An election worker checks in a voter during Missouri primary voting at the First Baptist Church of Ferguson on March 15 in Ferguson, Missouri.

An election worker checks in a voter during Missouri primary voting at the First Baptist Church of Ferguson on March 15 in Ferguson, Missouri.

Voters went to the polls in five states yesterday with more than 1,000 delegates at stake in both parties. Republican frontrunner Donald Trump won three contests, including Florida, where he took home all 99 delegates. Trump’s victory there led Senator Marco Rubio to drop out of the race. But in Ohio, Governor John Kasich won his home state, complicating Trump’s path to the nomination. On the Democratic side, it was a big night for Hillary Clinton – she won four out of five states, including a close contest in Illinois. She now has a significant delegate lead over Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. Diane and guests discuss Super Tuesday results and what they mean for the presidential nomination race in both parties.

Guests

  • Ron Elving Senior Washington editor, NPR News
  • Susan Page Washington bureau chief, USA Today
  • Alexander Burns Political correspondent, The New York Times

Transcript

  • 10:06:53

    MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Primaries were held yesterday in five states from Florida to Ohio. Republican frontrunner Donald Trump won three contests, including Florida, but lost to John Kasich in Ohio. In the Democratic race, Hillary Clinton dominated, winning four of five states and widening her delegate lead over Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. The state of Missouri remains too close to call for both parties.

  • 10:07:29

    MS. DIANE REHMJoining me in the studio to talk about Super Tuesday results and implications for the remainder of the presidential nominating race, Ron Elving of NPR, Susan Page of USA Today and Alex Burns of the New York Times. Give us a call throughout the hour, 800-433-8850. Send us your email to drshow@wamu.org. Follow us on Facebook or send us a tweet. Well, it's good to see all of you.

  • 10:08:04

    MS. SUSAN PAGEGood morning.

  • 10:08:05

    MR. RON ELVINGGood to be with you, Diane.

  • 10:08:05

    MR. ALEXANDER BURNSGood morning.

  • 10:08:06

    REHMAnd Susan, how decisive a day was yesterday?

  • 10:08:11

    PAGEYou know, I think it really solidified the position of the two frontrunners. It means that Hillary Clinton is almost assuredly going to be the Democratic nominee. She's built a significant lead now among both pledge delegates and you add in those super delegates and she is very well on her way. It would be difficult, not impossible, but difficult for Bernie Sander to catch up with her.

  • 10:08:34

    PAGEAnd on the Republican side, a very good night for Donald Trump. He won at least three and possibly four of the five contests. He only definitely lost Ohio to John Kasich. You can even make the case that that's good for Donald Trump because it keeps John Kasich in the race. It keeps it a three-way race. It keeps Ted Cruz, the Texas senator, from having the two-way contest he had hoped to have.

  • 10:08:58

    PAGEI think it's gonna be difficult to deny Donald Trump the Republican nomination.

  • 10:09:02

    REHMAlex Burns.

  • 10:09:04

    BURNSOh, I would mostly agree with what Susan just said. I do think that what we saw, certainly on the Republican side, last night, was Donald Trump maintaining his clear upper hand in the race, but maybe a wider opportunity for the Republican establishment to try to force this thing into an open convention, that taking those 66 delegates of the table in Ohio was a really, really big deal. If Trump had won both Ohio and Florida, I think you'd be hearing a lot of just sort of resignation and, frankly, despair in the party today.

  • 10:09:37

    BURNSThe fact that he did not win Ohio, there clearly is a way for Cruz and perhaps Cruz and Kasich to kind of join forces and peel off the delegate required to block Donald Trump from claiming the nomination outright. It's not clear what happens after that point, though.

  • 10:09:55

    REHMDo you see an open convention coming?

  • 10:09:59

    ELVINGIt's highly likely, but it's probably not going to have to happen that way. In other words, if there had been something of a different result yesterday, we could've said for certain we were headed toward and open convention and I think a lot of people have been leaning in that direction. But let's put it this way. If Donald Trump can continue the magnetism that he has had, particularly with regard to a certain segment of the Republican party, if that continues, if nothing happens to derail the Trump Express, shall we say, he is going to get a share of the vote of every candidate who has dropped out.

  • 10:10:35

    ELVINGAnd that's been the pattern. Now, he hasn't been getting over 50 percent because it's been such a big field. We will see if, with Kasich in the race and with Cruz in the race, they continue to divide the anti-Trump vote, which would seem probable, in which case Donald Trump is going to continue to win. If he continues to win, somewhere around the first week of June when we get California, the big Kahuna, and we get New Jersey and we get a number of other states that day, he will have 1237 delegates and that will be that.

  • 10:11:05

    PAGELet me disagree, I guess, a little with Alex, which is dangerous because he knows so much and is so smart, but I don't think we're going to have an open convention. I think that Donald Trump is on his way to getting a majority of convention delegates. Look at the victory he had last night, 46 percent in Florida against Florida's senator, having pushed Florida's former governor out of the race.

  • 10:11:26

    PAGE39 percent victory in Illinois, Midwestern state, 40 percent in North Carolina, a southern state. The Florida victory, in particular, that's a big diverse state. It's a state where the anti-Trump forces spent millions of dollars in anti-Trump TV ads. They didn't have an effect.

  • 10:11:43

    REHMAlex, do you want to amend your statement?

