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Cruz scores Bush endorsement, Clinton blasts Republicans
[WASHINGTON] Jeb Bush endorsed fellow Republican Ted Cruz for president Wednesday while Democrat Hillary Clinton thrashed her GOP rivals for "counterproductive" rhetoric that alienates global allies.
Mr Cruz's support from Mr Bush - the most prominent Republican establishment figure to back the ultra-conservative Texas senator - is the latest bid by party heavyweights to stop Donald Trump's nomination march.
It comes after Mr Cruz's blow-out win in Mormon-dominated Utah's primary offset Trump's victory in Arizona on Tuesday, underscoring once again the deep divisions the presidential race has opened in the Republican Party.
Mr Bush, whose own White House hopes were crushed under the Trump wave, dipped back into the race to give Mr Cruz a boost and take a shot at the frontrunner.
"For the sake of our party and country, we must overcome the divisiveness and vulgarity Donald Trump has brought into the political arena or we will certainly lose our chance to defeat the Democratic nominee, most likely Hillary Clinton, this fall," said Mr Bush, who quit the race last month.
"That is the only way we can reverse President Obama's failed domestic and foreign policy agenda and turn our country around."
The former Florida governor is Republican royalty, the son and brother of presidents. But it is unclear how much sway his endorsement has with an angry, anti-establishment electorate in a topsy-turvy election year.
As Tuesday's contests played out, Mr Trump and Mr Cruz deepened their bitter feud by publicly clashing over their wives after an anti-Trump group unveiled a controversial campaign ad that shows Mr Trump's wife Melania in a photo from a magazine shoot in 2000, provocatively lying naked and handcuffed to a briefcase.
"Lyin' Ted Cruz just used a picture of Melania from a GQ shoot in his ad. Be careful, Lyin' Ted, or I will spill the beans on your wife!" Mr Trump posted to his seven million Twitter followers.
It was unclear to what he was alluding.
Mr Cruz shot back that if Mr Trump tried to "attack Heidi, you're more of a coward than I thought."
Amid the sniping, Mrs Clinton presented herself as stately and serious at a counter-terrorism speech at Stanford University in the wake of Tuesday's bombings in Brussels that killed 31 people.
The former secretary of state laid out a comprehensive outline for improving intelligence-sharing and border controls in Europe, and called for strengthening America's global network of allies.
It was a marked contrast with Mr Trump and Mr Cruz, who seized the moment to talk tough once more on immigration.
Mr Cruz called for US law enforcement to be empowered to "patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalised," a plan Mr Trump called "a good idea."
Mrs Clinton on Wednesday denounced the strident talk.
"Slogans aren't a strategy. Loose cannons tend to misfire," she said at Stanford in apparent reference to her rivals' sometimes overheated rhetoric about refugees, Muslims and combatting Islamic State group extremists.
"When Republican candidates like Ted Cruz call for treating American Muslims like criminals, and for racially profiling predominantly Muslim neighborhoods, it's wrong, it's counterproductive, it's dangerous."
Mrs Clinton also berated Mr Trump for suggesting Nato is obsolete. Turning America's back on the alliance, she warned, "would reverse decades of bipartisan American leadership and send a dangerous signal to friend and foe alike." Russia's President Vladimir Putin "already hopes to divide Europe," she said.
"If Mr Trump gets his way, it will be like Christmas in the Kremlin. It will make America less safe and the world more dangerous."
Tuesday's voting gave the candidates another opportunity to pile up delegates on the way to their party nominating conventions, but it did not dramatically alter the basic outlines of what has been the most divisive race in a generation.
Mr Trump's main objective is to amass the 1,237 delegates needed to win his party's nomination outright and thwart the party establishment's bid to stop him.
Following Tuesday's votes, he stood at 741 delegates, compared to 461 for Mr Cruz and 145 for third-place candidate Ohio Governor John Kasich, according to a CNN tally.
On the Democratic side, Mrs Clinton easily defeated Democratic rival Bernie Sanders in Arizona. But her victory was tempered by Mr Sanders's impressive wins in Idaho and Utah, which enabled the Vermont senator to cut into Clinton's delegate lead, if only slightly.
Next up are Democratic votes Saturday in Alaska, Hawaii and Washington state, and primaries for both parties in Wisconsin on April 5.