The leads grow as Trump wins big, Clinton narrowly in Connecticut

Trump - Clinton comboConnecticut propelled Republican Donald J. Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton closer to their parties’ presidential nominations Tuesday, with Trump winning a landslide and Clinton holding off a tenacious Bernie Sanders.

Trump won all five primaries Tuesday along I-95: Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. Clinton lost only Rhode Island. Connecticut was the last state placed in her column, a win declared around 10:30 p.m. by the Associated Press and most networks.

“I consider myself the presumptive nominee,” Trump said in televised remarks from New York City.

Rep. Tony D’Amelio, R-Waterbury, one of the few elected officials here to endorse Trump, said it was time for other Republican officials to shake off their reservations about the brash billionaire, who has belittled foes, demonized Muslims and undocumented immigrants, and accused GOP leaders of trying to rig what may yet be a contested convention in Cleveland.

“I think it’s time for the Republican Party to come together,” D’Amelio said. “He just swept the entire Northeast, Pennsylvania, Maryland and the rest of it. There is a strong movement in this country for Donald Trump. I think his message is resonating throughout the nation.”

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, a top Clinton supporter who now will begin work as co-chair of the Democratic platform committee, said the state’s voters made the right choice.

“Secretary Clinton is the right candidate to move our country forward and grow our economy from the middle out,” Malloy said. “As she has proved throughout her career, Hillary Clinton gets results, and I am proud to have endorsed her candidacy.”

Clinton tweeted a thank you to the state.

Sanders says he will continue to campaign.

“If you heard the boss on TV tonight, Senator Sanders made it clear – we’re going forward,” Paul Feeney, the director of his Connecticut campaign, told about three dozen supporters at a hotel in Meriden. “We knew in Connecticut that it was going to be a tough crowd for us. Closed primaries have been tough for this campaign.”

A spokesman for the Connecticut Democratic Party had no estimate Tuesday night of how the state’s 71 delegates would be apportioned. Clinton already had commitments from 15 of 16 superdelegates. The remaining 55 would be awarded based on the results statewide and in each of the five congressional districts.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump invites Rep. Tony D'Amelio, R-Waterbury, onto the stage with him at Crosby High School in Waterbury on Saturday.

Kyle Constable / CTMirror.org

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump invites Rep. Tony  D’Amelio, R-Waterbury, onto the stage with him at Crosby High School in Waterbury on Saturday.

The only question for Trump seemed to be whether he had shut out Ohio Gov. John Kasich, the second-place finisher, in the 4th Congressional District of Fairfield County. Connecticut is sending 28 delegates to the Republican convention in Cleveland, including three superdelegates.

“We’re going to go over the numbers in the morning, but it looks as though Trump won everything,” said J.R. Romano, the Republican state chairman.

Kasich’s state chairman congratulated Trump, but said the campaign would not concede the nomination.

“If Trump gets to 1,237, he has earned the nomination, but until that happens, I know that everyone is going to work their darndest to create an environment in which there is an open convention,” said state Sen. Tony Hwang of Fairfield, the state chairman of the Kasich campaign.

For a first-ballot victory, Trump needs 1,237 votes in Cleveland.

Clinton appears to need about 250 more delegates to reach the 2,383 necessary to win the nomination in Philadelphia.

Trump closed his campaign with boisterous rallies Saturday in Waterbury and Bridgeport, part of a four-day blitz that drew every candidate to Connecticut except Ted Cruz, the Texas senator.

Trump won 58 percent of the vote. Kasich, the choice of many Republican officials, finished second with about 28 percent, and Cruz of Texas was a distant third.

Clinton won about 52 percent of the Democratic vote.

Clinton had a 9 percentage point lead over Sanders in a Quinnipiac University poll a week ago and was backed by nearly every prominent Democrat, led by Malloy, Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman and the entire congressional delegation. A survey by Public Policy Polling showed Sanders, who drew an audience of 14,000 to the New Haven Green on Sunday, within two percentage points over the weekend.

Sanders looked to Connecticut and Rhode Island for wins that would bolster what began as a Quixotic campaign by a 74-year-old self-described Democratic socialist and became a surprisingly strong challenge to a former first lady, U.S. senator and secretary of state.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton poses for a picture with a supporter after her rally at the University of Bridgeport on Sunday.

kyle constable / ctmirror.org

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton poses for a picture with a supporter after her rally at the University of Bridgeport on Sunday.

He was declared the winner in Rhode Island after 9 p.m., his first and last bit of good news.

The cities, where Sanders generally has lagged in previous primaries, were slow to report, but New Haven’s Democratic chair, Vinnie Mauro, said he believed Clinton would comfortably  win his city, despite a huge college population at Yale, Southern Connecticut State University and the University of New Haven. Clinton won the African American neighborhoods and ran slightly ahead in some Yale precincts, he said.

