5 March 2016 | 3:15 pm
The hunt for delegates picks back up on “Super Saturday” as voters head to primaries and caucuses across five states and Donald J. Trump and Hillary Clinton try to extend their leads in the Republican and Democratic presidential races.
The elections — in Kansas, Louisiana, Maine and Kentucky for Republicans, and Kansas, Louisiana and Nebraska for Democrats — fall between last week’s Super Tuesday and March 15, when a swath of big states, including Florida and Ohio, hold votes that could ultimately determine the fate of the race. On Saturday, there are 155 delegates at stake for Republicans and 126 for Democrats.
Mr. Trump is riding a wave of momentum after a successful Super Tuesday, when he a won seven states and expanded his delegate lead. Since then, however, he has come under increasing scrutiny from his three remaining opponents and from party elders, such as Mitt Romney, over his business record and temperament.
Since his blistering takedown of Mr. Trump on Thursday, Mr. Romney, the 2012 Republican nominee, has kept up the pressure, vowing never to vote for the Manhattan billionaire and suggesting that he would not be opposed to a contested convention. Mr. Romney also did not rule out using his personal fortune to further the “Never Trump” cause.
It remains to be seen whether an uneven debate performance on Thursday night, when his tendency to shift his positions was highlighted, will erode Mr. Trump’s support. So far, his base has been remarkably durable despite the emergence of new controversies almost daily.
Polling has been relatively sparse for the Saturday elections, but most surveys have shown Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton holding sizable leads. Although the five states are less well traveled by the campaigns than were Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, the contests will provide an important test of how the candidates appeal to voters in the Northeast, the South and the middle of the country.
The outcomes could also prove to be unpredictable. Other than Louisiana’s, the elections on Saturday are caucuses, and Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton have been weaker in caucus states than they have been in primary states. It also remains to be seen which way supporters of Ben Carson will break since he officially dropped out of the Republican race on Friday.
Another potential hitch for Mr. Trump is that the Republican states are all closed elections, meaning only registered Republicans can vote. This could limit the impact of his crossover appeal with Democrats and independents, who can vote in the Republican race in states that have open primaries.
“There’s talk about how Trump might not be doing as well in closed primary states,” said Kyle Kondik, of the University of Virginia Center for Politics. “This week might give a better sense of whether the open versus closed phenomenon is meaningful.”
Results are expected to start trickling in by late afternoon in Kansas and Kentucky and in the evening in the other states.
Strong showings will be especially important for Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz. Mr. Rubio, of Florida, has won only the Minnesota caucuses and could soon face an insurmountable delegate deficit. Mr. Cruz, of Texas, has been victorious in four states and is desperately trying to make the case that he is the only one who can beat Mr. Trump consistently.
Mr. Rubio is spending Saturday in Puerto Rico, where he will court voters ahead of its primary election on Sunday, while Mr. Cruz is splitting his time between Kansas and Idaho.
Mr. Trump abruptly scheduled a last-minute rally in Wichita, Kan., on Saturday after he withdrew from a planned appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Maryland, disappointing some grass-roots activists there.
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