  • 10:11:47

    BURNSI don't. I mean, I think that Susan is -- I mean, I agree with everything she says sort of factually and I think that the odds -- look, even Republicans who think that they can keep Trump just short of the 1237 delegates he needs to win the nomination, they're not necessarily super optimistic about then being able to beat him in a floor fight if he's only 20 or 30 delegates short. But, you know, as commanding as Trump's victory margins looked in a couple of these states, historically this is pretty remarkably weak for a presidential frontrunner.

  • 10:12:17

    BURNSThat the fact is that at this point in 2012 and 2008, Mitt Romney and John McCain had much clearer delegate leads and were winning much bigger percentages of the party. You do see these signs of sort of underlining weakness in some of these numbers where, Diane, in none of the five states that voted last night did a majority of Republican primary voters say in exit polls that Donald Trump was honest and trustworthy.

  • 10:12:42

    BURNSThat's a huge deal and at least leaves a path for a case to continue to be made in a way that there really wasn't against Romney and McCain the last couple times around.

  • 10:12:53

    ELVINGYes, well, honest and trustworthy is getting to be the highest hurdle that there is in American politics. You're not going to find that many people who are doing that great on that figure. I know that Bernie Sanders is, by the way. I know that Bernie Sanders does well on that measure. But among the people who have been doing the best in the actual voting, that trust and honest thing does not work out quite so well.

  • 10:13:13

    ELVINGBut let me just say, real quickly, if something should go wrong with the Donald Trump experience, then he can still be the victim of an anti movement and anyone but Donald movement that could open the convention. But he's the only person who has any kind of a realistic chance of getting to 1237 and there is a great body of opinion within the party that thinks the very worst possible scenario is an open warfare convention.

  • 10:13:38

    ELVINGThat would be even worse than Donald Trump being the nominee.

  • 10:13:41

    REHMOn the other hand, how much does Kasich's win in Ohio affect people's thinking about what could come next?

  • 10:13:53

    PAGEYou know, it keeps somebody -- it keeps a candidate in the mix who is acceptable to the people who used to control the Republican party, you know, people who would like somebody with some experience, who has experience on economic policy and foreign policy, who has a pretty upbeat message and has been pretty inclusive as a leader in Ohio, for example, with the Medicaid expansion, which has given him a little trouble in the primaries.

  • 10:14:16

    PAGEBut I think it is -- I am skeptical that John Kasich, in the end, will be eligible for a nomination at the convention. You know, the convention rules require that you win a majority of delegates in eight states. The only person who now has that standing is Donald Trump who got it last night. I think it's possible Cruz will end up getting it. I don't see where the eight states are that enables John Kasich to have his name put in nomination at the convention.

  • 10:14:40

    REHMAlex, tell me why Marco Rubio could not win his own home state.

  • 10:14:50

    BURNSWell, Diane, I think there are a couple big reasons that contributed to it. I think the largest is simply that, you know, Rubio was always, in a lot of ways, more of a national figure than a Florida figure. This is a guy, if you can believe it, because he did assume these kind of mythic proportions in our sort of political discourse, this is a guy who had previously faced only one statewide election in Florida in 2010 and it was a Republican wave year.

  • 10:15:16

    BURNSSo you never saw Rubio fight the kind of really, really tough race that, for example, John Kasich did several times in Ohio. This is not a guy with sort of, you know, deep roots and a high profile going back decades. On top of that, just the fundamentals of Florida are really, really good for a candidate who looks like Donald Trump. It is far, far too big a state for retail campaigning to matter. It is not a state where shaking hands and holding town hall meetings has ever really made a big difference.

  • 10:15:43

    BURNSIt is a media-driven state and Donald Trump is the media-driven candidate.

  • 10:15:48

    REHMSo...

  • 10:15:49

    ELVINGThat's all true and Marco Rubio probably was a legend in our own minds to some degree because on paper, he looked like the perfect person to heal the Republican party and its severe lack of appeal to Hispanics in the last cycle and possibly in this cycle. So he was there to do that, plus he's great on stage in many contexts. Not every context and he did have a bad failing in terms of this tactics in that one debate where he decided to get down in the gutter with Trump.

  • 10:16:18

    ELVINGBut up until then, he had been oftentimes magical on stage and done himself some good. He also had a bad outing against Chris Christie up in New Hampshire. But he was, generally speaking, doing very well as both a retail candidate and as a media candidate and did hold out this sort of great Hispanic hope for the Republican party's healing.

  • 10:16:38

    PAGEYou know what the lesson is, it's that running for president is really hard. And you can be a great politician...

  • 10:16:43

    REHMYou bet.

  • 10:16:43

    PAGE...in your state and it'd be hard for you to prevail in a presidential race. I mean, look at Scott Walker who, I think, six months ago, we would've said, man, that guy is really a contender for the nomination. He was out in September. He didn't even make it to 2016. So it gives you some respect, I think, for all of the candidates who have made it this far because you have really had to prove yourself on the debate stage, in town halls campaigning with people, making a connection to get this far.

  • 10:17:09

    ELVINGLet's make one other point about the number of people who did make it this far and it was an unusually large number. We started with 17. 17.

  • 10:17:16

    REHMGosh.

  • 10:17:16

    ELVINGTwo tiers. Remember we used to have a kiddy table debate.

  • 10:17:19

    REHMReally, yeah.

  • 10:17:21

    ELVINGAnd all of those candidates, many of those candidates, made it into the actual voting rounds in Iowa and New Hampshire partly because despite the great cost of campaigning in our time, we also have a lot of folks who were getting interested in giving large amounts of money in our time and the rules are different from what they used to be and it's possible to finance your campaign in two tiers.

