With New York's Primary Over, Candidates Focus On Tuesday's Contests

Apr 20, 2016
Originally published on April 20, 2016 6:16 pm
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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Last night was a good night for the front-runners. And it also did not put an end to either race. Some of the candidates have already been campaigning in the states that vote next week. The biggest is Pennsylvania. NPR's Don Gonyea is on the line now, with us from Coatesville, Penn., about an hour's drive west of Philadelphia. Good morning.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: Good morning.

MONTAGNE: And what, may I ask, brings you to Coatesville?

GONYEA: Well, Renee, the thing about Pennsylvania elections, they're very often decided in this group of suburban counties that curve around Philadelphia. That can make or break a candidate. And I've been here this week trying to get a read on what people are thinking.

MONTAGNE: Well, going into New York, polls were looking pretty good for Trump and Clinton, and also, now, in the states voting next week. Let's start with the Republican race. What's the landscape there?

GONYEA: Well, let's start with Ted Cruz. He was here last night already. He spoke at the National Constitution Center. That's in downtown Philadelphia. And he, after that bad third-place finish in New York, was already looking ahead. And listen to the kinds of voters he's talking about.

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TED CRUZ: I'm so excited to share with you what America has learned over the past few months. And it has nothing to do with a politician winning his home state tonight. It has everything to do with what we've seen in the towns and faces that have been weathered with trouble, joblessness and fear. It's what we've learned looking at the factories that have been shuttered and the hearts that are closing.

GONYEA: So there's a catch, though, Renee. Those voters he describes, they have been voting mostly for Donald Trump, including potentially here in Pennsylvania, at least according to the polls. There's also this. Pennsylvania is a state that's often been good to more establishment-style Republicans. And the candidate that that best describes is Ohio Gov. John Kasich. Kasich was born in this state, in the town of McKees Rocks, and he's a neighboring state governor. So Kasich has the kind of resume to do well here in a traditional year. But again, nobody is calling this a traditional year.

MONTAGNE: Right, well, besides Pennsylvania, what about some of the other states voting next week? OK, there's Maryland, Delaware, Rhode Island, Connecticut. How are things looking?

GONYEA: Those are all states in the northeastern region of the country, where Trump is popular. And there are not a lot of religious conservatives there, who are favorable to Ted Cruz. So after a pretty good stretch for a couple of weeks there, Ted Cruz could be in for kind of a continued rough patch in these places.

MONTAGNE: Let's talk now about the Democrats, then. It seemed like New York was going to be Bernie Sanders' big chance to turn the tide, if that was going to happen, against Hillary Clinton. He didn't do that in New York. Can he look for any big opportunities this next week?

GONYEA: Well, he was in Pennsylvania last night too, in State College. That's where Penn State is. And even before the polls closed in New York, he had this big rally with a lot of college students. And he clearly had an inkling how the day was going. Give a listen as he talked to that big crowd.

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BERNIE SANDERS: What I have learned so far from this campaign is when voter turnout is high, we win.

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SANDERS: When voter turnout is low, we lose. So next Tuesday, let us have the highest voter turnout in Pennsylvania history.

GONYEA: Again, another big, lively crowd for Bernie Sanders - the catch here is that there was very high turnout in New York. You know, maybe it wasn't the record turnout of back in 2008 when Obama was first running, but it was high, and still a bad day for Sanders. The other catch here for him - like New York, Pennsylvania is a closed primary, so he won't get votes from independents and maybe people who got fired up but hadn't gotten registered in time.

MONTAGNE: Well, if Hillary Clinton goes into next week with a lot of factors in her favor, does that mean she could get close to locking things up?

GONYEA: Mathematically, no, she can't actually lock it up until the very end. But if she does really well next Tuesday - not just in Pennsylvania, but in those other states, look for Hillary Clinton to very directly, very firmly, start making the case that Sanders' path is all but impossible. We're already hearing that from her staff. We'll start to hear it from her.

MONTAGNE: And, Don Gonyea, as we know, the delegate race now over back to the Republicans, is still up in the air. Could next week clarify things on that side of the race?

GONYEA: OK, clarify is probably too strong a word.

MONTAGNE: It's a little strong, yeah.

GONYEA: But look, Pennsylvania offers an interesting reason why we may not get that clarification for a bit. It is by far the biggest delegate prize next week. But fewer than 1 in 4 of its Republican delegates will be bound to the statewide winner. The rest are unbound. So those delegates might say they're for Trump or for Cruz or for Kasich, but we won't know who they're for a until they cast their ballots at the Republican convention. So for Republicans, next week may actually be about the popular vote providing momentum for one or two candidates, but not really about the delegates. Also worth pointing out with Trump looking strong in the next batch of states, anti-Trump forces are looking down the road to places like Indiana and Nebraska and even California in June to try to stop it.

MONTAGNE: Hey, even California - California - it'll be important this time, for a change.

GONYEA: (Laughter) That's right.

MONTAGNE: Don, thanks very much.

GONYEA: All right, it's my pleasure.

MONTAGNE: That's NPR's Don Gonyea. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.