Five states vote in the “Amtrak Primary” on Tuesday in contests expected to help the two presidential front-runners, Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton, rack up ever wider leads in their parties’ crucial delegates counts.
For Republicans, the race for delegates remains a key focus, with Trump hoping to secure the 1,237 delegates needed before the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in July. If they come up short on Tuesday night, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich – now loosely aligned in hopes of stopping Trump – aren’t expected to be able to win many delegates.
On the Democratic side, polls in recent days suggests that Clinton could win all but one or two of the five states up for grabs Tuesday – or potentially sweep the table. Besides Pennsylvania, voters go the polls in Maryland, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Delaware.
Bernie Sanders, the upstart White House hopeful who’s stirred the passions of liberals around the country, made a final appeal for support in Philadelphia Monday ahead of five primaries that could render his already narrow path to the Democratic nomination virtually nonexistent.
“If you come out to vote tomorrow and drag your friends and your aunts and your uncles and your co-workers, we’re going to win here in Pennsylvania,” Sanders declared at a rally at Drexel University where he was greeted with boisterous cheers by a crowd of more than 3,000 people as he promised to fight a “rigged economy” and take on a “corrupt” campaign finance system.
After a winning streak that started in late March, Sanders’ momentum stalled considerably following Clinton’s decisive victory in New York. Given a sizable deficit in the delegate count, Sanders needs to not only be winning states, but winning them big, to catch Clinton – a proposition that will be severely tested Tuesday.
Clinton appeared to be moving past Sanders – taking a swipe at Trump for flying into parts of the country on a “big jet,” painting him as an out-of-touch magnate ensconced in his towers bearing his name.
“Donald Trump says wages are too high in America and he doesn’t support raising the minimum wage,” Clinton said. “I have said come out of those towers named for yourself and actually come out and talk and listen to people.
“At some point, if you want to be president of the United States, you’ve got to get familiar with the United States,” she added, to laughter from the crowd.
Trump, meanwhile, blasted his remaining two GOP presidential rivals after they announced an agreement Sunday to coordinate in upcoming primary contests with the aim of preventing Trump from securing the nomination.
“Honestly, it shows such total weakness, and it’s pathetic when two longtime insider politicians – establishment guys, whether you like it or not – have to collude, have to get together to try to beat a guy that really speaks what the people want,” Trump said during a campaign event in Warwick, R.I., on Monday.
The Cruz-Kasich alliance ran into its own speed bumps Monday that exposed the plan’s risks and called into question whether it would work.
In their unconventional last-ditch scheme, Kasich said he would clear the way for Cruz to face Trump in Indiana while Cruz would return the favor in Oregon and New Mexico. The plan aimed to produce what anti-Trump Republicans have yearned for since the fall: a one-on-one showdown with the mogul.
But less than 12 hours after the pact was announced, Kasich undercut the idea by declaring Monday that his supporters in Indiana should still vote for him. The Ohio governor also plans to keep raising money in the state and to meet Tuesday with Republican Gov. Mike Pence.
Cruz, meanwhile, said that Kasich was “pulling out” of the state. A super PAC supporting the senator from Texas also said it would continue to air an anti-Kasich ad in the state – a sign the Cruz camp fears Kasich could still peel away enough support to sink Cruz’s chances there.
The tumult fueled doubts about the arrangement among voters and Republican elites, who worried that Cruz and Kasich have handed Trump a ready-made argument that the party establishment is plotting against him. The mogul said as much in a series of stump speeches on the eve of primary voting on Tuesday.
(c) 2016, The Washington Post · Jose A. DelReal, John Wagner