Trump, Clinton cement status as 2016 front-runners with big wins

Presidential contenders Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonBiden slams Trump over golf gif hitting Clinton Overnight Cybersecurity: Equifax hit by earlier hack | What to know about Kaspersky controversy | Officials review EU-US privacy pact Overnight Tech: Equifax hit by earlier undisclosed hack | Facebook takes heat over Russian ads | Alt-right Twitter rival may lose domain MORE and Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden slams Trump over golf gif hitting Clinton Trump Jr. declines further Secret Service protection: report Report: Mueller warned Manafort to expect an indictment MORE scored major victories on Super Tuesday, the biggest day of the year in the Republican and Democratic primaries.

Trump was projected as the winner of Republican contests in Arkansas, Virginia, Georgia, Alabama, Massachusetts, Vermont and Tennessee, while Clinton scored wins in Texas, Georgia, Arkansas, Alabama, Tennessee, Massachusetts and Virginia, as well as American Samoa.

The wins solidified Trump and Clinton's status as front-runners, leaving their rivals with increasingly long odds of overtaking them in delegates.

In comments from Miami, Clinton already appeared to be eyeing the general election, where the Democrat may face Trump.

“It’s clear tonight that the stakes in this election have never been higher, and the rhetoric we are hearing on the other side has never been lower,” she said. “Trying to divide America between us and them is wrong, and we are not going to let it work.”

Trump, also speaking in Florida, declared himself a "unifier" and urged Republicans to get behind his candidacy.

“Our party is expanding, and all you have to do is take a look at the primary states where I’ve won,” he said. “We’ve gone from one number to a much larger number. That hasn’t happened to the Republican Party in many, many decades. So I think we’re going to be more inclusive, more unified and a much bigger party, and I think we’re going to win in November.”

While Clinton and Trump emerged as the clear winners of Super Tuesday, neither candidate was able to run the table.

Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersOvernight Defense: Senate passes 0B defense bill | 3,000 US troops heading to Afghanistan | Two more Navy officials fired over ship collisions Senate passes 0B defense bill Dems fear lasting damage from Clinton-Sanders fight MORE won Vermont in a landslide. The Independent senator and Democratic candidate was also projected as the winner of Oklahoma, Colorado and Minnesota.

“By the end of tonight, we are going to win many hundreds of delegates,” Sanders told a crowd in Essex Junction, Vt. 

“You know why we are going to win? Because our message is resonating,” he said. “The people will be victorious.”

The four Republicans challenging Trump — Ohio Gov. John Kasich, Florida Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioOvernight Defense: Senate passes 0B defense bill | 3,000 US troops heading to Afghanistan | Two more Navy officials fired over ship collisions Senate passes 0B defense bill Trump bets base will stick with him on immigration MORE, Texas Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzSenate Dems hold floor talk-a-thon against latest ObamaCare repeal bill Overnight Finance: CBO to release limited analysis of ObamaCare repeal bill | DOJ investigates Equifax stock sales | House weighs tougher rules for banks dealing with North Korea GOP state lawmakers meet to plan possible constitutional convention MORE and former neurosurgeon Ben Carson — were competing with the GOP front-runner in different states.

Cruz had the best night by far, scoring a big victory in his home state of Texas and a second win in Oklahoma. Early Wednesday morning, he added Alaska to his win column.

Kasich made it a close race with Trump in Vermont, while Rubio won Minnesota and kept close to the real estate mogul in Virginia. 

Those results could give them all something to tout but, at the same time, it mean delegates would be spread out among them — an outcome that most benefits Trump.

The billionaire entered Tuesday with more than four times the delegates of either Rubio or Cruz, and his lead is certain to grow after all of the March 1 results are tabulated.

The Super Tuesday results could also leave Rubio with just one victory and Kasich still looking for his first win in the primary process. Rubio and Kasich's records at this juncture of the race spurred calls from Cruz, who won the Iowa caucuses, to drop out.

Rubio, who has been sweeping up endorsements from GOP office-holders since former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush dropped out of the race, is hoping to hold out until the March 15 primary in Florida.

But Trump is leading in polls of Florida, and on Tuesday night predicted he will take the 99 delegates in the winner-take-all contest on March 15.

“We’re going to Florida and we’re going to spend so much time in Florida,” Trump said.

Kasich believes his candidacy will play well in the Midwest and is eyeing Michigan’s primary on March 8. His home state of Ohio votes on March 15. 

Trump’s latest wins come despite blistering attacks from the GOP establishment on his business career, his ideology, his tax returns and his failure to completely disavow the backing of David Duke, a former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard.

Rubio and other GOP heavyweights said his failure to do so during a CNN interview, which Trump blamed on a bad earpiece and not understanding the question, was enough to disqualify him from being the GOP nominee.

Speaker Paul RyanPaul RyanRyan: Graham-Cassidy 'best, last chance' to repeal ObamaCare Ryan: Americans want to see Trump talking with Dem leaders Overnight Finance: CBO to release limited analysis of ObamaCare repeal bill | DOJ investigates Equifax stock sales | House weighs tougher rules for banks dealing with North Korea MORE (R-Wis.) stepped into the fray on Tuesday.

“This is the kind of moment where we should be having a serious debate about the policies needed to restore the American idea,” Ryan told reporters on Super Tuesday. “Instead, the conversation over the last few days has been over white supremacy groups."

“I try to stay out of the ups and downs of the primary, but I've also said when I see something that runs counter to who we are as a party and a country, I will speak up," Ryan said, without mentioning Trump by name. “If a person wants to be the nominee of the party, there can be no evasion and no games. They must reject any group or cause that is built on bigotry.”

Trump on Tuesday evening predicted he's "going to get along great" with Ryan but also warned: "If I don't, he's going to have to pay a big price."

Clinton’s victories on Super Tuesday followed on her crushing win Saturday in South Carolina’s primary. 

All were built on her support from African-Americans, a pivotal Democratic constituency that could carry her to the nomination.

Exit polls suggested 82 percent of black voters supported the former first lady in Virginia, as did 83 percent  in Georgia. 

Sanders defeated Clinton among white voters in a number of states but will have trouble surmounting Clinton’s delegate advantage unless he can win over more of the party’s minority voters. 

Clinton also has a big advantage among Democratic superdelegates — the lawmakers and other party officials who get a vote on their nominee.

According to a tally kept by The Associated Press, Clinton has 862 pledged and unpledged delegates compared to 209 for Sanders.

The winning Democratic candidate needs a total of 2,383 delegates.

Updated at 3:55 a.m.