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GOP Super Tuesday Field: Trump Wins 7 States, Cruz 3 And Rubio 1


Last night's Super Tuesday results were just one step in an epic story.


Donald Trump has added to his lead among Republican voters, defeating opponents who call him a bully and a fraud.

INSKEEP: NPR's Sue Davis, Susan Davis, is in our studios all morning.

Hi Sue.

SUSAN DAVIS, BYLINE: Good morning.

GREENE: And she is joined now by Jonah Goldberg from the National Review. Jonah, good morning.

JONAH GOLDBERG: Good morning.

INSKEEP: So let me ask you both. How would you sum up the Republican campaign so far in one sentence?

DAVIS: Donald Trump understands where the Republican electorate is better than any other candidate running.


GOLDBERG: Similarly, Donald Trump has taken advantage of an open revolt by Republicans against their own brand.

GREENE: Well, there you have it, and we're done. We can call it a day.


GREENE: Well, let's expand on those sentences in just a moment, but, let's recall now how exactly we got to this point. NPR's Sarah McCammon has been covering this campaign from its very early days.

SARAH MCCAMMON, BYLINE: At his waterfront club Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Fla., Donald Trump stood before a crowd of mostly reporters who'd gathered inside a baroque gold and white room. He took stock of his victories.


DONALD TRUMP: It's Georgia, Alabama, Massachusetts...


TRUMP: ...Tennessee.


MCCAMMON: No one could've imagined a night like this last June when the billionaire announced his candidacy at Trump Tower in New York.


TRUMP: The U.S. has become a dumping ground for everybody else's problems.

MCCAMMON: And there he brought up the issue that has become the focal point of his campaign - immigration, especially from Mexico.


TRUMP: They're bringing drugs, they're bringing crime, they're rapists, and some, I assume, are good people.

MCCAMMON: Trump's candidacy was largely laughed off, and that line was the first of many comments that pundits predicted would doom him. Last summer, in Iowa, after Senator John McCain criticized him, Trump hit back. He told pollster Frank Luntz he thought McCain was a loser.


TRUMP: He's not a war hero.

FRANK LUNTZ: He's a war hero.

TRUMP: He's a war hero...

LUNTZ: Five and a half years in the POW camp.

TRUMP: He's a war hero 'cause he was captured. I like people that weren't captured, OK? I hate to tell you.

MCCAMMON: There was that remark, and his feud with Fox News host Megyn Kelly, but none of it seemed to slow Trump down.


TRUMP: Unbelievable. Thank you.

MCCAMMON: Tapping into widespread frustration among voters, he kept drawing bigger crowds. At a stadium in Mobile, Ala., last August, the crowd size was estimated at 20,000 to 30,000.


TRUMP: You know, now I know how the great Billy Graham felt because this is the same feeling.

MCCAMMON: The mood of the campaign turned deadly serious after the terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif., last fall. Fears about ISIS led

Trump to this statement.


TRUMP: Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what the hell is going on.

MCCAMMON: Again and again, Trump's rivals denounced him as fostering hate and fear. They seemed to be in disbelief that he could actually win. After he was upset in Iowa by Texas Senator Ted Cruz and nearly overtaken there by Florida Senator Marco Rubio, it looked like there was a chance Trump could be thrown off course. But he bounced back with big wins in New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada. The attacks from the remaining candidates continue even after Trump's biggest night yet. Rubio and Cruz are still calling on Republicans to help take him down. As for Trump...


TRUMP: I am a unifier. I would love to see the Republican Party and everybody get together and unify. And when we unify, there is nobody - nobody that's going to beat us. Thank you very much.

MCCAMMON: But with every big win, mainstream Republicans seem more conflicted over whether they can still stop Trump or have to learn to accept him.

GREENE: That was NPR's Sarah McCammon in Palm Beach, Fla.

INSKEEP: NPR's Sue Davis and Jonah Goldberg of National Review are still with us, and Jonah, I have to ask - your magazine devoted an entire issue to attacking Trump and saying he shouldn't be the nominee, that he must be stopped. How's that working out for you?

GOLDBERG: We're all very proud of it, but I don't think that anyone would say it had the desired effect we were hoping for.

INSKEEP: Why do you think it has not? Plenty of people have criticized this guy, and doesn't seem to stop him.

GOLDBERG: Because well, I mean, there are some structural reasons. When you have a 16-man race, all - if you get the biggest slice of the pie, you win, and that's what's been going on, this sort of collective action problem. But also because a lot of sort of populist, anti-establishment rhetoric from both talk radio, cable news and also people like Ted Cruz and other politicians, has turned off vast swaths of the Republican electorate from arguments about illogical principle and that sort of thing, and they're just very angry and they want someone who knows how to channel their anger, and Donald Trump has been very good at that.

GREENE: Susan Davis, if this were any other front-runner and we were looking at the race where it stands today, would the conversation be different? Would this thing be sort of considered over?

DAVIS: Right, if John Kasich and Donald Trump were reversed in the results last night, I think we would. I mean, part of what you're seeing is - reason why you hear so much reluctance from party leaders to call Donald Trump what he is, the front-runner for the Republican nomination. And there is a lot of angst and a doubt about whether he can win, which is the argument for why Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio are not getting out. If it was a more - we'll use shorthand - establishment-friendly front-runner, it would make their case for staying in a lot harder.

