Even Bad-Boy Trump Can't Seem to Stop Trump
Policy + Politics

Even Bad-Boy Trump Can't Seem to Stop Trump

  • Trump claims wins in Michigan and Mississippi
  • Clinton wins Mississippi but it's too close to close in Michigan
Rick Wilking

Billionaire Donald Trump has been projected as the winner of the Republican presidential primary in Michigan, according to exit polls and early returns. Earlier on Tuesday evening, Trump also won the Republican primary in Mississippi – giving him a pair of victories in far-flung and very different states, and demonstrating that furious attacks by his rivals and his party’s elite have not stopped Trump’s momentum.

Democrats also voted in Michigan on Tuesday. But the race there between former secretary of state Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) remained too close to call. Clinton had led in pre-election polling, but – in early returns from polling places – Sanders held a small lead.

In the Republican race, Trump’s two victories give him 14 total. His rivals have won eight states altogether. In early returns from Michigan, Trump was leading his closest rival – Ohio Gov. John Kasich – by about 10 points.

The victories in Michigan and Mississippi will not significantly increase his lead in the count of Republican delegates, since the two states give them out proportionately. The second-place candidate, and even perhaps the third- or fourth-place candidate, will also get a share. But, for Trump, these victories will still be undoubtedly sweet: after more than a week of furious attacks by his rivals, his party’s last presidential nominee, and big-spending super PACs, Trump held on to win, again.

Trump spoke to the media at one of his golf resorts in Jupiter, Fla. He started out playing host, talking up the place itself: “It’s a Jack Nicklaus signature course, and it’s a great, great resort. And we have a lot our members here.”

Trump alternately mocked his rivals and pitying them: “It’s a hard thing, so I understand,” he said of 2012 Republican presidential nominee – and loud Trump critic -- Mitt Romney, talking about how much it much have hurt when Romney lost. Trump – in what was undoubtedly a first for a major-party front-runner – then listed off a series of products with his name on them, including Trump Water, Trump Magazine, Trump University, Trump Vodka, Trump Wine and others. “We have Trump steaks. And by the way, if you want to take one, we’ll charge you about 50 bucks a steak,” Trump said. It was a sign of how much Trump’s rivals had gotten under his skin, with attacks on his business record: he diverted from a political press conference to defend a series of his name-branded ventures.

Trump also talked about politics, saying he could defeat Clinton by building a coalition with crossover Democrats : “We have Democrats coming over, very importantly. We have independents coming over,” Trump said. “With all of these people coming over, we’re going to have something very special….We will take many, many people away from the Democrats.”

Republicans are also voting on Tuesday in Idaho and Hawaii, but those states’ polls will not close for several hours.

Earlier on Tuesday Clinton and Trump were projected as the winners of their parties’ presidential primaries in Mississippi.

The Associated Press projected Clinton as the winner in Mississippi – where her strong support among black voters was decisive – just after the polls closed at 8 p.m. Eastern time. AP projected Trump as the winner of the state’s GOP primary about 40 minutes later, as early returns showed him with a double-digit lead over Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.), his nearest rival.

For both Clinton and Trump, Mississippi was the latest in a series of victories across the Deep South, which have helped both cement their status as front-runners. The two of them have played to widely different electorates in those states, with Clinton speaking to black voters pleased with the performance of President Obama, and Trump speaking to white Republicans who have turned even more conservative and embittered – with Obama and with their own party leadership — in the same period.

African Americans accounted for roughly 6 in 10 voters in Mississippi’s Democratic primary, which would mark a record high if it holds according to preliminary exit polling reported by ABC News. Black voters went strongly against Clinton in 2008, when she was defeated in the Democratic primary by then-Sen. Barack Obama. But, in this election, they have helped Clinton swamp Sanders in a series of southern states. In Mississippi, Clinton was hoping that black voters could give her a lopsided victory, as well as the bulk of the state’s 36 Democratic delegates.

Clinton won nearly 9 out of 10 black voters in Mississippi, according to exit polls reported by ABC News. Clinton also won white Democrats in Mississippi, however, by nearly a 2 to 1 margin.

Sanders has won eight states, but – because his victories were in smaller states, and because Clinton, with 12 state wins, has dominated among “super delegates” that make up their own minds – Sanders is still far behind in the race for delegates to the Democratic convention.

In early returns from the GOP race in Mississippi, Trump held a double-digit lead over Cruz. In exit polls, 85 percent of Mississippi Republican primary voters said they were evangelical Christians in preliminary exit polling reported by CNN, similar to 83 percent in 2012. Cruz had hoped these voters would be strongly for him, campaigning heavily in the South. But — in Mississippi as elsewhere — Trump appears to have blocked Cruz from gaining an edge in this group.

Early exit polling data found Trump with a small edge among evangelical Christians. Trump also had 2 to 1 lead over Cruz among those who did not call themselves evangelicals. In Mississippi, that group accounted for just 15 percent of the electorate.

