Sen. Ted Cruz notched two more wins Saturday evening, adding Kansas and Maine to his column, even as front-runner Donald Trump picked up Louisiana and Kentucky, fresh evidence that the Republican primary is not quite over.
Though the New York real estate mogul remains ahead overall, Cruz has racked up a few states—his home state of Texas, nearby Oklahoma, Alaska, Iowa—to back up his claim to be Trump’s main rival.
There was a similar dynamic on the Democratic side, where underdog Bernie Sanders won in Nebraska and Kansas, while front-runner Hillary Clinton picked up another win in Louisiana.
“God bless Kansas; God bless Maine,” Cruz said at an event in Idaho. “And the scream you hear—the howl you hear from Washington, D.C.— is utter terror for what we the people are doing together. What we’re seeing is conservatives coming together.”
Speaking at an event in West Palm Beach, Florida, Trump argued that Florida Sen. Marco Rubio “had a very, very bad night” and called several times for him to end his campaign.
“I think it’s time now that he drop out of the race,” he said.
On the Democratic side, Sanders’s wins in Nebraska and Kansas gave a much-needed boost to his campaign after losses on Tuesday. Both states are mostly white, a demographic Sanders performs well in, and Sanders has shown he has a knack for surging in caucuses, which reward organization.
Clinton, meanwhile, was announced the victor in Louisiana, where black voters make up a large portion of the Democratic electorate.
In a statement after his victory in Kansas, Sanders pointed to wins in a geographic range of states. “We have now won double-digit victories from New England to the Rocky Mountains to the Great Plains to the Midwest,” Sanders said.
But his victories do not significantly change the course of the race. He continues to face problems appealing to African-Americans, a crucial demographic in Democratic primaries, and lags far behind in delegate count.
Clinton allies had been projecting their candidate’s significant lead in the pledged delegate count in anticipation of possible losses on Saturday, saying their margin over Sanders is larger than any lead in 2008 in the race with Barack Obama.
In Detroit, Clinton briefly mentioned the results as she spoke to Michigan Democrats, who vote next. She congratulated Sanders, but tweaked him on the advantage she began her Saturday holding. “I am thrilled we are adding to our pledged delegate count,” she said at a state party function that was set to heat from Sanders later in the evening.
Sanders was slated to speak after Clinton, but the former Secretary of State decided to shake supporters’ hands before she left the venue. That left Sanders in a holding pattern for 15 minutes. Sanders finally lost his patience and charged out to start shaking the same hands. The pair got within feet of each other, and when Sanders began his speech, Clinton continued to work the crowd and draw focus from his remarks.
“Tonight, we won Kansas with a good vote. We won Nebraska with a good vote,” he said. “I think we are going to do well in Maine tomorrow. We are going to do very well here on Tuesday.” The rules of the Democratic Party still award delegates for strong showings, so he could still collect delegates.
Sanders, however, seemed to signal that the nomination was slipping from him. “No matter who wins this Democratic nomination, I have not the slightest doubt that on our worst days, we will be infinitely better than the Republicans,” he said.
Cruz picked up another win, although it was one that came without any delegates.
In a straw poll of around 2,700 mostly younger activists, Cruz won nearly four in 10, followed by Marco Rubio at 30% and Trump at 15%. The real estate mogul also pulled out of a prime speaking slot Saturday morning, a sign that he did not view the crowd as friendly.
At the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, the conservative grassroots gave Cruz another win at an annual gathering of conservative activists, although one that does not come with any delegates.
Part of Trump’s successes to this point has hinged on the rules of the nominating contests. Those shifted on Saturday, when all four states’ contests are open only to Republicans, meaning the independents or unaffiliated voters who helped Trump in earlier states cannot participate. That could have helped Cruz rack up delegates to narrow the gap with Trump.
The states where Cruz has logged victories have Trump’s team paying attention. Indeed, only four states—Iowa, Nevada, Oklahoma and Alaska—have been restricted to just Republicans so far. Cruz won all but Nevada. Closed primaries have been Trump’s weakness, and his advisers are looking ahead at a string of states where only registered Republicans can vote.
For the Democrats, Clinton comes off a wave of victories and a strong record of 10 wins and five losses, leaving Sanders far behind in the delegate count. She has turned her eyes to Trump, running banner web advertisements against the braggadocious billionaire and lambasting his language in her speeches, calling him divisive.
For both parties, however, the real prize lies beyond Saturday. Michigan votes on Tuesday, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich is hoping his Midwestern modesty propels him to a win over better-polling peers. For Democrats, both Clinton and Sanders believe they have the next best chance at proving they can win a wide swath of the electorate.
A blue state hit hard by the loss of industrial jobs, Michigan is in some ways a natural fit for Sanders, but Clinton’s heavy campaigning in Flint and relationships with the state’s African American-population evens the odds. The pair is set to meet Sunday night in Flint for a CNN debate.
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