Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a news conference at the Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter, Fla., on Tuesday.
Alan Diaz/Associated Press
Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. acknowledges his supporters on arrival at a campaign rally, Tuesday in Miami.
John Minchillo/Associated Press
Republican presidential candidate Ohio Gov. John Kasich speaks during a watch party at the Renaissance Columbus Downtown Hotel in Ohio Tuesda.
By Tom Troy / Block News Alliance
Michigan voters Tuesday handed another Republican primary victory to Donald Trump, with Texas Sen. Ted Cruz narrowly edging Ohio Gov. John Kasich for second place. Mr. Trump had 37.7 percent of the vote.
The billionaire also won the Mississippi Republican presidential primary and Republican presidential caucuses in Hawaii Tuesday, extending his control of the party’s nomination race as the other contenders fight for enough delegates to block his path.
Mr. Trump, too, padded his lead over Mr. Cruz, who carried the Idaho primary.
Mr. Trump was counting on victories in the two states to extend his control over the Republican race. Mr. Cruz, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Mr. Kasich are seeking to establish themselves as the likely alternative. Establishment leaders in the party, led by 2012 nominee Mitt Romney, are seeking to defeat Mr. Trump by preventing him from gaining the needed delegates before the party’s convention in July on grounds he’s unfit to be the party’s standard-bearer.
Michigan was the biggest prize of the night for Republicans, with 59 delegates at stake, followed by Mississippi with 40, Idaho with 32 and Hawaii with 19.
Michigan could prove to be a test case for Ohio because of the states’ similar reliance on the auto industry — and their related problems with water quality and slow economic recovery from the Great Recession.
Mr. Kasich, who made the most campaign appearances in Michigan in hopes of some border-state affinity, won the same number of delegates as Mr. Cruz — 17 — although Mr. Cruz edged Mr. Kasich in vote totals, 24.9 percent to 24.3 percent. Mr. Rubio failed to win any Michigan delegates.
Michigan is a test for the so-called “Reagan Democrat” vote — working class and union whites with conservative social leanings.
Mr. Trump went straight for the political jugular in a rally Friday in Warren, Mich., where he promised a raucous crowd of some 3,000 that he would apply a 35-percent tax to the Ford Motor Co. on any products brought into the U.S. from its new factory in Mexico.
Legal experts have questioned whether any such tax can be levied, and even Trump supporters say Michigan businesses rely to some extent on their Mexican plants.
Mr. Kasich made about 15 appearances in the state, starting in October.
While his rivals took turns throwing barbs at each other, he studiously avoided getting into the political fray. Mr. Kasich insisted repeatedly that while it was ‘‘important” to prevent Mr. Trump from getting the nomination, attacking him personally was not a sound course of action.
But Mr. Kasich even shied away from debates over policy, except to make fun of the promises made by other candidates without mentioning them by name.
On the issue of building a wall between the United States and Mexico, he said last Thursday in Detroit, “Are you kidding me? That’s not going to happen.”
Staying out of the fight may have cost Mr. Kasich the kind of evening news coverage that he was lacking. Nightly news reports often treated the Michigan Republican contest as a three-way race, excluding Mr. Kasich.
And while a more combative tone might have earned him media attention, Mr. Kasich insisted taking the “adult in the room” approach was the best use of his limited resources.
David Cohen, a political science professor at the University of Akron, said Mr. Kasich would look two-faced if he were to suddenly engage in mud-slinging — an image he started cultivating last year in New Hampshire, where he finished second in the nation’s first primary election.
“Any attack on Trump — even if it is simply on policy — will be perceived by Trump, himself, as a personal attack. Every time an opponent has attacked him in the primary, Trump has returned fire ten-fold with ugly personal tirades,” Mr. Cohen said.
He said Mr. Kasich is a fighter who can “take the brass knuckles out if forced to” but didn’t want to endanger the image he had so carefully crafted.
Mr. Kasich also had far less cash to spend on campaigning than the other Trump alternatives, Mr. Rubio and Mr. Cruz.
“He has to husband those resources very carefully,” Mr. Cohen said.
