WASHINGTON (CNN) — Donald Trump will win the Republican primaries in Michigan and Mississippi, according to CNN projections, crucial victories that propel him closer to the GOP presidential nomination.
Hillary Clinton will win the Mississippi Democratic primary, according to a CNN projection.
Trump’s strong performance — he has now won 14 states — suggests that his capacity to win is undiminished despite a barrage of attacks by his rivals and the Republican establishment on his personality, his sometimes vulgar campaign style and his fitness to serve as president.
In a news conference Tuesday night, Trump said the results were a repudiation of “so many horrible, horrible things” said about him over the last week, which he said added up to “$38 million worth of horrible lies.”
He added: “It shows you how brilliant the public is because they knew they were lies.”
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz was seeking a strong showing to bolster his claim that he is the only Republican who can stop Trump, and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio is desperate for some evidence to counter an impression that his campaign is fading.
The contests come on what is being dubbed Super Tuesday 2. Republicans are competing in four states — Michigan, Mississippi, Idaho, and Hawaii — with 150 delegates up for grabs. Democrats are fighting for 166 delegates in Michigan and Mississippi.
Clinton’s Mississippi win
Clinton’s early win in Mississippi consolidates her dominance of Southern primary states with high numbers of African-American voters, a constituency with which Bernie Sanders, who has performed better in less-diverse states, struggles.
But the Sanders campaign is determined to show in Michigan that it can compete in the delegate-rich states in the Midwest, ahead of showdowns in Illinois, Ohio and Wisconsin looming in the coming weeks.
While a Michigan defeat would unlikely seriously dent Clinton’s lead in delegates, it would represent a speed bump in her efforts to pull away from Sanders. It would also raise fresh questions about Clinton’s struggles to connect with the Democratic base on economic issues, as she faces constant attacks from Sanders on her past links to Wall Street.
Clinton and Sanders have clashed repeatedly in recent days over issues that are vital to Michigan voters. The former secretary of state’s hammered her rival over a vote against a bailout for the U.S. auto industry in 2009, while the Vermont senator lambasted her over her past support for free trade deals which he said sowed ruin in the Midwest.
“What these trade agreements have done is decimate community after community in the Midwest and all over America,” Sanders said in the state on Monday. “I have helped lead the opposition to every one of these disastrous trade agreements,” he said, “because I knew what they would do.”
Clinton holds an overall lead of around 200 pledged delegates over Sanders, whose spirited campaign has enlivened grass-roots Democrats and tugged the former secretary of state to the left on some key issues.
Important moment for Kasich
Tuesday’s races also represent an important moment for Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who has spent several weeks effectively on the sidelines following a strong second-place showing in the New Hampshire primary last month. In the Southern primaries, he has proven to be less popular.
Michigan may also be a barometer of Kasich’s prospects in his own state of Ohio next week, which is a make-or-break contest for him.
And despite winning the Puerto Rico primary for his second victory of the campaign on Sunday, Rubio appears to be headed for another tough night.
Rules requiring a candidate to reach a threshold to get a share of the delegates on offer in the three primary states on Tuesday could see him fall further behind Cruz, who has already suggested his fellow senator should get out of the race.