Frontrunners Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are on pace for a strong showing in state contests in the primary races for US president. Trump's win in Florida caused rival Marco Rubio to drop out of the race.
Exit polls cited by multiple US broadcasters reported Wednesday victories for the two front runners, Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Trump was aiming to dominate across the board and deal another setback to establishment Republicans who fear his campaign could lead the party to defeat in the November elections.
Republican Party hopeful Florida Senator Marco Rubio conceded his loss and ended his campaign after Trump captured his home state. "While it is not God's plan that I will be president in 2016 or ever," Rubio told supporters in Miami, "do not give in to the fear, do not give in to the frustration."
Trump's closest challenger nationally remains Senator Ted Cruz of Texas a favorite of the conservative Tea Party movement. But the strongest rival of the evening was Ohio Governor John Kasich who clawed to victory in his home state despite a distant showing in other races.
Republican Party leaders hope a Trump loss in any state could breath new life into Republican candidates battling to deny the brash Manhattan real-estate mogul the nomination and block him from capturing the 1,237 delegates needed to win the nomination at the party's July convention.
Trump also easily won in the Northern Mariana Islands caucus, picking up nine delegates.
Sanders versus Clinton
Among the Democrats, Clinton received a boost in Florida, Ohio and North Carolina's primaries after suffering a surprise upset in Michigan last week to rival Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. He captured the Midwestern state on a platform attacking Washington's embrace of trade agreements that have exported US jobs overseas.
In a triumphant speech, Clinton looked ahead to the November general election taking aim at Republican Donald Trump's controversial proposal of walling off the US-Mexico border.
"We should be breaking down barriers not building walls," she said. "I know that if we win in November our future will be brighter."
Entering Tuesday, Clinton had 768 pledged delegates compared to 554 for Sanders, according to an analysis by The Associated Press.
But overall Clinton holds more than half the amount of delegates needed to clinch the nomination when the count includes so-called "superdelegate" elected officials and party leaders free to support the candidate of their choice.
The races in Illinois and Missouri were still too close to call after polls closed in all five states.
jar/jm (AP, Reuters)