Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton suffered a surprise loss to challenger Bernie Sanders in a major state primary on Wednesday, as billionaire Donald Trump notched a trio of easy victories in the Republican presidential nomination race.
The former secretary of state slumped to defeat in the industrial rust belt state of Michigan, where Mr Sanders snagged 49.9 per cent of the vote compared to Clinton’s 48.2 percent with almost all precincts already reported.
“This has been a fantastic night in Michigan,” Sanders said shortly before the race was called in his favour. However, Clinton handily defeated her rival in the southern Gulf state of Mississippi, thanks to a strong turnout by African-Americans.
And despite the upset, Clinton received a psychological boost by passing the half-way point in the race to reach the 2,382 delegates needed to win the Democratic nomination.
Nevertheless, even with the delegate math in Clinton’s favour, Sanders’s strong showing will reinvigorate his campaign, and raised questions about her ability to win key industrial states in the general election, such as Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
Sanders, a US senator from Vermont and self-described democratic socialist, has energised young voters with calls for greater economic equality and denunciations of what he sees as a corrupt US political system.
TRUMP SURGES ON
Meanwhile, Mr Trump shrugged off a barrage of negative advertising and intense efforts by the party establishment to derail his White House campaign to win primaries in Michigan and Mississippi, signalling to his rivals he can survive anything they throw at him.
He also emerged the victor of caucuses held in Hawaii.
“I don’t think I’ve had so many horrible, horrible things said about me in one week, $38 million worth of horrible lies,” Mr Trump told a crowd in Florida as he celebrated his first two victories.
“I think we ought to use that money to fight Hillary Clinton and the Democrats.”
It was not a clean sweep for Trump, however. He came second to Senator Ted Cruz, his nearest Republican competitor, in Idaho.
Clinton has now won 13 out of 22 nomination contests, with Mr Trump prevailing in 15 out of 24 races as the two inch closer to the tipping point in their respective races.
Marco Rubio, the senator whom mainstream Republicans rallied behind as the man to topple Trump, suffered another poor showing, facing the prospect of receiving zero delegates from either Michigan or Mississippi, the two main prizes of the night.