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What the Maryland and Pennsylvania primaries can offer the presidential candidates

Though front-runners Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton picked up big wins in New York’s delegate-rich primary, there are still key upcoming contests that could make a difference in the presidential race, especially Maryland and Pennsylvania. John Fritz of the Baltimore Sun and Karen Langley of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette join John Yang to discuss the battle for those states.

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  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    And now for more on the race for the White House.

    Voters in five states head to the polls on Tuesday. Front-runners Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are hoping Tuesday will bring them closer to the necessary delegates needed to secure their parties' nominations.

    The NewsHour's John Yang has the latest.

  • JOHN YANG:

    Today, we focus on two key states voting next week.

    Joining me to talk about the race in Maryland is John Fritze of The Baltimore Sun, and from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Karen Langley of The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette to talk about that state's primary.

    Both of these states have littlest wrinkles in their ballots.

    And, Karen Langley, the biggest wrinkle may be in Pennsylvania. When Republican voters go into the voting booth next Tuesday, what are they going to see?

  • KAREN LANGLEY, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

    Well, they're going to be voting for a presidential candidate, of course.

    They will also be voting for delegates to send to the Republican National Convention. But there is no tie between the presidential candidate who is selected by the state or its congressional districts and these delegates who the congressional districts will be choosing on Tuesday.

    Those delegates do not have to commit to supporting any particular candidate, even on the first ballot. And so you could theoretically have a presidential candidate win the state and not get any of those 54 delegates who will be selected by the congressional districts.

  • JOHN YANG:

    And how will the voters know who these delegates are going to support? They're technically unbound, but some of them are already saying what they're going to do.

  • KAREN LANGLEY:

    That's right.

    So when these delegates have been asked, and reporters have been trying to fig outer what they would do if they were selected, some of them say that they would support a particular candidate, at least on the first ballot. A large portion of them say that they would go the way their congressional district does, at least on that first ballot.

    And some of them just say that they will take into consideration things like the statewide winner, the congressional district winner, and then who they think would be most electable in November.

    So, those candidates, as we can imagine, going into Cleveland could be coming under a lot of lobbying from the presidential campaigns, since they they're the ones who have the majority of sway, as far as the delegates from Pennsylvania are concerned.

  • JOHN YANG:

    And in Maryland, John Fritze, this is the first time in a long time that this state has actually mattered in the race.

  • JOHN FRITZE, Baltimore Sun:

    That's absolutely right.

    We have not a competitive presidential in Maryland in decades, really. And while Pennsylvania is the biggest prize on Tuesday, I like to joke that the Maryland delegates are more loyal. Our delegates are bound for the first two ballots in Cleveland. And so, you know, for a candidate coming in and trying to get every single delegate, I think we have perhaps seen a little more tension because of that.

    If Trump wins a congressional district in our state, that — those three delegates are bound for the first two ballots.

  • JOHN YANG:

    And also in the — in Maryland on the Democratic side, you have got the primary vote really being driven in a way by lower-level races, rather than the presidential race.

  • JOHN FRITZE:

    Right, an unusual twist. Usually, we talk about top-down effect. In this state, we have got two really good races. We have got a great Senate race going on, Democratic primary.

    But we have also got the mayoral race in Baltimore, which doesn't get as much attention in Washington. It's the first big election in the city since the death of Freddie Gray, since the riots last year. Huge amount of interest. And I expect it's going to — there's already indications that early voting is way up in the city.

  • JOHN YANG:

    And could those races affect upward, affect the presidential race?

  • JOHN FRITZE:

    I think so. I think so.

    I think if — for instance, if you see a huge African-American turnout in Baltimore City, Baltimore is a predominantly an African-American city. When we talk about large turnouts in Maryland, we are talking about an increase in African-American turnout. That certainly benefits somebody like Hillary Clinton, and it benefits someone like Congresswoman Donna Edwards, who is running for Senate.

    Part of her message is that she would be a historic figure, because she would be the first black woman to represent the state in the Senate.

  • JOHN YANG:

    Karen Langley, in Pennsylvania, what's the state of the race? What's going on, on the ground, on each side in the Republican and presidential — Republican and Democratic races?

  • KAREN LANGLEY:

    Sure.

    Well, we're seeing a lot of appearances by the candidates, by surrogates for the candidates. Yesterday, in Hershey, Pennsylvania, I was at a Ted Cruz event. Donald Trump will be in town here in Harrisburg later tonight. Bill Clinton was in Harrisburg today.

    As far as what we know about the — you know, the polls, both Clinton and Trump have wide margins so far. One longtime observer of state politics who I spoke with said that the question is really not whether those candidates will win their respective primaries, but by how much.

  • JOHN YANG:

    And John Kasich, from a neighboring state, born in Western Pennsylvania, is he having any impact or getting any traction?

  • KAREN LANGLEY:

    You know, he, in some surveys, is right there with Cruz as the — you know, second place to Trump.

    I know that when Kasich is in Pittsburgh, he certainly talks up his roots from there. We have seen an advertisement, I think not maybe by him, but by supporters, that plays up those Pennsylvania connections as well.

    Some of the Republican voters who I have talked to say that they like him, but that they don't think that he stands a chance and, therefore, won't get their vote.

  • JOHN YANG:

    John Fritze, what's the state of play in Maryland on both sides?

  • JOHN FRITZE:

    It's actually really relatively similar.

    We have had most of the major candidates in. I was at a Donald Trump rally out on the Eastern Shore last night. Ted Cruz announced his second visit. He was in the state in Western Maryland today. So, we have seen a fair number of candidates.

    On the Democratic side, both Clinton and Bernie Sanders are on the air statewide, so they're running advertising. You know, the polling is pretty similar to Pennsylvania. Certainly, Clinton in particular has just a huge increase. A poll out today from Monmouth has her up 25 points in Maryland. Maryland is the kind of state where Clinton has tended to do well in, closed primary, high African-American turnout.

    So it's really a state that will be good for her, I think, if the trends hold. On the Republican side, Trump has a pretty significant margin, too, but, again, somebody like Kasich or Cruz can potentially come in and steal some delegates from these congressional districts in order to try to slow down Trump as he tries to get to the magic number.

  • JOHN YANG:

    John Fritze of The Baltimore sun, Karen Langley from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, with The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, thanks a lot for being with us.

  • JOHN FRITZE:

    Thanks.

  • KAREN LANGLEY:

    Thank you.

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