Republican primary gets personal as western states vote

Credit: Zeke Rosenberg/Senior Staff, Created on Venngage Credit: Zeke Rosenberg/Senior Staff, Created on Venngage

With the Republican field down to just three candidates, the primary season is finally starting to wind down as businessman Donald Trump, Senator Ted Cruz (R–TX), and Ohio Governor John Kasich campaigned for votes in Utah and Arizona’s primaries on Tuesday.

In the Arizona primary, Trump took first place with 47.1 percent of the vote, capturing all 58 delegates up for grabs. Cruz came in second with 24.9 percent of the vote. Kasich finished in fourth place with 10 percent of the vote, as absentee ballots cast for Senator Marco Rubio (R–FL) helped give him 13.3 percent of the vote despite having dropped out of the race before the contest.

In the Utah caucus, Cruz took first place with 69.2 percent of the vote, gaining all 40 delegates. Kasich came in second with 16.8 percent of the vote, and Trump earned 14 percent.

944 delegates remain on the table in the primary race, and only Trump or Cruz can possibly obtain the 1,237 needed to win the nomination without a contested convention. Trump currently leads the field with 739 delegates, 598 shy of the nomination. Cruz is quite far behind at 465. He would have to get an unrealistic 772 more delegates to avoid a fight for the nomination. Kasich currently only has 143, which is 23 less than Rubio. With the number of unpledged delegates declining as primaries continue, Kasich can no longer win the nomination without a fight at the Republican National Convention.

Over the past week, Republican politics have revolved around two topics: the terror attacks in Belgium’s capital of Brussels and the wives of Trump and Cruz. On the more serious matter, Republicans have issued the standard talking points when it comes to terrorist attacks: insist on taking stronger actions against terrorists, decry the number of refugees coming from Syria and the Middle East in general, and criticize President Obama. Cruz in particular has been the most outspoken, promising to defeat “radical Islamic terrorism” and condemning President Obama for remaining in Cuba amid the ongoing fallout from the terrorist attacks. Trump emphasized the need to “close up our borders” to defend against such attacks in the U.S. Only Kasich decided to emphasize the need to help allies “identify, root out, and destroy the perpetrators of such acts of evil.”

On a more personal level of politics, Trump and Cruz have engaged in a spat over their wives. An anti-Trump super Political Action Committee (PAC) called Make America Awesome produced a Facebook advertisement targeted to Mormons which showed a photo of Melania Trump posing nude. Trump immediately attacked Cruz, threatening to “spill the beans on [Cruz’s] wife.” Trump later tweeted out a side by side image of Melania in a glamorous pose and Heidi Cruz with an unflattering grimace. Cruz has repeatedly claimed no affiliation with the super PAC, labeling Trump a coward for going after his wife.
Gone are the days of party camaraderie when Trump and Rubio both blasted The Washington Post for publishing a political cartoon portraying Cruz’s daughters as trained monkeys. Instead, the fight between Trump and Cruz has devolved into familial mudslinging, truly the most important issue when it comes to deciding the chief executive of the nation.

Looking ahead, the next site of the race lies in Wisconsin, the home state of some prominent Republicans like Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Governor Scott Walker. Both Ryan and Walker have had negative attitudes toward the frontrunner, who currently has a virtual tie with Cruz in recent polls.

Wisconsin is a moderate, midwestern state similar to places like Ohio and Michigan, where all three remaining candidates have been overperforming to date.

The movement to stop Trump from getting the delegates needed to win the nomination is growing, counting on the open primary on April 5 to help slow down Trump. Further ahead, New York’s primary on April 19 may have some effect before April 26 sees Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island voting.

Republican voters in Pennsylvania looking to help or hinder Trump have until March 28 to register in time for the primary election.