Jeb Bush endorsed Ted Cruz for the White House Wednesday in the latest bid by party heavyweights to stop Donald Trump\’s relentless drive toward the Republican nomination, after he notched another win in Arizona.
Hillary Clinton easily defeated Democratic rival Bernie Sanders in Arizona, but the Vermont senator scored resounding victories in Utah and Idaho that show he is still a force to be reckoned with.
Offsetting Trump\’s victory in Arizona was a blow-out loss to the Texas senator Cruz in Mormon-dominated Utah, underscoring once again the deep divisions that the presidential race has opened in the Republican party.
Bush, whose own White House hopes were crushed under the Trump wave, dipped back into the race to give Cruz a boost and take a shot at the frontrunner.
"For the sake of our party and country we must overcome the divisiveness and vulgarity Donald Trump has brought into the political arena or we will certainly lose our chance to defeat the Democratic nominee, most likely Hillary Clinton, this fall," said Bush, who dropped out of the race last month.
"That is the only way we can reverse President Obama\’s failed domestic and foreign policy agenda and turn our country around."
The former Florida governor is Republican royalty, the son and brother of presidents. But it was unclear how much sway he has with an angry electorate in a topsy-turvy election year.
A new Quinnipiac University poll shows Trump, a reality television star and billionaire businessman, and Clinton to be their respective party\’s clear primary leaders — but vulnerable as general election candidates.
The poll found that Clinton tops Trump 46 to 40 percent in a matchup but would lose to Ohio Governor John Kasich, whose only hope of gaining the Republican nomination would be in a brokered convention.
The survey indicated that Clinton would face a close contest if matched in November against arch-conservative Cruz, who is running second to Trump overall in the Republican contest and ahead of Kasich.
Some 54 percent of American voters "would definitely not" vote for Trump; 43 percent say the same about Clinton, according to the poll.
Tuesday\’s voting gave the candidates another opportunity to pile up delegates on the way to the party nominating conventions, but it did not dramatically alter the basic outlines of what has been the most divisive race in a generation.
"Much bigger win than anticipated in Arizona. Thank you, I will never forget!" Trump declared on Twitter.
Trump corraled all 58 delegates at stake in winner-takes-all Arizona, where he left Cruz and Kasich far behind.
But Cruz bounced back in neighboring Utah, plundering the state by more than 50 percent, which means he secures all of its 40 delegates, according to media projections.
At this point in the Republican contest Trump\’s main objective is to amass the 1,237 delegates needed to win his party\’s nomination outright and thwart a bid by the party establishment to stop him.
Following Tuesday\’s votes, Trump stood at 741 delegates, compared to 461 for Cruz and 145 for Kasich, according to a CNN tally.
On the Democratic side, Clinton\’s Arizona victory was tempered by Sanders\’ impressive performance in Idaho, where he won the caucuses by a staggering 78 percent to 21 percent, and in Utah, results which allowed him to cut into Clinton\’s delegate lead, if only slightly.
They were Sanders\’s first state victories since March 8 in Michigan.
"These decisive victories in Idaho and Utah give me confidence that we will continue to win major victories in the coming contests," Sanders said.
But the delegate math looked bleak for the self-described democratic socialist — Clinton finished the night with 1,711 delegates, compared with 939 for Sanders overall.
To win the Democratic nomination, 2,383 delegates are needed.
The US political mood was colored by Tuesday\’s deadly bombings in Brussels, with Trump and Cruz seizing the moment to talk tough once more on immigration.
In a Twitter message, Cruz called for US law enforcement to be empowered to "patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized." Asked what he meant, Cruz offered no specifics on NBC television.
Clinton denounced the strident talk.
"What Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and others are suggesting is not only wrong, it\’s dangerous. It will not keep us safe," she said.
"The last thing we need are leaders who incite more fear."
Republicans also held caucuses in the Pacific territory of American Samoa.
The next contests are the Democratic votes Saturday in Alaska, Hawaii and Washington state, and primaries for both parties in Wisconsin on April 5.