WASHINGTON: Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton looked to bounce back from unsettling presidential primary losses in Wisconsin, training their sights in the next White House contests on friendlier ground — their home state of New York.
The Republican and Democratic frontrunners were trounced Tuesday night in the Badger State, giving their respective rivals — Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders — a boost in morale and delegates.
Trump’s defeat makes his ascent to the Republican nomination steeper, increasing the likelihood of a contested convention in July that could throw the party’s nod to someone more to the liking of the establishment.
Usually at no loss for words, the real estate mogul left it to his campaign to blame his poor Wisconsin showing Tuesday on an anti-Trump movement that it said spent “countless millions on false advertising” to stop him.
“Ted Cruz is worse than a puppet — he is a Trojan horse, being used by the party bosses attempting to steal the nomination from Mr Trump,” his campaign said in a statement.
Cruz, an ultra-conservative senator from Texas, won with 48.3 percent of the vote, to 35 percent for Trump. Ohio Governor John Kasich took 14 percent.
“It was a turning point, I believe, in this entire election,” Cruz told reporters Wednesday in New York, where he flew to challenge the brash billionaire on his home turf.
Cruz painted Trump as more willing to engage in insults than substantive debate.
“He gets very angry when the voters reject him,” Cruz said.
Trump’s loss followed a brutal campaign week, in which he alienated women by saying those who have abortions should be punished — and then retracting the comment.
He also drew fire for calling NATO obsolete and a plan to make Mexico pay for a border wall by holding hostage the money its citizens send home from the US.
But Trump remains the undisputed Republican frontrunner with 746 delegates to 510 for Cruz and 145 for Kasich after Tuesday, according to a CNN estimate. The first to get to 1,237 wins the nomination.
Trump needs to secure those delegates before the Republican convention in Cleveland in July, or face a fight in the second round of balloting when pledged delegates are free to choose a candidate for themselves.
By winning Tuesday, “Cruz increased his chances of preventing a first-ballot nomination for Trump,” American politics professor John Pitney of Claremont McKenna College told Agence France-Presse.
“It gives the anti-Trump forces a fighting chance.”
Clinton also emerged from Wisconsin with her formidable delegate lead intact — 1,780 compared with 1,099 for Sanders. To win the Democratic nomination, 2,383 delegates are needed.
The race now turns to friendlier territory for both Trump and Clinton.
Polls give New Yorker Trump a 31-point lead over Kasich and Cruz in the Empire State, which votes April 19. In Pennsylvania, which votes a week later, he leads by 13 percentage points, according to a RealClearPolitics poll average.
Clinton, who represented New York in the Senate from 2001 to 2009, has an 11-point lead over Sanders in her adopted home state and a 17-point advantage in Pennsylvania, where she also has roots.
The candidates were losing no time, with Trump holding a rally in Bethpage on Long Island later in the day. Cruz sought to make his own mark in New York, addressing voters in a Bronx restaurant.
Trump shook off his defeat at a fiery speech in Bethpage filled with his usual applause lines about building a wall on America’s southern border and “making America great again.”
“We’re bringing companies back to the United states. We are going to have a strong border. We are going to build the wall. It will be a real wall,” he said in one of his most popular campaign refrains.
Cruz, who faces an uphill battle — especially after slamming Trump in January as having liberal “New York values” — was heckled briefly at his stop in the minority-heavy Bronx by a man who accused him of running on an “anti-immigrant platform.”
Clinton, meanwhile, pounced on an interview Sanders gave to the New York Daily News editorial board in which he vowed to break up big banks like JPMorgan Chase but failed to explain specifically how he would do it or what the consequences might be.
“I think he hadn’t done his homework and he had been talking for more than a year about doing things that he obviously hadn’t studied or understood and that does raise a lot of questions,” Clinton said.
Clinton argued that her pragmatism was a smarter approach than the grass-roots idealism of Sanders, who has touted free public college for all and a universal health care system.
“Like a lot of people, I am concerned that some of his ideas just won’t work because the numbers don’t add up,” Clinton said in Philadelphia. “Others won’t even pass Congress.”
Sanders, who has won six of the last seven contests, has earned an enthusiastic following among young voters and white working-class populations that have been hard hit by the loss of manufacturing jobs and the 2008 financial crisis.
But it was unclear how his anti-Wall Street, anti-corporate message will fare in New York, a more diverse state whose economy is anchored by the financial industry. AFP