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Tuesday, March 15, 2016



Sources: LA Times, PBS, Youtube

Donald Trump romped to a landslide victory Tuesday in Florida, dealing a devastating blow to home-state Sen. Marco Rubio, who abruptly quit the race and removed one more obstacle to the businessman’s march toward the Republican presidential nomination.

Trump also won the Illinois and North Carolina primaries, networks projected, but Ohio Gov. John Kasich prevailed in his home-state, fueling the hopes of those seeking to stop Trump and throw the race open at a contested convention this summer.

In a concession speech delivered less than half an hour after the Florida polls closed, Rubio congratulated Trump, wagging a finger and shushing members of the audience who booed his kind words.

But then he devoted the bulk of his remarks to warn against the anger and frustration that has fueled Trump’s political rise.

“The politics of resentment against other people will not just leave us a fractured party,” Rubio said, as disconsolate family members stood by onstage in Miami. “They’re going to leave us a fractured nation.”

The son of Cuban immigrants and, at age 44 the youngest candidate in the field, Rubio was seen as one of the GOP’s rising stars, with a capacity to broaden the party’s support among millennial voters and the fast-growing Latino community.

But he failed to win more than a handful of contests and was never seriously competitive in his home state. Trump took all 99 delegates in Florida’s winner take-all-primary, padding his already substantial lead.

Voters in five states went to the polls Tuesday, with balloting brisk in Florida and Ohio as well as Illinois, Missouri and North Carolina,, a reflection of the excitement and passions stirred by Trump — for and against — that have animated Republicans across the country.

More than 350 delegates were at stake, or about a third the number needed to clinch the GOP nomination ahead of the party’s national convention this summer in Cleveland. The cache made it the second-biggest day of balloting on the 2016 primary calendar.

Before the first polls even closed, Trump notched a victory with a landslide in the Northern Mariana Islands. He won all nine delegates from the U.S. territory.

But as important as the delegate count was, the day’s significance turned more on the fates of Rubio and Kasich. Both were facing win-or-get-out contests in their home states, the first of this primary season to award delegates on a winner-take-all basis. Trump picked up 99 delegates in Florida, and Kasich won 66 in Ohio, the first state he has won.

If Trump had managed to carry both, he could have been unstoppable.

The real estate magnate and reality TV star started the day with 460 delegates, nearly 100 more than Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and more than twice as many as Rubio and Kasich combined.
In Berea, a suburb of Cleveland, Kasich told cheering supporters that he would “not take the low road to the highest office in the land.” He also conceded he faces an uphill struggle.
“This is all I got,” Kasich said, tugging on the lapels of his jacket.
The balloting followed one of the oddest, most contentious weeks in a campaign that has been filled with strange and surreal moments.
The precipitating event was a racially charged near-riot at a Trump rally Friday night in Chicago, which was canceled out of security concerns.
Trump’s opponents quickly seized on the moment and the violent imagery that played around the world to once more challenge his temperament and fitness to be president. They accused him of fomenting the unrest through belligerent remarks that seemed to egg his audiences into physically confronting dissenters.
Kasich and Rubio both suggested they were having second thoughts about their promise to back Trump should he be the GOP nominee. Cruz, while criticizing Trump, would not go that far.
Trump denied any responsibility, blaming the violence on what he called professional agitators linked to Democratic hopeful Bernie Sanders. He said the protesters provoked his supporters and were stifling their rights to free speech and assembly. “I don't condone violence,” Trump said repeatedly, though he sympathized with backers who chose to “be effective” with protesters in the audience. (Previously he used more pugilistic language.)
Trump said he might even pay the legal fees for a supporter who sucker-punched a demonstrator at a North Carolina rally, another moment caught on camera and widely broadcast.
For weeks, increasingly desperate Republican opponents have mounted an effort to stop Trump, to little seeming effect. More than $10 million in negative ads blazed across the Florida airwaves in just the last week alone, attacking Trump for his ethics, the failings of his business empire and his all-over-the-map political ideology.
Those meant nothing to Mark Owens, who stepped into the Miami Beach sunshine Tuesday and lit a cigar after casting a ballot for the political neophyte.
“I just think he's better prepared to help America economically,” said Owens, who owns several companies. Echoing the candidate, he suggested Trump would be a better “deal-maker” than previous presidents, whether it comes to trade or foreign relations.
“We've trusted politicians for 200 years to run our country,” Owens said. “It's time to give someone else a shot.”
With polls suggesting Florida was firmly in Trump’s grasp, much of the campaign focus turned to Ohio, a perennial fall battleground that was positioned to play a key role in the Republican nominating contest as well.
Trump laid on extra events, including an election-eve rally outside Youngstown in place of a planned Florida appearance, and turned his attention to attacking Kasich after long ignoring the Ohio governor.
He assailed him for his support as a congressman for the North American Free Trade Agreement, a pact with Canada and Mexico that, Trump said, devastated the state’s economy. He also laid on personal insults in a bid to snatch a victory in Kasich’s home state and clear the governor from the race.
Kasich, whose strategy centered on staying above the salvos flying between other candidates, accused Trump of creating a “toxic” political atmosphere and, wrapping himself in the establishment mantle, spent Monday stumping alongside Mitt Romney, the party’s 2012 nominee.
He also campaigned extensively around the Chicago area in a play for support in Illinois, a state with a tradition of supporting more moderate Republicans.
Giving up on every other contest, Rubio camped out in his home state, conducting what amounted to a Florida-wide apology tour. He repeatedly expressed his regrets for stooping to Trump’s level with jokes about his hair, his artificial tan and, winkingly, the size of his penis.
Rubio insisted that whatever happened Tuesday his campaign would press on, but it would have been difficult to continue having lost Florida, another important swing state in the fall.
While others focused on Ohio and Florida, Cruz carved his own path, campaigning throughout Missouri, Illinois and North Carolina.
Before Tuesday, he had won the most states after Trump and trailed him by 90 delegates. His uncompromisingly conservative ideology and go-it-alone stance in Washington have been a large part of his attraction to Republican voters but antagonized many party leaders who believe those qualities limit his appeal in a general election.
At one point, as part of a divide-to-conquer strategy, Rubio suggested his Ohio supporters back Kasich in hopes of beating Trump there and slowing his momentum.
But Kasich disavowed the tactic, and Cruz said it was an example of the insider self-dealing he was campaigning against.

“No, we’re not engaged in this delegate-denial strategy that came out of the Washington establishment because they have dreams of a brokered convention, dropping their favorite Washington candidate in to win,” Cruz said on NBC. “That would be a disaster. The people would revolt.”

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