Trump, Clinton start strong with big Super Tuesday wins
Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump scored delegate-rich Super Tuesday victories across the South and beyond as they bid for clear sailing in a tempest-tossed campaign for the presidential nominations.
Voters in a dozen states put their imprint on the race, and in the bulk of contests rewarded the longtime national front-runners, stretching their leads in delegates needed to clinch the nomination.
Democratic Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas each won their home states and prevailed in Oklahoma, with several states still to be decided.
Clinton won Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia, Virginia, Texas and Arkansas, the state her husband, Bill, served as governor on his way to the presidency.
Trump took Alabama, Tennessee, Massachusetts, Georgia and Virginia as attention turned to Western states reporting later.
A look at biggest day in the calendar of presidential primaries and caucuses.
In six states (Texas, Virginia, Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama and Arkansas), large majorities of Republican primary voters expressed support for temporarily banning all non-citizen Muslims from entering the U.S., a Trump proposal, according to early results of exit polls.
But Republican voters were more divided on another of his contentious ideas, to deport all people who are in the U.S. illegally. The proposal won majority support only in Alabama, among seven states where that question was asked of GOP voters.
—"Ultimately, if we have to elect someone who is borderline crazy to get people to understand what's going on, then that's what we have to do." — Tyler Murphy, 26, of Boston, explaining his vote for Trump in the Republican contest. His backup choice was Clinton, a Democrat.
—"I'm so appalled at the choices." —Gillian Gattie, 72, also of Boston. After 2008 and 2012 votes for Barack Obama, she was voting this time in the GOP race, for Ohio Gov. John Kasich.
—"I can't get excited for Bernie Sanders." — Gillian's twin sister, Vivien Gattie, who reluctantly voted for Clinton.
—"I like his background coming from a mother and dad who worked very hard, paycheck to paycheck. For him to provide that depth of understanding of what most people go through is important to me." — Mark Vinson, 53, in Lubbock, Texas, explaining his vote for Republican Marco Rubio.
—"I stood in line for six hours the other day at a Trump rally because to me he's just the man. He is the one that is going to make the country great again." — Jeanie Lindsey, in Helena, Alabama, on why she lined up for 40 minutes Tuesday to back Trump.
Both parties held contests in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont and Virginia. As well, Republicans voted in Alaska and Democrats in Colorado. Democrats also had a contest in American Samoa and for Democrats abroad.
Polls close, EST: 7 p.m. in Virginia, Georgia and Vermont; 8 p.m. in Oklahoma, Alabama, Tennessee and Massachusetts; 8:30 p.m. in Arkansas; 9 p.m. in Texas, Colorado and Minnesota; midnight in Alaska.
WHAT'S THE SCORE?
Before Super Tuesday, Trump won New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada. Clinton won Iowa, Nevada and South Carolina.
Republican Ted Cruz won Iowa. Democrat Sanders won New Hampshire.
Republicans will allocate 595 delegates from the results of Super Tuesday, nearly half of the 1,237 needed for the nomination.
Democrats will allocate 865, more than one-third of the necessary 2,383.
WHY IT MATTERS
Immigration policy, the swollen U.S. debt, the uneven spread of wealth and hard questions about how to approach the Islamic State, terrorism and civil liberties are all in play for voters.
So is the fate of fundamental social policy as the Supreme Court stands ideologically divided. A vacancy may not be filled until after the next president takes office in January.
TEXAS AND THE SOUTH
The South enjoyed more influence in this campaign because of several states added to the Super Tuesday roster, giving this subset the nickname "SEC primary," a nod to the Southeastern Conference of college sports. Clinton once again demonstrated her pull with black voters, as she did in overwhelming fashion in South Carolina over the weekend.
The biggest Super Tuesday state overall was Texas, where Cruz prevailed with his home-state advantage, prime endorsements from the governor down the political chain and a veritable army of some 27,000 volunteers.
-- Associated Press