Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump wasted no time basking in Tuesday’s five-state sweep, preparing for a highly-anticipated foreign policy speech Wednesday that he hopes will bolster his credentials as the self-proclaimed “presumptive nominee” heads into next week’s crucial Indiana contest.
The billionaire businessman’s Super Tuesday III run-of-the-table reinforced his aura of invincibility, just as Wednesday’s speech at Washington, D.C.’s Mayflower Hotel is designed to reinforce his policy chops. Trump said Wednesday morning that he would be naming foreign policy advisers during the speech, calling the group “very good people.”
“We need new thinking,” Trump said.
As he looks to wrap up the Republican primary, Trump is bound for Indiana for a Wednesday night rally with legendary Indiana University basketball coach Bobby Knight.
But Trump also began pivoting from the primary fight against rival “leftovers” Sen. Ted Cruz and Gov. John Kasich and toward a presumed general election matchup with Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, who scored four convincing victories on Tuesday but lost to Sen. Bernie Sanders in Rhode Island.
Trump has begun lambasting Clinton for “playing the woman card left and right,” but said that he believes “a lot of women don’t like Hillary, despite the card.”
“She’s doing it more now,” he said on CNN. “She’ll be called on it.”
Clinton now has nearly 90 percent of the delegates needed to secure the party nod, even as Sanders vows to keep fighting.
On the Republican side, Cruz and Kasich still can potentially hold Trump under the 1,237 delegates he needs. But Trump is planning to reach the mark.
“I consider myself the presumptive nominee,” Trump said at Trump Tower on Tuesday, with ex-candidate and now-supporter New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie standing behind him. “As far as I’m concerned, it’s over.”
Clinton likewise kept her remarks Tuesday focused on a general election audience, vowing to “unify our party,” drawing sharp contrasts with Republicans, and taking on Trump.
“The other day, Mr. Trump accused me of playing the quote woman card,” she said in Philadelphia, which hosts the Democratic convention. “Well, if fighting for women’s health care and paid family leave and equal pay is playing the woman card, then deal me in.”
When the dust settled on Tuesday’s contests, Trump was declared the winner in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Delaware and Rhode Island, on the heels of his victory in New York state a week ago. His dominant showing in the Northeast gives him significant momentum heading into next week’s primary in Indiana. And he’s on track to win mmore than 50 percent of the vote in Tuesday’s contests, a feat he has only achieved once before, in New York.
Meanwhile, Kasich was shaping up as the second pick of Northeast Republicans so far, projected to place second in Connecticut, Rhode Island, Maryland and Delaware – leaving Cruz to finish third.
Clinton, meanwhile, was the projected winner in Connecticut, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Delaware.
Overall, Democrats were competing for 384 delegates in Tuesday's contests, while Republicans had 118 up for grabs (not counting 54 unbound delegates in Pennsylvania).
With his five victories Tuesday, Trump will win at least 105 of the 118 delegates. And he has a chance to win a lot more. In Pennsylvania, Trump collected 17 delegates for winning the state. An additional 54 are elected directly by voters -- three in each congressional district. However, their names are listed on the ballot with no information about which presidential candidate they support.
Trump suggested they have a “moral obligation” to back him, though Cruz had worked hard to get allies elected in that group.
Primary front-runners Clinton and Trump both were looking to Tuesday’s contests to bring them closer to clinching the respective nominations, or at least dispiriting the remaining competition.
As of early Wednesday, Clinton had 2,141 delegates to Sanders’ 1,321; it takes 2,383 to win. The total includes so-called “superdelegates” who are not bound to primary results. On the GOP side, Trump had 950 delegates, followed by Cruz at 560 and Kasich at 153.
But on the GOP side, an energized Cruz held out hope that he and Kasich can still hold Trump back from the nomination. Speaking to supporters in Indiana, Cruz claimed the campaign was moving “to more favorable terrain” while calling Trump the media’s “chosen” candidate.
"Donald and Hillary, they are flip-sides of the same coin,” Cruz said.
Kasich’s campaign also vowed to keep going, appealing for donations online and declaring on Twitter: “John Kasich will continue making his supporters proud.”
Whether Cruz and Kasich can prevent Trump from clinching the nomination remains to be seen. Both were also on defense after teaming up to try and hold Trump under that magic number. Kasich agreed to stand aside in Indiana to help Cruz, while Cruz agreed to stand aside in Oregon and New Mexico to help Kasich.
As Trump accused the two of “collusion,” Cruz countered in a radio interview that what they’re doing is “actually coalition-building.”
Still, Kasich appeared Monday to undercut their arrangement by urging voters in Indiana to support him anyway. And the campaign stumbled on a procedural issue in Oregon, missing the March deadline to submit information for a voter pamphlet the state distributes ahead of the May primary.
Kasich spokesman Chris Schrimpf stressed that Kasich nevertheless is on the ballot in Oregon.
Cruz’s best chances to undercut Trump might be in Indiana, which votes next week, and California, which votes in June.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., cast doubt Tuesday on whether a Cruz-Kasich alliance would do much good in his home state. Asked about their partnership, McCarthy told reporters he’s “not convinced” it will help in California.
On the Democratic side, Sanders also vowed Tuesday night to keep fighting, casting himself as the candidate best-positioned to take on Trump or any Republican rival.
“This campaign is doing as well as it is with the extraordinary energy and enthusiasm we are generating across the country,” Sanders told a crowd in West Virginia, which votes May 10.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.