U.S. Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz won nominating contests in Kansas and Maine on Saturday, staking his claim to be the prime alternative for the Republicans bent on stopping front-runner Donald Trump.
Trump won one state and led in partial results in another, taking another step toward the Republican nomination in the November 8 presidential election on a night when five U.S. states voted in nominating contests.
It was a bad night for the other Republican candidates, with U.S. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida and Ohio Governor John Kasich shut out in four Republican contests, falling behind Cruz in the battle to become the leader of the party's anti-Trump forces.
Next up will be a crucial contest on Tuesday in the big industrial state of Michigan. Republicans in three other states, Mississippi, Idaho and Hawaii, also will vote on Tuesday.
On the Democratic side, front-runner Hillary Clinton won in Louisiana, and her rival Bernie Sanders, a U.S. senator from Vermont, won in Kansas and Nebraska in results that will not substantially change Clinton's big lead in delegates.
Cruz, a first-term U.S. senator from Texas who has promoted himself as more of a true conservative than Trump, also won a non-binding "straw poll" of activists earlier in the day at the Conservative Political Action Conference near Washington, D.C.
"The scream you hear, the howl that comes from Washington, D.C., is utter terror at what 'We the People' are doing together," Cruz told supporters in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, after his early win in Kansas.
Cruz, 45, has run as an outsider bent on shaking up the Republican establishment in Washington. A favorite of evangelicals, he has called for the United States to "carpet bomb" the Islamic State militant group and has pledged to eliminate the tax-collecting Internal Revenue Service and four cabinet agencies and to enact a balanced budget amendment.
"What we're seeing is the public coming together, libertarians coming together, men and women who love the Constitution coming together and uniting and standing as one behind this campaign," Cruz said in Idaho.
Trump still has a substantial lead in the delegates needed to secure the nomination at the Republican National Convention, but since winning seven of 11 contests on Super Tuesday he has come under withering fire from a Republican establishment worried he will lead the party to defeat in November's election.
Mainstream Republicans have blanched at Trump's calls to build a wall on the border with Mexico, round up and deport 11 million undocumented immigrants and temporarily bar all Muslims from entering the United States.
The four Republican contests on Saturday together account for just 155 delegates. The results in Maine gave Cruz 12 delegates and Trump nine. In Kansas, Cruz picked up 24 delegates while Trump gained nine.
The races on Saturday were open only to registered Republicans, excluding the independent and disaffected Democratic voters who have helped Trump's surge to the lead.SHOW MORE