US Elections 2016

Trump, Clinton move closer to securing nominations

Donald Trump (left) and Hillary Clinton continued their march towards securing the nominations of their respective parties.
Donald Trump (left) and Hillary Clinton continued their march towards securing the nominations of their respective parties. PHOTOS: AFP

Republican and Democratic front runners register big wins in north-eastern states

Presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton continued their march towards securing the nominations of their respective parties for the November election after both trounced opponents in primaries in Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Maryland, Delaware and Rhode Island.

Real estate tycoon Trump swept all the east coast states with commanding margins, while former secretary of state Clinton lost only Rhode Island on a night when both candidates made clear they now regarded themselves as presumptive nominees.

"I consider myself the presumptive nominee, absolutely," said Mr Trump during one of those rallies-turned-impromptu press conferences unique to the billionaire's campaign. "Honestly, Senator (Ted) Cruz and Governor (John) Kasich should really get out of the race. They have no path to victory..."

Indeed, the results seem to mark a symbolic turning point for Mr Trump, who is from the Republican party.

Where talk two weeks ago was all about how Mr Trump could be knocked out at a contested convention, it is now about the plausibility of his gaining the 1,237-delegate majority needed to avoid a battle at the convention.

Mr Trump finished the night with 954 delegates and now needs less than half the remaining delegates to hit the magic number.

CHOICE HAS BEEN MADE

I consider myself the presumptive nominee... As far as I'm concerned, this thing is over.

MR DONALD TRUMP, asking his rivals to leave the Republican race.


COMMON GROUND

Whether you support Senator Sanders or you support me, there is much more that unites us than divides us.''

MRS HILLARY CLINTON, in an appeal for party unity.

A victorious Mr Trump sought to make that point while speaking at his home base of Trump Tower in New York.

"The best way to beat the system is to have a night like this... When the boxer knocks out the other boxer, you don't have to wait around for a decision," he said.

He also successfully dispelled the long-held notion that he had a ceiling of only about one-third of Republican voters. After winning some 60 per cent of the vote in New York last week, he matched or came close to it in all five states on Tuesday.

Mr Cruz and Mr Kasich seemed to recognise early on that they did not stand a chance in the east coast states and had left to campaign in the west long before votes were cast. Many now see Indiana, which votes next week, as the last chance for those who want to stop Mr Trump.

Philadelphia-based political analyst Larry Ceisler described Indiana as the last "firewall". The conditions there - it is a deeply conservative state with a large population of evangelical voters - are favourable to Mr Cruz, a conservative Christian, particularly as Mr Kasich has agreed to leave the state to the senator.

"If they can't stop Trump there, I just don't see them stopping him," said Mr Ceisler.

Over at the Democratic Party, the night's results boosted Mrs Clinton's chances of wrapping up the nomination early. Including party bosses known as superdelegates, she now has 2,169 delegates, just shy of the 2,383 she needs.

If she continues winning at this pace, Mrs Clinton can expect to clinch the nomination when Kentucky and Oregon vote on May 17.

At her victory speech in Pennsylvania, she spoke before one of the most enthusiastic crowds she has faced in weeks, struggling to get a word in at the start as they chanted "Hillary! Hillary!"

Unlike in the lead-up to the New York primary last week, she took no shots at her rival, Senator Bernie Sanders, and instead made a pitch for his supporters.

She said: "I applaud Senator Sanders and his millions of supporters for challenging us to get unaccountable money out of our politics and giving greater emphasis to closing the gap of inequality.

"And I know, together, we will get that done. Because whether you support Senator Sanders or you support me, there's much more that unites us than divides us."

Analysts agree that Mr Sanders has no viable way to secure the nomination though few expect him to drop out.

Said Associate Professor David Karol of the University of Maryland: "Sanders has said he is going all the way to the end of the primaries. That's just five weeks away and he still can get some wins, so he may well do that. Hillary wants him to drop out tomorrow but she has to be very careful about pressuring him."

For his part, Mr Sanders vowed to fight on. At a rally in West Virginia, which votes in two weeks, he called on superdelegates loyal to Mrs Clinton to switch sides.

"Almost every national poll and every state poll has us defeating Trump and that margin for us is significantly larger than Madam Secretary Clinton," he said, arguing that this was because he could attract independent and Republican votes. "And that is what I hope the delegates to the Democratic convention fully understand."

The primary contest moves on to Indiana next week with only 10 states yet to vote.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 28, 2016, with the headline 'Trump, Clinton move closer to securing nominations'. Print Edition | Subscribe