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Trump Sweeps Northeastern Primaries; Clinton Cements Wide Lead Over Sanders

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally Monday in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. Trump won Tuesday's primary race in the state

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton took definitive steps toward solidifying their respective party's presidential nomination on Tuesday, making their rivals' task to beat them nearly insurmountable.

Trump won all five of the delegate-rich GOP primaries in Connecticut, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Rhode Island. Clinton notched four victories in Maryland, Delaware, Connecticut and Pennsylvania, while Bernie Sanders won the Rhode Island Democratic primary.

In the Republican race, Trump's clean sweep is a major setback for the hopes of the #NeverTrump movement, which had aimed to stop the controversial real estate mogul's march to the GOP nomination. With his wins on Tuesday, Trump has crossed the 900 delegate threshold and will add more as the night goes on. And his victories were decisive, too — in each state he was winning with at least 57 percent of the vote.

Speaking from Trump Tower in New York City, Trump argued that the GOP race was effectively decided.

"I consider myself the presumptive nominee," he said. "As far as I'm concerned, it's over."

Unlike after last week's New York primary — when a more restrained, cordial Trump took the stage following his big win — Trump's speech Tuesday night was in his usual freewheeling, unpredictable style.

He reiterated his call for Sanders to run as an independent because he'd been treated unfairly by the Democratic Party — a schism that would benefit whomever the GOP nominee is.

And he took his criticism of Clinton up to a new level, too, telling the crowd that she "only thing she's got going is the women's card. If Hillary Clinton were a man, I don't think she would get 5 percent of the vote."

Trump still has a way to go to officially reach the magic 1,237 delegate number before primaries wrap up in June. But his added delegates tonight mean neither Texas Sen. Ted Cruz nor Ohio Gov. John Kasich can get a majority of delegates on the first ballot at the GOP convention.

Cruz and Kasich announced an informal alliance of sorts over the weekend, with Kasich ceding Indiana, which votes next Tuesday, to Cruz, while Cruz said he would not campaign in later primaries in New Mexico and Oregon. Trump's big wins Tuesday night make next week's Hoosier State primary even more crucial for Cruz, his next-closest challenger in the delegate count.

Speaking from Indiana before polls closed on Tuesday, the Texas senator argued his best states are ahead.

"Tonight, this campaign moves back to favorable terrain; tonight this campaign moves back to Indiana," Cruz told the crowd.

Kasich long has been mathematically eliminated from winning the 1,237 delegates needed, instead encouraging GOP delegates to flip his way at a contested convention by arguing he is the best general-election candidate. Kasich still has won just one primary — his home state of Ohio.

Short of something extraordinary happening, Clinton will be the Democratic nominee. With four wins on Tuesday, she extended her pledged-delegate lead over Sanders to more than 300. Including superdelegates, the former secretary of state has crossed the 2,000 delegate threshold and is almost 90 percent of the way to the 2,383 delegates needed to secure the nomination.

Speaking in Philadelphia — the same city where the Democratic National Convention will take place in July — Clinton cast an eye forward to the general election and praised Sanders and Democrats for unifying and agreeing on issues like climate change, LGBT rights and workers' rights.

"With your help we're going to come back to Philadelphia with the most votes and the most pledged delegates," she said to cheers.

Going into Tuesday, an NPR analysis found that Sanders needed 59 percent of the remaining pledged delegates to erase Clinton's lead. While he did win in Rhode Island, Clinton's big margins in more delegate-rich states — including Pennsylvania and Maryland — make is almost mathematically impossible for him to overtake her.

In a memo late Tuesday night, the Sanders campaign remained reiterated his commitment to taking the race all the way to July.

"The people in every state in this country should have the right to determine who they want as president and what the agenda of the Democratic Party should be. That's why we are in this race until the last vote is cast," he said in a statement. "That is why this campaign is going to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia with as many delegates as possible to fight for a progressive party platform that calls for a $15-an-hour minimum wage, an end to our disastrous trade policies, a Medicare-for-all health care system, breaking up Wall Street financial institutions, ending fracking in our country, making public colleges and universities tuition free and passing a carbon tax so we can effectively address the planetary crisis of climate change."

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