Trump, Clinton solidly on course

2016-03-16 20:59
Republican vice presidential candidate Representative Paul Ryan, of Wisconsin gives a thumbs-up at a rally in Mooresville, NC. (Jason E Miczek, AP)

Republican vice presidential candidate Representative Paul Ryan, of Wisconsin gives a thumbs-up at a rally in Mooresville, NC. (Jason E Miczek, AP)

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Washington - Donald Trump offered himself Wednesday as the inevitable Republican presidential nominee, warning that if party leaders try to deny him the nomination at a contested convention when he is leading the delegate count, "You'd have riots."

The brash billionaire, who won at least three more states on Tuesday but doesn't yet have the needed majority of delegates to secure the nomination, predicted he'd collect enough support to win the nomination outright before the Republican convention this summer.

"There's going to be a tremendous problem" if the Republican establishment tries to outmanoeuvre him at the convention, Trump said.

Democrat Hillary Clinton, who moved closer to becoming the first woman in US history to win a major party nomination after winning at least four states on Tuesday, took direct aim at Trump.

"Our commander-in-chief has to be able to defend our country, not embarrass it," Clinton said in a speech that largely ignored rival Bernie Sanders. "We can't lose what made America great in the first place."

With anti-Trump Republicans frantically seeking scenarios to deny the billionaire businessman the party nomination, Trump suggested to morning TV shows that the party establishment already was starting to support him.

Without naming names, Trump said some of the same Republican senators who are publicly critical of him have called privately to say they want to "become involved" in his campaign.

Trump also said Clinton, the former secretary of state and first lady, would be "a major embarrassment for the country" and added that she "doesn't have the strength or the stamina to be president."

The Republican front-runner also said he'd skip a debate scheduled for Monday, saying, "I think we've had enough debates."

Trump won Tuesday in Florida, North Carolina, and Illinois but fell in Ohio to that state's governor, John Kasich. Clinton triumphed in the Florida, Illinois, Ohio and North Carolina primaries. Votes were also being counted in Missouri, though races in both parties there were too close to call.

Paul Ryan

Florida Senator Marco Rubio dropped out Tuesday after losing his home state to Trump.

Kasich on Wednesday told NBC that neither Trump nor Texas Senator Cruz, the other remaining Republican candidate, can win the general election.

But after Tuesday's contests, it's mathematically impossible for the Ohio governor to win a majority of delegates before the party's national convention in July.

Even House Speaker Paul Ryan did not rule out the idea of being drafted by the party at the Republican convention.

"People say, 'What about the contested convention?'" Ryan said in an interview with CNBC. "I say, well, there are a lot of people running for president. We'll see. Who knows?"

With more than half the delegates awarded through six weeks of primary voting, Trump is the only Republican candidate with a realistic path to the 1 237 delegates needed to clinch the nomination through the traditional route. Trump's Florida victory brought his delegate total to 621. Cruz has 396 and Kasich 138. Rubio left the race with 168.

Cruz is in better position than Kasich but faces a daunting mathematical challenge after losing four of five contests Tuesday. The fiery conservative needs to claim roughly 75% of the remaining delegates to earn the delegate majority, according to Associated Press delegate projections.

On the Democratic side, Clinton's victories were blows to Sanders and bolstered her argument that she's the best Democrat to take on the eventual Republican nominee. Her win in Ohio was a particular relief for her campaign, which grew anxious after Sanders pulled off a surprising win last week in another Midwestern industrial state, Michigan.

Clinton has at least 1 561 delegates, including the superdelegates who are elected officials and party leaders free to support the candidate of their choice. Sanders has at least 800. It takes 2 383 to win the Democratic nomination.

Read more on:    bernie sanders  |  donald trump  |  paul ryan  |  us  |  us 2016 elections

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