23rd March, 2016
Under a fresh cloud of overseas violence, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton padded their delegate troves on Tuesday with victories in Arizona and attacked each other’s worldviews as the 2016 presidential contest turned into a clash of would-be commanders-in-chief, reports the Associated Press (AP).
Democratic challenger Bernie Sanders won Democratic caucuses in Utah and Idaho, a pair of victories that kept Clinton from dominating another election night — but did little to improve his overall standing in the race for delegates. Booming lines and frenzied interest marked primary elections across Arizona, Utah and Idaho that were an afterthought for much of the day as the world grappled with a new wave of bloody attacks in Europe.
The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for blasts in Brussels Tuesday that left dozens dead and many more wounded. “This is about not only selecting a president, but also selecting a commander-in-chief,” Clinton said in Seattle as she condemned Trump by name and denounced his embrace of torture and hardline rhetoric aimed at Muslims. “The last thing we need is leaders who incite more fear.”
Trump, in turn, branded Clinton as “Incompetent Hillary” as he discussed her tenure as secretary of state. “Incompetent Hillary doesn’t know what she’s talking about,” the billionaire businessman said in an interview with Fox News. “She doesn’t have a clue.” The back and forth between the front-runners came amid a frenzy of activity from voters eager to make their voices heard in the 2016 election. In Utah, caucus-goers were dispatched by poll workers to local stores with orders buy reams of paper and photocopy fresh ballots amid huge turnout.
The state Democratic Party’s website crashed due to high traffic. In Arizona, voters waited two hours or more in some places to cast primary ballots, while police were called to help control traffic. As voters flooded to the polls, the presidential candidates lashed out at each other’s foreign policy prescriptions, showcasing sharp contrasts in confronting the threat of Islamic extremism.
Clinton — and Trump’s Republican rivals — questioned the GOP front-runner’s temperament and readiness to serve as commander in chief, and condemned his calls to diminish U.S. involvement with NATO. Addressing cheering supporters in Seattle, Clinton said the attacks in Brussels were a pointed reminder of “how high the stakes are” in 2016. “We don’t build walls or turn our back on our allies,” she said. “We can’t throw out everything we know about what works and what doesn’t and start torturing people.”
Republican Ted Cruz seized on Trump’s foreign policy inexperience while declaring that the U.S. is at war with the Islamic State group. “He doesn’t have the minimal knowledge one would expect from a staffer at the State Department, much less from the commander in chief,” he told reporters. “The stakes are too high for learning on the job.” The debate between the two took a detour late Tuesday night as they engaged in an unusual Twitter exchange about their wives.
The billionaire warned Cruz he would “spill the beans on your wife” after an anti-Trump outside group ran an ad in Utah featuring Trump’s wife, Melania, in a photo shoot that ran in GQ magazine more than a decade ago. Cruz shot back with a tweet of his own, saying in part, “Donald, if you try to attack Heidi, you’re more of a coward than I thought.” Trump’s brash tone has turned off some Republican voters in Utah, where preference polls suggest Cruz has a chance to claim more than 50 percent of the caucus vote — and with it, all 40 of Utah’s delegates.
Trump could earn some delegates should Cruz fail to exceed 50 percent, in which case the delegates would be awarded based on each candidate’s vote total. Trump supporter Easton Brady, 19, of Provo, Utah, cheered the billionaire’s brash style, even as he acknowledged Trump doesn’t play as well in Utah as other parts of the country. “I think Trump says a lot of dumb things, but he’s human,” Brady said. “I don’t care.” Arizona’s win gives Trump a little less than half the delegates allocated so far.
That’s still short of the majority needed to clinch the nomination before the party’s national convention this summer. However, Trump has a path to the nomination if he continues to win states that award all or most of their delegates to the winner. Overall, Trump has accumulated 739 delegates, Cruz has 425 and Kasich 143.
On the Democratic side, Clinton’s delegate advantage is even greater than Trump’s. The former secretary of state is coming off last week’s five-state sweep of Sanders. The Vermont senator, now trailing Clinton by more than 300 pledged delegates, had targeted Tuesday’s races as the start of a comeback tour. He, too, addressed the world’s security threat: “We will stand as a nation with our allies and our friends and people all over this world,” he told supporters in San Diego. “We will stand with them and we will together crush and destroy ISIS.”