Polls Begin To Close In Ohio, North Carolina Primary Contests
ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
It's another big day in the presidential race. More than a thousand delegates are at stake in the biggest day of voting since Super Tuesday. Five big states are voting, and polls have just closed in North Carolina and Ohio. With us to talk about the results is NPR senior Washington editor Ron Elving. Hello, again, Ron.
RON ELVING, BYLINE: Good to be with you, Ari.
SHAPIRO: What can you tell us about result so far?
ELVING: We don't have anything from North Carolina or Ohio. The...
SHAPIRO: OK, moving on (laughter).
ELVING: ...Polls are closed. However, we do have a trickle of information that's really turning into a good deal more than that from the state of Florida. Now, they closed the polls at 7 there. But some of the state is in the Eastern daylight time zone, and also, part of it is in the Central daylight time zone. We don't announce any results from Florida. We haven't called any kind of a race in Florida.
But we do have about 50 percent of the vote in in both parties, and in the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton is leading Bernie Sanders by about 2 to 1 with about half the vote in. And that would tend to corroborate what the polls had been showing us. And on the Republican side, we have Donald Trump with a little less than half the vote. And Marco Rubio - of course, he is the senator from Florida - with about a quarter of the vote.
Now, this is, of course, partial. It's only about half the vote in thus far. It probably takes in primarily votes that were cast early, so that might not be borne out in the results of people who voted today. But this is certainly an indication of how things are going in Florida, and we would expect to be making a call in at least one of those two parties, if not both, at 8 o'clock.
SHAPIRO: Of course, this is a winner-take-all state for Republicans, not for Democrats, and it's a state where Marco Rubio has really staked his campaign. It is his home state. He's a senator from there, but he hasn't led in a poll there perhaps in months.
ELVING: No, he has not, and Donald Trump has. And those 99 delegates, at this point, if they do not go to Marco Rubio, would not only pad Donald Trump's lead, but they would also strongly question Marco Rubio's ability to go on. If he can't win in his home state, will his fundraising continue? Will it make sense for him to go forward? Would there be other states where he would likely do better than in his home state?
SHAPIRO: Well, two of our colleagues are in Florida tonight. NPR's Sarah McCammon is with the Trump campaign, and Tamara Keith is with the Clinton campaign. And Tam, let's start with you. This is not the first primary night that Clinton has spent in Florida, but this time, Florida is actually voting. What is she hoping for from the state?
TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Here's what I think is really interesting. As I was walking in, the Clinton campaign had volunteers getting people to give their email addresses and phone numbers and all of that. They've already voted. The Clinton campaign is using this event tonight to organize for the general election. And you get the sense that Hillary Clinton wants to make that pivot. She wants to start going after Donald Trump. Why else did she come to his backyard to hold her election night event? So I think that it's interesting. Though the question becomes, is she trying to pivot too soon? And the results in the Midwest will give us a sense of that.
SHAPIRO: Well, right. She would like to pivot, but last week, Bernie Sanders came from behind to stage this surprise win in Michigan. And tonight, we're going to see results from Illinois, Ohio, Missouri, states where the demographics are not all that different from Michigan.
KEITH: Exactly. And there's, you know, a resistance to the trade deals that Hillary Clinton, at least on some levels, supported at some point. And so her campaign has been lowering expectations for the Midwest.
There's a real sense that Bernie Sanders could do quite well in Missouri, in Illinois, even possibly in Ohio. The thing about the Democratic race and about both races is it's about delegates. And Democrats award those delegates on a proportional basis. So its not winner-take-all. And that means that winning by a bigger share of the vote is more important than just winning period. And Clinton looks, at this point, to be winning Florida, which is the largest delegate prize of the night, by a substantial margin, which will help pad her delegate totals and compensate for any losses that could happen in the Midwest.
