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Indiana Primary: Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump Win; Ted Cruz Drops Out

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

It has been a long, strange trip for the GOP. But with a win in Indiana, Donald Trump is now solidly on his way into the Republican nomination.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

He won a decisive victory in the Hoosier State yesterday, almost 18 percentage points over his nearest competitor, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas. The results were hardly in when Cruz pulled out of the race.

MARTIN: Meanwhile, Bernie Sanders won a close contest with Hillary Clinton on the Democratic side in Indiana. Here to talk through what happened yesterday are our regular guests, Republican pollster Jim Hobart and Democratic pollster Margie Omero. Welcome back to the show.

MARGIE OMERO: Good morning.

JIM HOBART: Thanks for having me.

MARTIN: All right. Both of you, why don't we start off by having each of you sum up what happened yesterday in one sentence. That is your challenge. Margie?

OMERO: It's a little bit of a surprise that Sanders won Indiana. We shouldn't be surprised Trump won. But we should be deeply, deeply disturbed.

MARTIN: Jim?

HOBART: Everything's coming up Kasich, right?

(LAUGHTER)

HOBART: No, I think that the - it's clear that the big question on the Republican side is what's next? What's next both for Donald Trump as a candidate - does he shift to a general election? And then what's next for Republicans who are going to be on the ballot this fall? Do they start to move away for Trump, or do they start to embrace him?

MARTIN: All right, we're going to talk about all of that in a few minutes. But first, NPR's national political correspondent, Mara Liasson, on what happened in Indiana and what happens now.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: For the past 11 months, Donald Trump has blindsided the GOP establishment. Last night, he finally crushed it. Ted Cruz had called Indiana a do-or-die state. And last night, he told his distraught supporters that from the beginning, he'd promised to stay in as long as there was a viable path to victory.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TED CRUZ: Tonight, I'm sorry to say...

UNIDENTIFIED CRUZ SUPPORTERS: (Yelling) No.

CRUZ: ...It appears that path has been foreclosed.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: No.

CRUZ: Together, we left it all on the field in Indiana. We gave it everything we've got. But the voters chose another path.

UNIDENTIFIED CRUZ SUPPORTERS: (Yelling) No.

CRUZ: And so, with a heavy heart but with boundless optimism for the long-term future of our nation, we are suspending of our campaign...

UNIDENTIFIED CRUZ SUPPORTERS: (Yelling) No.

LIASSON: Cruz notably did not endorse or even congratulate Trump. Trump, on the other hand, was magnanimous. Just hours after he'd called Ted Cruz desperate, unhinged, and of course, Lyin' Ted, he was singing a different tune.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DONALD TRUMP: Just so you understand, Ted Cruz, I don't know if he likes me or if he doesn't like me. But he is one hell of a competitor. He is a tough, smart guy.

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: And he has got an amazing future. He has got an amazing future. So I want to congratulate Ted.

LIASSON: Then Trump turned his attention to his likely rival in November.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TRUMP: We're going after Hillary Clinton. She will not...

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: ...She will not be a great president. She will not be a good president. She will be a poor president. She doesn't understand trade. Her husband signed, perhaps in the history of the world, the single worst trade deal ever done. It's called NAFTA. And I was witness to the carnage.

LIASSON: Trump's big win in Indiana pulled the rug out from under the Stop-Trump movement. The chairman of the Republican Party, Reince Priebus tweeted that it was time for the GOP to unite. Around a third of Republican voters have told pollsters they will never vote for Trump. Mike DuHaime, top strategist for New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, one of Donald Trump's earliest establishment supporters, predicts that will change.

MIKE DUHAIME: I think one of the great unifying factors for the Republican Party will be Hillary Clinton herself. She is not a popular figure among the Republican Party faithful. And that will bring people together. But certainly, the Republican Party has rallied against the Clintons and used them as a rallying cry for 25 years now. So that will not go away easily, regardless of who the Republican opponent is.

LIASSON: But there are plenty of Never Trumpers who won't budge. Jonah Goldberg is the senior editor of the National Review.

JONAH GOLDBERG: I'll never vote for Hillary Clinton, and I'll never vote for Donald Trump. The question for people like me though is, how do I talk about this? How do I talk about the campaign? How do I criticize the candidates if I really don't want Hillary Clinton to be president and I really don't want Donald Trump to be president? And I certainly don't want him speaking for me as the leader of the Republican Party and the sort of titular head of the conservative movement. And this is a real dilemma. No one has got a great answer.

LIASSON: There has been talk among Republicans about running a third-party candidate to give conservatives like Goldberg a reason to turn out and vote for down-ballot Senate and House candidates. But that idea doesn't seem to be going anywhere, so that leaves the party with Donald Trump. Even though he still needs about 200 more delegates, the man the party establishment didn't take seriously 11 months ago has now completed his hostile takeover of the GOP.

