Washington, United States | AFP |
Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were a giant step closer toward securing their parties’ presidential nominations with powerful wins in a string of primary wins in the US Northeast.
Barring a dramatic turn of events, Clinton has now cleared the way to become the Democratic nominee in the November presidential election, which would make her the first woman in US history to reach that milestone.
The former secretary of state won four out of five primaries Tuesday in Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland and the night’s big prize, the battleground state of Pennsylvania.
She conceded only the small state of Rhode Island to rival Bernie Sanders in a near sweep that gives her an almost insurmountable delegate lead.
Vote by vote, state by state, this team is building something special. Thanks for believing. -H pic.twitter.com/GQoxEQ36Ew
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) April 27, 2016
Clinton now has 2,168 delegates, including more than 500 “super-delegates,” against Sanders’s 1,401, with about 1,000 more to be distributed in the 14 remaining nominating races.
“What a great night,” Clinton told a thrilled crowd of supporters in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
The 68-year-old former first lady telegraphed her eagerness to shift toward the general election and a showdown with Republicans.
“Let’s go forward, let’s win the nomination, and in July let’s return as a unified party,” she said.
Clinton’s strong showing heaps pressure on the well-funded Sanders, a self-declared democratic socialist senator from Vermont, even as he has vowed to fight on until the California primary on June 7.
“The people in every state in this country should have the right to determine who they want as president and what the agenda of the Democratic Party should be. That’s why we are in this race until the last vote is cast,” Sanders said in a statement.
“That is why this campaign is going to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia with as many delegates as possible to fight for a progressive party platform.”
Trump swept all five presidential races held Tuesday, strengthening his grip on the Republican race.
He demolished his rivals Ted Cruz and John Kasich in Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island — a stunning show of force by a candidate seen as a populist political savior by millions despite being loathed by the party establishment.
“I consider myself the presumptive nominee,” the real estate mogul told a crowd at Trump Tower in New York, despite still being short of the 1,237 delegates required to win the nomination outright.
“As far as I’m concerned, it’s over.”
Most importantly, the bombastic 69-year-old extended his lead in the all-important race for delegates who will officially choose the Republican nominee at the party’s convention in July.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 27, 2016
“For weeks, the stop Trump, dump Trump movement has tried to puncture” his rise, James Morone, a political science professor at Brown University, told AFP.
“Today’s results overwhelmingly tell you it’s not working.”
Trump’s triumph comes in the heated aftermath of the revelation that Cruz and Kasich, desperate to prevent the frontrunner from securing the nomination, were teaming up to block him in future races.
Kasich agreed to forego campaigning in Indiana, a winner-take-all state that votes on May 3 and is the next focus in the GOP race. Cruz will return the favor later in New Mexico and Oregon.
But Trump slammed the alliance as “pathetic” and ineffective.
“This joke of a deal is falling apart, not being honored and almost dead,” Trump said on Twitter. “Very dumb!”
Trump now stands at 988 delegates, according to CNN’s running estimate. Cruz was a distant second with 568, while Kasich increased his numbers only slightly, to 152.
But the convoluted system of delegate allocation in some states means Trump is still a considerable way from reaching 1,237.
Out of Pennsylvania’s 71 delegates, only 17 are pledged to the winner Trump. The remaining 54 are essentially wildcards, heading unpledged to the convention where they are free to vote as they see fit.
If Trump falls short of outright victory, he runs the risk that his delegates, most of whom are bound to vote for him in only the first round, will desert him in subsequent rounds.
Cruz and Kasich have openly said they are counting on a contested convention, where they have a shot at wooing enough delegates to snatch the nomination.
Trump recently faced criticism when a top aide revealed the candidate was preparing to reshape his image, but Trump insisted Wednesday morning he was not undergoing a makeover.
“I’m not going to be changing. I’m presidential anyway,” Trump told CNN.
He also offered a preview of what a Trump-Clinton matchup would look like, repeating his assertion that Clinton is “playing the woman card left and right.”
But at her victory party in Philadelphia, Clinton told supporters that “if fighting for women’s health care and paid family leave and equal pay is playing the woman’s card, then deal me in.”