Trump KOs Rubio in Florida, but Falls to Kasich in Ohio

     
     (CN) – Donald Trump and Ohio Gov. John Kasich won the Florida and Ohio primaries, respectively, Tuesday night, their victories in the winner-take-all contests guaranteeing the fractious GOP race for the White House will continue for weeks to come.
     In the meantime, Hillary Clinton had a big night, winning four of five contests she competed in against Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
     The only unknown Wednesday morning, for both parties, is who won in Missouri.Neither race has been officially called. At last count, with 99 percent of precincts reporting, Clinton was leading Sanders by a mere 1,531 votes; while in the Republican column, Trump was leading Cruz by 1,726 votes.
     The big story early was Trump’s crushing victory in the Sunshine State, a trouncing that drove Sen. Marco Rubio from the presidential stakes.
     Trump absolutely demolished the first-term senator in the winner-take-all Republican contest in Florida, besting his rival by a 19-vote margin and raking in all 99 of the state’s delegates.
     Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas came in third in the contest, some 10 points behind Rubio, while Kasich came in a distant fourth.
     Rubio announced he was suspending his campaign shortly before 8:30 p.m. in a speech that was briefly interrupted by hecklers shouting their support for Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas.
     “While it wasn’t God’s plan that I should be president this year or maybe ever, the fact that I was able to come this far is evidence of how special America truly is,” Rubio said.
     Earlier in the day, voting in South Florida was brisk, and the voters themselves adamant in their backing of their respective candidates.
     “I’m voting for Trump because he stands for everything I support,” said Domingo Martin after he voted at the West Dade County Regional Library.
     “I support his immigration policies. I support his taking care of the veterans and the police departments. I support everything that he stands for,” Martin continued. “He wants to make America great again, that’s his model, and that’s what I stand for.”
     Martin’s sentiments were echoed by Bernard Palomino, another voter at the West Dade Regional Library, who identified himself both as a retired military man and a legal immigrant to the United States.
     “He wants to bring jobs back to America,” Palomino said of Trump. “He doesn’t want the criminals to run free in sanctuary cities.”
     “Nobody can say that this country is currently in good standing,” Palomino said, adding that he believes Trump will change that.
     But Rubio was not without his supporters.
          Coming out of his polling place at Florida International University, Orlando Delgado said he voted for the Florida senator because “I want somebody in the office that is both conservative and a man of faith.”
     “I could not vote for Donald Trump,” he said. “I think the Republican party needs to get together and actually have better leaders.”
     Delgado said what he’s witnessed in the numerous televised debates between the Republican candidates this year has “been very appalling.”
     “That’s what has turned me off of this election more than anything. I just pray for the world that we don’t get a guy like that Donald Trump in office. This country cannot have a leader like that,” he said.
     The Democratic contest in Florida wasn’t winner-take-all, but if anything, Hillary Clinton was an even bigger winner in the state that trump, trouncing Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont by a nearly 2-1 margin and picking up 136 delegates compared to 47 delegates for Sanders.
     Clinton stopped by the Palm Beach County Convention Center following her victory in Florida and spoke to an overcapacity crowd Tuesday night. A few dozen supporters lingered outside the security checkpoint, entertaining hopes that they would be let in.
     For a county with a high percentage of retirees and older residents, the crowd appeared disproportionately young.
     Clinton’s speech swept through all demographic bases, nonetheless.
     “Young people across America struggling under the wake of student debt find it difficult to imagine the futures they want, and they deserve a president who will help relieve them of that burden, and help future generations go to college without borrowing a dime for tuition.
     “Grandparents who worry about retirement deserve a president who will protect … social security for those who need it most, not cut or privatize it.
     “Families deserve a president who will fight for the things that are priorities at home but too often aren’t priorities in Washington … affordable child care, paid family leave and something we have waited for long enough: equal pay for equal work,” Clinton told the crowd, with her voice swallowed up by applause.
     At one point, her speech included an amalgamation of the types of populist rhetoric that have galvanized Trump and Sanders supporters.
     “We are going to stand up for the American middle class again. We’re going to stand up for American workers, and make sure no one takes advantage of us, not China, not Wall Street and not overpaid corporate executives,” Clinton said.
     “Of course every candidate makes promises like this, but every candidate owes it to you to be clear and direct about what our plans will cost and how we’re going to make them work. That’s the difference between running for president and being president.”
     The Democratic frontrunner went on to criticize some of Trump’s more controversial stances.
     “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,” Clinton said.
     John Monroe, a Florida International University student who cast his first-ever vote in a presidential primary election for Sanders said he and many of his fellow students see the Vermont senator as both a man of vision, and someone whose moment is very much the present.
     “That’s why it’s time to vote now,” Monroe said. “He’s expressing ideas that haven’t been heard in decades. I support all of his policies, whether he’s talking about health care, immigration policies, or restoration of the middle class.”
     The other significant story line Tuesday night was of course in Ohio where Gov. John Kasich vowed to slow Trump’s March to the Republican presidential nomination with a win in the winner-take-all Buckeye State.
     Kasich raked in 66 delegates in Ohio while besting Trump by eight percentage points, and he appears to have set up a three man race between he, Trump and Ted Cruz that could extend right to the floor of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in July.
     Clinton’s win in Ohio by a nearly 2-1 margin confounded the pundits who in recent days were predicting a much closer race. Some even had Sanders winning.
     Clinton’s win nets her 85 delegates to Sanders’ 29.
     The former secretary of state also won by a 2-1 margin In North Carolina. With her victory there she picked up 64 delegates, while Sanders will likely get 25. The victory also gives Clinton a clean sweep of the southeast.
     In Illinois, Clinton defeated Sanders, 51 percent to 49 percent, outdistancing him by 34,605 votes. In the process, Clinton picked up 86 of the state’s delegates, while Sanders won 64.
     Trump beat Cruz, 38.8 percent to 30.3 percent in Illinois, adding 24 delegates to his total. Kasich came in third with 19.7 percent of the vote. Rubio fourth.
     As for Missouri, a steady stream of voters came through St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in the community of Otto, which is located about 30 miles south of St. Louis in Jefferson County.
     The county was once a Democratic stronghold in Missouri, but the discontent with the establishment could be felt among the voters.
     “My biggest issue is we need to get rid of the damn Democrats in there and put someone in who will do something,” said Jim Snyder, a Cruz supporter. “We’ve got to downsize government and secure our gun rights.”
     Ron Dagenhart was also Cruz supporter.
     “He’s right to life,” Dagenhart said. “He’s evangelical. He believes in my God. The whole Democratic Party wrote off God last year.”
     Mike Fanger said he considers himself a Democrat, but Trump had his vote due to his stance on immigration.
     Mary Robbins said she wasn’t impressed with any of the candidates, but also placed her vote with Trump.
     “It’s only because he’s different, but I hate his mouth,” Robbins said. “I’d like somebody to do something different. It seems like all the politicians want to do is spend our money.”
     Clint Belew, 18 and participating in his first presidential election, said he was voting for Sanders.
     “I feel like on most of the issues I definitely agree with him on,” Belew said. “I especially like his stance on tax issues.”
     Lou Wright also supported Sanders because she believes he will bring accountability to the office. Wright considers herself a life-long Democrat, but Clinton does not have her support.
     “With Hillary’s record, I wouldn’t vote for her if she was the last person on the ballot,” Wright said.
      Courthouse News reporter Monica Pais in Miami, Izzy Kapnick in West Palm Beach, and Joe Harris in St. Louis contributed to this report.

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