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Trump stays ahead as Cruz raises pressure

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[COLUMBUS] Donald Trump and Ted Cruz got a split decision from Republican voters in four states on Saturday that didn't dramatically change the the nomination race but did expose unrest among party conservatives who want an alternative to the celebrity real estate mogul as their presidential nominee.

Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, scored an overwhelming win over Bernie Sanders in Louisiana's delegate-rich primary that lets her maintain a solid lead for the Democratic nomination even as the Vermont senator won caucuses in Kansas and Nebraska.

Trump defeated Cruz in the Louisiana primary by 41 per cent to 38 per cent and in the Kentucky caucuses by 36 per cent to 32 per cent. Cruz prevailed in caucuses in Kansas by 48 per cent to 23 per cent and in Maine by 46 per cent to 33 per cent. Florida Senator Marco Rubio and Ohio Governor John Kasich finished third or fourth in the states, prompting Mr Trump to call for Mr Rubio to drop out of the race.

The results of Saturday's voting for both parties raises the stakes for Mr Trump's and Mrs Clinton's challengers to make a stand in the next round of contests on Tuesday and the slate of five state primaries on March 15.

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While Mr Trump held on to his front-runner status in the Republican race, Mr Cruz's wins show that he may be able to rally support from some conservatives who've been pushing back against Mr Trump over his rhetoric and changing positions, said Ron Bonjean, a Republican political consultant who's not aligned with any of the campaigns.

"Trump is still on the path toward the nomination," Mr Bonjean said. "But what seems to be clear is that conservatives are turning to Cruz in order to try to stop the front-runner." The votes in Saturday's Republican contests were the first tallied since a public rupture last week that's pitting supporters of Trump against a collection of establishment Republican figures trying to block his path to the 2016 presidential nomination.

Two Candidates Speaking to supporters and reporters in Florida after the results were in, Trump said "we should come together and stop this foolishness." He highlighted the large turnout in the races and the voters he is attracting to the party and said he would beat Cruz in a two-candidate match-up.

"I would love to take on Ted one on one," Trump said.

Cruz said his victories on Saturday and his successes in four other states earlier demonstrate that he can defeat Trump in a smaller field of candidates.

"What we saw on Super Tuesday is what we're seeing today, which is that there is only one candidate who can and has beaten Donald Trump repeatedly," Mr Cruz said in a speech on Saturday in Boise, Idaho. "We're going to win the nomination." "If we're going to beat Donald Trump, we've got to be united. Our campaign has beaten Donald Trump in seven states across the country."