Trump wins Michigan GOP presidential primary

Chad Livengood and Christine Ferretti
The Detroit News

Donald Trump posted a comfortable victory Tuesday over three presidential rivals in Michigan’s Republican primary, underscoring the New York businessman’s argument that he should be the GOP’s standard bearer this fall.

Trump captured 36.5 percent of the 1.3 million votes and had a double-digit lead over U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and Ohio Gov. John Kasich with 99 percent of precincts reporting. The win gives the boisterous billionaire 25 Michigan delegates and momentum as he takes on Ohio's two-term governor next week in his home state.

Cruz edged Kasich for second place, holding 24.9 percent of the vote to Kasich's 24.3 percent share of the GOP primary electorate. They won 17 delegates each.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida trailed in fourth place with 9.3 percent and didn't win any delegates.

Detroit native and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, who dropped out of the race last week, garnered about 1.5 percent of the vote. A combined 3.4 percent of the vote went to candidates who dropped out of the race weeks ago, while 1.4 percent of GOP voters were uncommitted.

Michigan primary results - The Detroit News

Just after news organizations began calling Michigan’s race for Trump, he took stage at a press conference in Jupiter, Fla., and boasted about his success Tuesday night, which included a win in Mississippi.

“There’s only one person who did well tonight: Donald Trump,” he said. “It was amazing. I was impressed.”

The billionaire real estate mogul won 72 of Michigan's 83 counties, including Livingston, Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties. In Macomb County, Trump beat John Kasich by 26 percentage points. Trump's largest margin was a 33.4 percentage point spread over Cruz in Roscommon County.

Cruz won Midland County and eight counties in west Michigan, while Kasich won Kalamazoo and Washtenaw counties, according to unofficial results.

Trump rode into Michigan with 12 state wins and 384 delegates under his belt in pursuit of the 1,237 delegates needed to clinch the Republican presidential nomination. His political outsider campaign has been propelled by a coalition that he contends includes Republicans, independents and Democrats.

“To me, he’s the only person running that’s not controlled by the government. To me, that’s important,” said Joel Coiner II, 53, an unemployed maintenance worker from Westland who voted Democrat in last two elections. “What’s been doled out for us to eat for so many years right now doesn’t taste good to me anymore.”

2016 presidential primary delegate tracker

Trump said his primary success in the Great Lakes State sets him up to compete against the Democratic nominee in a general election battle in Michigan, should he ultimately win the nomination.

“I’ll get Michigan because we’re going to bring the car industry back,” he said.

Kasich camped out in Michigan for most of the past week, holding rallies in Grand Blanc, Warren, Holland, Traverse City, Marquette, Monroe and Grosse Pointe Woods. He also addressed Monday’s Oakland County Lincoln Day dinner in Troy.

Rubio campaigned last Wednesday in Shelby Township, while Cruz paid a last-minute visit late Monday night to Grand Rapids.

Each candidate needed at least 15 percent of the vote to win a proportional share of Michigan’s 59 delegates — the most delegates at stake in four states that held primaries Tuesday. Trump was poised to pick up 25 delegates in Michigan based on his percentage of the statewide vote. Kasich and Cruz will get 17 delegates each, according to the Michigan Republican Party.

Michigan’s primary had heightened attention from a raucous debate last Thursday night that was defined by sparring between Trump, Cruz and Rubio, while Kasich largely stayed out of the fray.

By contrast, Trump whipped up several thousand likely voters at rallies Friday in Warren and Cadillac, continuing his practice of mixing insults of his opponents with a sharp commentary of the country’s approach to illegal immigration, trade with foreign countries and battling Islamic terrorism.

“It’s obviously not working with the establishment nowadays,” said Tim Richter, 44, of Warren, a pilot operator at Chrysler who voted for Trump. “Everybody’s sick of it, more taxes, especially with the Obamacare.”

Kasich, a second-term Ohio governor, answered questions from voters at town hall events across the state, refusing to engage in the bitter commentary Rubio, Trump and Cruz waged against each other. Kasich was the only Republican candidate who was still stumping for votes Tuesday in Michigan.

“There is a certain intensity I see when I look in your eyes,” Kasich said during a midday speech at the Lansing Brewing Co. “It’s hope, but not anger. Expectations, but not frustration. Recognition we have problems, but at the same time, we can solve them.”

Timothy Jackson, 59, of Lansing, said he voted for Kasich in part because of the governor’s “level-headed” performance during the Detroit debate.

“He handled himself in a respect way versus the showboating, clowning that was on display,” said Jackson, a public school administrator.

Some self-described independent or moderate Republicans voters said they were torn between Rubio and Kasich after former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush dropped out of the race following a poor showing in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

“Quite honestly, I’m not enamored with anyone on either side of the ticket. I think there’s a lack of moderates,” said Steve Hoxie, 53, of Howell.

Hoxie said he voted for Rubio over Kasich because he thought the 44-year-old Florida U.S. senator may be more electable than the 63-year-old Kasich.

“That was kind of a toss-up,” he (Hoxie) said.

Carl von Buelow, a web developer in Ann Arbor, said he voted for Cruz, citing the Texan’s conservative stances on social issues.

“I’m a Roman Catholic, and he’s the candidate who’s most aligned with my beliefs,” he said of Cruz, a Southern Baptist. “He’s a strong Christian.”

Von Buelow says Cruz has a firm anti-abortion record and “strong moral values.” He said he couldn’t support Trump because he doesn’t trust his record on abortion.

“Trump is anti-life, and he is lacking in moral character of any kind,” von Buelow said.

Retired Ford assembly line worker Lloyd Nichols, 72, of Westland, said he liked what Kasich had to offer, but ultimately voted for Trump whom he believes has a stronger backing.

For Nichols, Tuesday’s primary was the first in which he has ever voted — and he normally votes for Democrats in general elections.

“We got to see what Donald can do. If he can’t do nothing in four years, then that’s that,” said Nichols, who admits he doesn’t always agree with Trump’s demeanor and name-calling. “If he gets more to be like a presidential candidate, I think he’s got it in the bag.”

Trump’s ability to get support from voters who have a distaste for his campaign antics has confounded opponents and political experts alike.

Richard Gubbins, 34, of Howell, said he was turned off by Trump calling Rubio “little Marco” during the Detroit debate.

“After the last debate, I wasn’t going to vote for (Trump) because of how arrogant and how childish he acted,” Gubbins said.

But Gubbins said he didn’t get excited about the other candidates, so cast his vote for Trump anyway.

“I just want to give him a chance,” he said.

(517) 371-3660

Detroit News Staff Writer Leonard N. Fleming and the Associated Press contributed.