  • 10:17:40

    ELVINGSo we had people who were taking money under the old rules in one system and then under PAC rules in the other system so a lot more people could stay in. That's a big reason why Donald Trump has not been getting to 50 percent.

  • 10:17:50

    REHMRon Elving, senior Washington editor for NPR News. Short break here. Your calls, comments when we come back. Stay with us.

  • 10:20:00

    REHMAnd of course your emails, your phone calls always an important part of the program. Here's an email from Mike in Michigan, where, by the way, I'm heading tomorrow. Your panelists are once again dancing around the argument that a majority of Republican voters are voting against Donald Trump. Following that logic, vast supermajorities are voting against the remaining candidates. Trump is winning, whether we like it or not. And Mike puts in parentheses, I certainly don't. Alex, how do you see it?

  • 10:20:46

    BURNSOh, Mike has a great point, that -- and it's a point that Trump makes on every election night, that this idea that he's a weak candidate, look at the other guys. But look, I also think that the sort of top-line number on the number of people voting for Trump, it's not necessarily overwhelmingly convincing. The reality is that he is the defining, overpowering personality in the race, and so I think it's fair to see the breakdown of the vote as a referendum on Trump in a way that it simply isn't a referendum on John Kasich.

  • 10:21:20

    BURNSI think you can look at Ted Cruz and John Kasich, as well, and say there are clear limitations to their support, these are two guys who have not, you know, caught fire or broken out in a really, really big way. But look, we're kidding ourselves if we're -- if we see the Republican race as anything much more complicated than a decision of are you for or against Donald Trump.

  • 10:21:40

    PAGEYou know, Mike really points of a big problem for Donald Trump, which is the antipathy that many in the GOP, Republican primary voters, have toward him. In the exit polls that were taken last night in the five states, about a third of Republicans, people who voted in Republican primaries, said they would consider a third-party candidate if it was a Trump-versus-Clinton race.

  • 10:22:01

    PAGEAnd you contrast that with the situation the Democrats face. Now, the Democratic Party is split, and there are people who very fervently support Bernie Sanders or very fervently support Hillary Clinton, but they -- those two candidates are generally acceptable to Democratic primary voters. If their candidate doesn't win, they say they will still vote for the other person.

  • 10:22:19

    REHMSusan, what does Kasich's win and Trump's loss in Ohio signal?

  • 10:22:27

    PAGEI think it -- I think there's a potential for a big problem for Donald Trump in a general election in Ohio. And we know -- we all know this fun fact that no Republican has ever won the White House without carrying Ohio. It's always one of the big swing states. But in the exit polls in Ohio yesterday, the proportion of people in the Republican -- who voted in the Republican primary who found Trump unacceptable was higher than anyplace else. Forty-four percent of people who voted in the Republican primary in Ohio yesterday said they would consider a third-party candidate if it was a Trump-versus-Clinton race in November.

  • 10:22:59

    REHMAll right, here's another email from Tanner. What is the reason for not having all the precincts in for Missouri? We were talking about this during the break. Tanner goes on to say, I looked on my own and say that three precincts in the Kansas City area have yet to report, Ron Elving.

  • 10:23:22

    ELVINGThere are -- there probably must be some kind of ballot box problems there in Jackson County, in Kansas City, or something of that nature. To some degree this -- you know, all precincts kind of reporting kind of measure is always a little bit notional because 99 percent of the time it doesn't really matter if somebody's ballot box didn't show up or if there's some sort of a dispute about it, and you've got just a handful of votes out.

  • 10:23:48

    ELVINGBut here we have both the Democratic and the Republican side being determined by fewer than 2,000 votes, less than two-tenths of one percent. It's not probably, in the end, crucial for anybody, although there is a little bit of a bump in delegates for winning statewide, but they are dividing the delegates in both states. So it's not like somebody's walking away with winner take all. But they're going to have to resolve this at some point.

  • 10:24:13

    ELVINGAnd in all likelihood, we have apparent winners based on what we do know, and it's going to have to be a truly magic box out of those three precincts if it's going to overturn the results in either party.

  • 10:24:22

    REHMSusan?

  • 10:24:24

    PAGEBut, you know, these are results that break the hearts of candidates the next morning. I mean, like Ted Cruz, he spent some time campaigning in Florida and Ohio, winner-take-all states. He was never going to win there. What if he had spent an extra day in Missouri? He's only down by about 1,700 or 1,800 votes there. Could that have meant he had a victory last night instead of a really close loss?

  • 10:24:45

    ELVINGThat would've been a lot more fun to talk about it.

  • 10:24:48

    REHMAnd one last email from Christine. She says, Trump is a self-professed dealmaker. Even if he has the delegates to win the nomination, is there a deal he might strike with the Republican National Committee to throw his support to someone else? What might he want, Alex?

  • 10:25:15

    BURNSOh, I think the short answer to that one is no. The more sort of -- he wants the nomination. He wants to be the president of the United States. The more sort of interesting scenario is if he is just short of that majority, could he persuade someone like a John Kasich or one of the candidates who is no longer in the race but still is holding on to some delegates to join his ticket and just lock this down. That's kind of the scenario the establishment would fear as much as anything, really, a world where, you know, Trump is not only securing the nomination for himself but sort of by virtue of striking a deal has a credible running mate from a more mainstream wing of the party, somebody who would ordinarily probably not allow themselves to be co-opted.

