The polls closed in five key states on Tuesday, and the contours of the Republican and Democratic presidential primary races are far clearer.
The two parties’ frontrunners, Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton, had big nights, sweeping up the big states and largely minimising their losses.
Notably, Trump scored a game-changing victory in Florida early in the evening, clinching all of the state’s 99 delegates and putting the real-estate magnate almost halfway to securing the 1,237 delegates needed to clinch the nomination.
Sen. Marco Rubio, who long banked on victory in the Sunshine State, dropped out of the race almost immediately after polls closed.
Trump also won the Illinois and North Carolina primaries, and appeared to eke out a victory in Missouri over Sen. Ted Cruz, the No. 2 GOP candidate in the race.
Trump still has many critics within his own party, but it appears increasingly unlikely that they will be able to stop him from grabbing the GOP nomination.
“We’re going to win, win, win, and we’re not stopping,” Trump said in a speech on Tuesday evening in Florida. “We’re going to have great victories for our country.”
Trump’s biggest loss came in Ohio, where local Gov. John Kasich denied Trump a victory in the governor’s home state, picking up 66 delegates.
“You threw everything you had at me, and guess what? It didn’t work,” Kasich said in his victory speech.
On the Democratic side, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders looked to prove the public polling wrong again by winning primaries in Illinois, Ohio, and Missouri. But Clinton swept all five states, winning decisive victories in North Carolina, Florida, Ohio and besting Sanders by smaller margins in Illinois and Missouri.
- North Carolina: Trump
- Florida: Trump
- Illinois: Trump
- Missouri: NBC called for Trump
- Ohio: Kasich
- North Carolina: Clinton
- Florida: Clinton
- Illinois: Clinton
- Missouri: NBC called for Clinton
- Ohio: Clinton
Here are the highlights of the night:
11:44 p.m. ET — With 90% of precincts reporting, Clinton maintained a two-point lead over Sanders in Illinois. The former secretary of state trailed Sanders in Missouri, where 92% of precincts showed Sanders with a one-point lead over Clinton.
11:38 p.m. ET — With 99% of precincts reporting, the race in Missouri remained deadlocked on the Republican side, with Trump maintaining a 3,000 vote lead over Cruz.
11:18 p.m. ET — In a tweet Tuesday evening, Trump mocked Rubio’s assertion that the winner of the Florida Republican primary race would clinch the nomination.
11:07 p.m. ET — Clinton’s lead in Illinois shrunk slightly. With 76% of precincts reporting, the former secretary of state had just 3 points more than Sanders.
10:59 p.m. ET — The Republican race remained too close to call in Missouri. With 99% of precincts reporting, Trump maintained a 2,000-vote lead over Cruz.
10:46 p.m. ET — Despite losing almost every state on Tuesday, Cruz claimed victory in his primary night speech in Texas.
“Tonight, we continued to gain delegates and continue our march to 1,237,” Cruz said.
The senator also praised Rubio for running a positive campaign, and called on Rubio’s supporters to back Cruz.
“After tonight, America has a clear choice,” Cruz said.
“To those who supported Marco, we welcome you with open arms.”
10:30 p.m. ET — Sanders appeared to be pulling away from Clinton. With 49% of precincts reporting, Sanders lead Clinton by just under three points. With 53% of precincts reporting, Clinton maintained her five-point lead in Illinois.
10:17 p.m. ET — With 31% of precincts reporting, Sanders earned 50% support, while Clinton earned 48% support, according to CNN.
10:15 p.m. ET — Trump and Cruz were neck-and-neck in Missouri. With 32% of precincts reporting, Cruz trailed Trump by two points.
10:09 p.m. ET — Trump congratulated Rubio, who Trump said had a “great future.”
“I want to congratulate Marco Rubio on running a tough campaign. He’s tough, he’s smart, and he’s got a great future,” Trump said.
10:06 p.m. ET — Though he mostly stuck to his stump speech, at his primary night party, Trump thanked his campaign team, including campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, who is accused of manhandling a reporter at an event last week.
“Corey, good job Corey,” Trump said.
9:59 p.m. ET — During his primary speech in Florida, Trump attempted to thank supporters in the Northern Mariana Islands, a US commonwealth, but butchered the pronunciation.
9:38 p.m. ET — NBC projected victory for Trump in Illinois.
9:35 p.m. ET — With 28% of precincts reporting, Trump maintained a healthy lead over his Republican rivals, garnering 40% support. Cruz earned 25% support in the state, while Kasich earned 8%.
