WASHINGTON Donald Trump swept primaries in five Northeastern states on Tuesday, edging closer to winning the Republican presidential nomination and dealing a fresh blow to rivals Ted Cruz and John Kasich.
Trump, who has gained momentum after losing the Wisconsin primary to Cruz on April 5, scored victories in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Delaware, U.S. television networks projected.
Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton defeated challenger Bernie Sanders in Maryland and Delaware and was expected to sweep the other three states as well.
Cruz, already looking ahead to Indiana's Republican primary contest on May 3, addressed a crowd in that state just as polls were closing in the Northeastern states.
"I got good news for you: Tonight, this campaign moves back to more favourable terrain," the U.S. senator from Texas said in Knightstown, Indiana, inside the high school gymnasium made famous by the underdog movie, "Hoosiers."
Clinton's strong showing in the Democratic race added to the pressure on Sanders to get out of the race or ease his criticism of her.
Before Tuesday's outcome, the former secretary of state had an almost insurmountable lead of 275 pledged delegates heading into Tuesday's contests, and Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid told reporters he did not think Sanders, a U.S. senator from Vermont, had a realistic path to winning the nomination.
Sanders, speaking to a big crowd in Huntington, West Virginia, showed no signs of getting out of the race and said he was shedding light on inconvenient truths about how hard life was these days for some Americans.
"The reason that we are generating this enthusiasm is because we are doing something very unusual in contemporary politics. We are telling the truth," he said.
A total of 118 pledged Republican delegates were at stake in addition to 54 unbound Pennsylvania delegates.
Cruz and Ohio Governor John Kasich, the third Republican in the race, have formed an anti-Trump alliance in an effort to stop the New York billionaire from reaching a first-ballot victory at the July convention in Cleveland.
Former Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson, a Trump supporter, said the deal between Kasich and Cruz would backfire because it smacked of backroom politics.
(Additional reporting by Amanda Becker in Philadelphia, Luciana Lopez in New York and Jeff Mason, Alana Wise and Megan Casella in Washington; Editing by Peter Cooney)
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