TOPICS > Politics > Vote 2016

Another GOP contender bows out; can either party’s frontrunner be stopped?

March 16, 2016 at 7:49 PM EDT
Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump scored big victories in Tuesday’s primaries and hold narrow leads in Missouri, where the races have yet to be called. While Sen. Marco Rubio suspended his campaign after losing Florida, Gov. John Kasich was energized by winning Ohio. He and the other challengers soldier on. Judy Woodruff talks to Susan Page of USA Today and Reid Wilson of Morning Consult for more.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Now the latest on the presidential race of 2016.

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump scored big wins in Tuesday’s voting, and hold narrow leads in Missouri, where the races have not yet been called. But their remaining challengers are soldiering on.

GOV. JOHN KASICH (R-OH), Republican Presidential Candidate: Isn’t it interesting, for the first time, people are getting to see my name, my face, and hear my message, because I labored in obscurity?


JUDY WOODRUFF: Republican Governor John Kasich got right back to campaigning this morning, hoping for a new lease on political life, after claiming his first win in his own home state, Ohio.

AUDIENCE: Kasich! Kasich! Kasich!

JUDY WOODRUFF: Kasich’s victory was the only loss last night for Donald Trump. But the New York billionaire steamrolled to victories in Florida, North Carolina, and Illinois.

DONALD TRUMP (R), Republican Presidential Candidate: We’re going to go forward, and we’re going to win. But, more importantly, we’re going to win for the country. We’re going to win, win, win, and we’re not stopping.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Counting results from Missouri, Trump now has 673 delegates, well ahead of the competition, and more than half what’s needed to win the GOP nomination.

On CNN this morning, Trump warned of possible trouble if he keeps building strength and then is blocked by fellow Republicans.

DONALD TRUMP: I think we will win before getting to the convention, but I can tell you, if we didn’t, and if we’re 20 votes short or if we’re 100 short, and we’re at 1,100 and somebody else is at 500 or 400, because we’re way ahead of everybody, I don’t think you can say that we don’t get it automatically. I think it would be — I think you would have riots.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Texas Senator Ted Cruz is Trump’s closest rival, with 411 delegates, despite his failure to come in first anywhere on Tuesday.

With Florida Senator Marco Rubio dropping out last night, Cruz insisted it’s now a two-man race.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), Republican Presidential Candidate: Only two campaigns have a plausible path to the nomination, ours and Donald Trump’s. Only one campaign has beaten Donald Trump over and over and over again.


JUDY WOODRUFF: Former House Speaker John Boehner had said he might back his own successor, Paul Ryan, for president at the GOP Convention. But Ryan said today he wouldn’t accept the nomination.

DONALD TRUMP: But I think we have had enough.

JUDY WOODRUFF: In the meantime, FOX News canceled a debate scheduled for next Monday, after first Trump and then Kasich said they wouldn’t attend.

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton is moving on after a sweep of wins in Florida, Illinois, North Carolina, and Ohio last night.

HILLARY CLINTON (D), Democratic Presidential Candidate: This is another Super Tuesday for our campaign.


HILLARY CLINTON: We are moving closer to securing the Democratic Party nomination and winning this election in November.


JUDY WOODRUFF: The contests, including still-uncalled Missouri, brought her delegate count to 1,606, more than two-thirds of what is needed for the Democratic nomination. That puts her far ahead of Bernie Sanders, who has 851.

The candidates now turn toward contests in three Western states next Tuesday, Arizona, Utah and Idaho.

For more of last night’s results and what’s ahead this campaign cycle we turn to Susan Page, Washington bureau chief for USA Today, and Reid Wilson, chief political correspondent for The Morning Consult.

And welcome back to both of you.

So, let’s start by talking about the Democrats.

Susan, let’s look at — you have looked at these exit polls last night, what the voters were saying. Are there messages there for Hillary Clinton? What should she take away from what happened yesterday?

SUSAN PAGE, USA Today: Hillary Clinton continues to have challenges we have seen all along in this election cycle. She does very poorly among voters under 30.

Sanders is carrying them by about 7-1. And she scores poorly on the issue of, is she honest and trustworthy? This is actually a challenge that she shares with Donald Trump. And there are things that she needs to address.

On the other hand, she probably has — went for five for five, if Missouri goes the way it seems to be going. That’s a big victory, especially after that surprise defeat in Michigan a week ago, when it looked like Sanders might be coming from behind in those — in a big Midwestern state. That didn’t prove to be the case in Ohio.

So, overall, I think the message for Hillary Clinton is, she is on the verge of having an unstoppable lead in getting the number of delegates she will need to become the first woman ever nominated by a major party for president.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Reid, what else do you see in what the results were yesterday?

REID WILSON, Morning Consult: Susan makes a good point about Donald Trump’s honest and trustworthy problem here.

We have got two party nomination contests that are nearing an end. Donald Trump has a plausible path to the Republican nomination. Ted Cruz’s is much more troubling. But if we have got a Donald Trump vs. Hillary Clinton general election, both candidates are going to start with extremely high negative ratings, and honest and trustworthy questions from within their own party.

It’s not just Democrats who don’t like Trump. It’s Republicans, too, who have big questions about him.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But on the Democratic side, what — can you read something into this? We keep hearing they believe that many voters say she is not honest and trustworthy. But what is that getting at? What are they saying?

REID WILSON: Well, Democrats are looking, by and large, for a candidate who can win in November.

And when you ask them which candidate is most electable, which candidate has the experience to be president, Hillary Clinton wins by leaps and bounds among those candidates, as widely as Bernie Sanders does among younger voters, who are his biggest supporters.

