Under the new strategy, calls to narrow the field have given way to a push urging Republican candidates Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and John Kasich to stay in the race to scoop up enough delegates to prevent Trump from clinching the nomination.
A plan to block Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump has struggled to gain traction as his rivals rejected it, while Democrats revelled in the chaos they hoped would boost their chances of keeping the White House.
Trump’s apparent outbreak of moderation on several fronts, including the most inflammatory one, immigration, comes after a dominant Super Tuesday performance that extended his reach for the Republican nomination and as GOP establishment figures stepped up to assail him.
Both CNN and MSNBC projected Cruz as the victor in Kansas.
“He’s trying to con people into giving him their vote just as he conned those people”, Rubio said.
Mainstream Republicans have blanched at Trump’s calls to build a wall on the border with Mexico, round up and deport 11 million undocumented immigrants and temporarily bar all Muslims from entering the United States.
“We can sit back and let them light their own dumpster fire and wait until they’re finished”, said Mr Eddie Vale, spokesman for American Bridge, a Clinton-allied group which collects negative research on Republican candidates.
His comments followed an about-face on the topic during the previous night’s debate, when Rubio, after a week of pledging to campaign in all 50 states “as long as it takes” to prevent Trump from taking the nomination, said that he would in fact support Trump as the nominee.
The victory in Kansas came shortly after the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) voted for Cruz in its straw poll.
“These states have a certain profile that other candidates do better in”, Rubio told reporters on Saturday night.
The opportunity was apparently too much to resist for Florida senator Marco Rubio. They look at history and say a trend like Mr. Trump’s isn’t going to be stopped.
“These animals over in the Middle East, that chop off heads, sitting around talking and seeing that we’re having a hard problem with waterboarding?”
“Ted has won important states and can appeal to Trump voters who want an outsider but become convinced that Ted is the more reliable conservative“, the bundler said.
Mr Rubio has only one state so far and is gearing up for what could be a make-or-break contest in his home state on March 15.
“He is a stupid person”, the 2016 Republican front-runner said of the party’s 2012 nominee.
Update at 9:50 p.m.: Donald Trump won the only primary of “Super Saturday”, ending first in Louisiana.
Some local GOP party officials say they are seeing growing anti-Trump sentiment as Florida’s primary approaches, but that could be wishful thinking. He is trailing by a large margin in the polls. The three states have a total of 109 delegates at stake. It was independently created by the Reuters editorial staff. SAP had no editorial involvement in its creation or production.
This article was funded in part by SAP.