- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Donald Trump was the projected winner of Florida’s GOP primary Tuesday, dealing a likely fatal blow to Sen. Marco Rubio’s presidential hopes — but Mr. Trump was struggling elsewhere on the map, as other candidates were giving him a tough fight.

Exit polling showed Sen. Ted Cruz posing a stiff challenge to Mr. Trump in Illinois, North Carolina and Missouri, while Gov. John Kasich was leading in early returns in his home state of Ohio. None of those races had been called yet.

But the Associated Press did call the Florida race soon after the final polls closed at 8 p.m. With more than a third of precincts reporting in Fliorida, Mr. Trump held a massive lead, winning about 46 percent of the vote. Mr. Rubio was far behind in second place with about 27 percent.

Mr. Trump claimed victory even before the final Florida polls closed, posting a Twitter message saying he’d survived a massive anti-Trump ad blitz.

The evening was expected to help shape the GOP field, with Mr. Rubio losing his argument for remaining in the race. In Ohio, meanwhile, Gov. John Kasich was hoping a win there — his first of the campaign — would revive what has been a struggling campaign.

Ohio and Florida are also the first to award all of their delegates to the winner, meaning the race has shifted into a much higher-stakes part of the schedule.

Mr. Trump had predicted that if he swept both of those states, he’d be nearly unstoppable in his march to the nomination. But a loss in either would deeply dent his chances of avoiding a contested convention.

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