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Donald Trump inches closer to Republican nomination with multiple primary wins

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump smiles as he speaks to his supporters at a campaign event in Tampa, Fla., Monday, March 14, 2016. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Frontrunner Donald Trump inched closer to the Republican nomination Tuesday with a sweep in the North Carolina, Illinois, Florida and Missouri primaries.

Trump’s most significant victory was in the winner-take-all state of Florida. He not only gained 99 more delegates, but struck a fatal blow to Sen. Marco Rubio, who announced the end of his presidential run on Tuesday.

The billionaire mocked Rubio’s loss in a tweet, dubbing a speech during an earlier rally when the Florida senator said, “I believe with all my heart, that the winner of the Florida primary next Tuesday will be the nominee of the Republican party,” with an image of Trump’s win.

With Rubio out of the way, the Republican race will likely begin to narrow to a two-person contest between Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz.

However, Trump failed to take Ohio. Instead, voters there backed Gov. John Kasich. The win in his home state gives Kasich a lifeline in the race, though he still trails Trump and Cruz by hundreds of delegates.

Kasich’s win also could prove slightly troublesome for the New York billionaire, who said this week that he could focus more on the national race should he win both Ohio and Florida.

Super Tuesday part three not only gave Trump the 99 Florida delegates, but also 24 in Illinois and 29 in North Carolina. Cruz took home 26 in North Carolina, while Kasich won nine in North Carolina and 66 in Ohio.

Initially, the Missouri race was determined to be too close to call, but Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander crowned Trump as the unofficial winner in the state as well.

Tuesday’s contests in Florida, Ohio, Missouri, Illinois and North Carolina came at a remarkable moment in the presidential race for Republicans: Animosity toward Trump has risen to the point where he can rarely get through an event without being interrupted by protesters.

The front-runner is also under scrutiny for appearing to encourage his supporters to physically confront those protesters, deepening divisions within the Republican Party.

In a lightly-veiled jab at Trump, Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin said candidates “need to take responsibility for the environment at their events.”

“There is never an excuse for condoning violence, or even a culture that presupposes it,” Ryan told WRJN, a radio station in Racine, Wisconsin.

Trump has been the target of millions of dollars in negative advertising in recent weeks, including one ad campaign that highlights his statements that appear to encourage violence — among them, “I’d like to punch him in the face.”

Outside groups put some $18 million into Trump attack ads in Florida alone.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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