NEW YORK — Donald Trump rolled up victories in five more states on Tuesday, giving the Republican front-runner fresh momentum in his push for the nomination even if his pathway has little room for error.
The New York billionaire scored wins in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Connecticut, Delaware and Rhode Island — all five states that held GOP primary contests on Tuesday.
“This is really something special. It’s a movement,” Trump said on Fox News before polls closed.
Anticipating a big night for Trump, chief rival Ted Cruz retreated to next-up Indiana days ago. The Texas senator and Ohio Gov. John Kasich are fighting to deny Trump the delegate majority and force a contested national convention this summer.
“I got good news for you,” Cruz told cheering supporters at an Indianapolis rally. “Tonight this campaign moves back to more favorable terrain.”
Tuesday’s strong performance marked a setback for the GOP’s vocal anti-Trump movement, which is skeptical about his commitment to conservative values and worries about his electability in the general election.
Exit polls found that about 6 in 10 Republican voters in Pennsylvania say the GOP campaign this year has divided the party. While 7 in 10 Democrats in the state say they’ve been energized by the campaign, only 4 in 10 Republican voters say the same.
Trump remains the only Republican who has a shot at reaching the 1,237 delegate majority needed to clinch the nomination before the convention. But his lead is fragile, and any major setbacks in the contests ahead could lead him to fall sort of that magic number.
Adding a wrinkle to his efforts, Cruz and Kasich announced late Sunday that they had reached a tentative, new alliance aimed at undermining him. Under the deal, Kasich will forgo campaigning in Indiana, allowing Cruz to take on Trump head-to-head in the state, while Cruz will do the same for Kasich in Oregon and New Mexico.
Tuesday’s victories help Trump expand his big lead in the race for delegates. If he keeps it up, he can stay on track to win the nomination by the end of the primaries on June 7.
Trump will win at least half of the 118 delegates up for grabs Tuesday. And he has a chance to win a lot more.
In Pennsylvania, Trump collected 17 delegates for winning the state. An additional 54 delegates are elected directly by voters — three in each congressional district. However, their names are listed on the ballot with no information about which presidential candidate they support.
At a pair of rallies in Pennsylvania on Monday, Trump decried Pennsylvania’s voting rules as “crazy.”
Trump recently overhauled his campaign team, bringing on new and more experienced operatives. But his main rival, Cruz, got a head start in the intricate game of delegate-courting, directing some of his resources to states where he knew he could get his supporters named as delegates.
Pennsylvania voter Laura Seyler described herself as “a very solid Cruz fan,” but favored Trump because he’s “a bigger bully.”
“That may sound strange, but I think that’s kind of what we need,” Seyler, 63, a senior buyer for a direct marketer, said Tuesday at a polling place in Hamburg, Pennsylvania.
Peoples reported from Washington. Associated Press writer Stephen Ohlemacher in Washington contributed to this report.