AUSTIN, Texas—Donald Trump has won the GOP nomination for president in Kentucky, a state where the party’s most prominent African-American has struggled to gain traction.
In an upset victory, Trump swept the state’s Republican caucus Saturday, securing 1,848 votes to Ted Cruz’s 894.
“I’m not going to sit here and say that he won Kentucky,” Kentucky Republican Party Chairman Jim Brulte told reporters after the results were announced.
“He won it.
The results are not a surprise.
It’s been a long campaign.
We are confident.”
Trump has been the GOP front-runner in Kentucky since February.
Cruz, a former Texas senator and presidential candidate, won the state in April.
The GOP contest has been a bellwether for the presidential race in Kentucky.
The state has been solidly blue for years, and the GOP establishment has long viewed it as a key battleground.
But the party is not expected to have any serious challengers to Trump in 2020.
It also hasn’t voted for a Republican presidential nominee since 1964, when Richard Nixon defeated Lyndon Johnson in the White House.
Cruz won the first presidential debate, but Trump came in second place, garnering 15 percent of the vote.
Trump won a narrow plurality of the state vote in the GOP primary.
“We have a lot of work to do to win this election,” Trump said in a news conference Saturday.
“And it starts with getting back to the basics of what our campaign is about.”
Trump won by a wide margin in Kentucky’s Republican primary last year, capturing more than 30 percent of all ballots cast.
The result of Saturday’s results shows Trump still holds a substantial lead in the race for the party nomination, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll.
A new Reuters/YouGov poll, released Friday, found that just 26 percent of Kentucky Republicans support Trump, while a full 56 percent support Cruz.
It was a stunning turnaround from the nearly 20 percent support Trump received in the last Reuters/Itasca poll released last month, which found the billionaire businessman ahead of his rivals.
That poll found Trump’s support among Republicans had fallen to 23 percent, down from 40 percent last month.
“The GOP establishment is now on the wrong side of history,” Trump told supporters in Louisville, Kentucky, on Saturday.
But he continued to call on the party to unite around him, and urged party leaders to back him.
“If we don’t, we’re going to be looking for other ways to get the nomination and get the presidency,” Trump vowed.
Trump has a chance to win Kentucky by more than 20 percentage points, according with the RealClearPolitics average of polls.
The race is expected to be close in the delegate-rich state.
A total of 1,917 delegates are up for grabs in Kentucky and its territories, and more than 2,100 are at stake in the final primaries.
Cruz was the first GOP candidate to win the state since 1992.
Cruz has been battling in the polls to gain support in other states where Republicans are facing off in contested GOP primaries.
A CNN/ORC poll released Thursday showed Cruz in a virtual dead heat with Trump, with Cruz holding a 12-point lead over Trump in the state.
Trump led by a nearly 20-point margin in the Real Clear Politics average of recent polls.
And a new CBS News/New York Times poll showed Trump leading in the key battleground state by just over 10 points.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.