Almost as usual, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton breezed to easy primary wins — this time in Arizona. However, Ted Cruz pulled out an impressive victory in Utah's caucus while Bernie Sanders did the same in Utah and Idaho. It's still a horse race.
Former presidential candidate and Mormon Mitt Romney's clout in Utah helped Cruz trounce Trump there. Romney has attacked Trump and recently endorsed Cruz.
The state's dominant Mormons also let it be clearly known that even without Romney's counsel, they don't like Trump. They're disturbed by his bombast, his profanity and, intriguingly, by his position to ban Muslims from the country. The Mormons are well aware of their own early persecution in America, and are particularly sensitive to discrimination against people because of their faith.
With nearly 60% of the vote counted in Utah, Cruz was declared the winner with 69% of the tally, followed by John Kasich with 16.8%. Donald Trump was bringing up the rear with just 14%. If Cruz finishes with 50% or more of the vote he'll take home all of Utah's 40 delegates.
Sanders was just as happy about his win in the Utah caucus. With nearly 22% of the vote counted, he was declared the winner with 76.2% of the tally to Clinton's 23.2%. With 100% of the vote counted in Idaho, Sanders ran away with a startling 78% of the vote to Clinton's 21.2%.
"I am enormously grateful to the people of Utah and Idaho for the tremendous voter turnouts that gave us victories with extremely large margins," said a delighted Sanders after a grumpier, quieter night earlier.
"The impressive numbers of young people and working-class people who participated in the process are exactly what the political revolution is all about. These decisive victories in Idaho and Utah give me confidence that we will continue to win major victories in the coming contests."
The evening didn't begin nearly so well for the two underdog candidates. Clinton trounced Sanders 58.2% to his 39.3% with most of the votes counted in Arizona, handing her 75 delegates.
Again, Clinton acted like she had already won her party's nomination by setting her sights on Trump in her victory speech.
"The last thing we need, my friends, are leaders who incite more fear," Clinton said, after referring to the terrorist attacks in Brussels.
"In the face of terror, America doesn't panic. We don't build walls or turn our backs on our allies. We can't throw out everything we know about what works and what doesn't and start torturing," she added in a clear dig at Trump's recommendation earlier in the day to waterboard and torture terrorist suspects.
Trump breezed past Cruz in Arizona with 47% of the vote to Cruz's 24.7%, picking up all 58 delegates. Trump proved his appeal among immigration hardliners, who make up a large block of Republicans in the border state. Voter turnout in Arizona, Utah and Idaho was unusually high, with long lines — some snaking for blocks — at polling places and caucus sites. Ballot counting in Arizona was delayed as officials extended voting time so that everyone waiting could cast their ballot.
In an odd sidelight to the campaign on primary day, candidates' wives suddenly came front and center. Trump became furious over an ad featuring his wife, Melania, posing naked on a fur in his private jet taken 15 years ago in a photoshoot for GQ magazine.
"Meet Melania Trump, your next First Lady — or, you could support Ted Cruz Tuesday," stated the ad.
Trump tweeted, then deleted, a message that included a threat to Ted Cruz to "spill the beans about" Cruz's wife because of the "low level ad" featuring Melania. The ad, however, didn't come from the Cruz camp, but from an anti-Trump organisation seeking to rally Mormon voters, according to BuzzFeed. It was paid for by Make America Awesome that's "not authorised by any candidate or candidate committee," states a disclaimer on the ad.
Trump edited his tweet slightly and reposted it, but still threatened to "spill the beans" on Cruz's wife.
Cruz's wife, Heidi, left a job at Goldman Sachs to support his presidential bid. Her struggle with depression has been previously reported.
Here was Cruz's response to the Trump's Twitter threat, which he labelled #classless:
Mitt Romney got in his own spouse dig, taking aim at Trump's foreign wives. Trump's first wife, Ivana, was born in Czechoslovakia. His current third wife, Melania, is from Slovenia. Romney quipped at a dinner hosted by the National Republican Congressional Committee that they proved that there really are jobs Americans won't do.