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Super Tuesday 3: Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump Widen Leads; Marco Rubio Drops Out

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump each expanded their leads on Tuesday, winning multiple primary victories that make it all the more improbable that rivals can catch up to them in the race for their party’s presidential nomination.

Clinton won victories in Ohio, Illinois, North Carolina and Florida, and NBC News declared her the apparent winner in Missouri. It was a big setback to Bernie Sanders in the Democratic race, as he had sought to capitalize on a surprise win last week in Michigan.

On the Republican side, Trump won a decisive victory in Florida over Marco Rubio, who then suspended his campaign. Trump also won North Carolina and Illinois, overcoming a wave of attack ads and negative publicity over his campaign rhetoric and violent disturbances at rallies. NBC News declared him the apparent winner in Missouri.

But Trump was soundly defeated in Ohio by John Kasich, in his first victory so far in the race.

Cable networks had dubbed “Super Tuesday III” as Ohio, Florida, Illinois, North Carolina and Missouri cast ballots. But it was shaping up as a pivotal day for Trump and Clinton, as they each  looked for enough victories to make their paths to the nomination unstoppable.

Speaking to supporters in Florida, Clinton said turned her attention to Trump, “To be great, we can’t be small. We can’t lost what made America great in the first place.”

Clinton’s wins convinced some of her Hollywood backers that she had overcome Sanders’ unexpectedly strong challenge.

“Huge win for Hillary tonight and it is clear she will be our nominee,” political consultant Andy Spahn, whose firm represents clients such as Steven Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg, said. “The primaries will continue, but it’s time to focus on stopping Trump.”

Clinton will return to Los Angeles on March 24 for a series of fundraisers, including an event at the Hollywood nightclub Avalon and a reception at the home of ICM Partners’ Chris Silbermann and his wife Julia Franz.

Rubio was hoping that he could upset in his home state, where Trump had a significant lead in most polls. As the youngest candidate in the race, Rubio was once viewed as someone who could unite factions of the GOP, while he pitched his campaign as a forward-looking contrast to Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton. In fact, many Democrats saw Rubio as Clinton’s most formidable potential rival.

“While this may not have been the year for a hopeful and optimistic message about our future, I still remain hopeful and optimistic four our country,” Rubio said in conceding.

He said that “America is in the middle of a real political storm, a tsunami, and we should have seen this coming.”

Analysts in recent days have said that if Kasich were to deny Trump a victory in Ohio, there would be a good chance that no GOP candidate will have a majority of delegates by the time of the Republican National Convention in July.

Such a prospect has not played out in either party since 1976, when President Gerald Ford was challenged by Ronald Reagan. But Ford won the nomination on the first ballot, in a race that didn’t have the powder-keg of anger and grievance playing out this year.

In Ohio, Kasich told supporters, “I will not take the low road to the highest office in the land.” It was a reference to how he has avoided getting into an insult-laden back-and-forth with Trump.

“We are going to go all the way to Cleveland and secure the Republican nomination.”

His best chances appear to hinge on a contested convention.

The past few days have seen Trump criticized by rivals for stoking anger and even violence at his rallies, along with a battering of attack ads chiding him for his rhetoric and past statements on women and minorities.

“No one in the history of politics has received the kind of negative advertising I have. Record, record, record,” Trump, engaging in a bit of his signature hyperbole, said at an event at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Fla.

Instead, Trump said, “My numbers went up. I don’t understand it.”

Trump has capitalized on the attention, calling in to cable news shows, earning headlines for offhand remarks at rallies and relentlessly posting on Twitter. On Tuesday, the New York Times reported that Trump’s ability to command news cycles has delivered huge amounts of so-called “free media” — about $2 billion worth, according to the analytics firm mediaQuant.

That media dominance has in turn produced a flurry of media commentary on the ethics of giving one candidate so much airtime and mention — critical pieces that also again give Trump more airtime and mention.

According to data analytics firm Zignal Labs, in the past week, Trump has commanded 45% share of conversation on Twitter and 23% on broadcast TV.

Trump’s victory event on Tuesday was supposed to be a press conference, but reporters were rows behind a gathering of supporters. Instead, Trump, in a bit of a tone of jest, called the media “disgusting,” while touting their coverage of favorable polls.

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