UNITED States’ Republican front-runner Donald Trump swept three states and drove rival Marco Rubio out of the White House race, but the New York billionaire’s loss in the crucial state of Ohio wrought more chaos for a party deeply fractured by his candidacy.
While the Republican race remained in turmoil on Tuesday, Hillary Clinton’s victories in Florida, Illinois, Ohio and North Carolina cast doubt on U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders’s ability to overtake her for the Democratic Party’s nomination.
Trump’s wins in Florida, Illinois and North Carolina brought him closer to the 1,237 delegates he needs to win the nomination and left those in the party trying to stop him with a dilemma.
Republicans can either throw their weight behind a candidate who rejects their policy goals or go on trying to stop him in the hope that he falls short of the majority required, enabling them to put forward another candidate at the July convention in Cleveland to formally pick their candidate for the Nov. 8 election.
That, however, would risk alienating the millions of Americans who back the real estate developer and former reality TV show host.
Ohio Governor John Kasich’s victory in his home state left him as the last establishment Republican candidate standing after Rubio, a U.S. senator, pulled out of the race. Rubio lost in a Trump landside in Rubio’s home state of Florida.
U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, who has sought to fashion himself the lead anti-Trump alternative, was outclassed by Trump everywhere on Tuesday except Missouri, where he narrowly trailed Trump.
Early on Wednesday, MSNBC projected Trump and Clinton would win Missouri in very tight races. With 100 percent of the votes counted, Clinton led Sanders by about 1,500 votes and Trump led Cruz by about 1,600 votes.
Many party leaders are appalled at the billionaire Trump’s incendiary rhetoric and believe his policy positions are out of step with core Republican sentiment, such as his vow to deport 11 million illegal immigrants, temporarily ban Muslims from the United States, build a wall along the border with Mexico and impose protectionist trade policies.
But their bid to stop him has come too late as a Republican field that once included Trump and 16 high-profile party figures has dwindled now to only three with Trump, 69, in command ahead of Cruz, 45, and Kasich, 63.