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Trump wins 7 GOP primaries, extending dominance

By Steve Peoples and Thomas Beaumont
Associated Press
LOUISVILLE, KY - MARCH, 1: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump waves to the crowd after a rally March 1, 2016 in Louisville, Kentucky. Trump is campaigning nationwide on Super Tuesday, the single largest primary voting day. (Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images)

Miami — Donald Trump claimed seven Republican victories on Super Tuesday as the New York businessman extended his dominance in the 2016 primary. Ted Cruz won his home state of Texas and neighboring Oklahoma, while Marco Rubio struggled without a win so far, a setback to his effort to emerge as the leading Trump alternative.

Trump scored victories in Georgia, Virginia, Arkansas, Alabama, Tennessee, Vermont and Massachusetts, tightening his grasp on his party’s nomination on a Super Tuesday marked by panic from Republican leaders.

The Super Tuesday results set up March 8 primary showdowns for both parties in Michigan, the next major state on the presidential calendar.

Fearing Trump may build an insurmountable delegate lead, top Republican officials lashed out at the billionaire businessman’s command of the issues and “seeming ambivalence” over white supremacists as voting began. But having won three consecutive primary elections before Tuesday, Trump tightened his grip on the GOP nomination in primary elections across the country.

“We have expanded the Republican Party,” Trump declared in a speech at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, promising to attract Democrats and independents to the GOP. “We’re going to be a much bigger party.”

And looking ahead to the general election, he said: “We’re going to be more inclusive. We’re going to be more unified.”

Trump’s ideas have resonated with Tuesday’s Republican electorate, according to exit polls conducted by Edison Research for The Associated Press and television networks. Large majorities of Republican primary voters in six states, for example, said they support Trump’s proposal to temporarily ban all non-citizen Muslims from entering the United States.

The results followed a wild prelude to Super Tuesday that featured a dispute over the Klu Klux Klan and extraordinary criticism from several Republican governors and senators who refused to say whether they would support their party’s front-runner should Trump win the nomination.

Trump’s strong performance across much of the South was a blow to Cruz. The Texas senator averted disaster by winning his home state, but had long expected the South to be his firewall.

Cruz called on the GOP to unify behind his candidacy, “the only campaign that has beaten, that can beat and that will beat Donald Trump.”

Rubio’s goal on Super Tuesday was more modest — to stay competitive in the delegate count while eyeing a win in his home state of Florida on March 15. Republican officials have rallied behind Rubio over the last week, but he’s failed to win a single state so far.

A defiant Rubio told a hometown crowd in Miami that he had only begun to attack Trump: “You see, just five days ago we began to unmask the true nature of the front-runner so far in this race,” he said, calling the GOP front-runner “a con artist.”

Ohio Gov. John Kasich and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson remain in the race, but neither were expected to be a major factor on Super Tuesday.

It takes 1,237 delegates to win the Republican nomination for president.

Tyler Murphy, a 26-year-old Boston resident who works as a project manager for a construction company, said he voted for Trump.

For better or for worse, he said, the controversial candidate is the “wake-up call” the country needs.

Clinton solidifies lead with wins in 6 states

Super Tuesday results - A Detroit News interactive