Trump Calls Himself the "Presumptive Nominee"; Clinton Responds to "Woman Card" Remark
Donald Trump sweeps all five states, while Hillary Clinton claims four victories in the Northeast primaries.
Republican Donald Trump swept to easy victories Tuesday in all five states, claiming the Connecticut, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Delaware primaries, keeping the brash billionaire on his narrow path to the GOP nomination.
Hillary Clinton carried the Maryland and Delaware's Democratic contests, the first wins in what her campaign hoped would be a strong night for the former secretary of state.
Later, she took Pennsylvania and Connecticut, where she had been locked in a close race with rival Bernie Sanders. The Vermont senator edged out a win in Rhode Island, giving Clinton four out of five wins.
During his victory speech, Trump said he considers himself the "presumptive nominee" of the Republican party, despite being short of the delegates needed to claim the nomination.
Speaking after his sweep, and after making an appearance at the annual Time 100 gala in Manhattan, the Republican frontrunner reiterated his calls to rivals Ted Cruz and John Kasich to get out of the race. He also addressed "crooked Hillary" while fielding questions. "I'm not a hateful person. I'm a person who loves people. I'll do far more for women than Hillary will ever do," he said. "If Hillary were a man, I don't think she’d get 5 percent of the vote.”
With her victories, Clinton now has the delegates she needs to become the first woman nominated by a major party. She's already increasingly looking past Sanders, even as the Vermont senator vows to stay in the race until primary voting ends in June.
For her part, Clinton replied to Trump's accusation that she plays the "woman card" during her victory speech: "If fighting for women’s health care and paid family leave and equal pay is playing the 'woman card,' then deal me in," she told her cheering supporters.
Sanders spent Tuesday campaigning in West Virginia, where he drew several thousand people to a lively evening rally. He urged his supporters to recognize that they are "powerful people if you choose to exercise that power."
Still, there were some signs that Sanders' campaign was coming to grips with his difficult position. Top aide Tad Devine said that after Tuesday's results were known, "we'll decide what we're going to do going forward."
Trump's victories padded his delegate totals, yet the Republican contest remains chaotic. The businessman is the only candidate left in the three-person race who could possibly clinch the nomination through the regular voting process, yet he could still fall short of the 1,237 delegates he needs.
GOP rivals Cruz and Kasich are desperately trying to keep him from that magic number and push the race to a convention fight, where complicated rules would govern the nominating process. The Texas senator and Ohio governor even took the rare step of announcing plans to coordinate in upcoming contests to try to minimize Trump's delegate totals.
Trump collected at least 105 of the 118 delegates at stake in his five-state win. His sweep raises the stakes for the anti-Trump effort in Indiana next week. If Trump can win the Indiana primary, he will stay the path to clinch the nomination by the end of the primaries on June 7.
Kasich will win at least five delegates in Tuesday's contests — both in Rhode Island. Cruz, meanwhile, was contending for one or two delegates, also in Rhode Island.
Eight delegates are left to be awarded.
The AP delegate count: Trump: 950; Ted Cruz: 559; John Kasich: 153. Needed to win: 1,237. But that effort did little to stop Trump from a big showing in the Northeast. Going into the primary day, his campaign was hoping for a clean sweep of all five contests, with 172 Republican delegates up for grabs.
Cruz spent Tuesday in Indiana, which votes next week. Indiana is one of Cruz's last best chances to slow Trump, and Kasich's campaign is pulling out of the state to give him a better opportunity to do so.
"Tonight this campaign moves back to more favorable terrain," Cruz said during an evening rally in Knightstown, Indiana.
Trump has railed against his rivals' coordination, panning it as "pathetic," and has also cast efforts to push the nomination fight to the convention as evidence of a rigged process that favors political insiders.
Yet there's no doubt Trump is trying to lead a party deeply divided by his candidacy. In Pennsylvania, exit polls showed nearly four in 10 GOP voters said they would be excited by Trump becoming president, but the prospect of the real estate mogul in the White House scares a quarter of those who cast ballots in the state's Republican primary.
In another potential general election warning sign for Republicans, six in 10 GOP voters in Pennsylvania said the Republican campaign has divided the party — a sharp contrast to the seven in 10 Democratic voters in the state who said the race between Clinton and Sanders has energized their party.
The exit polls were conducted by Edison Research for The Associated Press and television networks.
Democrats award delegates proportionally, which allowed Clinton to maintain her lead over Sanders even as he rattled off a string of wins in previous contests. According to the AP count, Clinton has 2,089 delegates while Sanders has 1,258.
That count includes delegates won in primaries and caucuses, as well as superdelegates — party insiders who can back the candidate of their choice, regardless of how their state votes.
Clinton's campaign is eager for Sanders to tone down his attacks on the former secretary of state if he's going to continue in the race. She's been reminding voters of the 2008 Democratic primary, when she endorsed Barack Obama after a tough campaign and urged her supporters to rally around her former rival.
Ahead of Tuesday's results, Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid said that while Sanders has run a "unique and powerful" campaign, he does not believe the Vermont senator will be the party's nominee.
According to exit polls, less than a fifth of Democratic voters said they would not support Clinton if she gets the nomination. The exit polls were conducted in Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Maryland.