9:34 p.m. ET — With 11% of precincts reporting, Sanders and Clinton were virtually tied, with each garnering 49% support, according to the Associated Press.
9:26 p.m. ET — Standing in front of a banner that read “As goes Ohio, so goes the nation,” Kasich reiterated that he would not sling insults at his opponents in order to win the presidency.
“I will not take the low road to the highest office in the land,” Kasich said.
Kasich’s campaign also dropped confetti on the audience at his primary night party.
9:24 p.m. ET — Though Trump failed to pick up Ohio’s 66 delegates, his likely victory in Illinois could grant him all of the state’s 69 delegates.
9:04 p.m. ET — Observers pointed out that though Sanders could still win several states on Tuesday, Clinton’s margins-of-victory in states like Florida were so great, they gave her a massive delegate advantage.
8:59 p.m. ET — Speaking to supporters in Florida, Clinton noted that she was likely to add to her delegate lead.
“We are moving closer to securing the Democratic party nomination and winning this election in November,” Clinton said.
“If you’ve been waiting for the right moment, now’s the time to come join us.”
Clinton also took shots at Trump, slamming his promise to deport the 11 million immigrants living in the US without permission and his promise to bring back waterboarding.
“Our commander-in-chief has to be able to defend our country, not embarrass it,” Clinton said.
“When he embraces torture, that doesn’t make him strong, it makes him wrong.”
8:51 p.m. ET — In an interview with CNN shortly after his victory in Ohio, Kasich took a slight shot at Trump.
“You threw everything you had at me, and guess what? It didn’t work,” Kasich said.
Kasich speculated that he could have the majority of delegates heading into the Republican National Convention this summer, and denied that he did not have the money needed to continue campaigning.
“I’ll have all the money we need,” Kasich said.
8:46 p.m. ET — Multiple networks projected a Kasich victory in Ohio.
8:45 p.m. ET — Rubio appeared to lose almost every Florida county.
8:24 p.m. ET — Rubio suspended his campaign shortly after the polls closed in Florida, congratulating Trump on his win.
“After tonight while it is clear that we are on the right side this year, we are not on the winning side,” Rubio said.
During his concession speech, Rubio was heckled by a Trump supporter.
“Don’t worry, you won’t get beat up here,” Rubio said, referencing the violence at Trump’s rallies.
Rubio said that he was proud of his attempt to run an optimistic campaign instead of embracing apocalyptic rhetoric.
“I chose a different route, and I’m proud of that,” Rubio said.
“The politics of resentment won’t just leave us a fractured party, they will leave us a fractured nation.”
8:00 p.m. ET — Multiple networks projected Trump and Clinton would win their respective party primaries in Florida.
7:53 p.m. ET — With 65% of precincts reporting, Trump maintained his lead with 46% support. Rubio drew 26% support and Cruz drew 16% support, according to CNN.
7:47 p.m. ET — According to CNN, with 66% of precincts reporting, Clinton earned 65% support to Sanders’ 32% support. Clinton also maintained an almost 30-point lead over Sanders in North Carolina with 10% of precincts reporting.
7:40 p.m. ET — Exit polls in North Carolina and Ohio on the Democratic side showed the support split by race. Sanders appeared stronger among white voters, while Clinton was black voters’ overwhelming pick.
Vote by race
— Steve Kornacki (@SteveKornacki) March 15, 2016
7:37 p.m. ET — With 4% of precincts reporting, Clinton took the lead in North Carolina with 64% support to Sanders’ 34% support, according to CNN.
7:31 p.m. ET — Exit polls in Ohio showed Kasich leading Trump.
CNN EXITS in Ohio
— Teddy Schleifer (@teddyschleifer) March 15, 2016
7:28 p.m. ET — Trump declared victory in Florida before all the state’s polls closed.
Word is that, despite a record amount spent on negative and phony ads, I had a massive victory in Florida. Numbers out soon!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 15, 2016
7:20 p.m. ET — CNN noted that with 14% of precincts reporting, Trump earned 48% support among Republican primary voters in Florida to Rubio’s 23.5% support.
7:14 p.m. ET — CNN noted that with 14% of precincts reporting, Clinton had a 27-point lead over Sanders in Florida.
7:09 p.m. ET — Trump started the race with a massive lead over his opponents when the first official results came in. With 5% of precincts reporting, CNN noted the former reality-television star had 47.1% support in Florida. Rubio, the second-place candidate, had 22% support.
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