Big wins for Trump but opposition clings to hope

Clinton piles up more wins
Clinton piles up more wins

Hillary Clinton took a giant step toward locking down her party's presidential nomination. Donald Trump took a step toward locking down his — but needs to keep striding briskly.

That's the upshot of Tuesday night primaries across five states.

Clinton, the former first lady, U.S. senator and secretary of state, swept primaries in Florida, North Carolina, Ohio and Illinois. She remained locked in a tight contest with her populist rival Bernie Sanders in Missouri with a few votes yet to be counted.

Her dominance helped calm fears within the Democratic Party that mushroomed after her surprise defeat in Michigan last week. Clinton extended her lead over Sanders in pledged delegates beyond 300. Counting her wide edge among unpledged "super delegates," she now has roughly two-thirds of the total needed to secure the Democratic nomination.

Her victories entrenched her existing support, since those super delegates can switch support at will. Sanders needs to shake their confidence in Clinton's viability, but he failed to do so Tuesday.

Trump scored a huge victory in Florida, the biggest state voting Tuesday. That allowed him to grab the state's 99 delegates which, on the Republican side, are awarded on a winner-take-all basis. It also knocked Florida Sen.Marco Rubio, once considered his most formidable Republican rival, out of the race. Trump also grabbed 24 delegates in Illinois by winning there.

Republican candidates Donald Trump and John Kasich and Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton win big in primaries on March 15, 2016.
Big night for Trump and Clinton; Kasich takes Ohio

But his results elsewhere were more mixed. He lost winner-take-all Ohio and its 66 delegates to that state's Gov. John Kasich. By winning, Kasich managed to stay alive in the race as the sole remaining "establishment" candidate."

Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas roughly split delegates with Trump in North Carolina even as the front-runner won the popular vote. Cruz remained deadlocked with Trump in Missouri with some votes yet to be counted.

The night left Trump with roughly half the delegates he needs for a first ballot nomination at the summer convention in Cleveland. But it also left mainstream Republicans who bitterly oppose him, led by 2012 nominee Mitt Romney, with hope that Cruz and Kasich can offer enough resistance in remaining states to deny Trump a convention majority.

Republican presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) speaks during a campaign rally at theTampa Convention Center on March 7, 2016 in Tampa, Florida.
Marco Rubio suspends GOP presidential campaign

Next up is the winner-take-all primary in Arizona, and a smaller contest in Utah, on March 22. The Wisconsin contest follows on April 5, before the race moves later in the month to Trump's home region of the Northeast. New York's primary is April 19; a week later, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island.

The battle goes on.