Mr. Kasich’s strong finish in Michigan will likely fuel his campaign push in Ohio, where he has vowed repeatedly that he will win next Tuesday — or quit the race.
“Now the home-court advantage is coming north and next week we are going to win the state of Ohio,” he said before a crowd of about 200 on Tuesday night in a downtown Columbus, Ohio, hotel.
Mr. Trump is seeking to prevail in Ohio and defeat Mr. Rubio in Florida next Tuesday to claim all 99 delegates there.
In Idaho, where results were expected later in the night, the Republican Party changed its contest to a primary after Mr. Romney easily won the state’s caucuses in 2012. Both Mr. Cruz and Mr. Rubio had campaigned there over the weekend.
In the overall race for delegates, Mr. Trump has 428 and Mr. Cruz has 315. Mr. Rubio has 151 delegates and Mr. Kasich has 52.
Among the Michigan voters casting their ballots in the final hours Tuesday was Larry Von Maluski, 53, of Lambertville, who said he voted for Mr. Trump for the Republican nomination. He said the vote was intended as a protest, as he wasn’t happy with the GOP’s nominees in 2008 and 2012.
Mr. Trump, he said, addressed issues he cares about, such as closing the borders to illegal immigrants and repealing the federal Affordable Care Act.
“I am sending a message, I hope, to the Republican leadership that I want a true conservative,” the network administrator said. “Kasich was trying, but he is part of the establishment that I am trying to boot out of Washington.”
Rick Biggs, 57, of Lambertville, a quality consultant, also voted for Mr. Trump.
“I’m tired of the gridlock. Tired of the talk and no action. The political system is broken and needs to be fixed,” Mr. Biggs said. He said the other candidate he considered was Mr. Kasich.
Andrew Edwards, 31, an electrician, said his choice, Mr. Cruz, is a conservative.
“I agree with a lot of his values and stands on the issues. I think he’s got a good chance, as long as people go out and vote,” Mr. Edwards said.
Doug Wott, 51, a structural engineering designer said choosing Mr. Cruz was an anti-Trump vote.
“He seems to be the best challenger for Trump,” Mr. Wott said.
In Mississippi, more than three-quarters of the voters described themselves as evangelical Christians and many said they were strongly conservative, according to exit poll interviews.
In Michigan, by contrast, the electorate was more secular and less Republican, with a significant number of independents voting in the GOP contest.
One commonality was anger at the political status quo, a running theme throughout this ornery election season.
Mr. Trump, reveling in his victories at one of his Florida resorts, spoke like a general election candidate, emphasizing the importance of helping Republican senators and House members get elected in the fall. But he still took on Mr. Cruz, who is closest to Mr. Trump in the delegate count.
“He’s always saying I’m the only one who can beat Donald Trump,” the businessman said. “But he never beats me.”
Mr. Trump was leading in the polls before the vote in Mississippi, after he won every Southern state contested so far by large margins with the exception of Louisiana on Saturday.
His other win Saturday was in Kentucky. He lost Kansas and Maine to Mr. Cruz. Mr. Trump’s weekend victories also were narrower than polling had indicated, which was seen as suggesting that attacks over crude language and ill-defined policies from Mr. Romney and others may be having an impact.
None of the Republican candidates made the long trip to campaign for the small delegate prize in Hawaii’s GOP caucuses. But the Trump-centered debate raging on the mainland played out on the islands, too.
“If candidates are looking to win over the state, then I think they need to be a little bit more open to diversity and a little more centrist about their approach,” Beth Fukumoto-Chang, Republican leader in the state House, said recently.
Nathan Paikai, a minister who led Mr. Trump’s campaign efforts in Hawaii, differed with that opinion. “There’s many people out there who say, ‘I don’t like the way he talks,’ ” Mr. Paikai said. “My response is, if it’s a soft tone and it’s a lie, do you believe it? What does it matter about tone?”
The Block News Alliance consists of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and The Blade of Toledo, Ohio. Tom Troy is a reporter for The Blade. Bloomberg News, Associated Press and the Los Angeles Times contributed.
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