POLITICS

Ted Cruz wins Utah's 40 delegates, but path to GOP nomination still challenging

Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas speaks to the media about events in Brussels, Tuesday, March 22, 2016, near the Capitol in Washington. Cruz said he would use the "full force and fury" of the U.S. military to defeat the Islamic State group.  (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas speaks to the media about events in Brussels, Tuesday, March 22, 2016, near the Capitol in Washington. Cruz said he would use the "full force and fury" of the U.S. military to defeat the Islamic State group. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)  (ap)

Ted Cruz will take all of Utah's 40 delegates to this summer's Republican National Convention after a big win in the Beehive state's caucus on Tuesday.

Despite the win, the Texas lawmaker still trails Donald Trump in the delegate count by a wide margin and has a very limited path to clinch the nomination before the convention. But if he can start winning more contests, he can stop front-runner Trump from doing so.

Trump claimed the biggest victory of the night when he won all of Arizona's 58 delegates. On the Democratic side front-runner Hillary Clinton took home Arizona, while her rival, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, won caucuses in Utah and Idaho.

Tuesday's elections were held in the shadow of the terrorist attacks in Brussels and the candidates' stump speeches of the day reflected their varying stances on national security and international relations.

"This is about not only selecting a president, but also selecting a commander in chief," Clinton said in Seattle, as she condemned Trump by name and denounced his embrace of torture and hardline rhetoric aimed at Muslims. "The last thing we need is leaders who incite more fear."

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Trump, in turn, branded Clinton as "Incompetent Hillary" as he discussed her tenure as secretary of state. "Incompetent Hillary doesn't know what she's talking about," the billionaire businessman said in an interview with Fox News. "She doesn't have a clue."

The back and forth between the front-runners came on a day when voters were eager to make their voices heard in the 2016 election.

In another development, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who dropped out of the race after the Super Tuesday primaries, endorsed Cruz.

Bush tweeted Wednesday that "Ted is a consistent, principled conservative who has shown he can unite the party."

Bush added on his Facebook page that Republicans "must overcome the divisiveness and vulgarity Donald Trump has brought into the political arena" or risk losing to Hillary Clinton.

The victories for Sanders and Cruz kept the front-runners from dominating another election night, but both Clinton and Trump maintained a comfortable lead in the race for delegates who decide the presidential nominations.

As voters flooded to the polls, the presidential candidates lashed out at each other's foreign policy prescriptions, showcasing sharp contrasts in confronting the threat of Islamic extremism.

Clinton — and Trump's Republican rivals — questioned the GOP front-runner's temperament and readiness to serve as commander in chief, and condemned his calls to diminish U.S. involvement with NATO.

Addressing cheering supporters in Seattle, Clinton said the attacks in Brussels were a pointed reminder of "how high the stakes are" in 2016.

"We don't build walls or turn our back on our allies," she said. "We can't throw out everything we know about what works and what doesn't and start torturing people."

Cruz seized on Trump's foreign policy inexperience while declaring that the U.S. is at war with the Islamic State group.

"He doesn't have the minimal knowledge one would expect from a staffer at the State Department, much less from the commander in chief," he told reporters. "The stakes are too high for learning on the job."

In London, a senior British counter-terrorism police officer condemned Trump's assertion on the "Good Morning Britain" TV show that that British Muslims are not reporting extremists in their communities to police. Deputy Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu told BBC Radio on Wednesday that Trump's comments are wrong and could raise tensions.

"If we demonize one section of the community, that is the worst thing we can do," he said. "We are absolutely playing into the terrorists' hands of making people feel hate."

The debate between Trump and Cruz took a detour late Tuesday night as they engaged in an unusual Twitter exchange about their wives.

The billionaire warned Cruz he would "spill the beans on your wife" after an anti-Trump group ran an ad in Utah featuring a picture of Trump's wife, Melania, from a photo shoot that ran in GQ magazine more than a decade ago.

Cruz shot back with a tweet of his own, saying in part, "Donald, if you try to attack Heidi, you're more of a coward than I thought."

The win in Arizona gave Trump a little less than half of the Republican delegates allocated so far. That's still short of the majority needed to clinch the nomination before the party's national convention this summer.

However, Trump has a path to the nomination if he continues to win states that award all or most of their delegates to the winner. Ohio Gov. John Kasich was shut out for the night.

Overall, Trump has accumulated 739 delegates, Cruz has 465 and Kasich 143. It takes 1,237 delegates to win the GOP nomination.

On the Democratic side, Clinton's delegate advantage is even greater than Trump's.

Coming off last week's five-state sweep of Sanders, the former secretary of state entered Tuesday leading by more than 300 pledged delegates. That margin wasn't about to change significantly, even though Sanders won 57 delegates to Clinton's 51 on Tuesday. Including superdelegates, she leads the Vermont senator 1,681 to 927.

But Sanders was determined to carry on.

"These decisive victories in Idaho and Utah give me confidence that we will continue to win major victories in the coming contests," he said in a statement.

Based on reporting by The Associated Press.

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