WASHINGTON — Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton were hoping to boost their delegate leads over party challengers for the presidential nomination Tuesday as the 2016 race for the White House moved to states in the West.
Arizona and Utah feature contests for both parties, while Idaho Democrats hold presidential caucuses, all of which will determine if Democrat Bernie Sanders and Republicans Ted Cruz and John Kasich can blunt the growing sense of inevitability around both party front-runners.
On Tuesday, Cruz said that it was time for law enforcement to “patrol and secure Muslim neighbourhoods before they become radicalized,” without providing more details.
The conservative Texas lawmaker, who is running behind Trump in the Republican contest, made the comment in a statement his campaign released following the bombings in Brussels, Belgium, that killed at least 31 people and wounded dozens more.
Meanwhile, Clinton looked past Sanders and instead sharpened her general election attacks on Trump. “We need steady hands,” she said Monday, “not a president who says he’s neutral on Monday, pro-Israel on Tuesday and who-knows-what on Wednesday because everything’s negotiable.”
Trump’s brash tone has turned off some Republican voters in heavily Mormon Utah, where preference polls suggest the ultra-conservative Texas Sen. Ted Cruz has a chance to claim more than 50 per cent of the caucus vote — and with it, all of Utah’s 40 delegates. If Cruz fails to exceed 50 per cent, the delegates would be awarded proportionally based on each candidate’s vote total.
Kasich hopes to play spoiler in Utah, a state that prizes civility and religion. A week ago, the Ohio governor claimed a victory in his home state, his first and only win of the primary season. But Mitt Romney, a Mormon and the Republicans’ 2012 presidential nominee, is telling his fellow Utah voters in a recorded phone message that Cruz “is the only Republican candidate who can defeat Donald Trump.”
Trump appears to be in a stronger position in Arizona, which will award all of its 58 delegates to whichever candidate wins the most votes.
Anti-Trump Republicans are running out of time to prevent the billionaire businessman from securing the 1,237 delegates needed to claim the nomination. In primary voting and caucuses so far, Trump has 680 delegates, Cruz has 424 and Kasich has 143.
With more than half of all delegates already awarded during the first seven weeks of primary voting, Trump’s challengers’ best, and perhaps only, hope lies with denying him a delegate majority and forcing a contested national convention in July.
“This is going to the convention,” Kasich said on CNN.
On the Democratic side, Clinton’s advantage is even greater.
The former secretary of state is coming off last week’s five-state sweep of Sanders, who remains popular among his party’s most liberal voters but needs to improve his performance if he expects to stay relevant. The Vermont senator, now trailing Clinton by more than 300 pledged delegates, has targeted Tuesday’s races as the start of a comeback tour.
The former first lady has 1,163 delegates to Sanders’ 844, based on primaries and caucuses. It takes 2,383 delegates to win the nomination.