Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton have each won in several of the states voting in the so-called Super Tuesday elections, according to early estimates.
Voters from Vermont to Colorado, Alaska to American Samoa and several states headed to polling places and caucus sites on the busiest day of the 2016 primaries.
Polling agency projections showed Trump finished on top in the Republican primary in Virginia, Alabama, Massachusetts, Tennessee and Georgia. Texas Senator Ted Cruz topped his rivals in his home state, as well as in Oklahoma.
On the Democratic camp, Clinton won in Texas, Arkansas, Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia, Virginia and American Samoa. Her rival, Bernie Sanders, was projected to have won his home state of Vermont, as well as Oklahoma.
Voting was still ongoing in other contests or the races were too close to call.
Clinton and Trump were pressing for sweeping victories that could distance them from their party rivals and move them closer to a November presidential election showdown.
Al Jazeera’s Patty Culhane, reporting from Washington DC, said both frontrunners did well – but they were not able to “shut up” competition.
“They [Trump and Clinton] had a good night, but it’s not a great night,” Culhane said. “If you win a state you don’t get all the delegates, on either side basically. So everybody who is in the running and does somewhat well is going to have a lot of delegates – and so it’s not over after tonight”.
Super Tuesday is the most important single day in the long process to determine the Republican and Democratic Presidential candidates for the November 8 election to succeed Democratic President Barack Obama.
For the Democrats, it is a straight battle between former Secretary of State Clinton and Sanders, the Vermont senator.
Clinton went into Super Tuesday, when more than 11 states hold presidential nominating contests, in a strong position.
Her win in at least six states and American Samoa assures her of at least 318 of the 865 delegates at stake on Super Tuesday. Sanders has at least 124.
Including superdelegates, Clinton has at least 866 delegates to date. Sanders has at least 211.
In a victory rally in Miami, Florida, Clinton said late on Tuesday that her campaign would continue “to break barriers” instead of “building walls”.
“This country belongs to all of us, not just those at the top,” she said, adding – in an apparent swipe against Trump – that the goal was not to “make America great again” but to “make America whole again”.
Meanwhile, Sanders, speaking after his win in Vermont, told an enthusiastic crowd that he was going to “win many hundreds of delegates” on Super Tuesday.
He also vowed to “take our fight” to the 35 states that would have not yet voted by night’s end.
On the Republican camp, property tycoon and reality TV star Trump, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, Florida Senator Marco Rubio, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson and Ohio Governor John Kasich all battling for the party nomination.
The contests come at a turbulent moment for Republicans as they grapple with the prospect of Trump becoming the party’s nominee.
Al Jazeera’s Culhane said Republicans are “terrified” of a Trump win.
“The question becomes how much does Trump win by … [and] who is left in the race”.On Super Tuesday, 595 delegates are at stake for Republicans. For Democrats, there are 1,004.
Republican candidates need 1,237 delegates to win the party’s nomination, while Democrats need 2,383.
Source: Al Jazeera and agencies