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5 States Have Their Say In the Presidential Race; Here's What To Look For


We'll start the program with election news. Five states will hold a primary or a caucus for at least one party today. And Ted Cruz is the projected winner of the Kansas Republican caucus, according to the Associated Press. Ted Cruz also won a straw poll at the meeting of the Conservative Political Action Conference being held just outside Washington, D.C. We're still awaiting results in other races happening today in Kentucky, Maine, Nebraska and Louisiana. There will be more events tomorrow in Maine and Puerto Rico. Joining us to talk about the state of the race is NPR senior editor and correspondent Ron Elving. Good to have you back, Ron.

RON ELVING, BYLINE: Hey there, Michel.

MARTIN: So Ted Cruz wins Kansas tonight. What does that tell you about how the evening is going so far on the East Coast?

ELVING: Well, it tells us that Ted Cruz is following the pattern of the last two winners of the Iowa caucuses from the 2012 and 2008 cycles. That would be Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee. They went on to win the Kansas caucuses and some of the other caucuses but did not do so well in the larger primary states. Now, thus far we haven't seen Ted Cruz outside of his home state of Texas in the neighboring state of Oklahoma do well in a big primary. But he has another chance later tonight when the results start coming in from Louisiana. That would be a really sweet, sweet message for Ted Cruz if he could win there, where Donald Trump has been ahead in the polls.

MARTIN: Let's play a little bit from Ted Cruz's speech tonight, where he's in Idaho. Here it is.


TED CRUZ: What we're seeing is conservatives coming together. What we're seeing is Republicans coming together. What we're seeing is libertarians coming together. What we're seeing is men and women who love freedom and love the Constitution coming and uniting and standing as one behind this campaign.

ELVING: Yes indeed, that is what Ted Cruz is seeing. And he is hoping to carry that momentum on to Idaho, which is voting on Tuesday, also Hawaii voting on Tuesday, but mainly to Michigan and Mississippi which are also voting on Tuesday. Those are states where if he could upset Donald Trump's heretofore unstoppable juggernaut of momentum, that would be a real turning point in this campaign and clearly established Ted Cruz as the alternative to Trump.

MARTIN: I'm just wondering if people in the sort follow-on states are following this in this way. Are the voters in those states - do we have any indication whether the voters in those states are thinking that way? Are they following the momentum? Do they care about momentum?

ELVING: You know, I don't think they're hanging on every single result from state to state, and certainly not a Saturday night with other things to do. But it's also impossible for them to avoid all the media coverage of any turn or twist in this race. So as they absorb that kind of information from social media and from radio and television and the newspapers that they may see, they get a slightly different impression from what they might have had even 48 hours ago.

MARTIN: Now, not to take anything away from peoples', you know, right to participate in this process and to be excited about the process, but is there a point at which one candidate or another becomes inevitable, just the numbers make it clear that this person is the person?

ELVING: We don't have all the results yet from tonight. But we do have the results of Super Tuesday, and we know that makes it extraordinarily difficult to catch Donald Trump unless you become the alternative. So as long as Marco Rubio's in the race, John Kasich is in the race - Rubio hoping to do well in his home state of Florida on Tuesday, Kasich - or not this coming Tuesday but on March 15 - and of course, John Kasich expected to do the same in Ohio. As long as they're in the race dividing the anti-Trump vote, there does build up a certain inevitability for Trump.

MARTIN: That is NPR senior editor and correspondent Ron Elving. Thank you, Ron.

ELVING: Thank you, Michel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ron Elving is Senior Editor and Correspondent on the Washington Desk for NPR News, where he is frequently heard as a news analyst and writes regularly for
Michel Martin is the weekend host of All Things Considered, where she draws on her deep reporting and interviewing experience to dig in to the week's news. Outside the studio, she has also hosted "Michel Martin: Going There," an ambitious live event series in collaboration with Member Stations.
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