Trump seeks big win in Michigan to stave off opposition

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DETROIT, March 8 (Reuters) - U.S. presidential hopeful Donald Trump sought to regain campaign momentum as four states including Michigan voted on Tuesday, after a barrage of attacks from fellow Republicans and a tightened race created an opening for those seeking to block him.

The Republican front-runner split four contests on Saturday with conservative rival Ted Cruz, who positioned himself as the prime alternative to Trump in the race for the party's nomination in the Nov. 8 election.

SEE ALSO: Team Rubio accuses Ted Cruz campaign of 'dirty tricks'

Michigan is the biggest prize up for grabs in Tuesday's contests. Most opinion polls show the New York real estate magnate hanging on to a solid double-digit lead there over Cruz, a U.S. senator from Texas, and Ohio Governor John Kasich, who has climbed in some opinion polls in the Midwestern state.

While Kasich is in last place in the number of delegates amassed, which are needed to clinch the nomination at the party's July convention, a strong showing for him in the state could complicate the math for any one anti-Trump candidate.

"The whole world's watching what's going to happen in Michigan tonight," Kasich, 63, told a rally in Lansing.

CHECK OUT: Kasich on the campaign trail

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John Kasich on the campaign trail
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Trump seeks big win in Michigan to stave off opposition
MILFORD, NH - SEPTEMBER 7: Republican presidential candidate John Kasich greets supporters at the Labor Day parade on September 7, 2015 in Milford, New Hampshire. Kasich, buoyed by what observers called a strong performance in the first GOP debate, has emerged as a first tier presidential candidate with voters in New Hampshire, the nation's first primary state. (Photo by Kayana Szymczak/Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidate Gov. John Kasich, R-Ohio, waves as he arrives for a campaign stop at Robie's Country Store Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2015, in Hooksett,N.H. The nation's first presidential primary in New Hampshire is less than six months away.(AP Photo/Jim Cole)
Republican presidential candidate Gov. John Kasich, R-Ohio, speaks during a campaign stop at New England College Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2015, in Henniker, N.H. The nation's earliest presidential primary in new Hampshire is less then six months away. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)
Republican presidential candidate, Ohio Gov. John Kasich talks with a fairgoer during a visit to the Iowa State Fair, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2015, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Republican presidential candidate, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, shakes hands after speaking to a packed crowd during a campaign stop at the VFW Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2015, in Derry, N.H. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)
Republican presidential candidate Ohio Gov. John Kasich speaks to members of the media in the spin room following the first Republican presidential debate at the Quicken Loans Arena, Thursday, Aug. 6, 2015, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Republican presidential candidate Ohio Gov. John Kasich speaks during the first Republican presidential debate at the Quicken Loans Arena Thursday, Aug. 6, 2015, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Republican presidential candidate, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, center, greets members of the media at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Thursday, Aug. 6, 2015, before tonight's first Republican presidential debate. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Republican presidential candidate Ohio Gov. John Kasich speaks during a town hall meeting, Friday, July 24, 2015, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Republican presidential candidate Gov. John Kasich arrives for a town hall style meeting Tuesday, July 21, 2015, in Nashua, N.H. after announcing his plans earlier in the day to seek the Republican nomination for president. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)
Ohio Gov. John Kasich announces he is running for the 2016 Republican party’s nomination for president during a campaign rally at Ohio State University, Tuesday, July 21, 2015, in Columbus, Ohio. Kasich, a two-term governor and former congressman, has little name recognition in the crowded GOP field, but he is already airing television ads in New Hampshire where he is heading immediately after making his run official. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Ohio Gov. John Kasich pauses before he announces his run for the 2016 Republican party’s nomination for president during a campaign rally at Ohio State University, Tuesday, July 21, 2015, in Columbus, Ohio. Kasich, 63, launched his campaign before a crowd of 2,000 at an event marking the entry of a strong-willed and sometimes abrasive governor in a nomination race now with 16 notable Republicans. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
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U.S. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida is the favorite of a Republican establishment alarmed by Trump's controversial proposals and crude style and anxious about Cruz's uncompromising conservatism. But Rubio, 44, lags behind and may need a win in his home state next week to keep his campaign alive.

Trump, 69, faced a week of blistering attacks from the party's establishment that ended with a mixed showing in Saturday's contests in Louisiana, Kentucky, Kansas and Maine.

That encouraged some Republican leaders and donors who are trying to block him from a clear shot at the party nomination.

