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Donald Trump's Uplifting Message Sets Him Apart From Ted Cruz


Republican presidential candidates Ted Cruz and Donald Trump are both tapping into the frustration many GOP voters say they feel with Washington, but how the candidates channel those feelings is quite different. Trump and Cruz are campaigning in South Carolina ahead of tomorrow's primary, and that's where NPR Sarah McCammon set out to explore what sets them apart on the stump.

SARAH MCCAMMON, BYLINE: For all the talk of Donald Trump's angry and bombastic style, the mood at his rallies is usually really happy.


DONALD TRUMP: Oh, it's a lot of people. Thank you, darling. It's a lot of people.

MCCAMMON: Campaigning in Gaffney, S.C. last night, the billionaire businessman joined supporters in chanting his name.


TRUMP: Trump, Trump, Trump.

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Chanting) Trump, Trump.

MCCAMMON: There's a different vibe at Ted Cruz campaign events where he often tells supporters that America is on the edge of an abyss and the time to set things right is now or never.


TED CRUZ: Our country's in crisis. We're bankrupting our kids and grandkids. Our constitutional rights are under assault each and every day.

MCCAMMON: At a restaurant in Seneca this week, the Texas senator reminded supporters of his record of trying to obstruct legislation like Obamacare funding. Tracy Meehan trusts Cruz's record of defending conservatism and the Constitution but thinks Trump is just an entertainer.

TRACY MEEHAN: I think that everyone feels the anger with Washington. I know that people want change, but we want change with someone that we can trust.

MCCAMMON: But to Trump supporters like Ashley Johnson, he offers a sense of optimism about the future of her small business and her three children.

ASHLEY JOHNSON: And not cautiously optimistic anymore.

MCCAMMON: Johnson says Cruz seems too scripted. She thinks Trump speaks from the heart, even if he says things that offend people.

JOHNSON: And I know a lot of people who think that he's too tough and he's vulgar and he's rough, and, you know, he said a couple of bad words, you know, and you know - but who doesn't?

BRUCE HAYNES: The Trump campaign right now feels like a joy ride.

MCCAMMON: Bruce Haynes is a GOP consultant with Purple Strategies and a South Carolina native. He says Trump is resonating with many voters because he's offering a door to the future.

HAYNES: It's fun. It's interesting. It's crazy. We don't know where it's going to wind up, but we want to be along for the ride. The Cruz campaign feels like a traffic stop.

MCCAMMON: On the stump, Cruz says he's feeling optimistic because he thinks America is waking up to everything that's gone wrong.


CRUZ: The first thing I intend to do is rescind every single illegal and unconstitutional executive action taken by President Obama.

MCCAMMON: Cruz warns a religious persecution by federal agencies and promises another thing he'll do...


CRUZ: Is rip to shreds this catastrophic Iranian nuclear deal.


MCCAMMON: To be sure, Trump is also pledging to stop lots of things, like outsourcing.


TRUMP: Right? Not going to happen with me. We're going to get rid of Obamacare, which is a total disaster. Common Core is going to be out. Common Core is dead.

MCCAMMON: But Trump always comes back around to that central theme of his campaign.


TRUMP: We have such unbelievable potential. In fact, make America great again - that's great. And about two weeks ago, I started saying maybe greater than ever before.

MCCAMMON: Many Republican voters looking for an outsider are still sorting through whether they need Cruz to pull them back from the abyss or whether they can trust Trump to make things great again. Sarah McCammon, NPR News, Spartanburg, S.C. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Sarah McCammon worked for Iowa Public Radio as Morning Edition Host from January 2010 until December 2013.
Sarah McCammon
Sarah McCammon is a National Correspondent covering the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast for NPR. Her work focuses on political, social and cultural divides in America, including abortion and reproductive rights, and the intersections of politics and religion. She's also a frequent guest host for NPR news magazines, podcasts and special coverage.

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