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Politics In The News: Clinton, Trump Big Winners: Bush Drops Out


Well, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have both won 2 of 3 - that's 2 of 3 nominating contests, enough to make some of their rivals fall away. For some analysis, Steve and I are going to chat with Cokie Roberts, who's on the line from South Carolina. Cokie, good morning.

COKIE ROBERTS, BYLINE: Hi, David. Hi, Steve.


Hi there.

GREENE: And Mara Liasson is on the line, too. Mara, good morning.


INSKEEP: And let's start with Cokie here. Is Trump now unstoppable?

ROBERTS: Well, that is certainly the question. You know, others keep saying that there are too many candidates in the race, and once it gets down to a two-person race that Trump can't get above that 30 to 35 percent that he's gotten both in the polling and in the elections and that the others will start pulling out that 65 the 70 percent not voting for Tromp. But there's absolutely no evidence that all of that vote will go to another candidate. In fact, what the voters keep saying in these elections is they want an outsider and they're disappointed with Republican politicians. And also, only Bush got out after this Saturday. Kasich and Carson are still in. And the delegates are piling up. Donald Trump got all of the South Carolina delegates on Saturday. So you're beginning to see the Republican establishment very wary about criticizing him.

GREENE: Well, Mara Liasson, as we dig into the election math that Cokie's talking about there, I mean, any sign at all that all of those voters who have not been voting for Donald Trump are going to unite behind someone like Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz or John Kasich for that matter?

LIASSON: Well, not necessarily. And of course, Donald Trump says hey, I'm going to get some of those votes, too. So I don't think it's going to be a two-man race anytime soon, which is a great thing for Donald Trump. There are polls that show if the race hypothetically was Cruz versus Tromp or Rubio versus Trump, Trump would lose. But as Cokie said, it's hard to imagine what makes either Trump or Cruz or Rubio drop out. Both are looking to accumulate delegates in the March 1 states, Cruz in particular in his home state of Texas. And don't forget John Kasich, who didn't figure much in South Carolina but hopes to do well in Michigan and his home state of Ohio. He's a problem for Rubio because he gets votes from the moderate establishment lane. But the other thing is that in order to stop Trump, someone has to try other than Jeb Bush. Cruz has tangled with him when he had to, but one of the big mysteries here is why hasn't Rubio gone after Trump at all?

INSKEEP: Well, he has from time to time, but you're right, not that...

LIASSON: Very mildly, yeah.

INSKEEP: ...Often. But let's just raise a question here. Could the funders of some of these individuals cause them to drop out? Somebody call up John Kasich or call up Cruz or Rubio for that matter and just say listen, time to go.



LIASSON: But there's no sign of that at all.

INSKEEP: There's a yes and a no...

GREENE: A yes and a no.

INSKEEP: ...So we have a debate here. Mara, you go first, then Cokie.

LIASSON: Well, no, I just don't think there's any sign of that.

ROBERTS: Right, that's what I'm saying.

LIASSON: Cruz has a lot of money. He has a lot of states that are friendly to him coming up. There's certainly no one in the Rubio camp that is going to think he should drop out. I just don't see that happening.


ROBERTS: No, I'm right there.


ROBERTS: I wouldn't disagree with Mara.


GREENE: I love it when you two get along so well.


GREENE: I mean, whatever is happening in this race, voters seem to be, I don't know, enjoying it or certainly involved. I mean, turnout is very high. What does that tell us?

ROBERTS: Well, they're very interested. This race here in South Carolina, huge turnout. Seventy-two percent said they were born-again Christians, and Trump won them. That's very significant, although he only got single digits among voters who say that they care about candidates sharing their values. More than three-fourths of the people who went to the polls on Saturday want someone to tell it like it is, and that's of course Trump's big strength. Seventy-four percent want to ban Muslims, clearly also a strength, and hugely conservative - more than 80 percent. The few moderates who did vote, however, also supported Trump and gave only single digits to Ted Cruz, which shows you why the elected leaders in the Republican Party are so wary of him because, of course, there are going to be a lot more moderates in a general election.

