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Tuesday’s results mean Donald Trump more likely to appear at Utah Republican debate

First Published      Last Updated Mar 16 2016 12:01 pm

Sen. Marco Rubio won't be rallying in Utah on Wednesday as planned. He suspended his presidential bid Tuesday after a massive loss in his home state of Florida. That means the GOP primary has become a three-man race, and with Gov. John Kasich's win in Ohio, it is increasingly likely that all three will appear in Salt Lake City on Monday for a nationally televised debate.

Donald Trump, the clear front-runner in the race, added to his delegate lead on Tuesday with wins in Florida, North Carolina and Illinois, but due to his loss to Kasich in Ohio, it is likely that the nomination fight will go on for weeks, maybe months and possibly even into the national convention.




"For the Republicans right now, every state becomes an important victory and every state that Donald Trump doesn't win makes it much more likely we end up in a contested convention," said Jason Perry, the director of the University of Utah's Hinckley Institute of Politics. "He needs to consider every state to be important."

Trump had previously said he's had "enough" of the debates after a dozen of them and that he'd rather not come to Salt Lake City. He didn't say anything about it in his victory speech from Florida on Tuesday evening.

"We are going to go forward," Trump said. "And we are going to win."

He did just that in Florida, claiming a nearly 20 percentage point victory over Rubio and winning 99 delegates. Rubio immediately ended his bid.

The Florida senator had the support of many members of Congress, including Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Utah's four House members.

Hatch said he was "disappointed" that Rubio ended his bid.

"But I'm grateful for the manner in which he articulated conservative principles and identified thoughtful policy solutions to our nation's challenges," said Hatch, who originally had backed former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, called Rubio's ouster a "bummer."

"I think he was our best bet to beat Hillary Clinton," said Chaffetz, declining to say where he's shifting his support now that the race is between Trump, Kasich and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.

He has a few days to make his decision, but only a few. Utah holds the next contest Tuesday, the same day as Arizona's primary.

Utah's 40 Republican delegates will be awarded through caucus meetings and an online vote of registered Republicans. If a candidate claims more than 50 percent, he'll take them all; otherwise the delegates will be awarded proportionately.

Kasich will be in Utah on Friday for three town-halls forums. It is possible that other presidential candidates will visit the state before the debate on Monday and the caucus on Tuesday.

mcanham@sltrib.com

 

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