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Spotlight on Democratic debate after Sanders triumphs in Michigan

March 9, 2016 at 8:17 PM EDT
Tuesday night’s primary contests drew even more attention to Wednesday’s Democratic debate, as Sen. Bernie Sanders pulled off a close and hard-fought upset over Hillary Clinton in Michigan -- though Clinton secured Mississippi. Meanwhile, some Republican figures urged their party and supporters to join frontrunner Donald Trump, while others called for opposition to the controversial contender.

JUDY WOODRUFF: This was another day-after for the presidential hopefuls. Tuesday’s results focused even more attention on tonight’s latest Democratic debate. And Republicans issued competing calls to join or oppose the front-runner.

DONALD TRUMP (R), Republican Presidential Candidate: I want to thank the people of Michigan.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Fresh from another night of triumph, Donald Trump appealed today for mainstream Republicans to unite behind him.

DONALD TRUMP: Instead of fighting it, they should embrace it. And if everybody came together, instead of spending all of this money on these ridiculous ads that frankly are wrong, if you — and they’re just false ads. It’s terrible. If everybody came together, nobody could beat the Republican Party. We would walk into Washington.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), Republican Presidential Candidate: The momentum is with us.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But Ted Cruz had a decidedly different take in Miami. He was coming off a win last night in Idaho’s Republican primary, as well as second-place finishes to Trump in Michigan, Mississippi and Hawaii, all the more reason, Cruz said, for Republicans dead set against Trump to join him.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), Republican Presidential Candidate: There is only one campaign that has demonstrated it can beat Donald Trump over and over and over again, and we will beat Donald Trump over and over and over again.


JUDY WOODRUFF: One former rival, Carly Fiorina, endorsed the Texas senator today. And it was widely reported that Jeb Bush will meet with the remaining Republican hopefuls except for Trump.

But it’s getting harder by the day to stop the New York billionaire. After last night, Trump now has 458 delegates in his column. He needs to win almost 55 percent of the delegates yet to be awarded to get to 1,237, the number need to lock up the nomination. Cruz, his closest rival, is at 359. Trailing far behind are Marco Rubio, at 151, and John Kasich, who has 54.

The Ohio governor poured time and resources into neighboring Michigan, only to come in third there. Today, he brought his campaign and defiantly positive message to Illinois, where he hopes to do well on March 15.

GOV. JOHN KASICH (R-OH), Republican Presidential Candidate: Because I didn’t engage in name-calling, you thought my name was governor of Ohio, OK?


GOV. JOHN KASICH: And then about a month ago, or I wouldn’t even say — maybe about two-and-a-half or three weeks ago, you actually started to see who I was a little bit, and now in the last couple weeks, a heck of a lot more.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Even so, The Chicago Tribune passed over Kasich today and endorsed Rubio, who hasn’t gotten much of a boost so far out of other endorsements. He failed to score any delegates in Michigan or Mississippi, and is pressing toward March 15, when his home state of Florida votes. Tonight, Rubio will be making his case in Miami at a town hall hosted by MSNBC.

The Democrats, meanwhile, are pondering the importance of their own results from Tuesday. Bernie Sanders tried today to parlay his upset win in Michigan into momentum elsewhere.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (VT-D), Democratic Presidential Candidate: But, as the map moves forward, and as we move, for example, into the West, California, Washington, Arizona, Oregon, Wisconsin, you’re going to see a lot of states where we believe we have an excellent chance to win.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Even with the Michigan loss, Hillary Clinton extended her delegate lead over Sanders last night. She won more than 80 percent of the vote in Mississippi’s primary. And she again focused on opponents in Republican ranks, instead of those in her own.

HILLARY CLINTON (D), Democratic Presidential Candidate: We have our differences, which you can see when we debate, but I will tell you what. Those differences pale in comparison to what’s happening on the Republican side.


HILLARY CLINTON: Every time you think it can’t get any uglier, they find a way.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The two Democrats meet face-to-face again tonight, this time in Miami for a debate hosted by the Spanish-language network Univision.

We will call on two reporters who’ve been covering the races closely after the news summary.