  • 10:26:00

    REHMAlex, I think the long answer to Christine's question is also no. All right.

  • 10:26:06

    ELVINGWell, Alex has a great point, too, about Kasich and the vice presidency because as we've already noted, Ohio is the ultimate swing state. It's the one you want right after Florida, and Donald Trump is certainly going to think that he will win Florida, just on the basis of everyone wanting to go stay at Mar-a-Lago. So he then has to think about Ohio, and gee, here's John Kasich, and while he has said some things about Donald Trump, they haven't been nearly as nasty as the things that would be on the records of those who are other prospective vice presidents.

  • 10:26:34

    REHMAll right, let's go to Clearwater, Florida, and to Sean. You're on the air.

  • 10:26:39

    SEANHi, thanks for taking my call.

  • 10:26:40

    REHMSure.

  • 10:26:42

    SEANI voted last night, and I'm a registered Republican. I voted for Donald Trump. I don't believe in Trump. I don't believe in any of the hype over Trump. I think he's a tool. And I'm sure going to use that tool because I want the Republican Party to split. I encourage it. I think that the country would benefit from a three-party system, and I'm just so disheartened by where the Republican Party has gone, where they just pander. I mean, it's just so much pandering to uneducated people, to people that call themselves true Americans that are upset, I understand where the country is at, and if you don't have a job, you're upset about that.

  • 10:27:16

    SEANBut the truth is that I want the country to go back to real Republican ideals, conservatism that has to do with economic conservatism, socialist, I just, I don't want any party into my social aspect of life, and everybody just wants to spend money right now. Every, all, the Republicans and the Democrats just can't want to get in office...

  • 10:27:40

    REHMAll right, Ron Elving, your comments?

  • 10:27:43

    ELVINGThe caller is pointing us toward something I think is a strong undercurrent in American politics, which is a move away from the idea of party identification of any kind. We see that in the Democratic Party. I think we're seeing it, surprisingly much, in the Republican Party. The Tea Party was a boon to the Republicans in the sense that it helped them take over the House and the Senate, tremendously, but now it's creating problems for them because the identity with the Republican Party may be less than that which is historically associated with rock-ribbed Republicans, hardcore Republicans, people who would stop by the courthouse every Tuesday just to see there might be an election that day they could vote Republican.

  • 10:28:20

    ELVINGThat sort of person is receding in the Grand Old Party, and a newer, perhaps in some cases like our caller, libertarian strain, and on the other hand the Tea Party strain, which was much more populist in nature, are really pulling the party in different directions.

  • 10:28:36

    PAGEYou know, I think Sean is going to get his wish because there's either going to be a civil war in the Republican Party at the convention, or there's going to be a civil war after the convention, after the election. And this has been coming. We've seen this, as Ron was saying, for six years, since the rise of the Tea Party. There's been an epic battle between more traditional Republican forces and this rising tide of Republicans, and it is not -- it's going to take a while for that to get sorted out.

  • 10:29:02

    REHMAnd to settle down, Alex?

  • 10:29:05

    BURNSWell, I think Susan sort of hit the nail right on the head, that you're looking, in the big picture here, the Republican Party has really no good options for it in this race that you can really bet on total chaos this summer one way or another, whether it's on the floor of the convention, in the streets of Cleveland or in the general election once Donald Trump has been nominated, and you see officer-holders and a certain bloc of the Republican Party really deserting en masse.

  • 10:29:30

    BURNSI do think the caller raises an issue that I think a lot of people who are not hardcore, partisan Republicans struggle with and that Democrats struggle with, that in theory Democratic strategists, hardcore liberals, love the idea of the Republican Party rupturing. They love seeing the notion of the Republicans consigned to sort of permanent minority status.

  • 10:29:56

    BURNSOn the other hand, they're really not comfortable with the idea of Donald Trump getting this close to sort of controlling the nuclear arsenal of the United States. So it's sort of a short game versus long game.

  • 10:30:08

    REHMAll right, let's go now to another one of those important states, North Carolina. Andrew is in Raleigh. You're on the air.

  • 10:30:17

    ANDREWThanks, Diane. I think the Democrats are certainly expecting to see a sea change in the -- all the way up and down the ballot. All they've got to do is show footage of these guys hollering at each other during the debates for 29 seconds of a 30-second ad and put a sign up that says vote Democratic. So I would think they would want Donald Trump to be the candidate that they're running against.

  • 10:30:46

    REHMYou think so, Ron?

  • 10:30:47

    ELVINGYes, I do, although I have also heard people say that in the long run, Donald Trump has a kind of wildcard effect and would pull over some people who might have traditionally have been, let us say, working-class or blue-collar Democrats, particularly among white men, and that they would be more attracted to Donald Trump sort of as a wild hare than they would ever be to Ted Cruz, who has almost no crossover magnetism whatsoever.

  • 10:31:14

    REHMWhat about that point you talked about earlier? Trustworthiness and honesty and those questions have certainly been raised regarding Hillary.

  • 10:31:25

    PAGEIt's true. If we have a race between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, both of them have issues in coming across as somebody voters trust. And it would be -- I think it would unprecedented to have a race between two figures, both of whom are so polarizing about whom there are such serious questions. But just to go to -- if I could just say one thing about Andrew's question.

  • 10:31:47

    REHMSure.