JUDY WOODRUFF: What were you going to add?

SUSAN PAGE: I was going to say, Hillary Clinton has another problem in this FBI investigation into her use of a private e-mail server when she was secretary of state.

And I think that bothers some voters and people are waiting to see, what does the FBI conclude? Could she even be indicted? She says that’s not a possibility. But that’s the one thing that gives people some pause. And it gives the Democrats some chills as they go toward — down the path of making her the all-but-certain nominee.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, as we showed, she’s way ahead in delegates, Reid, but Bernie Sanders is still in the race. He didn’t do very well yesterday. But he says he’s not going away. But what is his role at this point?

REID WILSON: Well, Bernie Sanders has the money to continue on. He has got the tens of millions of dollars. He’s been very successful at raising money, especially from small-dollar donors.

He spent last night in Arizona, which, as we have said, is the next contest down the road, and barely mentioned during his speech last night that voting had happened anywhere else.

Sanders’ role, though, is still to try to nudge the party to the left. And he has been successful in that, in moving Hillary Clinton to the left on a number of key issues over the last couple of months. Clinton, though, has signaled that she’s sort of wrapping up the Democratic nomination, maybe in her own head, ready to move on to a general.

She spent all of her victory speech last night talking about Donald Trump, not about Bernie Sanders.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Susan, how much does Hillary Clinton have to continue to contend with Bernie Sanders?

SUSAN PAGE: Well, last night, she said, congratulations on your vigorous campaign, and then she ignored him. She turned entirely to Donald Trump.

But the fact is, she probably won’t get over the finish line maybe until early June. And Bernie Sanders will be in this race. Hillary Clinton has a hard argument to make that he needs to get out, because, you know what, eight years ago, Barack Obama was making the same argument to her, and she stayed in until the very end.

JUDY WOODRUFF: All right, well, let’s talk about — some more about the Republicans, Reid.

Donald Trump didn’t win every state. John Kasich won his home state, his first win, in Ohio. But where does Trump sit right now on the road to the nomination?

REID WILSON: He sits better than anybody else does by a long shot. He grew his lead over Ted Cruz, his nearest competitor, by nearly 200 pledge delegates, once all the final numbers are sussed out from last night.

And the other two candidates are having to explain more and more how their path forward exists. John Kasich has won so few delegates, that it’s almost mathematically impossible for him to get to a nomination.

On the other hand, Ted Cruz is trying to force Kasich out of the race. There’s an argument to be made, though, that if the two of them focus on their core voters, very conservative voters for Ted Cruz, more moderate, centrist voters for John Kasich, that that is the only path forward for both of them by denying Donald Trump a majority at the convention in Cleveland.

JUDY WOODRUFF: That’s interesting, Susan, because you also hear the argument that, if one of them drops out, it becomes a one-on-one, and thus a better chance to stand up to Donald Trump.

SUSAN PAGE: I know that the Trump people wanted to win in Ohio, and, obviously, that would have been a big victory. But the fact is, you can make the argument that this is helpful to Donald Trump.

Now, John Kasich is in this race. It denies Ted Cruz what he’s wanted for so long, which is to go head to head against Donald Trump. I think it makes this — I think it makes things easier for Trump in a way. Trump now needs to get, what, about 55 percent, of the remaining convention delegates.

That is probably a doable number in a three-person race, especially when where John Kasich, it’s really hard to see the state that he wins. I don’t think John Kasich is likely to meet the rule that allows him to be nominated at the convention. You have to have a majority of delegates in eight states.

He now has one. Only Donald Trump has gotten over the margin only — over that hurdle of being — having a majority of delegates in eight states. So, Kasich, you know, he goes to Pennsylvania today. Pennsylvania doesn’t even vote for a month. There’s a long interval here where I think Donald Trump will be getting convention delegates and John Kasich won’t.

JUDY WOODRUFF: That’s interesting about the eight states. I think a lot of people have not focused on that.

But given that sort of interregnum period we’re going into when there are not very many contests, what does Donald Trump need to be doing? You mentioned some of the problems he still has with voters’ perceptions of him.

REID WILSON: Well, I mean, what he needs to be doing is probably the opposite of what he will do.

He has been rewriting the playbook of how a modern presidential campaign has been operating for the longest time. I think what he needs to do is to begin convincing voters, especially the centrists and independents who are going to decide this election, that he is, in fact, presidential, that he can do something other than take shots at his opponents or take shots at the media or Megyn Kelly on FOX News or whoever the target of the day is.

And if he can do that, then I think Hillary Clinton has got something to worry about in November if it’s a Trump-Clinton matchup. As a matter of fact, I think she’s got something to worry about no matter what. Somebody, a friend of mine likened this race, a presidential race to being in a boxing match.

If you’re fighting another professional boxer, you kind of know where the punches are coming from. But if you’re fighting somebody who is not a traditional boxer, a punch can come from anywhere and lay you out.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Is that how you see it?

SUSAN PAGE: I think Trump’s biggest problem, though, is that about four in 10 Republican primary voters say, if he’s the nominee against Hillary Clinton, they will look — they will seriously consider a third-party candidate.

And if that’s the race we have, if it’s Trump vs. Clinton, don’t you think we will have a third-party candidate of some sort? So, I think the first task Trump has to do is to reach out a bridge to these Republican voters before he can have a hope of reaching out to the independent voters who will determine the general election.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So much to contemplate in the coming weeks.

Susan Page, Reid Wilson, thank you both.

REID WILSON: Thanks a lot.

SUSAN PAGE: Thank you.