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National

GOP Candidates Campaign Ahead Of Major Contests In Swing States

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Donald Trump says he is not responsible for the violence at his events. Today, he suggested that no one has gotten injured at his campaign rallies - this just three days after he called off a gathering in Chicago where protesters and Trump supporters clashed, shouting at each other and throwing punches. Florida is the biggest prize for Republicans in tomorrow's election, and NPR's Sarah McCammon is at a Trump rally in Tampa. And Sarah, what's the mood there?

SARAH MCCAMMON, BYLINE: Well, this town hall today is just wrapping up. People are streaming out. You know, there were protesters both outside and inside the event today, several disruptions during the event, but nothing what happened on - in Chicago when the rally was canceled on Friday and not as many as I saw in Kansas City on Saturday.

You know, Trump has been blaming the protesters for some of these problems, also pointing the fingers at Bernie Sanders and suggesting that maybe his campaign is behind this and also at the media, criticizing the media for, he says, paying attention to the protestors but not to his supporters.

And he also had a special guest today. Sarah Palin had canceled events, saying that she was supposed to be alongside Trump, but because her husband, Todd, was in a snowmobile accident, she instead showed up at this rally in Tampa.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SARAH PALIN: Republicans, independents, those good, old blue dog Reagan Democrats out there, we've all recognized we need a revolution. It is time to get rid of the status quo. The status quo has got to go, right? We've needed a revolution, and we found our revolutionary. Donald J. Trump is that revolutionary.

SIEGEL: That's Sarah Palin today. What have you heard from Trump supporters about the chaotic events over the last few days?

MCCAMMON: Robert, most of them are really behind Trump, and they agree with him that the problem is with the protesters, not with his Trump or his supporters. I talked to one man who said he thinks it's unfair that some of Trump's rivals - Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio - have criticized the tone that Trump is setting. This man even said he switched his vote from Ted Cruz to Donald Trump, and he said, you know, people are free to protest, but they shouldn't shut down events.

SIEGEL: Now, looking ahead to tomorrow, in addition to Florida, there are primaries in Ohio and Illinois and Missouri, North Carolina. Where else are we seeing Trump and his opponents focusing their campaigns?

MCCAMMON: Well, of course, in Florida here, Trump is looking strong against Marco Rubio even though this is his home state. It's a winner-take-all state, so it's a big prize tomorrow. And heading to Ohio, Trump will be there tonight, where he's facing a strong challenge from Governor John Kasich. That's his home state.

And Marco Rubio, you know, here in Florida, is fighting for his life. It's not clear he's gaining any traction. Meanwhile, Ted Cruz has been hitting the campaign trail hard, especially in Illinois today, which is a proportional state, so he's picking up as many delegates as he can.

SIEGEL: That's NPR's Sarah McCammon at a Trump rally in Tampa, Fla. Sarah, thanks.

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