Republicans to Debate in Detroit as Trump Faces Added Opposition

The four remaining Republicans in the presidential race hold a debate Thursday in Michigan, with front-runner Donald Trump carrying momentum from another batch of state wins but facing new efforts to halt his campaign.

A group of 60 Republican foreign policy veterans signed a joint letter released late Wednesday opposing Trump, saying that he would “act in ways that make America less safe, and which would diminish our standing in the world.” It lists a number of objections, including his anti-Muslim rhetoric, support for the use of torture, advocating trade wars and insisting Mexico build a border wall.

The list of signatories includes former U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, former World Bank President and Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick and former top Pentagon official Dov Zakheim.

Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump greets supporters at a Super Tuesday campaign rally in Louisville, Kentucky, March 1, 2016.

Meanwhile, three outside groups – Our Principles, American Future Fund and Club for Growth – are planning to spend millions of dollars in new ads attacking Trump.

Conservative Solutions, a “super PAC” political action committee that backs Florida Senator Marco Rubio and opposes Trump, has reserved $6 million of ad time for broadcast in Michigan, Florida and two other big states voting soon: Illinois and Missouri.

With active campaigning under way in so many states during the coming two weeks, candidates have begun increasing their advertising to woo potential voters. Before the Super Tuesday voting in 11 states, Republicans’ anti-Trump ads outnumbered pro-Trump commercials nearly 3 to 1, and that ratio is likely to grow.
Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., speaks to supporters at a campaign rally, Tuesday, March 1, 2016.
Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., speaks to supporters at a campaign rally, Tuesday, March 1, 2016.

Upcoming contests

A dozen more states and several territories hold primary elections or caucuses by March 15, providing a chance for trailing candidates to make up some ground, or leaders Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton to strengthen their holds on the races.

A few of those contests take place Saturday and Sunday, but Democrats have a big primary next Tuesday in Michigan, a populous state that accounts for 148 delegates to the party’s national convention in July. That’s more than 10 percent of the total delegate votes necessary to become the Democratic candidate for president in the November general election.

Former Secretary of State Clinton led her rival, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, 50 percent to 40 percent in a February 18 survey of likely Michigan voters by Public Policy Polling. The two are scheduled to debate Sunday in Flint, a city at the center of a drinking water contamination crisis.

For Republicans, March 15 primary votes in delegate-rich Ohio and Florida could narrow the number of party candidates. Ohio has 66 delegates and Florida has 99, all going to the candidate finishing first – the so-called “winner-take-all” system, in contrast to other states that allocate delegates either proportionally or on some other basis.

Rubio and Ohio Governor John Kasich are under particular pressure to win their respective states’ contests; political analysts say their candidacies may not survive a home state loss. Both Kasich and Rubio have finished well behind Trump and Texas Senator Ted Cruz in almost all of this year’s presidential preliminaries.

Carson: ‘No path forward’

Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson, while not formally dropping out of the race, issued a statement Wednesday saying he sees “no path forward” to the nomination.

Carson said he will not attend Thursday night’s debate in Detroit, his hometown. The former neurosurgeon has done poorly in the 15 presidential nominating contests so far this year.

It was not immediately clear whether Carson would officially suspend his campaign. Armstrong Williams, Carson’s longtime business manager, told The Associated Press the candidate will no longer actively seek votes.
Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson speaks to reporters during a campaign stop in Las Vegas, Nevada, Feb. 23, 2016.
Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson speaks to reporters during a campaign stop in Las Vegas, Nevada, Feb. 23, 2016.

Opinion polls

Clinton, who hopes to become the first woman elected U.S. president, won Tuesday’s primary votes in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. Sanders, who says he is a democratic socialist, won his home state of Vermont plus Colorado, Minnesota and Oklahoma.

On the Republican side, Trump took Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Virginia and Vermont. Senator Ted Cruz took his home state of Texas, as well as Oklahoma and Alaska. Florida Senator Marco Rubio picked up his first win of the primary season in Minnesota.

The results were not surprising. Opinion polls had showed Trump and Clinton with large leads, both across the nation and in the Super Tuesday states. In their victory speeches, Clinton and Trump focused on each other more than on opponents within their own party.