  • 10:31:48

    PAGEI think the conventional wisdom is Donald Trump at the top of the Republican ticket means that the Senate will go Democratic. You know, you've got six or seven Republican-held Senate seats that are up re-election, up for election in November in swing states, where Donald Trump we presume would not be popular. And the only thing that keeps me from saying that with real confidence is first election I covered, 1980, at this point Democrats were saying if we could only run against Ronald Reagan, that's who Jimmy Carter could beat. He's too old, he's too conservative, he's just an actor.

  • 10:32:20

    PAGESo some of the easy assumptions that we make early on turn out not to be correct, and we should keep that in mind.

  • 10:32:25

    REHMWant to chime in, Alex?

  • 10:32:28

    BURNSWell, no, I mean, that's pretty much the deal. I do -- you know, you hear the Reagan comparison a lot from the Trump folks, and the big caveat on that is that if a candidate who looked very much like Reagan competed today and won every group of voters by the same proportions Reagan did in 1980, he would not win the election. This notion that if Republicans really clean up with working-class white voters or white voters in general, they can win, this is kind of a fantasy.

  • 10:32:58

    BURNSStuart Stevens, the former senior Romney strategist, likes to point out Romney won white voters by a bigger margin in 2012 than Reagan did in his landslide 1980 victory. And Romney lost by a pretty healthy margin.

  • 10:33:10

    REHMYou know, I completely agree with that, that you can't win with the same kind of voters. But I'm going -- my point is that sometimes candidates connect with voters in ways you don't expect when voters who aren't happy with the political establishment on the other side and take a leap of faith.

  • 10:33:26

    REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Let's go to Tampa, Florida. Hi, Richard, you're on the air.

  • 10:33:38

    RICHARDHi Diane, thank you.

  • 10:33:39

    REHMSure.

  • 10:33:40

    RICHARDI was wanting to ask your panelists there what they think the Americans, how the Americans feel about the party picking somebody, even though it seems like the popular nominee is being -- is -- has the rank-and-file voting and support of their party, and they said we don't care about democracy, we don't care about you, we care about who we want to run. Now if they really cared about the Republican Party and their image, they should have -- they should have publicly expelled the Tea Party when they came in and said we don't want your kind here, we -- we're not -- we're not that type of party, and but they didn't.

  • 10:34:18

    RICHARDThey accepted them with open arms because they wanted the voters. So how do you think that the American people feel about we know what's best? This is a democracy, but your vote doesn't really count.

  • 10:34:29

    ELVINGThis is what we're seeing, I believe, in the Republican primaries and caucuses this year is that the attempt by the party, which we all thought would work the way it has worked for so many, many cycles and generations, the attempt of the Republican Party to say thanks for the votes, but here's the candidate that we favor, and you're going to vote for this person in November just didn't work because that person was pretty much Jeb Bush, and Jeb Bush just went nowhere.

  • 10:34:56

    ELVINGNow some of that can be laid at his feet because he was a disappointing candidate, to put it mildly, but that hasn't always mattered. George W. Bush was not exactly a house afire as a candidate, either, but the establishment still had enough control in 2000 that they could more or less install him over a fair-sized, not huge but fair-sized field. Here we had this enormous field of 17 in which, in a sense, you would think, oh, well, now the establishment pick is a shoo-in because there are so many other candidates to divide up the yahoos, but the establishment candidate is going to prevail.

  • 10:35:27

    ELVINGIt didn't even begin to happen. It was never happening. And so now we see the results of just what the caller has described, welcoming with open arms people who don't have a party loyalty, who are not traditional Republicans, may not believe in a consistent set of principles that they would call Republican.

  • 10:35:46

    PAGEYou know, it really goes to who -- what is a political party. Is it controlled by the elites, who think they're in charge, although they haven't been in charge so much this past year? Or is it to the voters who vote for them? And I think Richard's point is why even if Donald Trump came up just a little bit short of 1,237, the number of delegates you need to have a majority, it seems to me it's very difficult to say the person who came -- who almost won a majority of delegates should be cast aside in favor of someone who definitely did not.

  • 10:36:15

    PAGEOr even the idea of going to some new candidate, to Paul Ryan or to Marco Rubio, I just don't know how you justify it to the people who turned out and voted in your primaries.

  • 10:36:23

    ELVINGSomething has to happen to change people's attitude towards Donald Trump in a fundamental way within the Republican Party, not all the people who have already decided how they feel negatively about him but to change the minds of people who feel positively about him between now and middle July.

  • 10:36:39

    REHMYou know, he has already said he's not going to participate in the next debate. I mean, how far does that get you?

  • 10:36:49

    PAGEWell, I think that is the traditional stance of a person who feels pretty confident he's going to get the nomination because a debate is full of risks for the guy who's leading. You know, it's a chance to make a gaffe, although I've got to say the gaffes haven't mattered to much to Donald Trump's standing. Or a chance to be on -- be under concerted attack by your rivals, although that also has not, like, hurt Donald Trump so much so far.

  • 10:37:10

    PAGESo there are high risks and rather limited rewards for Donald Trump in debates. So I don't think we'll see him on a debate stage again, until the general election.

  • 10:37:16

    REHMSusan Page, she's editor of the USA Today.

  • 10:37:25

    PAGEWashington bureau chief.

  • 10:37:25

    REHMWashington bureau chief. And short break here. We'll be right back.

  • 10:40:01

    REHMAnd welcome back. During the break, we were talking about the Rules Committee. What Rules Committee could do, Susan?

