5 takeaways from Western Tuesday

Updated 12:39 PM EDT, Wed March 23, 2016
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Story highlights

Presidential front-runners Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump each fended off their challengers in Arizona's primaries on a "Western Tuesday"

Bernie Sanders fought back with caucus wins in Idaho and Utah, and Ted Cruz not only captured a victory in Utah but the Beehive State's entire delegate haul

(CNN) —  

Presidential front-runners Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump each fended off their challengers in Arizona’s primaries on a “Western Tuesday” on which the terrorist attacks in Brussels forced foreign policy to the forefront of the 2016 campaign.

Bernie Sanders fought back with caucus wins in Idaho and Utah, and Ted Cruz not only captured a victory in Utah but the Beehive State’s entire delegate haul.

Here are five takeaways from Western Tuesday:

Trump walls out his foes in Arizona

There was no news conference at Mar-a-Lago from Trump, who didn’t have any events on his campaign schedule Tuesday night.

CNN delegate estimate

But he still won the biggest prize of the day for the Republicans, capturing all 58 of Arizona’s delegates with a first-place finish in the winner-take-all primary – taking another big step toward the GOP nomination and making his opponents’ efforts to deny him the delegates necessary to clinch a little more difficult.

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His win was a triumph for the anti-immigration hard-liners.

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio – the architect of Phoenix’s famous “tent city” jail – was among his high-profile endorsers. So was former Gov. Jan Brewer. Their decision to side with Trump, and the size of his win, underscores the potency of Trump’s build-a-wall plan with the Republican base.

Though Trump’s foes are lambasting his provocative style in TV ads, Tuesday night’s win won’t do anything to convince the front-runner he needs to change his tone. As the results trickled in, Trump was in the midst of a Twitter battle with Cruz. He threatened: “Lyin’ Ted Cruz just used a picture of Melania from a G.Q. shoot in his ad. Be careful, Lyin’ Ted, or I will spill the beans on your wife!”

Cruz responded on by saying that the ad was not from him and if he went after his wife, then Trump is a “coward.”

“Pic of your wife not from us. Donald, if you try to attack Heidi, you’re more of a coward than I thought. #classless,” Cruz tweeted.

Donald Trump makes wild threat to ‘spill the beans’ on Ted Cruz’s wife

Cruz captures Utah

Ted Cruz won Utah and met the 50% threshold necessary to claim all 40 of the state’s delegates, according to a CNN projection.

The victory keeps the Texas senator within striking distance of Trump and bolstered his argument that he deserves a one-on-one race against the GOP front-runner – even as Ohio Gov. John Kasich shows no signs of exiting anytime soon.

Among Utah’s winners: Mitt Romney, the 2012 GOP nominee-turned-anti-Trump gadfly.

He might not have the credibility with the GOP electorate to thump Trump nationally – but in Utah, where his fellow Mormons dominate, Romney’s robocalls and public declaration that he would caucus for Cruz did the Texas senator some good. Also helping Cruz: Utah Gov. Gary Herbert’s endorsement.

That Cruz was able to rally those establishment Republicans to his side, and convert their support into votes, underscores a remarkable political metamorphosis: Once hated by GOP elites, Cruz is now increasingly their champion in their bid to stop Trump.

Cruz campaign manager Jeff Roe said the Utah results and the late vote in Arizona show the momentum is with Cruz.

He tweeted: “The point? Watch head to head numbers between Cruz/Trump on election day voters in AZ. That, along with Utah gives state of race/momentum.”

Clinton’s desert victory

The Democratic front-runner won the biggest state on Tuesday’s slate, again proving she’s difficult to beat in states with sizeable minority populations.

It was a particularly satisfying triumph for Clinton’s camp, which had worried because Sanders had largely camped out in the state in recent days, while the former secretary of state had held just one event – Monday in Phoenix.

How the media missed Bernie Sanders

What it means more than anything: Clinton doesn’t need to refocus on the Democratic race with Sanders.

Opinion: Clinton is winning but Sanders is no loser

She devoted her speech in Seattle Tuesday night to hitting Trump, saying he’d incite “more fear.”

“This is not just a contest between different candidates. This is a contest between fundamentally different views of our country, our values and our future,” Clinton said.

Sanders captures Idaho and Utah

All along, Sanders has promised his fortunes would change when the Democratic contest moved West, and he easily won the Idaho and Utah caucuses Tuesday night.

Next up: A trifecta of Saturday caucuses that Sanders could sweep: Washington state, Alaska and Hawaii, where Rep. Tulsi Gabbard has been one of Sanders’ highest-profile surrogates. That caucuses tend to favor parties’ activist elements is something that should give him a leg up – just like Utah and Idaho.

Tulsi Gabbard: Why I’m endorsing Bernie Sanders

Thousands of people gathered at the San Diego Convention Center to hear Sanders on Tuesday night, CNN’s Jeff Zeleny reported. And he’d picked the venue for a reason: to show he is going to stay in the race until the state’s June 7 primary.

Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver told Zeleny he expects the race to tighten overnight as more votes are tallied – particularly from precincts with hours-long waits.

“I’m not predicting victory, but I’m not predicting defeat, either,” he said.

He said the campaign has mapped out a path to the nomination that doesn’t require him to run the table in the remaining states.

“We have a path to victory. It’s not an easy path, but it never has been an easy path,” Weaver said.