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Western Tuesday: Sanders And Cruz Claim Victories — But Not Arizona

By Jessica Taylor | NPR
Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz each notched victories in Tuesday's Western contests, but Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump's big wins in Arizona still mean their overall delegate lead won't change much.

On the Democratic side, Sanders won big victories in the Utah and Idaho caucuses, but the much smaller prizes could end up netting him roughly the same number of delegates Clinton will get from her Arizona win.

In the GOP race, Trump claimed all 58 Arizona delegates thanks to his victory in the winner-take-all primary. It was by far the biggest prize of the night and a further complication for Republicans hoping to stop the controversial real estate mogul's march to the nomination. Trump's hard-line position on immigration and promise to build a massive border wall won him support of influential Republicans in the state, including former Gov. Jan Brewer and popular Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

But there was still some encouraging news for the anti-Trump forces — the Associated Press projected that Cruz was on pace for a big win in Utah, finishing above the 50 percent threshold that would give him all 40 of the state's delegates.

That also means John Kasich would net zero delegates from Tuesday's contests. The Ohio governor was running second in heavily Mormon Utah, where Trump was expected to struggle. But in Arizona, which had heavy early voting for nearly a month, Kasich was actually in fourth behind Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who ended his campaign last week.

Even with such disappointing results, Kasich has not given any indication he would end his candidacy, and his campaign argued in a memo earlier Tuesday evening he was still the most electable general election candidate.

After Clinton's win in Arizona — a state Sanders had hoped to contest — she cast an eye toward the general election, arguing she is the candidate best qualified on national security, particularly in the wake of Tuesday's deadly terrorist attacks in Brussels.

"What Donald Trump and Ted Cruz and others are suggesting, it's not only wrong, it's dangerous," she said of the GOP candidates' calls to close the U.S. borders and for more policing of Muslim communities. "It will not keep us safe. This is a time for America to lead, not to cower."

Despite his loss in Arizona, Sanders pointed to the heavy turnout the night's contests had sparked and argued he had come a long way in closing the gap with Clinton, given the deficit he started with last year. There was heavy turnout in both Idaho and Utah, where long lines delayed the caucuses' start.

"I am enormously grateful to the people of Utah and Idaho for the tremendous voter turnouts that gave us victories with extremely large margins," Sanders said in a statement early Wednesday morning. "The impressive numbers of young people and working-class people who participated in the process are exactly what the political revolution is all about. These decisive victories in Idaho and Utah give me confidence that we will continue to win major victories in the coming contests."

Democrats will turn their attention next to Saturday contests in Alaska, Hawaii and Washington state.

For Republicans, there isn't another big contest for two weeks, when the remaining trio of GOP contenders will battle in Wisconsin on April 5.

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