Cruz emerges top Republican contender against Trump

  • Yashwant Raj, Hindustan Times, Washington
  • Updated: Mar 06, 2016 23:52 IST
Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz gestures during a speech at a campaign rally in Wichita, Kansas, on Saturday. (AFP photo)

Donald Trump and Ted Cruz won two nominating contests each in the Republican race for president on Saturday, as Bernie Sanders took two to Hillary Clinton’s one on the Democratic side.

With these wins, Cruz is emerging as the candidate who can claim to be best placed to take on Trump.

Trump has won 12 nominating contests so far, including those on Saturday, Cruz six and Marco Rubio one. The tally on the Democratic side is 12 wins for Clinton and seven for Sanders.

Trump won Louisiana and Kentucky on Saturday, while Cruz took Maine and Kansas. Sanders won Nebraska and Kansas and Clinton bagged Louisiana, a delegates-rich state.

Every state is worth a certain number of delegates in the nominating contests, for both parties, who elect their nominee at their respective party conventions later in the year. To win the Republican nomination, a candidate needs to win at least 1,237 delegates, while a Democrat needs 2,383. Trump leads the tally in his party with 392 to Cruz’s 305, Rubio’s 130 and John Kasich’s 35. Clinton leads her party field with 1,092 to Sanders’s 477.

Read: US primaries: Cruz, Trump split wins; Sanders, Clinton divide states

Cruz picked up more delegates Saturday night than Trump, and staked claim to being the candidate best placed to take on the frontrunner. “I think what it represents is Republicans coalescing, saying it would be a disaster for Donald Trump to be our nominee and we’re going to stand behind the strongest conservative in the race,” he told reporters.

And suggested the field needs to narrow down further. “We’ll continue to amass delegates, but what needs to happen is the field needs to continue to narrow,” he said. “As long as the field remains divided it gives Donald an advantage.” He is arguing that Trump continues to lead because the anti-Trump votes are currently split among the many candidates still running. And that Trump is beatable in a two-candidate race.

Read: Clinton legacy in Arkansas capital isn’t helping Democrat cause

But the trouble with Cruz is that the party establishment doesn’t quite see him as that candidate it’s prepared to back. Asked to choose between Trump and Cruz, Republican senator Lindsey Graham, who was himself in the race before dropping out, has said, “It’s like being shot or poisoned.”

Cruz, a young first-time senator, is disliked intensely by party leaders and colleagues in the US senate — he has been called “wacko-bird”, “abrasive”, “arrogant”, “creepy”, and “tricky”.

The establishment is betting instead on Rubio, who unfortunately for them and himself, has failed to live up to the promise — he has won only nominating contest so far.

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