GREENE: Mara, briefly?

LIASSON: That's right. And, you know, Trump has a broad coalition, the kind of coalition that Republican candidates need to win. And if evangelicals continue - especially in the Southern states - continue voting for a candidate who's been divorced several times, uses profanity and admits he's never asked God for forgiveness, that's a real problem for Ted Cruz.

INSKEEP: OK, so let's look at the Democratic side here. We've heard about South Carolina, where Republicans held their primary. Democrats were in Nevada. They switch states this coming week. Clinton won. She is considered a very strong candidate, has been all along. But Cokie, you've said that the Democrats are also worrying about her many weaknesses as a candidate. Are they feeling reassured at all, Democratic insiders?

ROBERTS: I think so, yes. You know, first of all, she had her huge strength with African-Americans with big support from John Lewis and here in South Carolina Jim Clyburn, who made it clear that he was supporting her, endorsing her when he did because he was worried about what was happening in Nevada. And yesterday, Bernie Sanders had an extremely awkward day in a black church here in South Carolina. It's just not a community that he's used to working in from being from Vermont. I think what Hillary Clinton did on Saturday was assure the super delegates, the party insiders, that they should stick with her. And that's what they want to do anyway, but they're always looking over their shoulders at their voters to see what their voters are thinking.

GREENE: Mara Liasson, where's a place that Bernie Sanders can comfortably say he can regroup now?

LIASSON: Well, when you look at the polls and the states coming up, there are a few places where Sanders is either close or ahead - Vermont, Massachusetts and the red state of Oklahoma. You know, when asked about this Sanders says he does well when there's a huge turnout of Democrats. But that's another thing that hasn't happened. It's Republican turnout that's been breaking past records this year, not Democratic turnout.

INSKEEP: One other thing to ask about here, and that's money. Jeb Bush withdrew over the weekend. He was the money juggernaut. He had a lot of money raised by his campaign. He had money raised by this outside group that was said to have $100 million on hand. We're told that they may have spent something like $77 million on television ads, a lot of it in South Carolina. Eight percent of the vote, he goes home. Is this the end of the effect of political television advertising?

LIASSON: Well, it might be. One of the many pieces of conventional wisdom that Donald Trump has sent to the scrapheap this year is that you have to spend a lot of money to win. Trump did start spending some of his own money recently. He lent his campaign $5 million, and he spent about $12 million. But compared to Jeb Bush, he's basically flipped himself a quarter in order to become the frontrunner. And I would say he would say that's a pretty good deal.

INSKEEP: Cokie, about 20 seconds here.

ROBERTS: But also, the advertising was just nonstop here in South Carolina. There was no way to sort it out. There was so much money spent on it that you sat there and said well, how can I possibly decide among these candidates? They're all awful from the advertisements. The funny thing was watching on Saturday night as the polls were closing and the awful Republican ads attacking each other finally stopped and these warm and fuzzy Democratic ads started for next Saturday and made it clear that we've got a new race.

INSKEEP: And here we go. That's Cokie Roberts and Mara Liasson. Thanks to both of you.

LIASSON: Thank you.

ROBERTS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Corrected: February 22, 2016 at 12:00 AM EST
An earlier audio version of this story erroneously referred to Oklahoma as a caucus state; in fact, it has a primary.
Cokie Roberts was one of the 'Founding Mothers' of NPR who helped make that network one of the premier sources of news and information in this country. She served as a congressional correspondent at NPR for more than 10 years and later appeared as a commentator on Morning Edition. In addition to her work for NPR, Roberts was a political commentator for ABC News, providing analysis for all network news programming.
Mara Liasson is a national political correspondent for NPR. Her reports can be heard regularly on NPR's award-winning newsmagazine programs Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Liasson provides extensive coverage of politics and policy from Washington, DC — focusing on the White House and Congress — and also reports on political trends beyond the Beltway.
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