GOP Spotlight Shines On Florida And Ohio. Who Will Win? Ohio is where Donald Trump faces his biggest challenge against Gov. John Kasich. Sen. Marco Rubio is hoping to win his home state of Florida even though polls show Trump is ahead.

GOP Spotlight Shines On Florida And Ohio. Who Will Win?

GOP Spotlight Shines On Florida And Ohio. Who Will Win?

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Ohio is where Donald Trump faces his biggest challenge against Gov. John Kasich. Sen. Marco Rubio is hoping to win his home state of Florida even though polls show Trump is ahead.


This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne in Washington, D.C.


I'm Steve Inskeep in Tampa, Fla.


And I'm David Greene in Cleveland, Ohio. We're in three places, including the biggest states up for grabs on a dramatic presidential primary day.

MONTAGNE: In a moment, we'll hear surprising choices some Republican voters are making.

GREENE: We begin with NPR's Sarah McCammon, who is following the Republican candidates.

SARAH MCCAMMON, BYLINE: Ohio is where Donald Trump faces his biggest challenge today. The state's governor, John Kasich, has been gaining strength there. He brought Mitt Romney to stump for him yesterday.


MITT ROMNEY: I came here to make it real clear that all of America is watching what Ohio does because Ohio is carrying out a bit of a - of an interview, if you will, to see who wants to be president of the United States.

MCCAMMON: The Republicans 2012 nominee has been telling voters to back whoever has the best shot at taking delegates from Trump in each state. Kasich's final campaign stop before the primary was in his home town of Westerville, Ohio, where he echoed that theme.


JOHN KASICH: But the whole country's watching us. And the whole world is watching us, frankly, holding their breath about what we are all about.

MCCAMMON: In his home state of Florida, Senator Marco Rubio is trying to remain hopeful, even though he's lagged far behind Trump in the polls since last summer.


MARCO RUBIO: I can tell you that in Florida, I'm the only one that can beat Donald Trump. And whether someone supports Ted Cruz or John Kasich - if you vote for them in Florida, you're in essence voting for Donald Trump.

MCCAMMON: The way Texas Senator Ted Cruz sees it, he's really the only remaining hope for voters who want to stop Trump. He campaigned near Chicago yesterday.


TED CRUZ: In the course of the primary, we've seen the field narrow and narrow and narrow. And there are right now, today, only two candidates who have any plausible path towards winning the Republican nomination.

MCCAMMON: Cruz has spent much of the last few days in states like Illinois and Missouri, where delegates are divided proportionally. So even if he doesn't beat Trump, he could still gain some ground.


CRUZ: We are neck and neck with Donald Trump here in Illinois. Every one of you here has a national platform.

MCCAMMON: But Trump has been focused on the big prizes, making his final stops in Ohio and Florida, which award all of their delegates to the winner. In Tampa, there was a surprise guest. Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin had canceled another appearance to get home to her husband, Todd, who was injured in a snowmobile accident. Palin said when difficult things happen, it puts everything in perspective.


SARAH PALIN: It makes me appreciate the time that we have to spend in doing something so worthy. And that's to get Donald J. Trump elected president.

MCCAMMON: After a speech that was interrupted several times by protesters, Trump told a large crowd of supporters he's feeling ready to move on to a general election fight.


DONALD TRUMP: You know, the beauty would be if we win Florida and we win Ohio, we can go and attack Hillary. No more attacking each other.

MCCAMMON: Trump said it's time for Republicans to unite behind him. But even if he does pull off those big victories tonight, it doesn't look like the party is ready to do that.

GREENE: All right. That was NPR's Sarah McCammon reporting from Tampa, Fla. Now, as the candidates travel around, Steve and I have been talking with voters, including here in Ohio.

INSKEEP: And here in Florida. Now, listening to voters teaches you something about democracy.

GREENE: The voters' unpredictable choices resist simple storylines about an election.

INSKEEP: Consider Brandy and William Miller (ph), who met us at their home in sight of the roller coasters at Busch Gardens. They talked as their children ran around. Their education is Brandy's central concern because she dislikes the schools near this street of tiny old homes.

BRANDY MILLER: To me, it seems like it should be a little bit more evenly spread around. The neighborhoods that have, you know, higher incomes - yeah, they have much better schools. I mean, my kids' education is just as important as anyone else's.

INSKEEP: So when you talk about the schools not being equal, like, the affluent people are getting better schools.

B. MILLER: Absolutely.

INSKEEP: That gets to that whole phrase, economic inequality. Do you think about that much?

B. MILLER: I do. We try really hard to give our kids the best that we can.

INSKEEP: Which is not easy. She's a nurse but says hospitals want more qualifications than her community college degree. Her husband works in construction when he works.

GREENE: You know, Steve, just listening to that, I mean, they seem to be outlining a big theme in this election. We hear both Democrats talking about inequality. On the Republican side, Donald Trump is pushing economic populism. So, I mean, it makes me wonder who this couple is going to vote for.

INSKEEP: Well, let's listen to what they said.

WILLIAM MILLER: There's only one person I would vote for. And everyone else, I don't even care about. (Laughter). That's just it.

