Clinton Halfway To Clinching Dem Nomination


NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Gripped by chaos and dismay, Republican leaders searched on Wednesday for a last-chance option that could derail Donald Trump’s momentum fueled by seven commanding Super Tuesday victories.

Overshadowed by Trump’s wins, Ted Cruz came in a close second in the night’s delegate haul, thanks to a win in his home state of Texas. The strong showing bolstered the senator’s case to be the party’s Trump alternative, even as rival Marco Rubio vowed to continue his fight.

The unrelenting division represents the biggest crisis for the GOP in decades, with the party seemingly on track to nominate a presidential candidate it can’t control.

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As CBS2’s Dick Brennan reported, 2012 Republican presidential nominee may now be getting involved in the fracas. He will speak on Thursday at the University of Utah, and while it is not clear what he will say, sources said he has no plans to get into the race or even endorse another candidate.

But Romney has called Trump’s apparent reluctance to disavow the Ku Klux Klan over the weekend “disgusting.”

Meantime, other Republicans said the anti-Trump sentiment is not about the so-called establishment stepping in.

“This is not an establishment thing. I never consider myself part of any establishment,” said Long Island U.S. Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) “But it’s the views he’s taking — the statements he’s making — have nothing in common with the Republican Party.”

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told CBS News’ Charlie Rose on Tuesday night that he thinks Trump must go. Rose pointed out that Graham seemed to be saying Democrat Hillary Clinton would beat Trump.

“I am not ‘seem to be’ saying that, I am saying that – like a drum,” Graham said.

Some party leaders are considering the once unthinkable option of aligning behind Cruz, whom many dislike, while others are talking of a brokered convention. Some influential outsiders even raise the option of forming a new party.

“I talked to Republican leaders yesterday who said maybe our best course now is to kind of figure out some way to have an open, brokered convention,” CBS News political analyst Bob Schieffer said Wednesday. “We’ve got to try to find some way to stop Donald Trump from getting to the magic number.”

Some party leaders are considering the once unthinkable option of aligning behind Cruz, whom many dislike, while others are talking of a brokered convention. Some influential outsiders even raise the option of forming a new party.

“I talked to Republican leaders yesterday who said maybe our best course now is to kind of figure out some way to have an open, brokered convention,” CBS News political analyst Bob Schieffer said Wednesday. “We’ve got to try to find some way to stop Donald Trump from getting to the magic number.”

“Ted Cruz is not my favorite by any means,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, a former candidate whose disdain for his Texas colleague is well known, told CBS News. “But we may be in a position where rallying around Ted Cruz is the only way to stop Donald Trump and I’m not so sure that would work.”

Graham was among those who suggested he might turn to the sort of “break glass” options once thought impossible.

Still, Graham also cast doubt on whether elder GOP statesmen could wrest hold of the situation.

“At what point do you realize the Republican Party is unorganized — like the Democratic Party? There’s no secret group of people,” he scoffed.

But other Republican notables said the voters matter.

“The establishment Republicans are all bedwetting over this, but they don’t seem to understand that we have an election,” said former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.

The comments came as the #NeverTrump hashtag spread across Twitter and an anti-Trump Super Pac released a new online video and said it would increase its daily attacks ahead of primaries on March 8 and March 15.

Our Principles PAC latest attack blasts Trump for not clearly repudiating David Duke, a onetime KKK member who endorsed Trump’s campaign. The episode was an example of why Trump should not win the nomination, said the group’s new spokesman Tim Miller, a former aide on Jeb Bush’s failed campaign.

“We will fight until the last delegate is counted to stop that from happening,” Miller said.

Other prominent Republicans called for more drastic measures.

“It may be necessary for men and women of principle within the party to set the self-detonation sequence as they escape the ship to a new party,” wrote conservative blogger Erick Erickson. Erickson was among those calling on the party to coalesce around Cruz.

Though convention fights are much more talked about than actually occur, an Associated Press delegate count indicates Trump will have to do better in upcoming contests to claim the nomination for president before the party’s national gathering in July. So far, he has won 46 percent of the delegates awarded, and he would have to increase that to 52 percent in the remaining primaries.

On Super Tuesday, Trump won handily in states as politically opposite as Massachusetts and Alabama, a sign of his broad, outsider appeal and energizing impact on voter turnout.

Along with Texas, Cruz took neighboring Oklahoma and also Alaska. Florida Sen. Rubio won only liberal Minnesota.

Trump himself suggested Tuesday night that he wanted to bring the party together.

“I think we’re going to be more inclusive. I think we’re going to be more unified, and I think we’re going to be a much bigger party, and I think we’re going to win in November,” Trump said.

In his victory speech, Trump also sent a clear message to the GOP establishment, warning to House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who had declared earlier Tuesday that “this party does not prey on people’s prejudices,” that if the two don’t get along, Ryan is “going to have to pay a big price.”

But Trump also gave some credit to Cruz and congratulated him on his win in Texas.

“He worked hard on it,” Trump said. “I know how hard he worked on it, actually.”

Delegate math would seem to underscore the problem for Republicans who reject Trump as the brash billionaire businessman carried seven states and continues to barrel toward the 1,237 delegates needed to secure the GOP nomination.

For the night, Trump won at least 234 delegates and Cruz won at least 209. Rubio was a distant third with at least 90. There were 595 Republican delegates at stake in 11 states. There were still 40 delegates left to be allocated Wednesday morning.

Overall, Trump leads with 316 delegates and Cruz has 226. Rubio has 106 delegates, John Kasich has 25 and Ben Carson – who said he saw “no path forward” in the election after Tuesday night – has eight.

Both Cruz and Rubio are each trying to make the case that they are the one who can take on Trump.

“He’s trying to exploit people that are hurting with this argument that he’s fighting for the little guy,” Rubio said. “He’s never fought for the little guy.”

“Head-to-head, our campaign beats Donald Trump resoundingly,” said Cruz.

The GOP mayhem contrasted sharply with the increasing cohesion on the Democratic side, where Hillary Clinton locked down solid victories in seven states and was on the path to regaining her status as the inevitable nominee.

But Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vermont) remained optimistic as he rallied Wednesday in Maine.

“We can win here if there is a large voter turnout,” Sanders said. “Please vote.”

But the math was tough for Sanders. Clinton was assured of winning at least 457 of the 865 delegates at stake Tuesday. Sanders gains at least 286. When including party leaders, Clinton has at least 1,005 delegates and Sanders has at least 373. It takes 2,383 delegates to win the nomination.

Top Sanders advisers said Wednesday that the Vermont senator would push ahead, arguing that Super Tuesday was the best day on the primary calendar for Clinton. But the map will get more difficult for her moving forward, said Sanders senior adviser Tad Devine.

On Wednesday, Clinton is taking her fight back to New York, where she had a a rally with supporters at the Jacob Javits Center on the West Side.

The 2016 presidential race will resume on Saturday, with primary elections and caucuses in Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine and Nebraska.

(TM and © Copyright 2016 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2016 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)