5 takeaways from Western Tuesday
(CNN) — Presidential front-runners Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump each fended off their challengers in Arizona’s primaries on a “Western Tuesday” on which the terrorist attacks in Brussels forced foreign policy to the forefront of the 2016 campaign.
Bernie Sanders fought back with caucus wins in Idaho and Utah, and Ted Cruz looked to capture not just a victory in Utah but the Beehive State’s entire delegate haul.
Here are five takeaways from Western Tuesday:
Trump walls out his foes in Arizona
There was no news conference at Mar-a-Lago from Trump, who didn’t have any events on his campaign schedule Tuesday night.
But he still won the biggest prize of the day for the Republicans, capturing all 58 of Arizona’s delegates with a first-place finish in the winner-take-all primary — taking another big step toward the GOP nomination and making his opponents’ efforts to deny him the delegates necessary to clinch a little more difficult.
His win was a triumph for the anti-immigration hard-liners.
Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio — the architect of Phoenix’s famous “tent city” jail — was among his high-profile endorsers. So was former Gov. Jan Brewer. Their decision to side with Trump, and the size of his win, underscores the potency of Trump’s build-a-wall plan with the Republican base.
Though Trump’s foes are lambasting his provocative style in TV ads, Tuesday night’s win won’t do anything to convince the front-runner he needs to change his tone. As the results trickled in, Trump was in the midst of a Twitter battle with Cruz. He threatened: “Lyin’ Ted Cruz just used a picture of Melania from a G.Q. shoot in his ad. Be careful, Lyin’ Ted, or I will spill the beans on your wife!”
Cruz responded on by saying that the ad was not from him and if he went after his wife, then Trump is a “coward.”
“Pic of your wife not from us. Donald, if you try to attack Heidi, you’re more of a coward than I thought. #classless,” Cruz tweeted.
Cruz captures Utah
Ted Cruz won Utah, but the biggest question was whether he could capture 50% of the vote — a number that would allow him to claim all 40 of the state’s delegates, instead of seeing them divided proportionally.
Doing so would keep him within striking distance of Trump and bolster his argument that he deserves a one-on-one race against the GOP front-runner — even as Kasich shows no signs of exiting anytime soon.
Among Utah’s winners: Mitt Romney, the 2012 GOP nominee-turned-anti-Trump gadfly.
He might not have the credibility with the GOP electorate to thump Trump nationally — but in Utah, where his fellow Mormons dominate, Romney’s robocalls and public declaration that he would caucus for Cruz did the Texas senator some good. Also helping Cruz: Utah Gov. Gary Herbert’s endorsement.
That Cruz was able to rally those establishment Republicans to his side, and convert their support into votes, underscores a remarkable political metamorphosis: Once hated by GOP elites, Cruz is now increasingly their champion in their bid to stop Trump.
Cruz campaign manager Jeff Roe said the Utah results and the late vote in Arizona show the momentum is with Cruz.
He tweeted: “The point? Watch head to head numbers between Cruz/Trump on election day voters in AZ. That, along with Utah gives state of race/momentum.”
Clinton’s desert victory
The Democratic front-runner won the biggest state on Tuesday’s slate, again proving she’s difficult to beat in states with sizeable minority populations.
It was a particularly satisfying triumph for Clinton’s camp, which had worried because Sanders had largely camped out in the state in recent days, while the former secretary of state had held just one event — Monday in Phoenix.
What it means more than anything: Clinton doesn’t need to refocus on the Democratic race with Sanders.
She devoted her speech in Seattle Tuesday night to hitting Trump, saying he’d incite “more fear.”
“This is not just a contest between different candidates. This is a contest between fundamentally different views of our country, our values and our future,” Clinton said.
Sanders captures Idaho and Utah
All along, Sanders has promised his fortunes would change when the Democratic contest moved West, and he easily won the Idaho and Utah caucuses Tuesday night.
Next up: A trifecta of Saturday caucuses that Sanders could sweep: Washington state, Alaska and Hawaii, where Rep. Tulsi Gabbard has been one of Sanders’ highest-profile surrogates. That caucuses tend to favor parties’ activist elements is something that should give him a leg up — just like Utah and Idaho.
Thousands of people gathered at the San Diego Convention Center to hear Sanders on Tuesday night, CNN’s Jeff Zeleny reported. And he’d picked the venue for a reason: to show he is going to stay in the race until the state’s June 7 primary.
Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver told Zeleny he expects the race to tighten overnight as more votes are tallied — particularly from precincts with hours-long waits.
“I’m not predicting victory, but I’m not predicting defeat, either,” he said.
He said the campaign has mapped out a path to the nomination that doesn’t require him to run the table in the remaining states.
“We have a path to victory. It’s not an easy path, but it never has been an easy path,” Weaver said.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich, strapped for cash, under mounting pressure from Cruz to exit the race, and desperate to prove he can compete across the map, wasn’t expected to win Tuesday, and he didn’t.
Yet he started the night trailing Marco Rubio, who dropped out of the race last week, in Arizona. The large numbers of early votes cast meant the state wasn’t a true test of how Kasich would do in a three-person race, but embarrassing nonetheless, which Roe enjoyed on Twitter. “And, for levity, watching Rubio beat Kasich on early vote is really funny,” he wrote.
Next up, Kasich is heading to California, where he’ll campaign and try to add to the $1.25 million he had in the bank at the end of February, CNN’s Phil Mattingly reported. His top aides, too, are fanning out across the state over 72 hours, courting money-men and -women, many of whom supported candidates who have exited the race. If they fail, his improbable pathway starts to disappear entirely.