Cruz emboldened, but needs a near miracle to catch Trump

WASHINGTON (AP) — Ted Cruz came out of the latest round of voting with an emboldened tone and a couple of notable endorsements Wednesday, yet needing a near miracle to catch Donald Trump in the race for the Republican nomination.

The day-after delegate math laid bare the challenge: He’d need to win 83 percent of the remaining delegates to overtake the front-runner before the convention.

Hillary Clinton is in even a stronger position than Trump, almost three-quarters of the way to the Democratic nomination, and she was pressing forward Wednesday with engaging Trump on the foreign policy and national security fronts with a California speech painting him as a misfit as potential commander in chief and laying out what she’d do to keep America safe in perilous times.

Cruz won the endorsement of Jeb Bush, a long-ago mainstream Republican powerhouse whose own candidacy faded, and the backing of the political arm of the conservative Club for Growth. “Ted is a consistent, principled conservative who has shown he can unite the party,” Bush tweeted, adding on his Facebook page that Republicans “must overcome the divisiveness and vulgarity Donald Trump has brought into the political arena” or risk losing to Clinton.

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But the race took yet another personal twist when the Texas senator slammed Trump for making a vague threat on Twitter to “spill the beans” on his wife.

“Gutter politics,” Cruz said in New York. Trump’s warning that he would disclose something about Heidi Cruz came in response to an ad by an outside political group that features a provocative photo of Trump’s wife, Melania, when she was a model and before they were married. Trump misidentified the Cruz campaign as the source of the ad.

In voting Tuesday, Clinton won in Arizona, maintaining a lopsided advantage over Bernie Sanders in the Democratic race despite his convincing wins in Utah and Idaho on the same night. Trump took Arizona, the night’s biggest prize, and Cruz won Utah.

Campaigning Wednesday in Wisconsin, which votes April 5, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, the trailing candidate in the GOP race, said he’s not dropping out and “I’m going to be nobody’s vice president.”

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Kasich came away empty-handed Tuesday night and has no mathematical possibility of catching the front-runner in remaining races. His only hope — and probably Cruz’s — is to deny Trump a delegate majority before the summer convention, then try to wrestle the prize from him there.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who dropped out of the GOP race last year after a 70-day campaign, said he hasn’t decided whether he’ll endorse anyone for the GOP presidential nomination. But he said only Cruz can beat Trump at this point.

The latest nomination contests unfolded with Belgium reeling from deadly attacks. Contenders in both parties tried to convince voters they can best protect the U.S. from terrorists. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for blasts in Brussels 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 on Tuesday 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.”

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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,” he told Fox News. “She doesn’t have a clue.”

Cruz said authorities should be empowered to “patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized,” drawing a sharp rebuke from Muslim Americans and civil rights groups.

The win in Arizona gave Trump a little less than half of the Republican delegates allocated so far. That’s still short of the majority needed to clinch the nomination before the party’s national convention.

But Trump won 59 percent of the delegates that were up for grabs Tuesday and if he kept up that pace, he’d secure the nomination before the convention. He needs to win 54 percent of the remaining delegates to do so.

Clinton leads Sanders 1,214 to 911 in delegates won in primaries and caucuses. When the party insiders known as superdelegates are included, she has 1,681 delegates to 947 for Sanders, or 71 percent of what she needs to clinch the nomination.