  • 10:40:11

    PAGESo, Republicans have not yet chosen their Rules Committee. The Chairman has not yet been named. They're in the beginning of the process of doing that from among the delegates who have been selected. I think it's 112 people on the Rules Committee. They will be the most popular people in Republican politics for the next couple months. Because at the beginning of the convention, they will decide, they'll approve the rules. And it's possible they could change the rules.

  • 10:40:33

    PAGEFor instance, we talked earlier about the current rule, which was imposed by the Romney forces in 2012 to require you to win a majority of the delegations in eight states to have your name placed in nomination. That was really an anti-Ron Paul move by the Romney folks. They could choose to change that. They could lower the bar, if they wished. And that will be determined, whether they do that kind of thing, will be determined by who gets on that committee.

  • 10:40:57

    REHMAlex.

  • 10:40:58

    BURNSYeah, and in addition to that, I think you would need to have, if you are going to change the rules, of course Trump would cry foul and say that they're rigging this for their inside game. To Ron's point earlier, you would need to have some kind of larger persuasion effort to convince the party that something has been revealed about Donald Trump that requires a change in the rules. I don't know if that's some kind of intervening event or whether it could just be three or four months of public polls showing him getting crushed by Hillary Clinton in the general election.

  • 10:41:31

    BURNSBut Republicans who are opposed to Trump really do recognize that it's going to be tough to sort of, you know, juke the rules of the game at this stage. If they can't claim, somehow, that those folks who voted in Iowa and New Hampshire and South Carolina earlier in this process didn't have all the information that they needed about Trump.

  • 10:41:48

    ELVINGThat's right. The rank and file, to some degree, are going to have to go to some of these people on the Rules Committee and say, help me, Obi Wan Kenobi, you are our only hope. Because we have learned something about Donald Trump we didn't know before, and to go back to, perhaps the first truth, that Susan shared with us today, running for President is really hard. Donald Trump has made it look easy. He is about to encounter a phase of this whole -- a phase of this whole process that is not going to be so easy for him. Because from here on out, it's actually going to get harder.

  • 10:42:19

    REHMOkay, an awful lot of people want to know what happens to the pledged delegates belonging to candidates who've left the race. Alex.

  • 10:42:32

    BURNSI wish that I could give a really definitive answer to that, but it -- the fact of the matter is it varies from state to state, that in some of these states, once you drop out, your delegates are free. In some of these states, when you drop out, your delegates are divided up according to the existing rules. And in some places, in many places, even after you drop out, you hold on to those delegates. So, for folks who are doing the math and trying to figure out how they can stop Trump, there is some reason for encouragement in the fact that someone like Marco Rubio.

  • 10:43:03

    BURNSOr even a Carly Fiorina or a Jeb Bush is holding onto a small or medium sized pile of delegates that can't go to Trump before the convention. And those folks are the ones who are going to be getting, you know, offered plum federal jobs and various kinds of political favors in exchange for their support, one way or another. Or at least a lot of nice birthday cards.

  • 10:43:23

    REHMYeah, right.

  • 10:43:24

    ELVINGSo, so let's bear in mind too, this is one of the reasons, it's not the only one, but it's one of the reasons that people who drop out say they're suspending their campaign as opposed to saying I'm out of here.

  • 10:43:33

    REHMExactly.

  • 10:43:33

    ELVINGI'm done with this.

  • 10:43:34

    REHMYou hear that.

  • 10:43:35

    ELVINGThat's right. You wonder why they say suspend. Kind of a funny word, kind of a legalistic word. And that's what it is. Because they want to hang on to all their perogatives, including their delegates.

  • 10:43:44

    REHMBut, see, I don't get how they can hold on to those delegates.

  • 10:43:50

    ELVINGAs Alex was saying, it depends on the state rules. Some states allow them to do that, other states say, no, sorry, you're going to have to give those up. We're going to re-divvy them. And then, in some cases, those delegates are just going to do what they want to do.

  • 10:44:00

    REHMSo Rubio holds on to whatever delegates he might have gotten?

  • 10:44:09

    PAGEAnd Rubio doesn't, I think, have that many delegates. I was trying to, let's see, I've been kind of trying to keep track of how many delegates each of these candidates had. I don't know if you've got that.

  • 10:44:17

    ELVINGIt's something like 160. 162. Something like that.

  • 10:44:20

    PAGESo, the Republican Party, in some ways, is a little different than the Democratic Party in handling things like this. Democrats often have rules that apply to all the states or that are rules that generally, you know, no state can choose to defy. Republicans tend to allow states a lot of federalism. States have a lot of leeway to decide what they think is fair.

  • 10:44:39

    REHMYou know, you'd think you'd had a consistency across the country about these kinds of rules.

  • 10:44:48

    ELVINGYes, but this is the Republican Party and the Republican Party, of course, is the party of Federalism, which is to say anti-federal power. Letting the states decide, leaving the power closer to the hands of the people.

  • 10:44:58

    REHMAll right. Let's go to Tampa, Florida. Andrea, you're on the air.

  • 10:45:05

    ANDREAHi Diane. I just wanted to comment, you know, I am a registered Republican and I did vote for Trump. I am in support of him. And there seems to be, you know, we're so polarized in our opinions of him. And, you know, especially too, I feel like the media has really driven in this whole racism, I guess, you know, thing about Trump. And so, I'm trying to figure out exactly, no one will say, specifically, where or why they believe he's a racist. And with that being said, you know, I guess he has talked about illegal aliens and he has talked about extremist Muslims.

