Donald Trump held off a big challenge from Sen. Ted Cruz to win Kentucky’s Republican primary Saturday night.
With about 70% of the state’s votes counted, Trump had about 35 percent support to Cruz’s 31 percent. Senator Marco Rubio and Gov. John Kasich had about 17 and 15 percent support respectively.
Polling for the Kentucky race was very limited, but the only recent poll listed on Real Clear Politics showed Trump with a huge lead. That, combined with Trump’s easy Super Tuesday victory in neighboring Tennessee, meant the state was expected to be a relatively easy victory for the frontrunner.
But there were also warning signs for Trump’s campaign. Kentucky is both a caucus state and a closed primary, and both formats have proven to be detrimental to Trump. Even more worrisome were early results that arrived from Kansas and Maine, where Ted Cruz won surprising victories.
But Trump managed to hold on in the Bluegrass State, though Cruz performed better than expected. Trump was carried by overwhelming support in eastern Kentucky’s coal country, where he often received over 50 percent support in individual counties. Trump also won Louisville, the state’s largest city, which offset Cruz’s advantages in Lexington and the state’s western reaches.
The win, coupled with another down in Louisiana, prevents what could have been a huge night for Cruz, and instead keeps Trump in the lead leading into critical contests over the next two weeks in Michigan, Florida, and Ohio. Meanwhile, Rubio’s distant third-place finish adds to his woes, as he was crushed by both Cruz and Trump in all four Super Saturday states.
Kentucky’s 46 delegates are allocated proportionally, so Trump’s win won’t produce a huge delegate swing in his favor.
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