[crscore]Ted Cruz[/crscore] had a big night Saturday with decisive wins in the Kansas and Maine caucuses, bolstering the Texas senator’s argument that he is the only Republican routinely defeating front-runner Donald Trump.
But Trump, the New York businessman who has shown strength in a number of southern states, also pulled off victories in Louisiana and Kentucky and still leads the race for delegates.
Cruz’s wins could make it more difficult for the other two people in the race, Florida Sen. [crscore]Marco Rubio[/crscore] and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, to argue they have viability in the contest.
After Saturday’s contests, according to the Associated Press delegate count, Trump has 378 delegates, Cruz has 295, Rubio has 123 and Kasich has 34. A candidate needs 1,237 delegates to win the nomination.
No other candidate won any states on Saturday.
In Kansas, Cruz crushed his rivals with a margin larger than expected, winning almost 50 percent of the vote.
Speaking at a rally Saturday night, Cruz said of his wins: “The scream you hear, the howl that comes from Washington D.C., is utter terror at what we, the people, are doing together.”
“Pivotal day in this campaign,” said Jason Miller, a senior aide to Cruz.
Trump, in a late-night press conference after the results came in, called on Rubio to drop out of the race, saying he had a “very, very bad night.”
He also gave Cruz a back-handed compliment. “I want to congratulate Ted on Maine and on Kansas and he should do well in Maine because it’s very close to Canada, let’s face it,” Trump quipped.
Former House Speaker and Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich referenced Cruz’s Kansas and Maine wins and said: “Rubio loses believability in contest with Cruz to be main alternative to Trump.”
But Rubio’s campaign argued after the results came in that they think the election map favors them.
“Ted Cruz has shown that he can win his home state and neighboring state, Oklahoma, and small rural caucuses, like Iowa and Alaska, and now Kansas,” Rubio aide Alex Conant said on Fox News.
“Unfortunately, there are only two states left that have caucuses, Utah and Hawaii,” Conant said. “After that it is all primaries. Marco has done well in primaries so far. We beat Ted Cruz in Virginia. We beat Ted Cruz in South Carolina. We beat Ted Cruz in Georgia, a state that Ted Cruz originally thought he might actually win. So we feel really good about the map moving forward.”
Kasich’s campaign is arguing no candidate will win a majority of delegates and the nominee will be chosen at a contested convention.
“No candidate is currently on track to win the nomination outright,” campaign strategist John Weaver wrote in a memo released Saturday. “Our campaign is built for the long-term, it is growing in strength and it will ensure Governor Kasich is the candidate best positioned to arrive in Cleveland and exit as the nominee.”
Cruz has now won six states. He won the Iowa caucuses, and, on Super Tuesday, was victorious in Texas, Oklahoma and Alaska.
The next day of contests is Tuesday, when Michigan, Mississippi, Hawaii and Idaho votes. On March 15, a slew of other states go to the polls, including Kasich’s home state of Ohio and Rubio’s Florida.