Trump cleans up in RI, winning all but one town

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – It had long been assumed Donald Trump would win Rhode Island’s Republican presidential primary on Tuesday. But the scale of his victory was still striking to witness.

Trump finished the night with nearly 64% of the vote, making Rhode Island the best state in the country for him so far this primary season, topping even his home of New York (60%) as well as neighboring Massachusetts (49%). It’s also one of the states where unaffiliated voters, not just registered Republicans, were allowed to vote in the primary.

Trump’s share of the vote wasn’t out of line with other recent primary winners in Rhode Island, such as Mitt Romney (63% in 2012) or John McCain (65% in 2008 and 60% in 2000). But that in and of itself was notable, considering Trump hasn’t locked up the nomination yet and still faces strong opposition from some in the party.

Real-Time Results: RI & CT Presidential Primary Election 2016 »

On top of that, Trump received 39,000 votes on Tuesday, far more than Romney or McCain did, as overall GOP voter turnout swelled to 61,000 – making Tuesday by far the biggest Republican presidential primary in recent Rhode Island history. The only GOP primary of any kind that surpassed it was the 2006 U.S. Senate contest between Lincoln Chafee and Steve Laffey, which drew 65,000 to the polls.

Trump won 38 of Rhode Island’s 39 cities and towns, losing only one: Barrington, an upscale suburb where John Kasich squeaked out a 13-vote win. (As it happens, Barrington was also one of only four communities won by Hillary Clinton on Tuesday.) Kasich visited Rhode Island to campaign on Saturday, two days before Trump held his own rally here.

Trump’s landslide was even bigger in certain parts of the state. He topped 70% in 11 of the 39 communities, doing best of all in Johnston, where he hit 78%. He won more total votes in Cranston than its own mayor, Allan Fung, received in the 2014 gubernatorial primary. But Trump also under-performed in some Republican-friendly communities, such as North Kingstown (55%) and East Greenwich (53%), where Kasich did comparatively well.

Kasich received 24% of the primary vote, in line with most pre-election polling but failing to meet the public expectations of his state leadership team, whose co-chair Gary Sasse had argued Sunday that Kasich was “poised to pull an upset in Rhode Island’s GOP primary that will be heard around the nation.”

It was an even tougher night for supporters of GOP hopeful Ted Cruz, who received only 10.4% of the vote statewide. State GOP rules require a candidate to receive at least 10% of the vote to earn delegates, and on Wednesday morning party chairman Brandon Bell confirmed that Cruz had missed that threshold in the 2nd Congressional District, costing himself a delegate and giving Trump an extra one.

The final allocation of Rhode Island’s 19 delegates will be 12 for Trump, five for Kasich and two for Cruz, subject to approval by the party’s credentials committee on Thursday night, Bell told WPRI.com. It was a stronger-than-expected showing for Trump considering the rules are written to be generous to second- and third-place finishers.

Cruz, unlike Trump and Kasich, did not visit Rhode Island to campaign. He received the most total votes in Warwick, earning 596 of the 6,331 cast for the major candidates. His best community was Hopkinton, where he received 14% of the vote.

While voter turnout Tuesday was much higher than usual for a Republican primary in Rhode Island, looked at another way it was still relatively low.

An analysis by elections expert Michael McDonald showed only 8% of registered Rhode Island voters took part in the GOP primary, while 16% voted in the Democratic contest. That was evident in the results, as Clinton received more votes losing Rhode Island (52,000) than Trump did winning it (39,000).

Ted Nesi (tnesi@wpri.com) covers politics and the economy for WPRI.com. He hosts Executive Suite and writes The Saturday Morning Post. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

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