Ted Cruz and Donald Trump split victories on Saturday, with the Texas senator posting big wins in the Kansas and Maine GOP caucuses and the real estate mogul winning the Kentucky caucuses and Louisiana primary.
In the Democratic race, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders notched victories in the Kansas and Nebraska caucuses, while former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton won the Louisiana primary.
The Republicans: Cruz emerges as leading anti-Trump candidate
Cruz posted impressive margins in both Kansas and Maine, and he beat Trump in the closed caucuses, where only registered Republicans could vote. Trump added last-minute stop in Kansas this morning, canceling a planned appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference in favor of a rally in Wichita. But it was Cruz who would win by more than a two-to-one margin in Kansas. In Maine, he won by 13 points.
Trump had campaigned in Maine this week as well and hoped to have a strong showing, touting his endorsement from Maine Gov. Paul LePage. But Cruz also stumped in the state on Friday, and the more favorable closed GOP caucus format appears to have played to Cruz’s strengths.
Trump won closer than expected contests in Louisiana and Kentucky, but because of the tight margins it’s Cruz who actually ended the night having netted the most delegates. Cruz will receive 64 total delegates, while Trump gets 49 delegates, per the Associated Press projections. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio nets just 13 delegates while Ohio Gov. John Kasich picked up nine.
Cruz got another big win at CPAC’s annual straw poll, winning 40 percent of the votes, followed by Rubio at 30 percent and Trump with just 15 percent.
Speaking from Idaho Saturday evening, where he’s campaigning ahead of the state’s primary on Tuesday, Cruz told the crowd, “The scream you hear, the howl that comes from Washington, D.C., is utter terror at what we the people are doing together.”
Later on Saturday, Trump held a press conference in Palm Beach, Fla., where he downplayed his losses, saying he hadn’t campaigned heavily in those states anyway.
“Ted should do well in Maine, because it’s very close to Canada,” Trump said, jabbing at Cruz’s birthplace he has argued disqualifies him for the White House.
One thing the two men may have agreed on though was that it is shaping up to be a two man race.
“I think it’s time for [Rubio] to drop out of the race,” Trump said. “I would love to take on Ted one-on-one.”
Though Rubio’s team has argued the states where he is expected to do well, such as his home state of Florida, have yet to vote, Rubio was a distant third or fourth in the races on Saturday, and failed to even meet the threshold to net any delegates in Louisiana and Maine. Kasich is banking on strong finishes this Tuesday in Michigan and in his home of Ohio on March 15th.
The Democrats: Sanders takes two, looks ahead to bigger prizes
Sanders beat Clinton by more than a two-to-one margin in Kansas and notched a 13 point victory in Nebraska.
Clinton won Louisiana by 48 points, where the Democratic electorate was expected to be majority African-American, continuing her sweep of Southern states she began on Super Tuesday.
And thanks to that big win in Louisiana, she ended up winning the most delegates of the night. According to the AP, Clinton will walk away with 55 pledged delegates while Sanders nets 47.
In a statement, Sanders argued his best states are yet to come.
“We’ve got the momentum, the energy and the excitement that will take us all the way to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia,” the Vermont senator said. “I feel good about our campaign because the voters are sending a clear message. No matter what the pundits say, it is the voters who will decide this election.”
The two Democrats will debate Sunday night on CNN at 8 p.m. ET in Flint, Mich.