INSKEEP: Who's your one?

W. MILLER: Cruz.

B. MILLER: I like Cruz as well. You know, we come - we're Christians. We come from a Christian background. That's important. And it's funny because he was a Democrat. He voted for Obama. And now...


B. MILLER: (Laughter) Twice.

INSKEEP: Now he's a Democrat who now plans to sit out the primary, we should add. She is the kind of values-voter who not so long ago was seen as the bedrock of the Republican Party and says she will vote for Ted Cruz here in Florida today.

GREENE: You know, Steve, just listening to that, it reminds me of another deeply religious couple I met here in Ohio yesterday. And that's Dave and Linda Zitsmen (ph). They live in Norton, which is a suburb of Akron, not far from here in Cleveland. They were eating these delicious-looking gyros at the West Side Market. It's this vast space in Cleveland with food stalls and conversation. And Mr. Zitsmen told me he retired after 40 years at Goodyear. His wife raised six kids. And they said the country has lost some of those values, like the value of caring for one another.

INSKEEP: You know, that sounds a little like the Ted Cruz voters we just heard, David.

GREENE: Yeah. I mean, except for this part.

DAVE ZITSMEN: Personally, I think the one I'm going to vote for, and it's just because he's not going to win, is going to be Kasich. Honestly, what I hope happens - I hope that it's just a landslide with Kasich in Ohio.

GREENE: (Inaudible) wins big in Ohio?

D. ZITSMEN: Huge in Ohio. I think Kasich is doing so poorly throughout the U.S. because I don't think they know him. And I'm hoping if it is a landslide, people will say, wow, wait a minute. Maybe we better take a better look.

LINDA ZITSMEN: And I'm going to be like my husband. I'll vote for Kasich because I like the fact that he is not out there - it is not all about tearing someone down and destroying. It's about talking about what he really wants to do and how he's done it. And I admire someone that can keep themselves from getting caught up in the word war that goes on now.

GREENE: So if the two parties go in the direction they at least appear at this moment and it's Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, what do you do in November?


GREENE: Pray, she said. Or even in Linda Zitsmen's case, she said she might even look for a third-party candidate.

INSKEEP: You know, we met some younger voters here in Tampa in Seminole Heights - you know, restored craftsman-style houses, trendy restaurants, a leafy park, a neighborhood on the way up. Now, you know, when we approached two young families on the corner in a neighborhood like this, one of our colleagues said out loud, they're Democrats. Matt Bame (ph) was not.

MATT BAME: I'm leaning towards Rubio at this point. I wish he was a little bit more mature. I wish he was a little bit more polished off, a little less repetitive.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: A little more experienced.

BAME: A little bit more experienced. I mean, I - you know, I think young people can do great things in our country, and they have. It's just, you know, this is a big job.

INSKEEP: His wife more strongly favors Rubio, who needs them. The polling site FiveThirtyEight argues that Rubio polls well with conservatives and otherwise liberal places. There are not so many such voters. So he also needs Latino supporters like Delly Audias (ph). She voted early for him in Miami and then walked out to say that her relatives did not.

DELLY AUDIAS: I have some people, actually family, that are Democrats. So we're kind of a little bit divided in some of our issues and what we believe.

INSKEEP: It's a very diverse vote, David, not easy to capture.

GREENE: She says divided in what they believe. Any of her family going for Donald Trump?

INSKEEP: You know, she said one is. We should keep this in perspective. One national survey showed 80 percent of Latinos view Trump unfavorably. But he will be able to point to fans among Latinos and among other voter groups. Consider Julie.

JULIE: I think he really just speaks the only-in-America dream. I really do. And I for one could testify to that as a poor immigrant child who grew up here. And I think we need to foster the same America. I want it back.

INSKEEP: You said an immigrant child. Where are you from?

JULIE: I was born in Seoul, Korea.

INSKEEP: This immigrant says she is a lawyer who wants lower taxes. We're not using her last name because she feared her political views would reflect on her husband, who's in government. We found her in line hoping to get into yesterday's Trump rally here in Tampa.

As an immigrant, what do you think of Mr. Trump's views on immigration?

JULIE: Well, actually, everybody needs to obey the laws and get into this country legally, which we have done. I expect everybody else to do it. I don't think he's saying anything that's shocking. Let's obey the law.

INSKEEP: Although, he is saying a dramatically different policy than some other people when he says 11 million people should be rounded up and deported.

JULIE: I do believe he is saying shocking things to shock Americans a little bit. I do know there's a lot of melodrama-tization (ph) - a little bit. But I - I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt. That's not the true intent. But it's more of a let's get everybody kind of - have a discussion going.

INSKEEP: You know, when we asked what she actually wants to be done, she talked of bringing people out of the shadows to register, which sounds more like other candidates' proposals. So on that issue, this Trump fan is able to remain a Trump fan because she's decided that Trump will never actually do what he says, all of which adds up to a useful reminder on this big primary day.

GREENE: It's a reminder with so much on the line today. Americans will really make their own choices in their own way. Others might agree, disagree or be enraged.

INSKEEP: But in a democracy, voters do not have to follow any script.

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