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GOP Rivals Focus On Future Contests To Deny Donald Trump The Nomination


It's Tuesday, which means people are voting in primaries somewhere in the country. Today, five Northeastern states are picking between the five remaining presidential candidates, and we'll be talking about the Democrats elsewhere in the program. But we'll start with Republicans, and here to talk us through the state of that race - NPR reporter Asma Khalid - hey there, Asma...


CORNISH: ...And Sarah McCammon. Hey there, Sarah.


CORNISH: Sarah, I want to start with you. You're just outside of New York, and I under you've been following the Trump campaign this week. What does that campaign look like?

MCCAMMON: Well, Donald Trump is ahead in most of the polls in all five states. He's the front-runner looking to have another big night. But the other candidates, John Kasich and Ted Cruz, have a shot at getting some delegates as well.

Trump still won't have enough delegates at the end of the day to make that magic number of 1,237 to clinch the Republican nomination, but there is a good chance chance that both of his rivals will be mathematically eliminated. That means they couldn't mathematically get enough delegates to get the nomination on the first round of voting. Kasich's already there. Cruz may well be after tonight. The never-Trump movement is working, though, to make sure his path to the nomination is even more difficult.

CORNISH: Let's go back to that math for a second because the other two candidates, John Kasich and Ted Cruz, have essentially made a kind of non-compete agreement (laughter) in some states - right? - that come after today. What does that mean, and how is that affecting the Trump campaign?

MCCAMMON: Right. They've basically each agreed in a handful of states to stay out of each other's way in places where they think the other candidate has a chance of taking delegates away from Trump. So Cruz is getting out of the way, not campaigning in Oregon or New Mexico, letting Kasich make his play there, and Kasich is getting out of Cruz's way in Indiana.

This is a race to watch because polls suggest that Cruz is within a few points of Trump - single digits behind him, could possibly close that gap. And you know, Trump, though, has been mocking this. He - I was at an event last night in Pennsylvania where he called it sad, says both of them should just get out of the race. And Trump supporters think this is unfair and more dirty politics, as they call it.

CORNISH: Asma, I want to get into this more with you because you're in Indianapolis. What do voters there say about this pact?

KHALID: Well, Audie, the think to remember is that the delegates in Indiana have already been selected, and they align pretty staunchly against Trump. They're mostly John Kasich or Ted Cruz supporters. In terms of the voters, though, I sort of met a cross-section of people.

There was one guy in Southern Indiana that I had spoken to the other week, and he was torn between Cruz and Kasich. And he said after this sort of non-compete, he decided to go with Ted Cruz even though he has some reservations because he really wants to stop Donald Trump from getting the 1,237 delegates he needs in order to secure the nomination on the first ballot.

And the non-compete is kind of tricky to understand. I mean, Ted Cruz - he's holding a big rally tonight at a basketball gym in Indiana. But John Kasich - you know, even though he's not holding public events, he is also here in the state, and I was told that he's holding a fundraiser.

CORNISH: Meanwhile, what are they up against in terms of Trump support or in terms of the kind of stop-Trump movement in Indiana?

KHALID: There are ads showing that are part of the stop-Trump movement, but Donald Trump himself has also been airing a number of television ads across the state. And he has a fairly solid support base. I think one thing to remember also is that Indiana - it has a very large manufacturing sector. It's a sector that's sort of taken a beating, but it's still around here. And so there are many white, working-class voters that Trump seems to do fairly well with. And I think he has a natural support base.

The other thing is that the assumption that this Cruz and Kasich sort of non-competes would help Ted Cruz could possibly be a bit of a miscalculation. I spoke with one woman who really liked Governor Kasich, but she decided to go with Donald Trump. And so, you know, it's sort of tricky to see where all those votes may fall.

CORNISH: That's Asma Khalid speaking to us from Indianapolis. Thanks so much, Asma.

KHALID: You're welcome.

CORNISH: And Sarah McCammon - she's traveling with the Trump campaign. Thanks so much.

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

Asma Khalid is a White House correspondent for NPR. She also co-hosts The NPR Politics Podcast.
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.