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Trump calls on Rubio to drop out of GOP race

Donald Trump won the Louisiana primary and Kentucky caucuses Saturday night, while Ted Cruz took the Kansas and Maine caucuses in the GOP race to be nominated for president.
By Stephen Feller   |   March 5, 2016 at 5:20 PM
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WASHINGTON, March 5 (UPI) -- Donald Trump called on Florida Sen. Marco Rubio to drop out of the Republican race for the presidency Saturday night after splitting victories with Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in four contests.

Cruz beat Trump in the Kansas and Maine caucuses, while Trump narrowly won the Louisiana primary and Kentucky caucus before telling supporters it is now a two-man race for the Republican nomination. Rubio and Ohio Gov. John Kasich did not come close to a second place finish in any of them.

"I want Ted one-on-one, OK?" Trump said in a victory speech from West Palm Beach not long after the Kentucky race was called in his favor.

Although Trump emphasized he'd had a "really good" night -- he beat Cruz in Kentucky by 4.3 points and in Louisiana by 3.7 points -- Cruz's 25-point win in Kansas and 13-point win in Maine were by bigger gaps and netted the Texas senator more of the 155 delegates at stake in Saturday's contests.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Ohio Gov. John Kasich battled for third place in all four of the races, and neither got within 10 points of Trump or Cruz.

Cruz maintained a nearly 25-point lead over Trump in Kansas most of the night, taking 48.2 percent of the vote to Trump's 23.3 percent, according to NBC News. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Ohio Gov. John Kasich were in third and fourth with 16.7 percent and 10.7 percent.

Turnout was reportedly so high in the Kansas and Kentucky contests that poll workers starting counting votes early because of concerns they would run late as a result of the long lines.

In Maine, Cruz beat Trump by 13.3 points, 45.9 percent to 32.6 percent, with Kasich coming in third at 12.2 percent and Rubio last with 8 percent.

Maine also saw a large voter turnout as more than triple the number of GOP voters participated in the caucuses this year -- nearly 19,000 -- compared to just over 5,000 in 2012, the Maine Republican Party reported Saturday night.

Trump saw leads in both Louisiana and Kentucky narrow as votes were counted, eventually winning Louisiana 41.5 percent to Cruz's 37.8 percent. Rubio finished third with 11.2 percent.

Kentucky was the last of the four GOP races to be called, with Trump's lead narrowing even closer, overtaking Cruz by 4.3 points, 35.9 percent to 31.6 percent. Rubio came in third in Kentucky as well, nabbing 16.4 percent of the vote.

Voter turnout in Kentucky was said to be so heavy they started counting votes early, though the contest there had been plagued by complaints and confusion all day, the Louisville Courier-Journal reported.

Kentucky moved from a primary to caucus ahead of the 2016 election so that Sen. Rand Paul would be able to run for the presidential nomination while hedging his bets and remaining in the state's Senate race in case his presidential campaign stalled-out -- which it did, several weeks ago.

After learning of the win in Kansas, Cruz told reporters in Idaho it appeared Republicans were beginning to line up behind him against Trump, saying "if Donald Trump wins the nomination, Hillary Clinton is going to be president."

Cruz won the straw poll among party leaders at the Conservative Political Action Conference, taking 40 percent of the vote, to Rubio's 30 percent, Trump's 15 and Kasich's 8 percent, The Hill reported.

In recent days, members of the GOP establishment have attempted to marshal a resistance to Trump's dominating of the nomination fight, bringing out Mitt Romney to speak against him as the other candidates began to also speak out more forcefully against him during the March 3 debate.

The reaction had been building in the days leading up to the Republican debate as attacks started pouring in against Trump from the party, which he has started to warn could hurt in the general election in the fall.

Trump skipped CPAC, where GOP establishment figures, including Romney, took turns Friday questioning Trump's conservative credentials and criticizing his campaign methods, nearly begging voters to oppose him, the New York Times reported.

Some in the party say they agree with the former presidential nominee but many others -- some who support Trump and some who don't -- questioned the wisdom of fracturing the party over its power structure and voters appearing to disagree on a nominee.

"The Republicans are eating their own," Trump said at a rally in Wichita, according to the Washington Post. "They've got to be very careful. We have to bring things together."

Trump continued to make the point during his victory speech, saying if establishment Republicans run a third-party candidate against him as is openly being discussed, "it will make it impossible for the Republican nominee to win."

"What's happening is a movement, and it wouldn't be happening without me," Trump said. "As a party, we should come together and stop this foolishness."

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