US presidential hopefuls Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders make gains in the latest round of contests. Cruz is chipping away at Republican rival Donald Trump's lead.
Ted Cruz (pictured above) has won the heartland states of Kansas and Maine, Republican party officials said.
Cruz is currently in second place in the Republican race that has been winnowed to just four contenders. He seeks to dent the lead of New York billionaire Donald Trump. US media reports say he won in the states of Lousiana and Kentucky.
After Saturday's results, Cruz has at least seven states under his belt. Senator Marco Rubio captured one state, prompting front runner Trump to suggest Rubio drops out of the 2016 presidential race.
The Republican race is in chaos with party establishment figures apparently frantic about how to stop Trump's momentum. There are fears that the brash real estate mogul's brand of populist rhetoric – that includes banning Muslims from entering the US – could do permanent damage to the rightist political party.
"Everyone's trying to figure out how to stop Trump," Trump himself said at an afternoon rally in Orlando, Florida.
But the anti-Trump forces have a short window to stop the outspoken businessman, who has accumulated 319 of the 1,237 delegates needed to win the nomination at July's Republican national convention. By contrast, Cruz has secured 226 delegates.
Sanders wins big in Kansas and Nebraska caucus
In the Democratic Party, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders also faced off Saturday in Kansas, Louisiana and the Nebraska caucus. Sanders took both Kansas and Nebraska, however, the results will not substantially change Clinton's big lead in delegates.
Former US Secretary of State Clinton took Lousiana. The three states holding Democratic contests on Saturday had a total of 109 delegates at stake.
jar/lw (AP, AFP, Reuters)