WASHINGTON:“As far as I’m concerned, it’s over,” Donald Trump declared after overwhelming victories that exceeded expectations in Republican primaries in five states in the northeast on Tuesday. Mr. Trump now has 953 delegates, and needs nearly 250 of the 502 up for grabs before the Republican convention in July to win nomination. “I consider myself the presumptive nominee… I think the party is seeing me that way,” Mr. Trump declared, after winning more than half the votes in all fives states, and more than 60 per cent in two, on Tuesday.
On the Democratic side, frontrunner Hillary Clinton won four of the five, roughly on expected lines, and ceding only Rhode Island to challenger Bernie Sanders. Ms. Clinton held out an olive branch to Mr. Sanders, and even complemented him and his supporters for challenging her on issues such as unaccounted money in politics. Mr. Sanders said his campaign would continue until the “last vote is cast”.
White smoke from the Democratic tent may be a while away, but it is in the Republican camp that bloodbath could be expected. The wounded warriors of the ‘neverTrump’ hashtag have not given up yet, and declared that their campaign to deny him the nomination would continue. Several cash-rich campaign groups have announced that they would intensify their anti-Trump campaign ahead of the Indiana primaries on May 3, which has now become the last barrier that stands between Mr. Trump and the nomination.
Senator Ted Cruz, Mr. Trump’s key rival, said the contest was now entering more “favourable territories” for him. “Donald is media’s chosen favourite. Media wants it to be a contest between two New York liberals, Donald and Hillary Clinton,” Mr. Cruz said.
Mr. Cruz has reached a pact with John Kasich, the distant third candidate in the race, who has agreed to stay away from campaigning in Indiana in order to allow Mr. Cruz a head to head contest with Mr. Trump.
Mr. Trump said he had no plans to change his style in the last lap and proved that by adding a new controversy to his long list of them. “Had Hillary been a man, she would not have got even 5 per cent votes,” he said. Accusing the Democratic frontrunner of playing the “woman card”, Mr. Trump said he would do “more for women any day than Hillary.” “Why should I change? I am winning,” he responded to a question whether he would now turn more ‘presidential.’ “I am already presidential,” he later told a TV channel.
Winning the nomination is no longer in question for Ms. Clinton, but winning over Mr. Sanders and his supporters is. “I applaud Senator Sanders and his millions of supporters for wanting to get unaccountable money out of our politics and giving greater emphasis to closing the gap of inequality,” Ms. Clinton said, sounding the peace bugle. “And I know together we will get that done.”
But Mr. Sanders is not in a hurry to oblige. “The people in every state in this country should have the right to determine who they want as President and what the agenda of the Democratic Party should be,” Mr. Sanders responded. “That’s why we are in this race until the last vote is cast,” he said.
By VARGHESE K. GEORGE