U.S. presidential candidates are looking ahead to Tuesday when five delegate-rich states hold their primary elections, with the rest of the field blaming Republican front-runner Donald Trump for the violence that has erupted at his rallies.
The primaries in Florida, Ohio, Illinois, Missouri and North Carolina are particularly important for Trump’s opponents who want to prevent him from grabbing a potentially insurmountable lead.
But Trump denied that his campaign has provoked violence, telling a crowd in Bloomington, Illinois Sunday that he wants peace and not trouble.
There have been fights and pushing and shoving between his supporters and protesters opposing his candidacy at rallies in several of Tuesday’s primary states, and authorities have arrested a small number of protesters at those sites.
U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at the downtown Midland Theater in Kansas City, Mo., March 12, 2016.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the leader in the Democratic race, said Sunday night that Trump is «trafficking in hate and fear.» She said criticism of Trump does not matter if people do not show up on election day to vote against him.
Clinton’s opponent, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, said he hopes Trump tones down his campaign and tells supporters that violence is not acceptable.
Trump in recent days blamed Sanders for the increasingly frequent disruptions at events and threatened to retaliate by sending his supporters to Sanders’ rallies.
Sanders responded: «Send them. They deserve to see what a real honest politician sounds like.»
Texas Senator Ted Cruz is in second place in terms of delegates Republicans need to clinch the party’s nomination and on Sunday added fresh criticism of Trump.
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont speaks during a campaign stop at Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio, March 13, 2016.
«When you have a campaign that disrespects the voters, when you have a campaign that affirmatively encourages violence, you create an environment that only encourages this sort of nastiness,» Cruz said on NBC’s Meet The Press.
‘Dangerous,’ ‘toxic’ campaign
Florida Senator Marco Rubio and Ohio Governor John Kasich are far behind in terms of delegates and used words like «dangerous» and «toxic» to describe Trump’s campaign.
Both Rubio and Kasich are banking on a first place finish in the winner-take-all primaries in their home states Tuesday. Polls indicate Trump holds a big lead in Florida, but is locked in a tight race with Kasich in Ohio.
The primary elections and caucuses are apportioning delegates to the Republican and Democratic national conventions in July when the presidential nominees will be formally selected.
Clinton and Sanders will continue to collect pledged convention delegates roughly based on their vote totals in each state, not winner-take-all.