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Anti-Trump Super PACS have spent millions in advertisements designed to attack Trump's character in Florida, a state Rubio calls home and Trump calls a second home. Florida's 99 delegates are awarded on a winner-take-all basis.

"They are trying and they're spending millions of dollars but I have a tremendous following," Trump said Tuesday on Fox News, taking credit for the massive Republican voter turnout in the 2016 campaign. "That's what's happening - there's life now in the Republican Party," he added.

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Many mainstream Republicans have been offended by Trump's statements on Muslims, immigrants and women and alarmed by his threats to international trade deals. Trump said on Tuesday he has not asssembled a foreign policy team, despite having said he would have one in place by February, and dismissed criticism his statements would be harmful to U.S. interests.

Conservatives meeting in recent days at the Republican Governors Association retreat in Park City, Utah, and a think tank gathering in Sea Island, Georgia, believe Trump will be vulnerable to another blast of attacks before a big day of voting on March 15, the Washington Post reported.

RELATED: Photos from last weekend's Trump rallies

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Trump seeks big win in Michigan to stave off opposition
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump responds to supporters during his rally at the University of Central Florida, in Orlando, Fla., on Saturday, March 5, 2016. (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)
Security removes protesters after one of many interruptions during Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's rally at the University of Central Florida, in Orlando, Fla., on Saturday, March 5, 2016. (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)
Protesters interrupt Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump during his remarks at the University of Central Florida, in Orlando, Fla., on Saturday, March 5, 2016. (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)
ORLANDO, FL - MARCH 05: A protester yells as he is escorted out of a campaign rally for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at the CFE Arena during a campaign stop on the campus of the University of Central Florida on March 5, 2016 in Orlando, Florida. Primary voters head to the polls on March 15th in Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
ORLANDO, FL - MARCH 05: People listen as Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at the CFE Arena during a campaign stop on the campus of the University of Central Florida on March 5, 2016 in Orlando, Florida. Primary voters head to the polls on March 15th in Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
ORLANDO, FL - MARCH 05: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at the CFE Arena during a campaign stop on the campus of the University of Central Florida on March 5, 2016 in Orlando, Florida. Primary voters head to the polls on March 15th in Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
ORLANDO, FL - MARCH 05: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump signs the arm of a young lady at the CFE Arena during a campaign stop on the campus of the University of Central Florida on March 5, 2016 in Orlando, Florida. Primary voters head to the polls on March 15th in Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
A group of young Muslims stage a small protest as Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump takes the stage for a campaign rally during the Kansas GOP caucus at Century II in Wichita, Kan., on Saturday, March 5, 2016. (Bo Rader/Wichita Eagle/TNS via Getty Images)
Anti-Trump demonstrator Bill Anderson protests outside Century II, where the Republican presdential caucus took place, in Wichita, Kan., on Saturday, March 5, 2016. (Fernando Salazar/Wichita Eagle/TNS via Getty Images)
GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump addresses his supporters at rally during the Kansas GOP caucus at Century II in Wichita, Kan., on Saturday, March 5, 2016. (Bo Rader/Wichita Eagle/TNS via Getty Images)
Anti-Trump supporters demonstrate outside Century II, where the Republican presdential caucus took place, in Wichita, Kan., on Saturday, March 5, 2016. (Fernando Salazar/Wichita Eagle/TNS via Getty Images)
LOUISVILLE, KY- MARCH 5: Evelyn Stalevicz shows her support for Donald Trump as voters lined up to vote in the GOP presidential caucus at Zachary Taylor Elementary school March 5, 2016, in Louisville, Kentucky. This would be the state of Kentucky's first-ever Republican Presidential Caucus, participating in Presidential Primaries in May alongside other states. (Photo by John Sommers II/Getty Images)
Donald Trump supporters acknowledge their candidate as he takes the stage inside Century II, where the Republican presdential caucus took place, in Wichita, Kan., on Saturday, March 5, 2016. (Fernando Salazar/Wichita Eagle/TNS via Getty Images)
A Donald Trump supporter raises his sign inside Century II, where the Republican presdential caucus took place, in Wichita, Kan., on Saturday, March 5, 2016. (Fernando Salazar/Wichita Eagle/TNS via Getty Images)
Donald Trump supporters and protesters clash outside Century II, where the Republican presdential caucus took place, in Wichita, Kan., on Saturday, March 5, 2016. (Fernando Salazar/Wichita Eagle/TNS via Getty Images)
Donald Trump supporters cheer for their man inside Century II, where the Republican presdential caucus took place, in Wichita, Kan., on Saturday, March 5, 2016. (Fernando Salazar/Wichita Eagle/TNS via Getty Images)
Supporters cheer at the Trump For President rally at the University of Central Florida, in Orlando, Fla., on Saturday, March 5, 2016. (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)
ORLANDO, FL - MARCH 05: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at the CFE Arena during a campaign stop on the campus of the University of Central Florida on March 5, 2016 in Orlando, Florida. Primary voters head to the polls on March 15th in Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
WICHITA, KS - MARCH 5: A Donald Trump supporter stands in line to vote during the states Republican caucus on March 5, 2016 in Wichita, Kansas. People were standing in line for more than two hours to vote in the caucus. (Photo by J Pat Carter/Getty Images)
WICHITA, KS - MARCH 5: A man shows his support as Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump made a speech at a campaign rally on March 5, 2016 in Wichita, Kansas where the Republican party was staging one of its statewide caucus. Trump spoke of making America great again. (Photo by J Pat Carter/Getty Images)
WICHITA, KS - MARCH 5: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump makes a speech at a campaign rally on March 5, 2016 in Wichita, Kansas. The Republican party was holding its state wide caucus in several locations. (Photo by J Pat Carter/Getty Images)
WICHITA, KS - MARCH 5: An anti-Trump protester stands outside the convention center where Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump made a speech at a campaign rally on March 5, 2016 in Wichita, Kansas. About 100 protesters voiced their opposition to Trump. (Photo by J Pat Carter/Getty Images)
WICHITA, KS - MARCH 5: A veteran showed his support as Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump made a speech at a campaign rally on March 5, 2016 in Wichita, Kansas where the Republican party was staging one of its statewide caucus. Trump said he would help veterans. (Photo by J Pat Carter/Getty Images)
A protester chanting "Black Lives Matter" is escorted away as Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, background, speaks at a campaign rally in New Orleans, Friday, March 4, 2016. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
WICHITA, KS - MARCH 5: Supporters displays their signs as Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump makes a speech at a campaign rally on March 5, 2016 in Wichita, Kansas. The Republican party was holding its state wide caucus in several locations. (Photo by J Pat Carter/Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump holds up a child he pulled from the crowd as he arrives to speak at a campaign rally in New Orleans, Friday, March 4, 2016. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in New Orleans, Friday, March 4, 2016. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in New Orleans, Friday, March 4, 2016. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in New Orleans, Friday, March 4, 2016. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
A protester and activist holds a sign for the "Islam Against Terrorism" before a campaign rally, Saturday, March 5, 2016, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
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Apple CEO Tim Cook, Google co-founder Larry Page and billionaire Philip Anschutz, as well as congressional leaders, were among those attending the Sea Island event, the American Enterprise Institute's World Forum over the weekend, which was closed to media, the Huffington Post reported.

