WEB DESK: White House contender Ted Cruz scored the critical endorsement of ex-Florida governor Jeb Bush on Wednesday, after the Republican and Democratic frontrunners scored key victories in the western state of Arizona.
After dropping out of the presidential race last month following a disappointing campaign, Jeb Bush, whose father and brother are both former presidents, said the Republican Party has to unite or face certain defeat in the election, probably to Hillary Clinton.
In doing so, he took a pot shot at frontrunner Donald Trump, who leads Cruz comfortably in the polls.The US political mood was dampened by Tuesday’s deadly bombings in Brussels. But Trump and Cruz seized the moment to bash President Barack Obama’s foreign policy – and tout their own tough stances on immigration.
Anyone who tries to attack the United States will “suffer greatly,” Trump said, in typically blunt tones that have shaped his populist run for the White House, propelling him from outsider to firm favourite for the Republican ticket. “Belgium is a horror show right now. Terrible things are happening,” he said. He also told CNN that Belgian authorities could have thwarted the attacks if they had used torture against a terror suspect captured days earlier. Cruz used similarly strong language, calling for US law enforcement to be empowered to “patrol and secure Muslim neighbourhoods before they become radicalised.”
Clinton thanked Arizona for her victory, but she also forcefully denounced her Republican rivals for their strident talk about how they would respond to the Brussels attacks. “What Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and others are suggesting is not only wrong, it’s dangerous. It will not keep us safe,” she said. “The last thing we need are leaders who incite more fear.” “For the sake of our party and country, we must overcome the divisiveness and vulgarity Donald Trump has brought into the political arena or we will certainly lose our chance to defeat the Democratic nominee, most likely Hillary Clinton, this fall,” the statement said.
“That is the only way we can reverse President Obama’s failed domestic and foreign policy agenda and turn our country around.” Trump and Clinton won their respective parties’ primaries in Arizona on Tuesday and maintained steep advantages in the presidential nominations race, despite victories by rivals in other states. Trump extended his lead over nearest competitor Cruz in the all-important delegate race, although the arch-conservative senator from Texas made a night of it by resoundingly winning the Utah caucuses.
Clinton’s challenger Bernie Sanders, whose grassroots campaign has refused to yield to the former secretary of state, snatched much-needed victories in Utah and Idaho, blunting Clinton’s momentum just as she began to project an image as the inevitable Democratic nominee.
The voting gave the candidates another opportunity to pile up delegates on the way to the party nominating conventions, but it did not dramatically alter the basic outlines of the race. “Much bigger win than anticipated in Arizona. Thank you, I will never forget!” Trump posted on Twitter. Trump corralled all 58 delegates at stake in winner-take-all Arizona, where he left Cruz and Ohio Governor John Kasich in his wake, and amid controversy over very long lines at polling stations.
But Cruz bounced back in neighbouring Utah, as he appeared on track to win the state by more than 50 percent, which means he secures all of its 40 delegates. At this point in the Republican race, Trump’s main objective is to amass the 1,237 delegates needed to win his party’s nomination outright, and thwart a bid by the party establishment to stop him. Following Tuesday’s votes, Trump stood at 741 delegates, compared to 461 for Cruz and 145 for Kasich, according to a CNN tally.
On the Democratic side, Clinton’s Arizona victory was tempered by Sanders’ impressive performance in Idaho, where he won the caucuses by a staggering 78 percent to 21 percent, and in Utah, results which allowed him to cut into Clinton’s delegate lead, if only slightly. They were Sanders’s first state victories since March 8 in Michigan. Sanders praised the “tremendous” voter turnout, saying that “these decisive victories in Idaho and Utah give me confidence that we will continue to win major victories in the coming contests.”
But the delegate math looked bleak for the self-described democratic socialist from Vermont. Clinton was finished the night with 1,711 delegates, compared with 939 for Sanders. To win the Democratic nomination, 2,383 delegates are needed. Clinton is expected to build on the themes Wednesday when she delivers a counterterrorism speech at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California.
Arizona has long been roiled by passions over immigration, an issue Trump has seized on since launching his campaign with inflammatory accusations that Mexico was sending rapists and other criminals across the border and his promise to build a border wall. The dynamics are different in neighbouring Utah, a predominantly Mormon state where polling showed strong opposition to Trump. Republicans also held caucuses in the Pacific territory of American Samoa. The next contests are the Democratic votes Saturday in Alaska, Hawaii and Washington state, and primaries for both parties in Wisconsin on April 5.