Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump won their respective primaries in Louisiana on Saturday, with both races called shortly after polls closed at 8 p.m.
The wins were seen as big for both campaigns. Former Secretary of State Clinton has made Southern states a focus of her campaign for the Democratic nomination, and New York billionaire Trump has been fending off a mounted offensive from U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, who campaigned in Mandeville on the eve of the GOP primary here and came in a close second place.
Louisiana was one of just five states with presidential nomination contests Saturday.
At press time, it was not yet clear how many delegates each candidate would take from their wins, due to the complicated formulas that the Louisiana Democratic Party and GOP have adopted for distributing them. Louisiana has 46 GOP delegates and 59 Democratic delegates.
It’s likely that other candidates will peel some away from the winners, but Louisiana was largely seen as an opportunity to add another “win” to the column as the primary fights continue to rage on in both parties.
In particular, Louisiana was the first big test of how Republican voters would go in a closed primary and whether Trump’s momentum would carry when only registered Republicans had their say. In other state-wide races, Louisiana typically has open primaries, but voters had to be party registered for Saturday.
Trump’s detractors have blamed independents and crossover Democrats for his successes in other states’ open primaries, and several pundits pointed to Cruz’s win in Kansas’ closed caucus on Saturday as evidence that Trump would not do as well in a closed setting.
About 28 percent of Louisiana’s 2.9 million voters are registered Republicans. About 45.5 percent of voters are registered Democrats.
“It’s been a really amazing night,” Trump said, speaking from West Palm Beach, Florida, in a televised address.
Thanking Louisiana supporters specifically, Trump added, “It’s been an amazing relationship.”
Thousands of supporters turned out for his rallies in Baton Rouge and New Orleans.
All of the major candidates still in the race have had campaign events in Louisiana over the past several months.
Following the 12-state block of primaries on Super Tuesday this week, several again set their sights on Louisiana, bringing a few of them back to the state.
Former President Bill Clinton stumped for his wife in her race against U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders at rallies in Baton Rouge and New Orleans this week, urging voters to head to the polls.
Trump and Cruz each had rallies in Louisiana on Friday night, on opposite sides of Lake Pontchartrain, that drew large crowds.
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, who won the endorsement of former Gov. Bobby Jindal, initially was scheduled to rally in Baton Rouge on Friday but canceled after Super Tuesday. His campaign cited efforts to shift focus to other states. He instead held an event in Kansas that night.
Trump, in his victory speech, specifically took aim at Rubio, who likely didn’t get enough votes to secure delegates in Louisiana. “I think it’s time that he drops out of the race,” Trump said.
Rubio appeared to be headed for a third-place finish in Louisiana, behind Cruz.
Cruz’s event in Louisiana on Friday was scheduled after the Super Tuesday results. Fresh off a win in neighboring Texas, the move was seen as an indication that Cruz’s campaign thought it had a shot at winning here.
Louisiana Republicans voted for former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum in 2012 and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee in 2008 — both evangelical conservatives who, like Cruz, won the Iowa caucuses.
After a strong Trump showing in early results, Cruz appeared to tighten the race between himself and Trump on Saturday, indicating a stronger election day turnout when compared with the early voting period.
About 100,000 voters cast ballots early in the race. The Secretary of State’s Office predicted a total turnout of about 20 percent, based on those figures.
The formulas used to divvy up candidates in Louisiana rely partially on how well candidates perform in each of the state’s six congressional districts. Half of the Republican delegates and 18 of the Democrat delegates are divided based on how successful candidates perform statewide.
Republicans who receive more than 20 percent can receive statewide delegates. On the Democratic side, the threshold is 15 percent.
Five of the GOP delegates may not be based on Saturday’s results — it’s unclear how three superdelegates will vote, and two delegates will be decided in a statewide convention next weekend.
On the Democratic side, eight superdelegates will be able go for whomever they want, and several of them already have publicly backed Clinton.
Clinton supporters celebrated her projected win at Radio Bar on Government Street in Baton Rouge on Saturday night.
Blake Corley, a 22-year-old Crowley native who now lives in Baton Rouge, said he feels connected to Clinton. He previously worked for her campaign in Iowa.
“I’ve seen her career grow as I’ve grown up,” Corley said.
Corley said he is particularly drawn to Clinton’s positions on reining in college debt and increasing the minimum wage.
“Hillary doesn’t just give talking points,” he said. “She gives us solid solutions and solid answers to the things we are concerned about.”
Down the street from the Clinton party, several Trump supporters gathered at BrewBacher’s Grill to watch as the results came in.
Mary Kay Bertaut, of Baton Rouge, came to the party wearing an American flag-themed bow on her head and a red shirt that she promptly decorated with a Trump sticker.
Bertaut, who said she voted for Trump during last week’s early voting period, said she likes that Trump is financing his own campaign.
“He owes no one,” she said. “And I agree with what he says and what he plans to do.”
“He’s going to make things happen,” she added.
Bertaut said she liked Cruz at first and even went to his Baton Rouge rally in January, but she eventually went with Trump because, while she repeatedly described Cruz as “a good man,” she thinks Cruz hasn’t done enough as a senator.
“Cruz should have stood up to (President Barack) Obama,” she said. “He’s partially part of the problem.”
She said she has the same problem with Rubio.
“Things have got to change,” Bertaut said.