  • 10:45:44

    ANDREAAnd those are the key words. It's illegal and extremist. And so, I'm trying to understand where, where this is coming from, and maybe you all can answer that.

  • 10:45:52

    REHMAll right. Alex.

  • 10:45:55

    BURNSWell, this notion that the media has injected into another tranquil race, this idea that Trump is a racist, I think, is really pretty far out there. If you talk to anybody who is an immigrant, is related to an immigrant, is Latino, is Muslim, about the rhetoric he has used in his campaign, they've been deeply personally offended. You know, over -- I mean, not literally everybody, but overwhelmingly, these groups of people are terribly offended by the things Trump has been saying. And it's not that he has said, he gives himself a little bit of deniability, in terms of saying, you know, if we think back to that announcement speech.

  • 10:46:30

    BURNSI didn't say that they're all rapists. I said many of them are rapists and some of them are nice people, but this way or sort of categorizing huge groups of Americans in just the most negative terms imaginable is not the kind of thing that we typically hear in Presidential politics and, you know, the caller mentioned that Trump has been talking about Muslim extremists. He has called for a ban on the entry into the United States of any Muslim. So, he casts it as a tool against extremism, but fundamentally, you're talking about all Muslims in a way that, you know, no Republican candidate and certainly no Democratic candidate for President has talked about in the past.

  • 10:47:07

    ELVINGWe should note that in his most smashing victory to date, which was Florida, Florida just last night, Donald Trump won just about every demographic group you can identify by age, by income, by education. The only people he lost among were people of color. And among people of color, he clearly lost. He has been identified as being anti-their community by those people. I don't think that was media driven. I think that's they're listening to him, coming to their conclusion. And just as a quick update, as of last night, according to the Associated Press delegate tracker, Marco Rubio had 169 delegates.

  • 10:47:42

    PAGESo you were pretty close there. Alex mentioned earlier the more diverse nature of our electorate now. And, you know, the numbers are really powerful if you compare it to say, 1980. In 1980, 45 percent of the electorate were white men. In 2012, our last election, 35 percent were white men. You know, you can no longer win an election only by appealing to white men and a few others. You look at the proportion of Hispanics. Two percent of the electorate in 1980 were Hispanic. The last time around, in 2012, 10 percent were Hispanic and it will be higher in 2016.

  • 10:48:13

    PAGEAnd this is the reason, the fundamental reason why I think Donald Trump will have a very difficult time winning a general election in today's America.

  • 10:48:23

    REHMAll right. Let's go now to Evansville, Indiana. Joe, you're on the air.

  • 10:48:30

    JOEHi Diane. Thanks for having my -- thanks for taking my call.

  • 10:48:34

    REHMSure.

  • 10:48:34

    JOEBig fan. My point is about Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. First of all, I like Bernie because I actually believe what he says. He is genuinely passionate about these issues. Naysayers will claim his ideas can only happen in a perfect world, but to that, I would say that the pursuit of perfection will at least point this country in the right direction. Whether we get there or not. I don't disagree with Hillary's views, for the most part, I just don't believe her. Now, as far as Donald Trump, I believe his rise in the political process, for the most part, has been due to the media.

  • 10:49:10

    JOENo offense. Absolutely. I have the upmost respect for you and your show and what you do. He's entertaining, to say the least, and he's getting a lot of coverage from the mainstream media as a result. He's on TV all the time. I mean, you see guys like Lindsay Graham pull stunts like destroying a cell phone or whatever to get a little attention. You see Marco Rubio lowering himself to hurling personal insults, just to get a little attention.

  • 10:49:34

    REHMSusan.

  • 10:49:34

    PAGEYou know, Bernie Sanders has run a more formidable campaign than any of us would have expected.

  • 10:49:39

    REHMAbsolutely.

  • 10:49:39

    PAGEIncluding Bernie Sanders. And you know, he may be up for a pretty good three week period coming ahead. The next seven races, which tend to be in the West, are all states in which Bernie Sanders could, in fact, win. The big states would include Washington state, which votes on March 26 and Wisconsin, which votes on April 5th. But the mathematical, here's the tough math for Bernie Sanders. He now has to win 76 percent of all the remaining delegates. And that is a bar that is just unrealistically high in a party that requires proportional distribution of delegates.

  • 10:50:13

    REHMAre any of the states that you just mentioned winner take all?

  • 10:50:18

    PAGEThe Democratic Rules prevent states from allowing winner take all contests. That's one reason it's hard for someone who's trailing to catch up to the frontrunner.

  • 10:50:28

    REHMI see. I see.

  • 10:50:29

    ELVINGAlthough, Washington State is a caucus state and in the politics of that particular state, as we understand it, Bernie Sanders is doing very well. He's appealing to the Democrats in that state and in a caucus system, the enthusiasm and the fervor that his supporters have shown is going to be critical. So he could do very well there, and as Susan said, he's expected to do well in Arizona and Wisconsin, as well. So we're going to be seeing weeks now of coverage of saying, Bernie's still in it. Bernie's still winning states. People are still speaking up for Bernie. But it's that delegate math that's such a crushing (unintelligible) .

