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Were Chicago Clashes A Result Of Trump's Campaigning Spirit?


And we're joined now by NPR's senior editor and correspondent, Ron Elving. Hey, Ron.

RON ELVING, BYLINE: Hello, Melissa.

BLOCK: And you've been watching Donald Trump this morning at his rally in Dayton. He's been defending himself and his supporters against what happened last night in Chicago. What has he had to say?

ELVING: As we heard, he's been blaming the violent scuffles at the rally in Chicago last night on the protesters, you know, calling them professionally staged, organized wise guys. He also said that he does not condone any violence and does not encourage it at his rallies. But he also spent quite a bit of time this morning going after all the other candidates for president who have been criticizing the mood at Donald Trump's rallies. Here's some of what he said this morning.


DONALD TRUMP: But they said just as I was coming and I'm watching and watching the news and they said, well, at our rallies, we would never have it anything like that. They don't have any people at their rallies, folks. There's nobody there. Nobody cares.

ELVING: So Donald Trump is saying essentially that he's the man responsible for the energy in the Republican Party right now. He's the man who's responsible for increased turnout in Republican primaries, and it has been at record levels. And he's the man carrying - well, he's the man being carried on the shoulders of the angry crowd.

BLOCK: But what about Donald Trump's rivals? What else have they been saying in reaction to what's been going on here?

ELVING: They are all out there in both parties with much to say about Donald Trump and what happened last night. But let's start with Ohio Governor John Kasich there in his home state. And he was speaking this morning. Here's a little of what he had to say.


JOHN KASICH: Donald Trump has created a toxic environment. And a toxic environment has allowed his supporters and those who sometimes seek confrontation to come together in violence. There is no place for this.

ELVING: That phrase there is no place for this figured in Hillary Clinton's reaction as well. Marco Rubio on CNN this morning said he's finding it harder and harder every day to pledge to back Trump if he's the eventual nominee, although he hasn't come right out and said he's going to break his pledge to back whoever the Republican nominee is. Here's some of Ted Cruz's reaction. He said when you have a campaign that disrespects the voters that affirmatively encourages violence, you create an environment that only encourages this sort of nasty discourse. And of course Bernie Sanders was in the Chicago area last night speaking out about this, blaming the incitement to violence that's in Trump's own speeches for what happened.

BLOCK: And you mentioned earlier, Ron, that Donald Trump's line is that he doesn't condone violence. But of course there have been numerous examples at his rallies where he has used language, fiery rhetoric, that many say is bringing on exactly the kinds of incidents like we saw in Chicago.

ELVING: Yes, it has been building up. There was a major disturbance earlier in the day that didn't get nearly as much attention in St. Louis, but there were more than 30 arrests made there. So we're clearly into the next phase of something and quite possibly not the last phase of it. We've seen protesters escorted out of Trump rallies for months. It almost became theatrical, part of the regular script. At some point, a protester would appear, shout, could barely be heard, then the crowd would start to chant U.S.A., U.S.A., and Trump would say get him out. And in fact, there was a moment this morning just outside of Dayton at that airport where he had said something very similar - just about one or two people who were holding up signs - get him out of here, get him the hell out of here. And at one point in one of his rallies he said knock the crap out of them. I promise you I will pay the legal fees. I promise you.

BLOCK: And remembering the good old days when protesters would be carried out on a stretcher I believe were his words. Big question here, Ron, is how much of an impact any of this might have on Donald Trump heading into Tuesday's primaries.

ELVING: You know, it's hard to imagine it won't have an impact, but it's trickier to say just exactly what impact it's going to have. There will be those who see these videos and see all this coverage on television, and they will decide that the whole Trump phenomenon that we've been seeing for the past year has gotten out of control. There will be those who see these same coverages on television and think the country needs Donald Trump more than ever.

BLOCK: OK, NPR's Ron Elving. Ron, thanks so much.

ELVING: Thank you, Melissa. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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