By William Gallo
Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump have strengthened their grip on their parties’ presidential nominations, racking up a series of wins in key states on Super Tuesday, the primary election’s most important day of voting.
According to media projections, former Secretary of State Clinton has won six Southern states: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. The only states Sanders is projected to have won are Vermont, his home state, and Oklahoma.
On the Republican side, Trump took Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Massachusetts, Tennessee and Virginia, according to projections. Trump’s only losses were to Senator Ted Cruz, who took his home state of Texas, as well as Oklahoma.
Florida Senator Marco Rubio had a disappointing night. Not only has he not won a single state, he also is in danger of not meeting minimum voting thresholds in some states, meaning he may not pick up any delegates.
The results were not surprising. Opinion polls had showed Trump and Clinton with large leads in Super Tuesday states and nationally. At their victory speeches, both candidates focused on each other rather than their primary opponents.
“America never stopped being great,” Clinton said at a rally in Florida, referencing Trump’s campaign slogan. “We have to make America whole,” she said, adding that the rhetoric on the Republican side “has never been lower.”
At his own speech in Florida, Trump shot back: “She wants to make America whole again. I’m trying to figure what that’s all about. Making America great again is going to be much better than making America whole again.”
Trump also referenced his rival, Rubio, saying, “I know it as a very rough night for Marco Rubio. He worked hard, he spent a lot of money. He is a lightweight, like I have said many times.
“Rubio was the big loser of the night. He didn’t win anything tonight. He hasn’t won anything period,” Trump said.
Speaking to a large crowd in his home state late Tuesday, Sanders stayed optimistic.
“This campaign, as I think all of you know, is not just about electing a president, it is about transforming America. It is about making our great nation the country we know it has the potential to be,” he said.
Sanders stressed that Democratic primaries are proportional, and that they award delegates according to the vote count. “By the end of tonight, we are going to win many hundreds of delegates,” he said.
Americans across the nation – from Georgia to Alaska – cast their votes Tuesday. One of those voters was Barbara Ballow from Arlington, Virginia, who voted for Sanders in the Democratic race.
“I voted with my heart,” Ballow told VOA outside a polling location. “I don’t like Hillary. I don’t like her, and I don’t trust her. I think she’s part of the political establishment.”
Others, such as Arlington resident Deborah Klaus, are taking advantage of their state’s open primary system, which allows voters to cast a ballot for a candidate in either party.
Klaus calls herself a “huge” Sanders fan, but instead voted for Ohio Governor John Kasich, a Republican, saying it was more important for her that Trump lose than Sanders win.
“We’ve got to stop Trump. It probably won’t work, but I don’t want to see Trump in,” she said. “And I like (Kasich). He’s the least ideological, most issues oriented candidate.”
Nationally, a new NBC News/Survey Monkey poll Tuesday showed Trump with 40 percent support among registered Republicans, with Rubio at 21 percent and Cruz at 18 percent, followed by former neurosurgeon Ben Carson at 8 percent and Kasich at 7 percent.
In the Democratic race, the NBC poll showed Clinton with a 51-to-41 percent lead over Sanders.
Cruz is warning that the “Trump train” could be “unstoppable” if he wins big victories Tuesday.