SHAPIRO: This is the conversation we've been having and will likely have more in the weeks to come 'cause when you look at the Democratic race, do you talk about math and the delegate advantage? Hillary Clinton came out of last Tuesday with a wider lead in delegates. Or do you talk about narrative and the fact that Bernie Sanders came from behind to win Michigan and outperform expectations? These are the two stories that the Sanders camp and the Clinton camp are fighting over.
KEITH: Oh, absolutely because those are the two stories that work in their favor. At the moment, Hillary Clinton is not having a great week in terms of narrative. But in terms of math, she's doing just fine. Bernie Sanders has the good story on his side. He has the energy, the narrative. He has the big crowds. But he has a math problem, and we're going to be talking about this, I would bet, all the way through June.
SHAPIRO: Let's turn now to NPR's Sarah McCammon, who is also in Florida at Trump headquarters at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach. And Sarah, what is Donald Trump hoping for this evening?
SARAH MCCAMMON, BYLINE: Well, he's hoping to win both Ohio and Florida, which are winner-take-all states. And especially in Ohio, that's the biggest question. It sounds like the results are tight right now. And you know, in Florida, though, he's had a clear lead in the polls for a long time. It looks like so far, those early returns are bearing that out.
You know, he wants to knock out Marco Rubio for good, and he hopes to beat Governor John Kasich in his home state of Ohio. We will see what the results say. You know, in Tampa yesterday, at a town hall, Trump said, you know, I know we're going to win Florida; I hope we're going to win Ohio, and I'd like to move on. He too is trying to pivot to the general election. He says he wants to take on Hillary Clinton and stop fighting amongst themselves.
Now, this is - of course, this is the same time that Trump is seeing more and more protests at his rallies, some of which have turned violent.
SHAPIRO: Yeah. Talk about the violence and the impact that that has had on shaping the Republican race, especially over the last week. Friday night, Trump canceled this rally in Chicago out of safety concerns. What are the ripples of this?
MCCAMMON: So there have been a series of incidents, including an event in North Carolina last week where a white Trump supporter punched an African-American protester. He's been, you know, charged with that - with an offense for that. And you know, Trump came out afterwards and said he would consider paying the man's legal fees.
Statement like that and others, you know, saying things like, in the good old days, protesters were carried out on stretchers, have brought him a lot of criticism from his opponents for the Republican nomination. John Kasich, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz have all, you know, in recent days, come out and said that Donald Trump is responsible for the tone he creates at his rallies and that the things he's saying are encouraging this kind of activity. And certainly as it's escalated just heading into this important day, we've seen more of those attacks from his opponents. You know, we will see whether or not any of this hurts Donald Trump, you know, at the polls.
SHAPIRO: Finally, Sarah, we've talked about how important Florida is for Marco Rubio tonight. How important is Ohio for John Kasich tonight?
MCCAMMON: There must-wins, really, for both of them. You know, it looks like John Kasich - he's been fighting a tough battle there against Trump. He's had some - he's pulled ahead in the polls, but we're going to see whether that bears out, you know, with the votes.
But either of them, without winning their home state, it's hard to see how they have a path forward. And if Trump wins, his lead becomes more or less insurmountable. It would - you know, if he wins both Ohio and Florida, it would push him above 600 delegates. It takes a little more than 1,200 to win the nomination. So that's a good way toward that number.
SHAPIRO: That's NPR's Sarah McCammon and Tamara Keith in Florida. And back here in the studio, Ron Elving, just briefly - it sounds like tonight really could cement Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton's position as frontrunner or keep this going a whole lot longer depending how things pan out.
ELVING: That is exactly right. And right now, I think we have to say that the early results from the Eastern Seaboard have been good for Trump and Clinton just in the vote counts that we're seeing thus far from Florida and North Carolina. We are not calling either of those states. But just looking at the vote count, it is going as the polls had gone, and that is good news for Clinton and Trump. But we don't know yet about Ohio, which is going to be the tough one to call, and those candidates might have a different story when we get to Illinois and Missouri.
SHAPIRO: NPR's Ron Elving - lots more to come on this primary night. You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.