[Mississippi’s could be a key test for how the Trump-Cruz contest is evolving]

Trump has won 13 states. He has dominated in the deep South, where he has won a solid block of states that stretches from Louisiana and Arkansas in the West to South Carolina in the East. His rivals have won eight states between them.

The race for delegates is far closer among Republicans than among Democrats, however. The states where Republicans have voted so far have distributed their delegates proportionally – so the second- and third-place candidates still often come away with something. In contrast to Democrats, Republicans have no “superdelegates,” who aren’t won in a vote. Because Tuesday’s Republican primaries are also in “proportional” states, their outcomes are unlikely to make a significant shift in the race for delegates, in which Trump holds a lead.

Republicans are also voting in Idaho and Hawaii on Tuesday, but Democrats are not. The results of those GOP contests will not be known for several more hours.

For Trump, the victories in Michigan and Mississippi aren’t decisive. He is still a long way from winning a majority of GOP convention delegates. Because Michigan and Mississippi will split their delegates among several candidates, his lead is not likely to grow by much on Tuesday.

But it still is a key psychological victory for Trump, the now-embattled front-runner. Wins in these states would show that — despite furious attacks by rival candidates, a blitz of anti-Trump TV ads, and a highly unusual rebuke from his own party’s most recent presidential nominee — Trump can still win.

For Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.) — who has re-focused his campaign around attacks on Trump, both in debates and in campaign-trail speeches – Tuesday was shaping up to be a disaster. He was running fourth in early returns from both Michigan and Mississippi, on pace to come in below the 15 percent cutoff required to receive any delegates. If those numbers hold, Rubio would be shut out. That would be an odd echo of what happened to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, after he sharply attacked Rubio in New Hampshire. Christie succeeded in unsettling his rival, but then faded himself and later dropped out.

Rubio already seemed to be conceding defeat in Tuesday’s major primaries: before the last polls had even closed in Michigan, Rubio spoke to supporters in his home state of Florida – which he pledged to win next week.

“I believe with all my heart that the winner of the Florida primary next Tuesday will be the nominee of the Republican Party,” Rubio told a crowd in Ponte Vedra, Fla., reiterating that he hopes to win his home state’s 99 delegates next week by defeating Trump. Rubio’s candidacy seems to be flagging, and a loss on home turf would likely end it.

[Allied super PAC rushing to Marco Rubio’s rescue in Florida]

Even if Rubio can win Florida, he will have a very difficult time surpassing Trump and his rivals in future states.

Rubio told supporters that Trump could never win in a general election: Clinton, he said, will not be beat “if we nominate someone that over 60 percent of our party rejects and a third of our party refuses to ever vote for. If we are not united, we cannot win,” he added.

Early exit polls reported by CNN showed that Republican voters in Mississippi and Michigan were very unhappy with the U.S. government — a demographic that both Trump and Cruz have tried to woo.

In both states, almost 9 in 10 GOP voters said they were either dissatisfied or “angry” with the government, according to CNN.

CNN reported that, in both states, voters were also worried about economy, but Republicans in Mississippi were more likely to be worried about the issue. Roughly 8 in 10 Mississippi voters said they were worried, as compared to two-thirds in Michigan.

Republicans in Michigan and Mississippi were, however, deeply split on their views of immigration, CNN reported. In Mississippi, a majority say that immigrants working in the U.S. illegally should be deported. But most Republican voters in Michigan said those here illegally should be allowed to apply for legal status.

That view in Michigan could be a hopeful indicator for Kasich, who seems to be Trump’s closest challenger there. Kasich has criticized Trump for Trump’s exceptionally hard-line immigration policy, which includes a plan for the mass deportation of millions of undocumented immigrants now living in the United States.

In the Democratic race, Sanders made it clear Tuesday that — despite Clinton’s huge lead in delegates — he was not giving up without a fight.

Sanders announced shortly before 3 p.m. that his campaign is filing suit in federal court to block a move by the secretary of state in Ohio that would keep 17-year-olds from voting in the state’s presidential primaries.

Under current practice, Sanders said, anyone who will be 18 by the date of the general election has been allowed to participate in the primaries.

Sanders, who has performed exceptionally strongly with young voters in previous primaries and caucuses, made the announcement as his chartered jet was about to leave Michigan en route to Miami, where there is a Democratic debate scheduled Wednesday evening.

“We hope that there is a higher voter turnout here in Michigan,” Sanders told reporters Tuesday afternoon as he left the state. “From what I’m hearing, turnout seems to be pretty good. We have a history of doing very, very well when voter turnout is high, when working people come out in large numbers, when young people come out in large numbers.”

Robert Costa, Juliet Eilperin, Ed O’Keefe, Abby Phillip, Phillip Rucker, John Wagner, David Weigel and Niraj Chokshi contributed to this report, which was originally published in The Washington Post. Read more at The Post: