Polls Begin To Close In Super Tuesday Contests
ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
Polls are just closing on this Super Tuesday in Georgia, Vermont and Virginia. And NPR's Ron Elving is with us watching results come in. Hi, Ron.
RON ELVING, BYLINE: Hello, Ari.
SHAPIRO: What do we know at this early stage?
ELVING: We do know a little bit even though those polls have just closed. We know that on the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton is projected to win the primary in Georgia and in Virginia, and that is according to the Associated Press projections that we rely on. And Bernie Sanders is projected to win the Democratic primary in Vermont. That's his home state. He has been widely expected to win there, and that's a projection, again, from the Associated Press.
SHAPIRO: All right, well, let's talk to our colleague. NPR's Tamara Keith is at Clinton headquarters in Miami, Flo., tonight.
TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Yes.
SHAPIRO: And Tam, what's the reaction there so far?
KEITH: Well, there was definitely some screaming and chanting and cheering when the TVs here showed that those states had been called. I've been talking to campaign press secretary Brian Fallon about their expectations for tonight and what they think a win might look like. And I just wanted to toss to a little sound from that conversation.
BRIAN FALLON: We entered tonight with about a 26-delegate advantage. We're seeking to grow that significantly tonight. And then I think in the coming couple weeks, we'll grow it even further, and I think by around mid-March, we'll reach a point where it won't be mathematically impossible, but it'll be effectively out of reach for Senator Sanders to catch up.
KEITH: So let's just say gone are the days of the Clinton campaign lowering expectations.
SHAPIRO: (Laughter) Well, what are the other states that the Clinton is watching especially closely tonight?
KEITH: Massachusetts is certainly a state that they're watching closely. She spent some time there yesterday in hopes of possibly winning that state. Though they do believe it's unfriendly territory for Senator Sanders, they feel like they could get that one. And then in the states where Senator Sanders is expected to do well - possibly Minnesota, Colorado - they're hoping to keep his victory to a minimum - that is, to keep it close so that even in those states, Clinton will be able to grab some delegates.
SHAPIRO: Well, let's check in on Sanders' headquarters. NPR's Sam Sanders is up there in Burlington, Vt. And Sam, what's the mood there knowing that Senator Sanders is projected to win his home state of Vermont?
SAM SANDERS, BYLINE: So the press knows, but the crowd doesn't know yet. They haven't told the crowd. It's still very happy here, though. They've had Jerry from Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream come and talk. They've had the singer Ben Folds sing. It's a very happy mood. But they haven't heard of that win yet.
SHAPIRO: This is, of course, his home state. Beyond Vermont, where is Bernie Sanders looking to do well tonight?
SANDERS: Massachusetts, possibly, possibly Minnesota. But they haven't really been too clear on which states they think they'll win for sure.
SHAPIRO: It sounds like the crowd may have just been told (laughter) of Bernie Sanders' performance there in Vermont. We'll keep checking in with you. I want to go now to NPR's Mara Liasson who is here in the studio with us. And Mara, moving from the Democrat to the Republican side, what are you looking for tonight?
MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Well, we're looking to see how well Donald Trump does. We know that - we haven't had projections yet, but some networks are willing to say he won Georgia. We're waiting to see how he does across the board. He was polling ahead in every single state that votes tonight with the exception of Texas where Ted Cruz - it's his home state - was ahead in the polls.
So the big question is, can Cruz hang onto Texas, and can Cruz and Rubio get over the 20 percent threshold that is required in many of these states to get any delegates at all? If nobody gets above - if only one candidate gets above 20 percent and it's Donald Trump, he gets all the delegates.
SHAPIRO: Donald Trump has been widely referred to as the frontrunner. Is tonight the night that he could potentially go from frontrunner to unstoppable?
LIASSON: Yes, I think he can. If he gets - if he sweeps the table, if he comes out, some people are saying, with more than 315 delegates tonight, it will be almost impossible to stop him. I think the two choices that a lot of Republicans - the two possible scenarios a lot of Republicans say can happen tonight is either he becomes the prohibitive frontrunner - unstoppable - or the best that the other candidates can do is go into the convention in Cleveland in July without having Trump have 1,237 delegates.
