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As Primary Season Winds Down, Indiana Voters To Play An Important Role


Say what you want about the presidential primary process. It does offer a progression of images from across America.


The last few days, we have seen images of Indiana. One moment, Donald Trump is talking at the Palladium. It's an Indiana performance hall inspired by a Venetian palace.

INSKEEP: Another moment, Ted Cruz is standing on a street beneath an overcast sky. He's debating a Trump supporter in goatee and sunglasses.

MARTIN: We're going to listen to some of the sounds that go with the images. We start with Ted Cruz. He needs a primary win in Indiana in order to keep alive his hopes of stopping Trump. Here's NPR's Sam Sanders.

SAM SANDERS, BYLINE: You could say Ted Cruz is having a tough time in Indiana. A Few days ago, while singing the praises of Indiana basketball, he mistakenly called the basketball hoop a ring. It seems the pact he and John Kasich made to stop Trump here, that didn't really work out. And Monday, Cruz got into it with a Trump supporter.


TED CRUZ: And I'm running to be everyone's president - those who vote for me, even those who don't vote for me.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: We don't want you.

CRUZ: I will...

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: You ask Kasich to drop out - it's your turn.

SANDERS: It went on for some eight minutes.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Once again, lying Ted.

CRUZ: Well, sir...

SANDERS: But last night at the Indiana State Fairgrounds in Indianapolis, Cruz tried to rally his troops.


CRUZ: God bless the great state of Indiana.

SANDERS: After being introduced by conservative hero Glenn Beck, Cruz made the case that he's the one true conservative still in the race.


CRUZ: Donald Trump has been supporting liberal Democrats for 40 years. I have no experience with that.

SANDERS: In his speech, Cruz argued that on just about everything - repealing Obamacare, lowering taxes, national security. He said Trump is more liberal on all those issues. But Cruz also had to address that weird back-and-forth with that Trump protester from earlier in the day.


CRUZ: You know, if I were Donald Trump, I wouldn't have walked across the street to talk to you. I wouldn't have shown you that respect because I said, listen, sir, I'm campaigning to be everyone's president.

SANDERS: It's really hard to see just how Ted Cruz becomes everyone's president. He's trailing Donald Trump in the polls. And it's now mathematically impossible for Cruz to win enough delegates to take the nomination in a first round of voting at the Republican Convention this summer. But Cruz told supporters last night there's still a way.


CRUZ: There are two and only two people that have any plausible path to winning the Republican nomination, me and Donald Trump.

SANDERS: If there's any path for Cruz, it surely requires a win for him in Indiana - at least.

MARTIN: That's NPR's Sam Sanders following Ted Cruz, while NPR's Don Gonyea has been on the trail with Donald Trump.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: On the eve of what he anticipates will be victory in Indiana, Donald Trump was greeted last night at the convention center in South Bend by several thousand supporters eager to see the larger-than-life front-runner for the nomination.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the next president of the United States, Mr. Donald J. Trump.

GONYEA: Trump did what he always does, cite polls showing him with a big lead.


DONALD TRUMP: I know so many people in Indiana. I think we're really doing well. That doesn't mean you don't go vote. You have to go vote tomorrow.

GONYEA: He says he's ready to put the primaries behind him and start going after Hillary Clinton. But Trump clearly isn't ready just yet to let go of his very personal battle with Sen. Ted Cruz, or as Trump refers to him...


TRUMP: We call him lying Ted. He lies. This guy lies. He's lying Ted. He's lying Ted, almost worse than the press - almost.

GONYEA: He repeatedly mocked his rival, calling him a liar or some variation of lying Ted two dozen times in all. Trump noted that he once had 16 challengers for the nomination. Now it's him and Cruz and way, way behind, Ohio Governor John Kasich.


TRUMP: They're hanging by their fingernails. You know, they're up there like this - they're hanging. They're hanging.

GONYEA: Then Trump switched to his platform, going through it almost greatest-hits style.


TRUMP: And we're going to knock the hell out of ISIS, just so you understand. We have no choice.


GONYEA: And he talked of building the wall he says Mexico will pay for. Even that brought him back to Cruz.


TRUMP: We are building the wall. But I got this guy Cruz - lying Ted - Donald Trump has said he is not going to build the wall. I think he's crazy. Honestly, I think he's crazy.

GONYEA: So Trump seems intent not just on winning but on delivering a humiliating blow to Cruz. Then he can look ahead.


TRUMP: And now the biggie is going to be Indiana because if we win in Indiana, it's over with, folks. It's over with. And then we focus on Hillary Clinton.


MARTIN: And NPR's Don Gonyea joins us now on the line from South Bend. Good Morning, Don.

GONYEA: Good morning.

MARTIN: So we heard Donald Trump say Indiana's the biggie. If he wins that state, it's over. Is that right?

GONYEA: We don't know what's going to happen in Indiana today. It's a conservative state. It's the kind of place Ted Cruz should do well. And he has been working it, working it hard. But here's the hard reality. The last time Cruz won a primary - Wisconsin four weeks ago. And that's when all the talk of a contested convention really accelerated.

But since then, Donald Trump has been on this winning streak six in a row by big margins. And he's really built up this full head of steam. And remember all of the talk of an open convention back then?


GONYEA: Back after Wisconsin? It looks like...

MARTIN: Is it slipping away?

GONYEA: It looks like hopeful thinking right now for those trying to stop it. And if Trump wins Indiana big, it doesn't officially lock it up, but we'll be saying he looks unstoppable.

MARTIN: Well, let's talk about Cruz because wasn't there this whole deal with the Kasich campaign to make Ted Cruz the lone challenger to Trump in Indiana, to try to consolidate the votes behind Cruz? Any chance that's going to work?

GONYEA: They had this arrangement. And it fizzled almost right off the bat. Yes, Kasich did pull out of Indiana, but then he said his supporters should still vote for him. There are several anti-Trump groups here. There's never Trump - I should say #NeverTrump. There's the Club for Growth. They're running adds.

So those voices are out there, but they don't have the kind of coordinated assault that they had in Wisconsin, which helped Cruz so much there. In Wisconsin, you had Talk Radio unified against Trump and the state's entire Republican establishment. Not so here in Indiana, so a Wisconsin repeat seems unlikely.

MARTIN: Real quick, Don, it all comes down to math. Just remind us, what's the score? What's the score for Trump in particular?

GONYEA: OK, so Trump needs 42 percent of all remaining delegates up for grabs to get the nomination before the convention. If he sweeps Indiana, he'll need just 36 percent the rest of the way. So the math is looking good for Donald Trump.

MARTIN: NPR's Don Gonyea in South Bend, Ind. Thanks, Don.

GONYEA: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Sam Sanders
Sam Sanders is a correspondent and host of It's Been a Minute with Sam Sanders at NPR. In the show, Sanders engages with journalists, actors, musicians, and listeners to gain the kind of understanding about news and popular culture that can only be reached through conversation. The podcast releases two episodes each week: a "deep dive" interview on Tuesdays, as well as a Friday wrap of the week's news.
You're most likely to find NPR's Don Gonyea on the road, in some battleground state looking for voters to sit with him at the local lunch spot, the VFW or union hall, at a campaign rally, or at their kitchen tables to tell him what's on their minds. Through countless such conversations over the course of the year, he gets a ground-level view of American elections. Gonyea is NPR's National Political Correspondent, a position he has held since 2010. His reports can be heard on all NPR News programs and at NPR.org. To hear his sound-rich stories is akin to riding in the passenger seat of his rental car, traveling through Iowa or South Carolina or Michigan or wherever, right along with him.

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