Trump, Clinton score big on Super Tuesday

By: Andrew Rafferty
By: Andrew Rafferty

(NBC) - Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton closed in on their party's presidential nominations by racking up big wins on Super Tuesday, though the rest of the field showed no signs of clearing the way for them just yet.

Clinton won seven states — Virginia, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, Arkansas, Texas, and even Massachusetts, a state where rival Bernie Sanders was expected to run particularly strong. The former secretary of state fell to Sanders in his home state of Vermont, Oklahoma, Minnesota and Colorado.

Trump scored seven victories Tuesday in Massachusetts, Virginia, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, Arkansas, and in Vermont, where NBC News declared him the apparent winner.

Sen. Ted Cruz picked up much-needed wins in his home state of Texas and in Oklahoma, and was the projected winner in the Alaska caucuses. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio picked up the first victory of his presidential campaign by winning the Minnesota caucuses, leaving John Kasich and Ben Carson as the only candidates without a No. 1 finish in a nominating contest.

Cruz used his victory speech in Texas to urge the rest of the GOP field to exit the race and allow him to challenge Trump one-on-one, saying it is the only way to defeat the real-estate mogul.

"For the candidates who have not yet won a state, who have not racked up significant delegates, I ask for you to prayerfully consider our coming together," he said.

Super Tuesday presented the biggest single-day haul of the primary calendar. Voters in twelve states went to the polls, with 595 delegates at stake for Republicans and 1,032 delegates up for grabs for Democrats.

The Republican race grew increasingly nasty heading into the important primaries, with Trump and Rubio leveling increasingly personal attacks against each other.

In his speech late Tuesday, Trump said Rubio had a "horrible night" and called him Florida's "little senator."

The dialogue has not been missed by Clinton, who recently has begun to focus her attention less on Sanders and more on Trump.

"The rhetoric has never been lower," Clinton told supporters in Miami, Florida.

"It might be unusual for a presidential candidate to say this," she added, "But I believe that what America needs today is more love and kindness."

Despite strong showings by the leading candidates, Sanders and the rest of the Republican field gave no indication they would abandon their White House bids. Each had sought to downplay expectations heading into Super Tuesday, stressing that they could add delegates even without winning states.

Sanders declared victory in Vermont shortly after polls closed, declaring that "by the end of tonight we are going to win many hundreds of delegates."

Rubio and Ohio Gov. John Kasich have sought to shift the focus to March 15, when each of their home states' vote.

"Just five days ago we began to unmask the true nature of the front runner so far in this race. Five days ago, we began to explain to the American people that Donald Trump is a con artist ... And two weeks from tonight right here in Florida we are going to send a message loud and clear," Rubio said at a rally in the Sunshine State.

Kasich, who narrowly lost to Trump in Vermont, said he "absolutely exceeded expectations" during an appearance in Mississippi. His team circulated a memo arguing the primary calendar gets better for their candidate later this month, while polls show Rubio trailing Trump by double digits in Florida.

Even Ben Carson, who did not run competitively in any of the Super Tuesday states, told supporters he is not ready to quit the race.

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