Tesla and Space-X entrepreneur Elon Musk told Reuters he gave a talk on technology innovation at the forum. He said he was an independent who believes "in supporting reasonable candidates that show wisdom in their actions, understanding that no one is perfect, and empathy for all."

On Tuesday, Republicans and Democrats were also voting in Mississippi, and Republicans in Idaho and Hawaii were making their choices on a day when 150 Republican delegates and 166 Democratic delegates will be up for grabs.

SEE ALSO: Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana face possible tornadoes, large hail

But the focus was on the industrial battleground of Michigan, where Trump's relentless anti-free trade rhetoric and promise to slap taxes on cars and parts shipped in from Mexico has resonated in a state that has lost tens of thousands of manufacturing and auto industry jobs.

In the Democratic race, Hillary Clinton, 68, has a solid lead in Michigan opinion polls over rival Bernie Sanders, 74, a U.S. senator from Vermont.

Big Michigan wins for Trump and Clinton would set them up for a potentially decisive day of voting on March 15 in Ohio, Florida, Illinois, Missouri and North Carolina.

Michigan was the state that spawned the term Reagan Democrats to refer to largely white, working-class voters who abandoned their party to vote Ronald Reagan into the White House in the 1980s.

Sal Isabella, a Dearborn insurance agent, said he was for Trump because he would make things happen.

"He'll be like Reagan," Isabella said. "He'll make some big changes and we need big changes."

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