Ted Cruz handily won the Kansas GOP presidential caucuses Saturday, while results were still coming in for three other nominating contests across the country.
With 43 percent of precincts reporting, the U.S. senator from Texas was projected to capture victory in Kansas with 49 percent of the vote. Billionaire Donald Trump trailed Cruz at 25 percent, while U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida was placing third at 15 percent.
Three other states were voting Saturday: Kentucky, Louisiana and Maine. With 18 percent of precincts reporting in Maine, Cruz was beating Trump by 9 points, 45 percent to 36 percent.
Since the last round of nominating contests, Cruz’s campaign had paid special attention to Kansas, traveling there immediately after Super Tuesday and dispatching a who’s who of surrogates for a rally Friday night in Wichita. Cruz himself returned to the state Saturday morning to visit a caucus site in Wichita. Trump spoke after Cruz at the caucus site, getting loud boos from what appeared to be a Cruz-friendly crowd.
Conditions were favorable for Cruz on Saturday. Three of the four states were holding caucuses, a kind of nominating contest that rewards the superior organization for which Cruz’s campaign is known. All four states were having closed caucuses or primaries, meaning only registered Republicans could participate — a setting Cruz did well in Tuesday in Alaska and Oklahoma.
Cruz entered Saturday looking to pad his delegate count and boost his argument that he is the most viable alternative to frontrunner Trump. He is vying for that mantle with Rubio, who is increasingly focusing on the winner-take-all primary Saturday in his home state.
As it became clear Cruz would win Kansas, he received more good news: He had won the straw poll at the Conservative Political Action Conference, the largest annual gathering of its type. Rubio trailed Cruz for second place, 30 percent to 40 percent. Trump came in third at 15 percent, followed by Ohio Gov. John Kasich at eight percent.
The Texas Tribune is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them – about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.