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Amid Trump rally scuffles, candidates vie for votes in Ohio’s prized primary

March 13, 2016 at 4:31 PM EST
Presidential candidates campaigned heavily in Ohio this weekend ahead of Tuesday's primary elections. Nick Castele, a political reporter for the Cleveland PBS affiliate WVIZ, joins Alison Stewart to discuss.
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ALISON STEWART: Ohio received the bulk of candidate attention today, as it and four other states, Florida, Illinois, Missouri, and North Carolina, prepare to hold presidential primaries on Tuesday.

On the Republican side, Ohio Governor John Kasich and Florida Senator Marco Rubio campaigned in their delegate-rich home states, hoping to thwart businessman Donald Trump and Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who are well ahead in delegates needed to win their party’s nomination.

Yesterday, Rubio and Kasich split the delegates at the Washington, D.C., convention. Rubio narrowly won and earned 10 delegates, and Kasich placed second, taking nine.

In Wyoming, Cruz easily won the state convention and nabbed nine of the 11 delegates, followed by Rubio and Trump with one each. Overall, Trump leads the Republicans with 460 delegates, almost 40 percent of the number needed to win the nomination, while Cruz has 369 delegates, Rubio has 163, and Kasich 63.

Cruz said today his party shouldn’t fear if no one candidate goes over the top before this summer’s national convention.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), Presidential Candidate: Look, if Donald and I both go into the convention, and we have both got a big chunk of delegates, but both of us are shy of 1,237, then the delegates will decide. That’s how the process works, and that’s allowing democracy to operate.

ALISON STEWART: Trump returned to Illinois today, after canceling a Friday rally in Chicago amidst fights between supporters and protesters. With a large police presence, his speech in Bloomington went off without incident.

On the Democratic side, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is halfway to number of delegates needed to clinch the nomination. She leads Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders in total delegates, 1,231 to 576.

Both Democrats campaigned in Ohio today, where 159 delegates are at stake Tuesday. Clinton bested Barack Obama here in 2008, but Sanders beat Clinton in the primary next door in Michigan last week.

Ohio is winner-take-all for the Republicans, meaning the first-place candidate gets all 66 delegates.

For more on the Ohio campaign, I am joined by Nick Castele, the political reporter for our Cleveland PBS affiliate WVIZ.

Nick, the headlines coming out of the campaigns, some of the biggest ones are about the atmosphere at the rallies for the Republican front-runner, Donald Trump. I know you went to one of his rallies in Cleveland. Tell me what you witnessed.

NICK CASTELE, WVIZ: Mm-hmm.

Well, there were a few of the protesters who tried to interrupt the rally, maybe about a half-dozen interruptions. I have seen a report that there was at least one scuffle on the floor in Cleveland.

And then, outside the rally afterward, there were protesters who were waiting there for Trump supporters to come out. And there were some shouting matches that broke out in the parking lot between the protesters and then Donald Trump supporters, who outnumbered the protesters by a great deal, and at some points were trying to chant down the protesters.

And some also very vicious things were said back and forth.

ALISON STEWART: Let’s talk about the issues.

How is Donald Trump trying to connect with Ohio voters specifically?

NICK CASTELE: Well, he’s talking a lot about trade in Northern Ohio.

He tried link Governor John Kasich to NAFTA. And he talked about, of course, we have heard plenty of times, building the wall in Mexico, focusing on economic issues, focusing on trade, on immigration, a lot of things we have heard Donald Trump talk about before.

I think there’s a lot of voters in Northern Ohio for whom issues like trade are very important, and he’s trying to hit those notes with them.

ALISON STEWART: Governor Kasich, he’s got the lead right now. We should point that out.

If you’re an Ohio Republican, and you’re not voting for Governor Kasich, why is that?

NICK CASTELE: Well, it’s interesting.

Governor Kasich is pretty popular right now in Ohio, but I did talk with some Trump supporters at the rally who said that Donald Trump’s message excited them more than Governor Kasich’s did.

I spoke with one 19-year-old voter who said that Trump just seemed a lot stronger than Kasich did. And it was that sort of gut-level sort of decision he was making that attracted him more to Trump than to Kasich.

ALISON STEWART: Let’s talk about the Democrats a little bit, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders obviously both vying for votes before Tuesday.

Tell me where each stands.

NICK CASTELE: Well, Hillary Clinton was campaigning this weekend in Ohio. She was in the Cleveland area speaking at two African-American churches in Cleveland.

And she spoke there a lot about the economy. She spoke about criminal justice, about prisoner reentry, and tried to connect with voters in Cleveland who felt like they still have not yet recovered from the recession.

And I think Bernie Sanders also had a pretty similar message. He campaigned in Toledo, Ohio, on Friday. And he also talked a lot about trade. He talked about NAFTA, trying to link Secretary Clinton with NAFTA. And he was trying to rally a lot of blue-collar union supporters in Toledo.

ALISON STEWART: Before I let you go, let’s talk about the voting process itself in Ohio. There could be some — some surprises because of it.

NICK CASTELE: Sure.

Well, early voting is already under way. It’s been under way for a few weeks. So, there are people who have already cast their votes, and also some people who are trying to make up their mind. So, there could be a dynamic there between — a difference between which candidates get supported in the early votes and which candidates get supported a little closer to Election Day.

ALISON STEWART: Nick Castele from WVIZ, thanks for sharing your reporting.

NICK CASTELE: My pleasure.

ALISON STEWART: Learn more about what’s at stake for the Republican candidates in Florida.

Watch our report online at PBS.org/NewsHour.

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