MARTIN: And we are back with our pollsters here in studio, Republican pollster Jim Hobart, Democratic pollster Margie Omero. Jim, this is not exactly where the Republican establishment thought they were going to be 9, 10 months ago. What happened to that Stop-Trump movement?

HOBART: It didn't work. He wasn't stopped. A lot of people would say that it got started too late, that it should have started last fall or perhaps even last summer. And now the Republican Party has to deal with him as their nominee. And it is certainly - as you say, it's not where they thought they would be. It's not where they hoped it would be. It flies in the face of the vast majority, was written in the Republican autopsy after 2012. But it's where the party is. And they have to do the best they can in this situation.

INSKEEP: Were Republicans defeated by that old saying, you can't stop something with nothing? And in the end, Republicans - by that I mean of course, Republican leaders who were opposed to Donald Trump - they didn't have anything else. They didn't have anybody else they could put forward that got people excited.

OMERO: Well, the other - right. You're exactly right because Republican establishment folks don't particularly like Senator Cruz either. I mean, certainly we saw that with former Speaker Boehner and his comments last week showing, you know, I think that he didn't really like - wasn't very fond of Cruz, I think is fair to say - how to characterize his comments.

And so the fact that Cruz was the second-place finisher in so many states made it harder for the Never-Trump movement to say, well, we have this alternative because the other alternatives that people liked were actually losing by a lot in a lot of states.

MARTIN: But why did that happen? People point to that Republican field and say, this is the most qualified field we have seen in a generation or so.

HOBART: I think that for whatever reason, almost every candidate approached the race once Trump became this dominant figure, as as long as I can get one on one with him, then things will be good for me. You look at someone like Ted Cruz, who was embracing Donald Trump for months, I mean, saying he was a great guy; he's great for the party. And then the last day he's running for the election, he has to start calling him a pathological liar and a serial philanderer.

INSKEEP: OK. Let's throw out a couple of theories from the Democratic Party's perspective. One is, I suppose, wow, this is great. This controversial candidate has been nominated by the opposing party. And we're going to have an easy election. But there are other ways to look at this. What do you think, Margie?

OMERO: I think he is just too toxic, too corrosive to have in our political bloodstream, even if he is the most beatable candidate considering that's what the polls show, that Clinton and Sanders beat him by a lot in general election matchups. He's so overwhelmingly unpopular. All those things are true. I just don't want to listen to him until November. The language that he uses is too corrosive.

INSKEEP: But let me ask you both, is he really that beatable? Because of course the argument of Trump supporters is he'll shake things up. He's a different candidate. He's going to cause people to think again about the Republican Party.

HOBART: He's the most unpopular major party nominee of all time. If he is able to change that somehow, more power to him. I think his biggest issue is he can't seem to help himself. On a day like yesterday, where he knew he was going to be the nominee in terms of all the public polls that he looks at, he still couldn't help himself from saying that Ted Cruz's dad was a part of the conspiracy to kill John F. Kennedy.

INSKEEP: Oh, part of his vamping up a National Enquirer story...

HOBART: Right.

INSKEEP: ...That nobody believes. Go on.

OMERO: Not just that, he's dangerously unqualified. If you go back to The Washington Post transcript from their interview with him, he can't put together a coherent sentence on any of the major issues of the day. When cornered, he just moves to some sort of social, tweet-like, erratic behavior rather than actually engaging on policy issues, in addition to the hateful, racist and sexist language that he uses on a regular basis.

MARTIN: But none of that, obviously, seems to stick. And he is, especially on issues like free trade, which flies in the face of Republican values, this is an issue that has really real railed - gotten a lot of support from people who are also supporting Bernie Sanders. And there is this cross-section that he seems to be speaking to. Margie, do you think he has any chance of bringing those people into his camp?

OMERO: Sanders voters?

MARTIN: Yes.

OMERO: No. I wince at that comparison of Sanders voters and Trump voters. You know, they have one thing in common. They like to talk about their own polling. I think that's really where the similarities end because Sanders doesn't use that kind of corrosive language.

He sees a role for government. Trump doesn't. It's just I think that the crossover there is very limited. Most Sanders voters say they would vote for Clinton if she was the nominee.

INSKEEP: Jim Hobart, in a few seconds, if you're a Republican, does tribalism really take over at this point? Trump is your nominee. You're going to vote for him. You're going to try to save the Senate. If you love Trump, that's great. If you hate Trump, you're still going to do that because you think he's better than Hillary Clinton.

HOBART: I think that a lot of it depends on where you're running. If you're a candidate in a swing state, that's going to be up to the candidate themselves, in terms of if they want to embrace of move away from him. For other candidates and for the officeholders and saver seats, I think you're going to see them come around to Trump.

OMERO: There are already Senate candidates who are being attacked because of their support for Trump.

MARTIN: We'll have to leave it there. Margie Omero, Democratic pollster, Republican pollster Jim Hobart, thanks so much for talking with us you two.

OMERO: Thank you.

HOBART: Thanks. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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