Cruz Goes Two for Four, Wins Kansas, Maine
Ted Cruz handily won the Kansas and Maine GOP presidential caucuses Saturday, while losing to Donald Trump in Louisiana and Kentucky.
Editor's note: This story has been updated throughout.
Ted Cruz on Saturday handily won the Republican presidential caucuses in Kansas and Maine, while suffering losses in Kentucky and Louisiana.
Taken together, the results gave the U.S. senator from Texas a boost of momentum in his quest to show he is the most viable alternative to Donald Trump. Cruz emerged from the night with the most delegates, narrowing Trump's lead in the overall hunt at a time when the GOP is desperately searching for a way to stop the billionaire.
Cruz notched his widest margin in Kansas, where he thumped Trump by 25 points. With all precincts reporting, Cruz led Trump 48 percent to 23 percent, while U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio finished third with 17 percent
In Maine, Cruz scored another double-digit win over Trump with 46 percent of the vote, according to the state party. Trump came in second with 33 percent, while third place went to Ohio Gov. John Kasich with 12 percent.
Trump got his revenge on Cruz in Kentucky and Louisiana, where he came in first with 36 percent and 42 percent, respectively. With almost all precincts reporting, though, Cruz was not far behind, trailing Trump by four points in both states.
With votes still being counted Saturday night, Cruz was set to pick up the most delegates Saturday, 64 to Trump’s 49. The results slightly narrowed Trump’s overall delegate lead over Cruz to 83, according to figures from the Associated Press.
At a rally Saturday afternoon in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, Cruz said the victories in Kansas and Maine continue to prove that he deserves a two-man race with Trump.
"What today has demonstrated is that our campaign is the only campaign that has beaten Donald Trump over and over and over again and that can and will beat Donald Trump over and over and over again,” Cruz said. “Our campaign has now beaten him not once, not twice, not three times, but if Kansas and Maine both hold, seven times we will have beaten Donald Trump all over this country."
Speaking at his Election Night party in Florida, Trump had a simple message for Cruz: Bring it on.
"I would love to take on Ted one-on-one. That would be so much fun," Trump said, calling on Rubio to leave the race. "I want Ted one-on-one, OK?"
Trump also fit in a jab at Cruz, whose eligibility for the president the billionaire has repeatedly questioned due to his birthplace in Calgary.
"He should do well in Maine because it's very close to Canada," Trump said. "Let's face it."
Eager for the field to narrow, Cruz's campaign was highlighting Rubio's poor performance Saturday evening, which included failing to meet delegate thresholds in both Maine and Louisiana. Cruz adviser Jason Miller tweeted that the Florida senator was having a "back of milk carton showing."
Cruz's campaign was most proud of its victory in Kansas, where it had sensed a close race and ended up blowing out Trump. Cruz traveled there immediately after Super Tuesday and dispatched a who's who of surrogates for a rally Friday night in Wichita. Cruz himself returned to the state Saturday morning to visit a caucus site in Wichita. Trump spoke after Cruz at the caucus site, getting loud boos from what appeared to be a Cruz-friendly crowd.
Conditions were favorable for Cruz on Saturday. Three of the four states were holding caucuses, a kind of nominating contest that rewards the superior organization for which Cruz's campaign is known. All four states were having closed caucuses or primaries, meaning only registered Republicans could participate — a setting Cruz did well in Tuesday in Alaska and Oklahoma.
Cruz entered Saturday looking to pad his delegate count and bolster his case that he belongs in a one-on-one matchup with Trump. He appeared to accomplish that, pulling closer to Trump in the delegate race and leaving his next closest competition, Rubio, in the dust in all four states.
As it became clear Cruz would win Kansas, he received more good news: He had won the straw poll at the Conservative Political Action Conference, the largest annual gathering of its type. Rubio trailed Cruz for second place, 30 percent to 40 percent. Trump came in third at 15 percent, followed by Ohio Gov. John Kasich at eight percent.
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