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Republicans Hold Contests In 4 States As Cruz Looks To Gain On Trump


You could call today Super Tuesday two or baby Super Tuesday. Voting is happening in Michigan, Mississippi, Idaho and Hawaii. Those last two are GOP-only contests. Donald Trump is looking to extend his lead in delegates, and Ted Cruz is hoping to pick up momentum after winning two states over the weekend. NPR national political correspondent Don Gonyea is here in the studio to talk with us about today's Republican contests. Hey, Don.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: Hey, glad to be here.

SHAPIRO: I know you are just back from Michigan. With 59 delegates, it is the day's big prize. What is the most interesting about that contest?

GONYEA: How about if I said John Kasich? I'll say it again - John Kasich...

SHAPIRO: All right.

GONYEA: ...The Ohio governor. Now, Donald Trump still leads by double digit in Michigan according to the polls, but that's kind of old news. He's been there for a long time. But John Kasich has been working the state hard - multiple events every day. And he has been surging. There's a new Monmouth University poll out that shows him picking up steam just in the past couple of days alone. They've kind of released the day-by-day so we can see that - the tracking like that. But even more interesting is, if you look at John Kasich's numbers in Michigan from, say, mid-February, he was at about 6 percent in the polling averages. Now he's at about 25 percent. Again, still behind Trump, kind of, you know, neck-and-neck with Cruz, but it's - there's been a lot of movement.

SHAPIRO: Trump had been hoping for an easy win in this state. His message tapping into economic anxiety gets a lot of traction. What would it mean for the larger race if this is a closer outcome in Michigan than he had expected?

GONYEA: If it's very close, if Kasich does better than expected, if he does well, that really sets him up very nicely for Ohio, which is his home state. He's the governor. They vote next Tuesday, and that one is winner-take-all, so that's a big prize just a week away.

But you know, Michigan is a proportional state in terms of delegates. And again, it's a delegate collection contest. That's what this is about. You go to get to that certain number. And if Trump doesn't have, say, the - a blowout win or the big win that he was looking for, then the delegates are divided up, and he doesn't extend his lead. He doesn't get the gains he was looking for, and that increases that possibility of a contested convention come this summer.

SHAPIRO: How about this new development of Mitt Romney recording robocalls for some of the candidates after giving that scathing speech against Trump a week ago?

GONYEA: He's done calls for Marco Rubio in Florida, for John Kasich in Michigan, and it shows that Romney means it when he wants (laughter) somebody other than Trump to win. But he hasn't picked a candidate yet.

SHAPIRO: All right. Let's turn to Mississippi - big Southern test. On Super Tuesday, Trump cleaned up across the South - any reason to think tonight could be any different in Mississippi?

GONYEA: I'm kind of a broken record here, but Trump has a big lead in the polls there as well.


GONYEA: And it's open primary, so he could get support from independents and from Southern white Democrats. And those are the kinds of voters he's tapped into in big primaries. But it is the first big Southern battle since Super Tuesday and since Ted Cruz has begun to emerge as perhaps the major challenger to Trump. So we're going to be watching it closely.

SHAPIRO: And lastly, I want you to just look ahead a little bit. These huge contests - winner-take-all of Ohio and Florida next week - how important is this to the race?

GONYEA: Oh, its important. In fact, the candidates are already there. There are events tonight not in the states that are voting today but in Ohio and in Florida, and everybody is going to be looking at those two states. There are other states voting next week, but those are both big winner-take-all states.

SHAPIRO: That's NPR national political correspondent Don Gonyea. Thanks, Don

GONYEA: Thank you.

SHAPIRO: And we're also hearing about the Democratic side of the race elsewhere in the program. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

You're most likely to find NPR's Don Gonyea on the road, in some battleground state looking for voters to sit with him at the local lunch spot, the VFW or union hall, at a campaign rally, or at their kitchen tables to tell him what's on their minds. Through countless such conversations over the course of the year, he gets a ground-level view of American elections. Gonyea is NPR's National Political Correspondent, a position he has held since 2010. His reports can be heard on all NPR News programs and at NPR.org. To hear his sound-rich stories is akin to riding in the passenger seat of his rental car, traveling through Iowa or South Carolina or Michigan or wherever, right along with him.