Trump pulls off clean sweep of 5 Northeast primaries

Donald Trump
In this Dec. 16, 2015, photo, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Mesa, Ariz. It can be hard to see where Trump the business ends and Trump the presidential candidate begins. When rivals level political attacks, the Republican front-runner’s company attorneys threaten lawsuits on corporate letterhead. When his campaign needs event space, private businesses sometimes provide it for free. (AP Photo/Matt York)

PHILADELPHIA (AP) – Donald Trump swept all five Republican primaries Tuesday, a commanding showing across the Northeast that kept the Republican front-runner on his narrow path to the GOP nomination. His rout was a blow to rivals who are running out of ways to stop the brash billionaire.

Trump’s victories padded his delegate totals, yet the Republican contest remains chaotic. The businessman is the only candidate left in the three-person race who could possibly clinch the nomination through the regular voting process, yet he could still fall short of the 1,237 delegates he needs.

GOP rivals Ted Cruz and John Kasich are desperately trying to keep him from that magic number and push the race to a convention fight, where complicated rules would govern the nominating process. The Texas senator and Ohio governor even took the rare step of announcing plans to coordinate in upcoming contests to try to minimize Trump’s delegate totals.

But that effort did little to stop Trump from a big showing in the Northeast.

Cruz spent Tuesday in Indiana, which votes next week. Indiana is one of Cruz’s last best chances to slow Trump, and Kasich’s campaign is pulling out of the state to give him a better opportunity to do so.

“Tonight this campaign moves back to more favorable terrain,” Cruz said during an evening rally in Knightstown, Indiana. His event was held at the “Hoosier gym,” where some scenes were filmed for the 1986 movie, “Hoosiers,” starring Gene Hackman as the coach of a small town Indiana basketball team that wins the state championship.

Trump has railed against his rivals’ coordination, panning it as “pathetic,” and has also cast efforts to push the nomination fight to the convention as evidence of a rigged process that favors political insiders.

Yet there’s no doubt Trump is trying to lead a party deeply divided by his candidacy. In Pennsylvania, exit polls showed nearly 4 in 10 GOP voters said they would be excited by Trump becoming president, but the prospect of the real estate mogul in the White House scares a quarter of those who cast ballots in the state’s Republican primary.

In another potential general election warning sign for Republicans, 6 in 10 GOP voters in Pennsylvania said the Republican campaign has divided the party – a sharp contrast to the 7 in 10 Democratic voters in the state who said the race between Clinton and Sanders has energized their party.

The exit polls were conducted by Edison Research for The Associated Press and television networks.

With his five victories Tuesday, Trump will win at least 82 of the 118 delegates up for grabs in Tuesday’s contests. And he has a chance to win a lot more.

In Pennsylvania, Trump collected 17 delegates for winning the state. An additional 54 delegates are elected directly by voters – three in each congressional district. However, their names are listed on the ballot with no information about which presidential candidate they support.

Those delegates will attend the GOP convention as free agents, able to vote for the candidate of their choice.

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