April 27, 2016 at 5:22 am EDT | by Chris Johnson
Clinton, Trump close to nominations after Acela primary wins
Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump won big in the Acela primary.

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump won big in the Acela primary.

Presidential front-runners Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are closer to cinching their party nominations after big wins Tuesday in the so-called Acela primary.

The contest, so named because the Acela train system runs through the participating states, consisted of primaries in Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Rhode Island. Trump won in all five states over his rivals Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, while Clinton won in four of the five contests, losing to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) only in Rhode Island.

In her victory speech in Philadelphia, Clinton pledged to return soon to the city, where the Democratic National Committee will be held, to claim her party’s nomination to run for president.

“With your help, we’re going to come back to Philadelphia for the Democratic National Convention with the most votes and the most pledged delegates,” Clinton said. “And we will unify our party to win this election and build an America where we can all rise together, an America where we lift each other up instead of tearing each other down.”

According to a count from the Associated Press, Clinton now has 2,141 pledged delegates, which is just short of the 2,383 delegates need to claim the Democratic nomination. Sanders has 1,321 delegates.

In an attempt to reach out to Sanders supporters during her victory speech, Clinton thanked them for challenging her campaign “to get unaccountable money out of politics” and closing the gap in income equality.

“And I know together we will get that done because whether you support Sen. Sanders or you support me, there’s much more that unites us than divides us,” Clinton said.

Clinton also warned that election of any of the Republican candidates would divide the country and undermine the rights of Americans, including LGBT people.

On Trump’s assertion she’s done well in the primary because she’s played the “woman card,” Clinton said, “If fighting for women’s health care and paid family leave and equal pay is playing the woman card, then deal me in.”

After his clean sweep on Tuesday, Trump addressed supporters at his campaign headquarters at Trump Tower in New York City, saying he won in “a massive landslide.”

“We’re going to have our country back, we’re going to make our country great again,” Trump said. “And I just want to tell you for the five states, I am so honored, this was, to me, our biggest night because it shows such diversity.”

Trump had his own message for Sanders in the wake of his loss, encouraging him to run as an independent instead of offering support to Clinton.

“The Democrats have treated Bernie very badly, and frankly, I think he should run as an independent, OK?” Trump said. “I actually do. I actually do. I think they’ve treated him very badly, and, you know, the system is a bad system and whether it’s their system or our system, if you look at what goes on, the best way to beat the system is have nights like this, where you get record-setting votes, where you get record-setting delegates.”

Trump now has 950 pledged delegates, according to the count from the Associated Press, which is just short of 1,237 needed to claim the Republican nomination. Comparatively, Cruz and Kasich, who are seeking to deprive Trump of a majority of delegates to drive the Republican National Convention to open ballot, have 560 delegates and 153 delegates respectively.

Dana Beyer, a Maryland-based transgender advocate, said the results of the presidential primary in her state were “long-expected victories” for Clinton and Trump.

“Clinton has had a good team here for months, and support for Bernie is more recent,” Beyer said. “As far as the Republicans go, there is a much smaller evangelical community, as has long been evident during the battles for marriage and trans protections. We may be in the Fourth Circuit, but we’re not North Carolina.”

Beyer added she doubts Trump’s “relatively pro-trans comments” against North Carolina’s anti-LGBT law — which have since been reversed — had much of an impact in the state.

The next contest in the presidential primary season will take place May 3 in Indiana. A win there is considered crucial for Trump to cinch the Republican nomination, but a loss could well mean proceeding to a contested convention in Cleveland.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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