Senator Ted Cruz solidified his position as the only viable Republican candidate to take on Donald Trump, as five more states voted on Saturday night. Bernie Sanders, meanwhile, managed to stay in the Democratic race against Hillary Clinton.
The so-called "Super Saturday" contests provided a shot in the arm for both underdog campaigns, but didn't bring the 2016 presidential race any closer to a conclusion.
Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, and Maine held their Republican contests, while Democrats voted in Kansas, Louisiana, and Nebraska. The Democrats will also vote in Maine on Sunday.
Cruz picked up the first two wins of the night, taking Kansas first and then Maine. These were two huge upset victories over Trump, who was coming off of a wave of victories in the Super Tuesday primaries on March 1. Trump also had the endorsement of Maine Governor Paul LePage, who said the businessman would be "one of the greatest presidents."
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Cruz didn't just win in Kansas and Maine — he beat Trump in double-digit landslides in both states. Cruz won more than 48 percent of the vote in Kansas and more than 45 percent in Maine, compared to 23 percent and 33 percent, respectively, for Trump.
Still, the night was hardly a wash for Trump, who nabbed Louisiana as well as Kentucky, which had the biggest delegate counts of any of the states voting on Saturday. Once the full results are tallied, Trump will move forward with the most delegates of the night.
Cruz's strong performance further bolstered his oft-repeated talking point that he is the only Republican candidate with the proven ability to actually beat Trump in an election. Cruz has now won six states to Trump's 12, and has 295 total delegates after Super Saturday compared to Trump's 378. Senator Marco Rubio has won just one state and lags far behind in the delegate race with 123.
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Rubio had a particularly rough Saturday night, coming in third or last of all of the states that voted. In Maine, he failed to even meet the threshold of viability (which was 10 percent or about 1,800 votes), meaning he wasn't able to secure a single delegate there.
In a press conference Saturday night, Trump called on Rubio to drop out of the race.
But Rubio's dismal showing didn't seem to deter his campaign. His spokesperson, Alex Conant, said on Fox News that Rubio was going full steam ahead and focused on winning his home state of Florida on March 15, where he currently trails Trump by double-digits in recent polling.
"[We] feel really good about the map moving forward," Conant said. "And after we win the Florida primary, the map, the momentum and the money is going to be on our side."
Conant brushed off Cruz's victories, saying it only proved that he could win in rural caucus states. Rubio's spokesperson responded to Trump as well: "Trump knows that Marco has the momentum in Florida and is afraid because he knows losing those 99 delegates to Marco will be a turning point in this race," he said.
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On the Democratic side, Sanders' two wins on Saturday helped boost momentum for his campaign after rival Hillary Clinton swept up a number of southern states last week on Super Tuesday. But the former secretary of state ended the night with more than double the number of delegates nationally, with 1,121 total delegates to Sanders's 479. That tally includes "Super Delegates" who have already pledged to support Clinton at the Democratic convention but could still change their minds. Counting only pledged delegates, who vote based on the outcomes of the primaries and caucuses, Clinton leads Sanders by a narrower margin of 663 to 457.
On Saturday, Sanders won caucus contests in the mostly white states of Kansas and Nebraska after investing heavily in both contests, emerging with double-digits wins. The Sanders campaign blew Clinton out of the water by more than 30 points in Kansas on Saturday night.
But Clinton won the big prize, Louisiana, winning by nearly 50 points. Clinton took the state with 71 percent to Sanders' 23 percent, solidifying her strong support base among black voters, which helped propel her to a 50-point win in South Carolina last month and helped her to scoop up a handful of southern states on Super Tuesday.
Tomorrow, the Democratic candidates will face off at a debate in Flint, Michigan. During the debate, Maine voters will be wrapping up their Democratic caucuses, the results of which will likely be announced while both candidates are still on stage.
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The race could be tight in Maine, where only 30 Democratic delegates are up for grabs. It is near Sanders's home state of Vermont and saw record crowds turn up to Sanders rallies last summer. On the other hand, Clinton has the support of a number of prominent Maine Democrats, including former Governor John Baldacci and Maine House Speaker Mark Eves. Clinton previously lost the state to Barack Obama in the 2008 primaries.
Follow Liz Fields and Olivia Becker on Twitter: @lianzifields and @obecker928
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