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Politics In The News: The Day Before Super Tuesday


So many states vote tomorrow that the winners can take huge steps towards the nomination. On Super Tuesday, a handful of Republicans will hope to blunt the momentum of Donald Trump. Democrat Bernie Sanders hopes to survive the gathering speed of Hillary Clinton. On Sunday, Clinton literally preached to the choir at the Greater Imani Church in Memphis, Tenn.


HILLARY CLINTON: I said last night that it may sound odd coming from someone running for president, but I think we need more love and kindness in America.


CLINTON: That should not be reserved for Sunday morning, pastor.

MONTAGNE: Here to talk through the race is Cokie Roberts, who joins us most Mondays, and NPR political editor Domenico Montanaro. Good morning.


COKIE ROBERTS, BYLINE: Good morning, Renee. Good morning, Domenico.

MONTANARO: Good morning, Cokie.

MONTAGNE: All right. Well, good morning to all. Cokie, let's start with you. Hillary Clinton won big in South Carolina on Saturday. Was that a preview?

ROBERTS: Probably. Her huge win was really among African-Americans, especially African-American women, who gave her close to 90 percent of their vote. And they turned out in enormous numbers. In fact, it was a higher percentage of black voters than showed up for Obama in '08. But she also did win the white vote, mainly because of white women because she lost white men by 14 points. But there're hardly any white men voting in the South Carolina Democratic primary, which is a problem for Democrats nationwide. But maybe even more important, as you just heard in that little clip of hers, since her victory in Nevada and even more so after Saturday night, she seems to have found a voice, a voice that connects with everyone but young white people, who still went for Sanders in a big way. And she's talking about making America whole again and breaking down barriers in answer to the Trump mantras of making America great again and building walls.

MONTAGNE: And Domenico, let me put this to you. Given the fact that several of the states voting tomorrow have similar demographics to South Carolina, how does Sanders make an impact and also get past Tuesday?

MONTANARO: Yeah, well, half a dozen states have significant African-American populations in the Democratic primaries and caucuses, especially with states in the South. Think about Alabama, Georgia, more than half the electorate again being African-American. You know, Bernie Sanders needs to win where he's expected to. Think about states like not only Minnesota, Vermont, Massachusetts - maybe even make some inroads in the caucus in Colorado and Oklahoma. I was crunching the numbers last night looking at is there any scenario in which Bernie Sanders could win Super Tuesday. And I came up with one where he wins by one delegate, you know, because his path is very narrow. I mean, where he's targeting right now only add up to about 288 delegates, as opposed where Clinton is targeting 571 delegates. So it's much tougher for Bernie Sanders. His campaign knows it and is expected to have not as good a day.

MONTAGNE: All right. Well, let's turn to the Republican side, obviously not just two candidates vying in the Republican side. Donald Trump, can he effectively close out the race tomorrow?

ROBERTS: Hard to see how he doesn't in a lot of ways. But, you know, the other candidates are not getting out. They're not going anywhere. And the Republican rules are that there's no winner-take-all until March 15, when Ohio and Florida vote. And everybody wants to stick around at least until then. Kasich gets - it's his home state of Ohio - Rubio, his home state of Florida. But Trump is doing better in the polls than he had been. Republicans for a long time were saying he couldn't break 30, 35 percent. There was still 65 percent of Republicans against him. He's now coming up. He did over 40 in Nevada. He's doing over 40 in the polls. And even though a lot of the party is against him, he's doing better.

MONTANARO: Yeah, and it's really amazing. I mean, Republicans are talking about the only way for Marco Rubio to win is if Trump does what's expected tomorrow, it could be at a contested convention, because there's no - it's a difficult path...

MONTAGNE: ...Really?

MONTANARO: Yeah. I mean, it's a difficult path for Marco Rubio unless he wins a lot of those big states - has to win Florida. He's got to win a bunch of other big winner-take-all states. We had Stuart Stephens, who ran Romney's campaign, on our special broadcast coverage on Saturday night for South Carolina. And he said, you know, this could come to a brokered convention if Rubio gets there. But the problem is there's no brokers.

ROBERTS: And the Trump people are now looking at convention rules to make sure that it's not taken away from him.


MONTAGNE: Well, you know, they, his opponents, are using everything they've got, ridicule, innuendo, from his playbook. But...

ROBERTS: ...Right.

MONTAGNE: ...Getting good bit of support from others in the Republican Party. Lots of talk about his taxes, for one thing. Here's Ted Cruz yesterday on ABC's "This Week."


TED CRUZ: I've released now nine years of taxes. Donald Trump has not released any of his tax information. He needs to release his tax information. And the fact that he's refusing to do so really suggests, as Mitt Romney pointed out, that there may be a bombshell.


ROBERTS: Ted Cruz...

MONTAGNE: ...Jump on in there.

ROBERTS: Cruz is, yeah - is going after everything. Look, all these candidates, Rubio, Cruz, they're just throwing anything at Trump they can think of and hoping that something sticks. The Republicans are just in total upset at the moment, except for one thing, Hillary Clinton. And they are very eager to defeat Hillary Clinton. And as much as they are upset about Donald Trump, they are likely in the end to get behind him if necessary because they so much want to make sure that they win this election.

MONTAGNE: Domenico?

MONTANARO: Well, it's interesting. Nothing has stuck so far. Also to note, on Super Tuesday, every Republican who's finished with the most delegates out of Super Tuesday since 1988 has gone on to win.

MONTAGNE: That's Domenico Montanaro. He is NPR's political editor. And Cokie Roberts joins us to talk politics most Mondays. Thank you both.

MONTANARO: Thank you.

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

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.
Domenico Montanaro is NPR's senior political editor/correspondent. Based in Washington, D.C., his work appears on air and online delivering analysis of the political climate in Washington and campaigns. He also helps edit political coverage.
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