Hillary Clinton took a monumental step toward clinching the Democratic party’s White House nomination, while Donald Trump’s seemingly unstoppable rush to victory hit a bump in Ohio.
Trump on Tuesday won key Republican primaries in Illinois, North Carolina and Florida - where he thumped home state Senator Marco Rubio, who immediately announced he was suspending his presidential campaign.
“This was an amazing evening,” a buoyant Trump told supporters. “We’re going to win, win, win and we’re not stopping.”
Rubio’s loss was a major setback for Republicans trying to stop the bellicose businessman, whose populist anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim stance they fear will split the party.
The 69-year-old Trump was clinging to a narrow lead in Missouri with nearly all of the votes counted, but was denied a clean sweep by Ohio Governor John Kasich, who carried his home state, a key general election battleground.
Trump may now struggle to reach the 1,237 delegates necessary to avoid a challenge at the party’s nominating convention in July in Cleveland.
“The bottom line after tonight: it looks like Trump will not have a majority of delegates in July,” said Paul Beck, a professor of political science at Ohio State University.
There were fewer problems for Clinton, who defeated her rival Bernie Sanders in Florida, North Carolina, Ohio and Illinois. She also had a slight edge in Missouri, according to vote tallies.
Results, however, were so close - less than one percent difference - in Missouri that counting ceased until Wednesday to consider absentee votes and ballots cast abroad, CNN reported.
Under state law a recount can be ordered with such close results.
Sanders nevertheless faces an almost impossible task to catch up with Clinton’s formidable delegate advantage.
“We are moving closer to securing the Democratic party nomination and winning this election in November,” said Clinton, casting one eye on the general election - and at Trump.
“When we hear a candidate for president call for rounding up 12 million immigrants, banning all Muslims from entering the United States - when he embraces torture, that doesn’t make him strong. It makes him wrong.”