Bernie Sanders Seals A Super Saturday With 3 State Wins
LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. Rachel Martin is off this Easter Sunday. I'm Linda Wertheimer. The presidential primary is grinding on. Yesterday, there were Democratic caucuses in Washington state, Hawaii and Alaska, and Bernie Sanders swept them handily. Next on the calendar for both parties is Wisconsin's primary on April 5. NPR's national political correspondent, Mara Liasson, is here now with results and a look ahead. Good morning, Mara.
MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Good morning, Linda.
WERTHEIMER: So Bernie Sanders took those Western some very - Western caucuses by percentages well into the double digits. What does that mean for the race?
LIASSON: Well, it was a very big day for Sanders. He won the caucuses in Alaska, Hawaii and the big prize of Washington state. Because the Democrats award delegates proportionately, not winner-take-all, Hillary Clinton did come out with some delegates, too. She still has a big delegate lead, close to 300 pledged delegates.
But Sanders now has renewed momentum going into Wisconsin, which should be a good state for him - lots of white liberals there. And New York is coming up, and he's planning to campaign very aggressively against Clinton in her home state, planning to talk about her ties to Wall Street.
So right now Bernie Sanders needs close to 60 percent of all the remaining delegates to catch up to Clinton, so he has to win almost all of the remaining contests and win them by very large margins.
WERTHEIMER: Which is a tall order, I think.
LIASSON: That's right.
WERTHEIMER: Republicans did not vote this week but oh boy, that did not mean there wasn't news or what's passing for news in this season. I want to present an interesting contrast for the week - two voices, starting with the Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, on Wednesday on Capitol Hill.
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CONGRESSMAN PAUL RYAN: This has always been a tough business, and when passions flare ugliness is sometimes inevitable. But we shouldn't accept ugliness as the norm.
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SENATOR TED CRUZ: I don't get angry often. But you mess with my wife, you mess with my kids, that'll do it every time. Donald, you're a sniveling coward, and leave Heidi the hell alone.
WERTHEIMER: And of course, that second voice was Ted Cruz in Wisconsin the very next day, engaging in some ugliness with Donald Trump.
LIASSON: That's right. That contrast was pretty stark, Paul Ryan complaining about identity politics without naming Donald Trump. Ryan says he wants the Republican Party to be a party of ideas, not insults. He's complained before about Trump's rhetoric - about his inciting violence at rallies, for not quickly repudiating support from the KKK - but it hasn't really made much of a difference.
And as you just said, right after that speech Trump and Cruz got into the gutter again with a fight over each other's wives and what one tabloid is calling the "Cuban Mistress Crisis." Ted Cruz responded to a National Enquirer report of alleged affairs saying they were untrue. He accused Donald Trump of being behind them, and Trump denied any involvement.
So when Republican leaders in Congress say they want to separate their candidates for House and Senate from Trump if he is the nominee, you can see that that is going to be very, very difficult.
WERTHEIMER: So what is happening in the voting part at the Republican primary as opposed to the Twitter and tabloid part of the Republican primary?
LIASSON: Wisconsin is up next. That should be a good state for Trump, although it's also full of anti-Trump partisans like Speaker Ryan himself. We're also waiting to see if Gov. Scott Walker, who dropped out of the race, endorses Ted Cruz. But the Stop Trump forces are busy planning for a contested convention in which delegates would be freed up after the first ballot if Trump doesn't get 1,237 delegates.
They'd be free to vote their consciences. They would no longer have to abide by the results of their state's primaries, so both Trump and Cruz are trying to line up commitments from these delegates, who are living, breathing people with free will - at least after the first ballot. So it's really a shadow campaign.
WERTHEIMER: Now in a normal election year, having a big international event like the attack we saw in Brussels on Tuesday, that would've been top political news in this country also. Was it?
LIASSON: It was out there. Usually terrorism helps the most talkish (ph) candidates, but it's unclear whether that will happen this year. Ted Cruz talked about patrolling Muslim neighborhoods. Trump gave big foreign-policy interviews to The New York Times and Washington Post talking about perhaps pulling back from NATO. Hillary Clinton gave a big national security speech at Stanford the day after the attacks, where she blasted Cruz and Trump and talked about how it's important to have steady hands to handle national security.
WERTHEIMER: NPR's national political correspondent, Mara Liasson. Mara, thank you very much.
LIASSON: Thank you.
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