SHAPIRO: And what about Marco Rubio who has been fighting Ted Cruz for second place in state after state? Does he need to win a state tonight, or is it enough for him to hold out for his home state of Florida in the polls?
LIASSON: Well, the Rubio people are not suggesting that he's going to win a state. I think what they're trying to do is do just well enough in the kind of suburban and urban congressional districts where he does well, where the voters are better educated, they're less angry, relatively, than other Republican voters. If he can do well enough in those places to get delegates, he can survive 'til March 15 when his home state of Florida votes, and he has to win there.
SHAPIRO: Let's head to NPR's Sarah McCammon now who is at Trump headquarters tonight at the Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Fla. And Sarah, how are people there reacting this evening?
SARAH MCCAMMON, BYLINE: Well, right now, it's a lot of reporters. The doors opened three hours ahead of Trump's scheduled even which is coming up at 9 Eastern Time. Now, this isn't a rally. This is a press conference, a bit of an...
SHAPIRO: Yeah, that's unexpected - a press conference on Super Tuesday night.
MCCAMMON: Yeah, an unusual move, to be sure. You know, most candidates get their supporters together and hold a big rally, usually - you know, say, Ted Cruz in his home state of Texas - in a place that represents sort of their campaign. And Trump is not making that move. I should not that Marco Rubio is in Florida as well, but it is Marco Rubio's home state. Trump is having a press conference at 9 Eastern, the same time the polls in Texas close. And of course, that's where Ted Cruz is hoping to win big.
SHAPIRO: Can you give us some insight into the campaign's thinking in having a press conference rather than the traditional big rally tonight?
MCCAMMON: They've been pretty tightlipped about that, but you know, you can certainly read between the lines. As I mentioned, the - you know, Donald Trump is going to be making a big appearance. And I should tell you about this room, Ari. It's - there are three huge chandeliers. It's a lavish, beautiful resort. And...
SHAPIRO: Some might say Donald Trump-style.
MCCAMMON: Very Donald Trump-style. I'm looking at 10 American flags. I just counted them a minute ago - 10 flags up on the stage behind where he's going to speak. So the optics of this, you know, are really - it's a show of wealth and a show of strength, especially if he comes off of Super Tuesday doing as well as he expects to do. That's what all the, you know, the cable networks are going to be carrying tonight at the time that, potentially, Ted Cruz will be - could be celebrating a victory in Texas. So we'll see.
SHAPIRO: All right, well, speaking of Ted Cruz, we're going to head now to NPR's Wade Goodwyn, who is at tonight's Cruz headquarters, the Redneck Country Club, in Stafford, Texas. Hi, Wade.
WADE GOODWYN, BYLINE: Hello.
SHAPIRO: (Laughter) All right. What does the night look like from the Cruz camp's perspective tonight?
GOODWYN: Well, I mean, it could not be a bigger night for Ted Cruz and his supporters. He has to win and win decisively in Texas. And it would be very helpful if he could win a couple of other Southern states or at least come very close to Donald Trump. If he doesn't do that, it's hard to see how his campaigned could keep going forward. So there's a lot of excitement here at the Redneck Country Club which is just outside of Houston and some apprehension, too, about what the night's going to hold.
SHAPIRO: All right. We're going to bring it back to our political editor Ron Elving, who is here in the studio. And Ron, what is at stake tonight at Super Tuesday - quarter of the total delegates?
ELVING: Well, it's not exactly the same in both parties. It's a little bit more generous on the Republican side. You could talk about a quarter on the Democratic side, maybe a little closer to a fifth or a little less. But what is at stake in both parties is the momentum as we go into the bigger paychecks, if you will, the bigger pay dirt of the states that are coming up in mid-March.
And then, of course, in the Republican Party, you start to get the possibility of winner-take-all. Some when we look at Florida, that's a winner-take-all state for the Republicans, and it's a chance for either party's frontrunner to establish themselves essentially as unstoppable if they have all the momentum coming out of tonight. But we don't know yet. We don't know yet despite all of the excitement that has been centered around those two candidates, whether they'll get there.
SHAPIRO: Lots more to come on this Super Tuesday night, and you can also stream our coverage at elections.npr.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.