Biden, Trump clinch nominations, kicking off bruising presidential rematch

Biden says Trump campaign ‘threatens very idea of America’; GOP candidate calls rival ‘worst’ president in US history; Putin says Russia ‘will work with any leader who is trusted by the American people’

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President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump both clinched their parties' nomination on Tuesday, kicking off the first U.S. presidential election rematch in nearly 70 years.
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ג'ו ביידן, דונלד טראמפ
ג'ו ביידן, דונלד טראמפ
Former US President Donald Trump and President Joe Biden
(Photo: Alex Brandon/AP, Stephanie Scarbrough/AP)
Biden needed 1,968 delegates to win the nomination, and he passed that number on Tuesday night as results began to come in from the primary contest in Georgia, Edison Research said. Results were also coming in from Mississippi, Washington state, the Northern Mariana Islands and Democrats living abroad.
Hours later, Trump clinched the 1,215 delegates required to secure the Republican presidential nomination as four states held contests, including Georgia, the battleground where Trump faces criminal charges for his efforts to overturn the state's 2020 results. There were 161 delegates at stake on Tuesday in Georgia, Hawaii, Mississippi and Washington state.
Biden, 81, issued a statement after he sealed the Democratic nomination, taking aim at what he called Trump's "campaign of resentment, revenge, and retribution that threatens the very idea of America."
"Voters now have a choice to make about the future of this country. Are we going to stand up and defend our democracy or let others tear it down? Will we restore the right to choose and protect our freedoms or let extremists take them away?" he said.
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The outcome of Tuesday's voting was essentially predetermined, after Trump's last remaining rival for the Republican nomination, former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, ended her presidential campaign following Trump's dominant performance last week on Super Tuesday, when he won 14 of 15 state contests.
In a video posted on social media, Trump said there was no time to celebrate, and instead put the focus on beating Biden, whom he called the "worst" president in U.S. history.
"We're going to drill, baby, drill. We're going to close our borders. We're going to do things like nobody has ever seen before. And we're going to make our nation's economy be the best ever in the world," said Trump.
Biden, meanwhile, faced only token opposition in the Democratic primary campaign, though liberal activists frustrated by his support for Israel's war in Gaza have convinced a sizable minority of Democrats to vote "uncommitted" in protest.
Both men have already turned their attention to the Nov. 5 general election, holding dueling rallies in Georgia on Saturday.
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ארה"ב פריימריז רפובליקניים דונלד טראמפ צפון קרוליינה
ארה"ב פריימריז רפובליקניים דונלד טראמפ צפון קרוליינה
Trump during North Carolina primary
In Rome, Georgia, Trump, 77, again repeated his claim that the 2020 election was fraudulent and accused the Fulton County attorney, Fani Willis, of prosecuting him for political reasons. He also attacked Biden for failing to stem the flow of migrants at the U.S. southern border, an issue he intends to keep front and center throughout the campaign, as he did in 2020.
The Biden campaign launched a more aggressive phase on Friday, announcing Biden would tour several battleground states amid a $30 million ad buy. The campaign said it raised $10 million in the 24 hours after Biden's State of the Union speech, adding to Democrats' financial edge over Republicans.
Meanwhile, President Vladimir Putin said in remarks published on Wednesday that Russia does not interfere in any elections and it will work with any leader the American people elect.
"We do not interfere in any way in any elections," Putin told Russian state media in a wide-ranging interview. "And, as I have said many times, we will work with any leader who is trusted by the American people, the American voter."
The war in Ukraine and U.S. assertions that Russia plans to put a nuclear weapon in space have led to the biggest crisis in relations between Russia and the West since the Cold War.
In an interview with RIA state news agency and Rossiya-1 state television, Putin said Russia would be ready to use nuclear weapons if its sovereignty was threatened.
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ולדימיר פוטין נשיא רוסיה בחירות
ולדימיר פוטין נשיא רוסיה בחירות
Russian President Vladimir Putin
(Photo: AP / Alexander Zemlianichenko, Pool)
The Russian leader launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine and is nearly certain to win the March 15 to 17 presidential election,
Putin said Donald Trump, when he was president, scolded him for "sympathizing" with now President Joe Biden.
"In the last year of his work as president, Mr. Trump, today's presidential candidate, reproached me for sympathizing with Biden .... He asked me in one of the conversations: do you want Sleepy Joe to win?" Putin said.
"And then, to my surprise, they began to persecute him (Trump) because we allegedly supported him as a candidate. Well, it's some kind of complete nonsense."
Earlier, Putin said in February he would prefer Biden to Trump as U.S. president, saying Biden was more experienced and more predictable.

Voters unenthusiastic

The last repeat presidential matchup took place in 1956, when Republican President Dwight Eisenhower defeated former Illinois Governor Adlai Stevenson, a Democrat, for the second time.
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דונלד טראמפ וג'ו ביידן
דונלד טראמפ וג'ו ביידן
Trump and Biden
This year, voters have expressed little enthusiasm for a repeat of the bitter 2020 election, with Reuters/Ipsos public polls showing both Biden and Trump are unpopular with the majority of voters.
Trump's myriad criminal charges - he faces 91 felony counts across four separate indictments - could harm his standing among the suburban, well-educated voters whose support he has historically struggled to garner.
He is scheduled to become the first former American president to go on trial in a criminal case on March 25 in New York, where he faces charges he falsified business records to hide hush money payments to a porn star.
The most serious case against him is generally thought to be the federal indictment in Washington, D.C., accusing him of plotting to reverse the 2020 election. But the case is on hold after the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear Trump's claim of presidential immunity, and it is unclear whether a trial can take place before Election Day.
Biden has been dogged by the perception among a majority of voters that he is too old to serve a second four-year term, though allies believe his fiery State of the Union address may serve to counter that notion.
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ביידן נושא את נאום "מצב האומה"
ביידן נושא את נאום "מצב האומה"
Biden gives his State of the Union address before Congress
(Photo: Gettyimages)
The ongoing crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border, where an influx of migrants has overwhelmed the system, is another weakness for Biden. He has sought to transfer the blame to Trump after the former president urged congressional Republicans to kill a bipartisan border security bill that would have stepped up enforcement.
The economy, as always, will be a central campaign issue.
Biden has presided over an expanding economy, with inflationary pressure easing and stocks hitting all-time highs. But polls show Americans unwilling to credit the president and frustrated about high prices of items like food in the wake of the pandemic.
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