“Secretary Clinton really had a good turnout,” he said.

Clinton won 57 percent of the vote in New Haven, 70 percent in Hartford, 65 percent in Bridgeport and 64 percent in Stamford. Her margins were close in Waterbury, New Britain and Meriden. Sanders carried eastern Connecticut, including the college towns of Mansfield, Middletown and New London

CNN exit polling showed Clinton winning 69 percent of the black vote and 57 percent of the woman’s vote.

With an unlikely path to the nomination for Sanders, Clinton supporters here have been waiting for his surge to play out, letting the party begin to work to corral the new voters drawn by the Vermont senator’s call for Democrats to attack social, racial and economic injustice.

Bernie Sanders had the biggest rally in Connecticut, but still lost.

Kyle Constable / CTMirror.org

Bernie Sanders had the biggest rally in Connecticut, but still lost.

“It’s never easy, but I think it will be a lot easier in the Democratic Party than it will be in the Republican Party this year,” Malloy said after voting earlier Tuesday. “I think that’s very clear. You can almost see the Sanders folks and the Clinton folks take a bit of a turn to get ready.”

EMILY’s List, the influential group that backs Democratic women who support abortion rights, immediately sent an email directed at Connecticut voters, calling Clinton’s victory in the state “a victory for women across the nation.”

U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy reached out to Sanders.

“Bernie is a good friend and he ran a strong race, and I know he’ll do what it takes to ensure Democrats keep the White House,” he said.

Speaking in Philadelphia, Clinton took care to compliment Sanders and his supporters.

“I applaud Sen. Sanders and his millions of supporters for challenging us to get unaccountable money out of our politics and giving greater emphasis to closing the gap of inequality,” she said. “And I know together we will get that done. Whether you support Sen. Sanders or you support me, there is much more that unites us than divides us.”

The Working Families Party, the labor offshoot that endorsed Sanders, was not ready to let go of Sanders’ issues, even if his candidacy dimmed considerably.

“This isn’t over. Every vote and every delegate for Bernie Sanders is a declaration of support for big progressive ideas, and a peaceful political revolution that will change this country in the coming years,” said Dan Kantor, the national director. “We need a fair economy and a real democracy, and the fact that so many people across the country, especially young people, share this view is cause for great optimism.

Republican presidential candidate John Kasich speaks at Glastonbury High School Friday with his traveling national debt clock running behind him.

Kyle Constable / CTMirror.org

Republican presidential candidate John Kasich speaks at Glastonbury High School Friday with his traveling national debt clock running behind him.

Clinton was declared the early winner Tuesday in Maryland and Delaware, the first of what Malloy hoped would be a number of wins placing her on the verge of becoming the first woman to win a presidential nomination in the U.S.

“After today, she will be well over 2,000 delegates and really within a hair’s breath of the actual nomination, which will come in the not-too distant future,” Malloy said.

The Republican primary was no contest. Trump led in every public poll in Connecticut, and exit polling indicated he would end the evening with about 60 percent of the vote.

After the polls closed, his campaign was unsure only of results in the 4th Congressional District of Fairfield County, where Kasich won three of the district’s 17 communities, Darien, New Canaan and Westport and .

“We clearly won the other four districts. The likelihood is if he maintains his percentage statewide, it would be hard to lose the 4th District,” said Ben Proto, who is working for Trump in Connecticut.

Proto echoed D’Amelio and suggested it was time for the GOP’s elected officials to join the campaign – or risk being out of sync with their constituents.

“They are going to have to take a real hard look at this and take a look at their towns,” Proto said.

Aside from Trump’s strong showing, Proto said the campaign fielded reports all day of other voters who turned up at the polls to vote for him, only to be told they were ineligible in Connecticut’s closed primary as unaffiliated or Democratic voters.

Over the weekend in Connecticut, Trump mocked the idea of toning down his rhetoric and trying to act more presidential. On Tuesday night, he was respectful to Cruz, but his final message before exiting was to denigrate Clinton as a candidate whose only asset was gender.

“I think the only card she has is the women’s card. She’s got nothing else going. Frankly, if Hillary Clinton were a man, I don’t think she’d get five percent of the vote,” Trump said. “The only thing she’s got going is the woman’s card, and the beautiful thing is, women don’t like her, OK?”

Some Connecticut Republican legislators still were cool to their front runner after his victory and clung to the shrinking hope of an open convention.

“Neutral and silent” is how Rep. Livvy Floren of Greenwich, where Trump beat Kasich, 48 percent to 41 percent, described most of her fellow Republicans in the General Assembly. “Neutral and silent is how we’ll remain until the end.”

Kyle Constable contributed to this report.

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