A battering of attacks to stop GOP frontrunner Donald Trump’s momentum was put to the test in a series of states on Saturday in the race for the Republican nomination, with rival Ted Cruz winning caucuses in Kansas and Maine.
Trump won Louisiana and Kentucky, but the results were narrower than polls had suggested.
On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton won the Democratic primary in Louisiana in what was projected to be a wide margin. Her rival Bernie Sanders won caucuses in Kansas and Nebraska, as his campaign tries to make inroads on Clinton’s lead in the delegate race for the party nomination.
Voters in Kansas and Louisiana were casting their lot for the respective Republican and Democratic nominations in what was being referred to as “super Saturday.” In addition, Republicans in Kentucky and Maine were holding caucuses, while Democrats were gathering in Nebraska for voting there.
While Cruz and Rubio have been attacking Trump on the campaign trail and in Thursday’s debate in Detroit, this week has seen a more concerted effort on the part of establishment GOP figures to try to deny him the nomination. On Thursday, Mitt Romney, the party’s 2012 nominee, made a scathing speech about Trump, calling him a “phony” and a “fraud.”
“He’s playing members of the American public for suckers: He gets a free ride to the White House, and all we get is a lousy hat,” Romney said.
Trump responded by calling Romney a “failed candidate” and said that Romney “would have dropped to his knees” to garner his endorsement in 2012.
On Saturday, Trump asked supporters at a rally in Orlando to raise their right hands and pledge to support him when Florida holds its primary on March 15.
But the efforts to stop Trump delivered mixed results on Saturday, and few bright spots for Rubio, who has tried to position himself as an establishment alternative who can unify the far right and moderates. Instead, it has been Cruz, who also has waged an anti-D.C., anti-establishment campaign, who has won the most races next to Trump. He called on other candidates to bow out to set up a two-man race for the nomination.
Trump took aim not just at Rubio, but Fox News, which hosted the most recent debate.
“@FoxNews is devastated that lightweight Senator Marco Rubio gout trounced tonight and is the big loser. I won the two big states, great!” Trump wrote.
Clinton and Sanders have slammed the tenor of the Republican race, in what is evolving into a civil war over the party’s future.
Clinton, speaking at a rally in Detroit, said that “you just want to pull your hair out when you see the insult fest” at the GOP debate.