in the Kentucky and Louisiana primaries, while Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) won Democratic contests in Kansas and Nebraska, with his leading rival, Hillary Clinton, taking Louisiana.
Even though the two leading Republican candidates split four states, Cruz won his contests more handily, doubling Trump’s votes in Kansas and winning by double digits in Maine, while Trump eked out narrow victories in Kentucky and Louisiana by less than 5 percent in each. Former Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Gov. John Kasich both had disappointing nights, falling behind the two leaders in each state, while former neurosurgeon Ben Carson bowed out of the competition before the contests began.
Cruz had the best overall night of the four Republicans, as he came in first place, winning 40 percent of the votes from the 2,659 attendees who participated in the presidential straw poll at the Conservative Political Action Conference Saturday night. Rubio came in second with 30 percent, Trump landed in third with only 15 percent, and Kasich registered last with a mere 8 percent.
So far, Trump has amassed 378 delegates, compared to Cruz’s 295, with 1,237 needed to win the nomination at the Republican National Convention in July. Rubio is far behind with 123 delegates and Kasich just has 33.
The four GOP candidates are taking their Saturday night wins and losses into Tuesday’s contests, where Republicans in Michigan, Mississippi, Hawaii and Idaho will vote for who they want to see on the November 8 ballot.
Results from Saturday’s Republican caucuses and primaries
Kansas (100 percent of precincts)
- Ted Cruz─ 35,207 votes, 48.2 percent
- Donald Trump─ 17,062 votes, 23.3 percent
- Marco Rubio─ 12,189 votes, 16.7 percent
- John Kasich─ 7,791 votes, 10.7 percent
Kentucky (100 percent of precincts)
- Donald Trump─ 82,493 votes, 35.9 percent
- Ted Cruz─ 72,503 votes, 31.6 percent
- Marco Rubio─ 37,579 votes, 16.4 percent
- John Kasich─ 33,134 votes, 14.4 percent
Louisiana (100 percent of precincts)
- Donald Trump─ 124,792 votes, 41.4 percent
- Ted Cruz─ 113,923 votes, 37.8 percent
- Marco Rubio─ 33,773 votes, 11.2 percent
- John Kasich─ 19,342 votes, 6.4 percent
Maine (100 percent of precincts)
- Ted Cruz─ 8,550 votes, 45.9 percent
- Donald Trump─ 6,070 votes, 32.6 percent
- John Kasich─ 2,207 votes, 12.2 percent
- Marco Rubio─ 1,492votes, 8.0 percent
Results from Saturday’s Democratic contests
Kansas (100 percent of precincts)
- Bernie Sanders─ 26,450 votes, 67.7 percent
- Hillary Clinton─ 12,593 votes, 32.3 percent
Louisiana (100 percent of precincts)
- Hillary Clinton─ 221,527 votes, 71.1 percent
- Bernie Sanders─ 72,194 votes, 23.2 percent
Nebraska (98.7 percent of precincts)
- Bernie Sanders─ 18,940 votes, 57.1 percent
- Hillary Clinton─ 14,234 votes, 42.9 percent
Taking some wind out of Trump’s sails?
After decisively taking Kansas by doubling up Trump’s numbers, Cruz spoke to his campaign backers in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, to rally their charge for Tuesday’s contest in the state.
"The scream you hear, the howl that comes from Washington, D.C., is utter terror at what 'We the People' are doing together," Cruz said at the Northwest rally, according to Newsmax. "What we're seeing is the public coming together, libertarians coming together, men and women who love the Constitution coming together and uniting and standing as one behind this campaign."
Cruz described his blowout victory in Kansas a “manifestation of a real shift in momentum” against Trump.
Considered as a political outsider seeking to uproot Washington’s Republican establishment, Cruz is the favorite among evangelical Christians. As president, he has told supporters that he would work to get rid of the Internal Revenue Service and four cabinet agencies, while enacting a balanced budget amendment. He also indicated that as commander-in-chief, he would lead the United States Military to “carpet bomb” the Islamic State terrorist organization.
Despite Cruz’s two new caucus victories, where he picked up 24 delegates in Kansas and 12 in Maine versus Trump’s nine in each state, Trump still has a considerable delegate lead due to taking seven of 11 Super Tuesday states. There were 155 more delegates up for grabs overall in Saturday night’s GOP matchups, and Trump leads by about 80 all together.
Trump taking the heat
But Cruz isn’t Trump’s only obstacle in the race for the Republican ticket, as establishment Republicans — including 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) — lead a charge to knock Trump out of the 2016 running for the White House, arguing that Trump on the ticket would prove disastrous in the November election.
The 69-year-old billionaire has been blasted by some mainstream Republicans for his proposal to erect a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, for his plan to find and deport the 11 million Mexican illegal aliens from the U.S. and for his calling to temporarily ban Muslims from immigrating to America.
But Trump seemed to brush off such challenges and welcome the added opposition to his campaign.
"Everyone's trying to figure out how to stop Trump," the GOP frontrunner declared before his supporters at a Saturday afternoon rally in Orlando, Florida, where he called his supporters to pledge their vote for him by raising their hands, according to Fox News.
Rubio is also looking to let steam out of Trump’s campaign machine and has been vocal of late about the media giving the business mogul more than his due share of publicity, which he blames for his rise at the polls.
"I've been sitting here for five minutes and two of the three questions you've asked have been about Donald Trump," Rubio pointedly told the media as he spoke at a question-and-answer session Saturday at the CPAC conference — before he addressed taking the brunt of many of Trump’s attacks, Newsmax reports. “I didn't get into this race to beat up on other candidates, [but] if someone keeps punching people in the face, eventually someone's going to have to stand up and punch him back."
Also addressing the conflict, Trump referred to his opponent as “Little Marco” at the rally he held in the 44-year-old former senator’s home state of Florida.
"He's a nasty guy, said nasty things, and you know?” Trump told his cheering supporters. “We hit him hard. Little nasty guy."
Sanders closing in?
After suffering losses in seven of 11 states on Super Tuesday, Sanders took two out of three states Saturday night, but he still has a long way to go to catch up to Clinton’s large delegate lead.
However, Sanders still has a chance in the Democratic race, as the losers of states still pile up delegates proportionally to the percentage of votes they take in.
With this in mind, Sanders says that he’s staying in the race for the Democratic ticket.
"We have the momentum,” Sanders announced to his supporters after hearing news that he won Kansas and Nebraska Saturday night. “We have a path toward victory. Our campaign is just getting started."
A look ahead
After looking to make up some ground of his own on Tuesday night — in Michigan, Mississippi, Hawaii and Idaho — on Trump’s 83-delegate lead, Cruz will look to the delegate-rich states of Florida, Ohio, Missouri and North Carolina on March 15 to take over the lead for the GOP ticket.
However, with the winner-take-all delegate process in both Florida and Ohio — carrying 99 and 66 delegates, respectively — Cruz is mindful that Trump would be well on his road to the Republican National Convention if he takes both states.
In all, another 358 delegates will be up for grabs at the contests in the four key states on March 15 — a crucial day for both Cruz and Trump — and a definite do-or-die for Rubio.