Real estate magnate Donald Trump and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton posted strong results Tuesday night as voters in five states cast ballots in a make or break moment for several presidential campaigns.
Both candidates, already their parties' front-runners, were projected to notch "significant" wins in the Florida primaries, according to NBC News. Trump was also projected to win primaries in North Carolina and Illinois, and he was the apparent winner in Missouri. Elsewhere on the Republican side, Ohio Gov. John Kasich secured a key win in his home state, NBC projected.
Clinton, meanwhile, swept the night with apparent wins in Illinois and Missouri and projected victories in the Democratic North Carolina and Ohio contests, NBC News reported.
"This is another super Tuesday for our campaign," Clinton said in an address after news of the Ohio projections. "We are moving closer to securing the Democratic party nomination and winning this election in November."
Trump entered the day's competitions — in Florida, Illinois, Missouri, North Carolina and Ohio — as the GOP front-runner in both delegates and national poll numbers. But as the New York businessman was looking to cement that status, his competitors were fighting for survival.
Republican home-state winner-take-all primaries for Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida were always slated to serve as defining moments for both campaigns. Recent polls indicated Kasich could win on his turf, but Rubio trailed Trump by about 20 percentage points in recent statewide surveys.
Soon after news of Trump's projected Florida win, Rubio announced that he would suspend his campaign.
For his part, Kasich promised in his Tuesday night address that "the campaign goes on."
Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas was unlikely to face an existential threat on Tuesday — he's beaten Trump in seven states so far this race, and firmly holds a second-place position. Still, a strong Tuesday showing for Trump could make the New York businessman a virtually unstoppable force on the way to the 1,237 delegates needed to secure a nomination.
On the Democratic side, Clinton entered Tuesday leading Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont in delegates and recent national polls. But the self-described democratic socialist pulled off an upset victory in Michigan last week, so Clinton's camp was hoping to reestablish momentum with a strong Tuesday showing.
Clinton has held a commanding lead in Florida polls leading up to the primary, but Ohio could present more of a challenge for the former U.S. senator from New York: She averaged an 8 percentage point lead over Sanders in recent surveys there, according to RealClearPolitics.
NBC News reported exit polls showing that 51 percent of Sanders voters in Tuesday's contests would be dissatisfied if Clinton became the Democrats' nominee. On the other hand, 46 percent of Clinton voters said they'd be dissatisfied if the senator from Vermont wins.
Early exit polls of Tuesday Republican primary voters showed that white evangelicals numbered at 47 percent in Ohio, 40 percent in Illinois, and 36 percent in Florida, NBC News reported. GOP voters in today's contests also said they are overwhelmingly unhappy about Washington: 39 percent said they were angry, 51 percent that they are dissatisfied, and only 1 percent said they're enthusiastic about the nation's capital.
In fact, 58 percent of GOP March 15 voters said they felt betrayed by their own party's politicians, and 52 percent said they hope the next president comes from outside the "establishment."
Although those figures might be read as a positive sign for outsider candidate Trump, a full 27 percent of GOP primary voters said they would definitely not vote for him if he became their party's nominee, NBC News reported.
A plurality (36 percent) of Tuesday's Republican voters identified the economy as the most important political issue, 29 percent said government spending, 21 percent said terrorism and 10 percent said immigration, NBC News said, citing early exit polls.
Both Trump and Sanders had been expected to win over some voters — especially in Midwestern states — because of their positions on international trade. Those candidates in particular have argued against America's unfettered free trade policies with some countries, saying they've led to manufacturing job losses without sufficient gains elsewhere.
Early exit polls showed that a majority of Republican voters in North Carolina and Ohio (56 percent in both states) think trade with other countries takes away U.S. jobs, NBC News reported. On the Democratic side, 53 percent in Ohio thought it took away jobs and 45 percent in North Carolina agreed.