INSKEEP: Well, let me ask something to Jonah Goldberg here. You said that this is Donald Trump taking advantage of a rebellion among Republican voters against their party's own brand. And you just said something else about voters being turned off from a debate about conservative principles. Now, you don't mean turned off, they stay home. They're actually coming out in huge numbers. What you mean is a lot of people who consider themselves Republicans are actually turning against traditional conservatives, movement conservatives, economic conservatives. They don't like what they've been sold by their own party.

GOLDBERG: I think that's largely the case. You have in Donald Trump somebody who is just simply an outsider. He's going to smash the existing system. When people get upset about how he says things that are offensive or not politically correct or whatever, people don't see that - don't hear it as offensive. They hear it as he's not playing the same game as everybody else. One place I want to dissent a little bit from Susan about this is that it's not just that a lot of people think he can't win, it's that a lot of people on the right believe that he will be actually a huge victory for liberalism if he wins the presidency because he's in favor of all sorts of ideological heresies on the right - you know, on sort of single-payer health care, on trade protectionism - and if he's - and you hear him last night talking - singing praises about Planned Parenthood. And in many ways, the fear is is that he will basically make a lot of assumptions about the role of government bipartisan and there are some conservatives - even if you think he could win, we're sort of still in the never-Trump camp.

INSKEEP: Sue Davis?

DAVIS: Jonah's right. I would say that what's interesting to me is that Trump is redefining the Republican coalition too. I mean, look at last night. He's winning secular Massachusetts and evangelical Alabama. He is straddling the wings of the party in a way like no one else has. And Trump has to be given credit where it's due. Turnout was higher in every state except Vermont last night for Republicans than it was in 2008. I mean, he is energizing and mobilizing Republican voters. And what's been so striking is a lot of these conservative base voters that were always litmus-test kind of voters are getting behind Trump. So he's challenging with our assumptions of what a conservative voter is.

GOLDBERG: He's also turning out anti-Trump voters.


GREENE: Beyond sort of bringing people together as you are suggesting, I mean, are there issues or something we can say about what Republicans want right now? You started to sort of talk about this, Sue, when we asked you for that one sentence at the top, that he understands better than anyone where the Republican electorate is. Where is the Republican electorate?

DAVIS: Well, he understood that not only do Republicans reject Barack Obama and the politics of Barack Obama, but they reject the politics of their party leaders and the party establishment. I mean, Ted Cruz had a good argument going into this race that he was an outsider, but even next to Donald Trump, he looks like a party insider. And the traditional base voter is as angry at the Republican establishment in some ways as they are against liberals.

INSKEEP: Let me ask you both - suppose Trump manages to go on to win, which is not certain at this point, we should mention. He's not getting a majority of convention delegates so far. He has multiple opponents who have millions of dollars. There's a lot of fighting to go. But suppose he goes on. Does victory solve everything for him because Republicans just want to win and even Republican elites want to be in a Republican administration, they don't want to see a Democratic administration?

DAVIS: I think you will see Republicans rally behind Donald Trump if he is the nominee. You know, I cover Congress, I've talked to a lot of members of Congress. I've only spoken to two that say they won't support him if he's the nominee. The party will get in line.

INSKEEP: Talk to me, Jonah.

GOLDBERG: I'm more skeptical about that. I certainly think - I certainly think a lot of the quislings on Capitol Hill will get in line, but you also see someone like Ben Sasse who says no, never, I'll go third party.

INSKEEP: Nebraska senator.

GOLDBERG: Nebraska senator. And if you just look at where the opposition to Trump is, if even 10 percent, 15 percent of Republicans - and I think the number's probably higher than that - just simply say, I'm never going to vote for that guy or I'm going to vote third party, it's difficult to see how Donald Trump wins. If he does win without those people then it's a completely new Republican Party.

INSKEEP: In 20 seconds or 30 seconds, can you sketch out a path for anybody else to win? Ted Cruz, who had three states last night? Marco Rubio, who finally had a state?

GOLDBERG: The only path to victory is at the convention, which means it is going to be a mess no matter what.

GREENE: Which would basically risk upending the will of Republican voters, in a way, if the party decides to...

GOLDBERG: Oh yeah, there's no way to end this without tears in some constituency.

DAVIS: Or civil war.

INSKEEP: Well, there's a word to end on - or, phrase to end on.

GOLDBERG: (Laughter).

That's NPR Congressional Correspondent Susan Davis.

Sue, thanks very much.

DAVIS: Thank you.

INSKEEP: We'll be talking to you a little bit later. Go ahead, take a sip of that coffee.


GREENE: We all need it, we all need it.

INSKEEP: And Jonah Goldberg, senior editor of National Review - for the moment, anyway, soldiering on.

Jonah, thanks very much.

GOLDBERG: Thank you.

GREENE: Thank you both. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Susan Davis is a congressional correspondent for NPR and a co-host of the NPR Politics Podcast. She has covered Congress, elections, and national politics since 2002 for publications including USA TODAY, The Wall Street Journal, National Journal and Roll Call. She appears regularly on television and radio outlets to discuss congressional and national politics, and she is a contributor on PBS's Washington Week with Robert Costa. She is a graduate of American University in Washington, D.C., and a Philadelphia native.
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.
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