  • 10:51:04

    PAGEAnd Hillary Clinton's tone last night, I thought, was interesting. She thanked, she praised the campaign that Bernie Sanders has run and then just turned her fire to Donald Trump. And I think that is the approach we'll probably see her taking, because she's going to need, if Hillary Clinton's the nominee, she will need Bernie Sanders to help her, to support her, and especially to bring some of the enthusiasm of under -- the voters who are now under 35. Because that is a group that Bernie Sanders has really caught fire with.

  • 10:51:31

    REHMHere's an email from Matt. What happens with the Democrats if Hillary is indicted? How likely is that, Alex?

  • 10:51:43

    BURNSWell, I couldn't speculate on just the legal ramification -- or, the legal process that's unfolding right now. If some sort of meteor strikes Earth level event would happen in the Democratic primary, I think you would have a contested convention on their side as well. If it happened in the general election, which would probably be sort of the most unlikely scenario, because what we know about federal prosecutors is that they're very, sort of, cautious about doing something that would just, on its own, tip the outcome of a major election.

  • 10:52:13

    BURNSI honestly have no clue what would happen in that situation. Like so much about this election, I think there are certain scenarios that you just have to look at and say, my goodness, who knows?

  • 10:52:23

    REHMRon Elving, how likely is it that Hillary would be indicted?

  • 10:52:29

    ELVINGFrankly, I don't know of anyone who is utterly neutral on this question, whether she could be in that kind of legal jeopardy or not. But of those who have tried hardest to be objective about the evidence against her and even the allegations against her with respect to her personal server and handling State Department emails that were, at least, later classified. But she insists and apparently the evidence holds at least at this point that there's no evidence that they were classified before they were on her personal server.

  • 10:53:01

    ELVINGThat's all being looked at by the FBI. It's being looked at, I'm sure, at the very highest levels of the FBI. And if she is indicted, as Alex says, that will be a game changer, but there's not really a reason, at this point, to expect it.

  • 10:53:14

    REHMRon Elving of NPR. And you're listening to The Diane Rehm Show. And one last email. One of your commenters noted Kasich is not likely to win eight states. And so would not be eligible for consideration in a brokered GOP convention. The delegates agree on the rules prior to the convention. If they wanted to, they could change that requirement that a candidate would have won eight states to be considered.

  • 10:53:52

    PAGEThat's exactly right. The convention can choose to change their rules. And it's possible they will, because of the heat of this particular campaign.

  • 10:54:01

    REHMBut can't you see a huge outburst?

  • 10:54:05

    ELVINGAnd there was a big outburst the last time the Republicans had anything close to a contested convention. It was contested for a matter of a couple of hours on the very first day in 1976. Until they had to determine what they were going to do with their rules, there was a potential rules change that could have forced open the convention between Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford. It failed narrowly, about 100 votes made the difference, but it failed and they went forward to nominating Gerald Ford. It could have happened, but it didn't.

  • 10:54:30

    ELVINGIn this case, remember, you're asking delegates who are mostly Donald Trump and Ted Cruz delegates, by the time we get to Cleveland, and are they going to want to open the rules to let some third or fourth person in? Only if they change their minds about one of those two candidates. That would have to be probably Donald Trump and again, we're looking for that meteor that would strike the Earth and change the Trump folks' feelings.

  • 10:54:51

    REHMAll right. And here is Joy in Chicago. You're on the air.

  • 10:54:57

    JOYHi Diane. This is such a thrill to talk to you.

  • 10:54:59

    REHMThank you.

  • 10:55:01

    JOYThank you. My comment is that while I voted for Bernie and while Donald Trump is the stuff of my nightmares, I'm kind of holding out for a Hillary verses Trump race because I can't think of any person in America I would rather see lose to a woman than Donald Trump. And if you have any thoughts on what that dynamic would look like, I'd be very interested.

  • 10:55:23

    REHMComment, Susan.

  • 10:55:24

    PAGEThat, you know, as a reporter, I would love to cover a Trump verses Clinton race, too. You know, either one would be a ground breaker. Right? Hillary Clinton would be the first woman elected President, but Donald Trump would be the first...

  • 10:55:39

    REHMNon-politician.

  • 10:55:39

    PAGE...non-politician since Dwight Eisenhower. So, the first time in kind of the modern era where we've gone to this kind of primary system. The first person who had never even saw public office before to run for President. And that, I think, underscores the strength of Donald Trump's political instincts. That he has come so far with none of the experience and few of the advisors and pollsters that these other candidates have had.

  • 10:56:03

    REHMAlex.

  • 10:56:04

    BURNSI think the caller gets to a dynamic that would really overwhelm the general election. The Democrats are already talking about just the gaping gender gap that you would see between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. If you look at where the public polls are right now, I think the most recent Washington Post poll had Hillary Clinton up over Donald Trump. The difference between their support among men and among women was 26 points, which is almost double where Barack Obama verses John McCain was eight years ago. That was a big gender gap that year. This would be just sort of a world historic divide.

  • 10:56:39

    REHMRon Elving.

  • 10:56:40

    ELVINGWell, I guess that at that point, all those of us who have a declared gender would have to recuse ourselves from covering that campaign.

  • 10:56:48

    REHMRon Elving of NPR News. Susan Page of USA Today. Alexander Burns of the New York Times. What a race we are in and how fascinating to see it, watch it, cover it all. Thank you so much.

  • 10:57:08

    PAGEThank you.

  • 10:57:09

    ELVINGThank you, Diane.

  • 10:57:09

    BURNSThanks, Diane.

  • 10:57:09

    REHMAnd thanks all for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.

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