Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump have strengthened their grips on their parties' presidential nominations, racking up wins in key states on Super Tuesday, the primary season's most important day of voting.
Former Secretary of State Clinton won Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, Arkansas, Virginia, Texas and Massachusetts. Her rival, the Democratic socialist Sanders, won Vermont, Oklahoma, Minnesota, and Colorado.
On the Republican side, Trump took Arkansas, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Virginia, Vermont and Massachusetts. Senator Ted Cruz took his home state of Texas as well as Oklahoma and Alaska. Florida Senator Marco Rubio picked up his first win of the primary season in Minnesota.
The results were not surprising. Opinion polls had showed Trump and Clinton with large leads in Super Tuesday states and nationally. In their victory speeches, each candidate focused on the other, rather than their primary opponents.
"America never stopped being great," Clinton said at a rally in Florida, referencing Trump's campaign slogan. "We have to make America whole," she said, adding that the rhetoric on the Republican side "has never been lower."
At his own speech in Florida, Trump shot back. "She wants to make America whole again. I'm trying to figure what that's all about. Making America great again is going to be much better than making America whole again."
Trump also spoke of his rival, Rubio, whom he has clashed with fiercely over the past week. "I know it as a very rough night for Marco Rubio. He worked hard, he spent a lot of money. He is a lightweight, like I have said many times," Trump said.
"Rubio was the big loser of the night," Trump added.
Watch video report from VOA's Jim Malone:
Speaking to a large crowd in his home state late Tuesday, Sanders stayed optimistic.
"This campaign, as I think all of you know, is not just about electing a president, it is about transforming America. It is about making our great nation the country we know it has the potential to be."
Sanders stressed that Democratic primaries are proportional, and that they award delegates according to the vote count. "By the end of tonight, we are going to win many hundreds of delegates," he said.
After the voting finished Sanders released a statement saying his campaign is "just getting started" and that he intends to remain in the race until the party's nominating convention in July.View full gallery
But there was no doubt that Clinton was the "big winner" of the night, according to Mo Elleithee, executive director at the Georgetown Institute of Politics and Public Service.
Elleithee, who worked as a Clinton campaign spokesman in 2008, pointed to Sanders' difficulty in attracting voters outside his largely white support base, especially as the primary process moves toward states with larger minority populations.
"We've moved past the phase of the campaign where it's about momentum, and it's now about math. And it's pretty clear [Bernie's] not going to have the delegates necessary to win," he told VOA.
Ford O'Connell, a Republican strategist, said Trump came out on top on the Republican side, and is now the "clear prohibitive frontrunner."
"Donald Trump won big tonight," O'Connell told VOA, adding that the billionaire businessman may actually benefit from losing several contests to his rivals. "His greatest ally is a divided GOP field, so all around it's nearly perfect night for Trump," he said.
Candidates Comments Following Super Tuesday Results: