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Trump, Cruz Pay Attention To Mississippi Leading Up To GOP Primary

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Trump, Cruz Pay Attention To Mississippi Leading Up To GOP Primary

Politics

Trump, Cruz Pay Attention To Mississippi Leading Up To GOP Primary

Trump, Cruz Pay Attention To Mississippi Leading Up To GOP Primary

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/469606390/469606391" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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One of the states voting Tuesday is Mississippi, where Donald Trump is looking for the kind of success he's had elsewhere in the Deep South. Ted Cruz would like to chip away at Trump's delegate lead.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Four states are voting today on presidential candidates. They include the state of Mississippi, where Republicans Ted Cruz and Donald Trump both campaigned yesterday. NPR's Debbie Elliott saw them both.

DEBBIE ELLIOTT, BYLINE: In a speech mindful of his Bible Belt audience, Donald Trump spoke religion.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DONALD TRUMP: I'm a good Christian. And I'm leading with evangelicals.

ELLIOTT: Trump packed a high school gym in Madison, Miss., a wealthy suburb of Jackson, the state capital. Thousands overflowed into the football stadium outside to watch the speech played over a Jumbotron. Trump delivered his classic crowd-pleasers about winning, making America great and building a border wall. He also hit themes that resonate with social conservatives, a key constituency here which often feels left out of the national conversation.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TRUMP: So I told you they're chipping away at Christianity and they're chipping away at the Second Amendment. Every year - chip, chip, chip.

ELLIOTT: As for his rivals, he referred to the Florida senator as little Marco Rubio and attacked the integrity of Ted Cruz, who also has a strong appeal among evangelicals.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TRUMP: He holds up that Bible. And he's there with the Bible. And he puts it down and then he starts lying.

ELLIOTT: Trump's lack of Southern manners doesn't appear to be a problem for his supporters.

PATRICIA VINZANT: No.

BILL VINZANT: No.

P. VINZANT: Not a bit.

B. VINZANT: Nope.

P. VINZANT: Not one bit.

ELLIOTT: Bill and Patricia Vinzant own an antique store in Bovina, Miss.

P. VINZANT: We got a bunch of pansies up there right now. So it's time for something else.

ELLIOTT: Ted Cruz brought his campaign to a working-class suburb of Jackson where he climbed onto a tabletop at a catfish house to greet hundreds of supporters who squeezed into a banquet room.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TED CRUZ: God bless the great state of Mississippi.

(CHEERING)

ELLIOTT: He promised to get the boot of the federal government off of small business, repeal Obamacare and abolish the Department of Education and the IRS.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CRUZ: You know...

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Bring God back.

ELLIOTT: Cruz delivered a similar message as Trump about standing firm for conservative values.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CRUZ: I will not compromise away your religious liberty.

(APPLAUSE)

CRUZ: And I will not compromise away your Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.

ELLIOTT: He hammered Trump for saying in the last GOP debate that he was flexible.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CRUZ: Flexible is Washington, D.C. code word for we're about to stick it to you.

ELLIOTT: Retired schoolteacher Mary Jones of Brandon says she's fed up with compromise and flexibility.

MARY JONES: Around and around. You pat me on my back and I'll pat you on yours. It's all about money, money, money.

ELLIOTT: She's voting for Cruz.

JONES: His cohorts in Washington, D.C. hate him. And whoever they hate that's who I'm for because they have destroyed our country.

ELLIOTT: Jones says the Republican Party has betrayed voters like her and now they're ready to revolt. The lesson for the party?

AUSTIN BARBOUR: When we're in power, we've got to govern better.

ELLIOTT: Austin Barbour, nephew of the former Governor Haley Barbour, is a Republican political strategist in Mississippi. He ran the super PAC that supported Rick Perry's presidential campaign but is unaffiliated now.

BARBOUR: I think this may be one of those every 50 to 100 year type of elections where the voters just sort of say, you know, damn the torpedoes. We're doing things different than we've done maybe in our lifetime.

ELLIOTT: And a powerful way to show frustration is at the polls. Debbie Elliott, NPR News, Jackson, Miss.

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