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GOP Candidates Battle To Win Super Tuesday's Delegates


Many presidential primaries come after this Super Tuesday, but there is a reason this day feels like it could be decisive. It was designed to be.


Both parties put enough convention delegates on the line today to give any big winner a major advantage. So let's listen to some of the Republican closing arguments. We begin with NPR's Don Gonyea following the campaign of Florida Senator Marco Rubio.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: For Rubio yesterday, five events in four states - Tennessee, Georgia, Arkansas and Oklahoma. But there was a snag - the candidate had lost his voice. So in Atlanta, he brought a special guest, Governor Nikki Haley, of neighboring South Carolina.


NIKKI HALEY: Because you know what I think Marco would say if he could talk?


HALEY: My ears aren't big.


GONYEA: It was a reference to one of the taunts Donald Trump has leveled at Rubio over the past week. Then came this...

HALEY: But I have to tell you, Donald Trump is everything I taught my children not to do in kindergarten.


GONYEA: Rubio stood next to her smiling. It wasn't clear that he'd talk at all - then...


MARCO RUBIO: Found a little bit of my voice back. I got my voice back just a little bit.

GONYEA: His main thrust was to portray Donald Trump as a disaster for the Republican Party. His voice gaining strength, Rubio launched into a critique of Trump's venture into education called Trump University. He said prospective students were told they would win, win, win - sound familiar? Instead, Rubio says, they wound up saddled with debt from loans.

RUBIO: This was a program where they brought Americans that were struggling 'cause if you're successful, you aren't going to Trump University. These are people that were struggling.

GONYEA: Then there are Trump's refusals in television interviews over the weekend to condemn comments from David Duke, the former Ku Klux Klan leader, who said it would be treason for a white American to vote against Trump. Eventually, Trump did disavow Duke in other settings. But yesterday, Rubio wondered why he stumbled on the topic.

RUBIO: You say David Duke to me, I say racist immediately. Why wouldn't he condemn the Ku Klux Klan?

GONYEA: Rubio needs to have a good day today, finishing closer to Trump than polls show, even winning somewhere, all with an eye on his home state of Florida, which votes in two weeks. And he wants to keep all of these stories about Trump alive. In Atlanta, he had this warning that a vote for Trump today is a vote for Hillary Clinton in November. Don Gonyea, NPR News.

INSKEEP: Senator Ted Cruz is battling for his home state of Texas, crossing the state yesterday. We find out tonight if it turns out more like The Alamo for Cruz or more like the Battle of San Jacinto. Texans will get the reference. NPR's Asma Khalid reports.

ASMA KHALID, BYLINE: After winning Iowa, Ted Cruz had counted on winning evangelicals across the South on Super Tuesday. But instead, many of the faithful seem to be turning to a new political savior, Donald Trump. And so today, Cruz is battling for a win in his own backyard.


TED CRUZ: God bless the great state of Texas.

KHALID: And Cruz spent the day trying to corral his fellow Texans. And he specifically attacked Trump.

CRUZ: You know, it's easy to talk about making America great again. You can even print that on a baseball cap. But the critical question is do you understand the principles and values that made America great in the first place?

KHALID: Cruz slammed Trump's immigration record, and he picked up on a BuzzFeed report that Trump might have taken a different tone on immigration in an off-the-record conversation with The New York Times.


CRUZ: It was reported that Donald Trump had a secret meeting with The New York Times where they recorded a tape - the editorial board - a tape of Donald this year saying, hey, you know that wall I keep talking about?

KHALID: The New York Times isn't commenting about the meeting with Trump. But that hasn't stopped Cruz from demanding these alleged tapes be released. Cruz insists he is the only Republican who can stop Trump.

CRUZ: The only campaign that has beaten Donald Trump and the only campaign that can beat Donald Trump is us.

KHALID: He warned voters that a vote for Trump could mean a victory for Hillary Clinton in the general election.

CRUZ: It doesn't make sense to have in the general election two rich, liberal New Yorkers on the ballot, one Democrat and one supposedly Republican.

KHALID: Texas is the biggest prize of the night. It has the most delegates at stake. Cruz predicts that a win here will make the Republican race and two-man fight, and he'll be one of those two guys still standing. Asma Khalid, NPR News.

MONTAGNE: And now Donald Trump - possibly the other guy. The most unlikely candidate this year is on the verge of a possible big win in today's contest. NPR's Sarah McCammon is following the Trump campaign and has this report from Georgia.

SARAH MCCAMMON, BYLINE: As Trump supporters walked from their parked cars to a rally on the Valdosta State University campus, they were greeted by a couple dozen protesters.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting) Love not hate. Love not hate.

MCCAMMON: There was action inside too when police removed a number of African-American students from the room before the rally began. That followed an incident in Virginia earlier in the day where protestors chanting black lives matter were removed by police. In Georgia, Trump took the stage to announce an endorsement that went over well with the thousands of cheering supporters who filled the large gymnasium.


DONALD TRUMP: All right, so we have some of the great drivers - one of the great drivers of the world in history.

MCCAMMON: This is the Deep South, and the endorsement came not from a political figure but from a group of NASCAR drivers.

TRUMP: The great, the legendary Bill Elliott. Come on, Bill.

MCCAMMON: The billionaire businessman also told voters he's committed to two things important to the Republican base here.

TRUMP: The Second Amendment is under siege. And I'll tell you what else is under siege, Christianity - it's under siege.

MCCAMMON: Support from evangelicals helped boost Trump to a substantial victory in neighboring South Carolina - something he's hoping to replicate in the many southern states voting today. As for his Republican rivals...

TRUMP: And I want to tell you, they're never going to get you to the promised land, folks. They're never going to do it.

MCCAMMON: Trump told the crowd that they could be part of something big.

TRUMP: And I want Georgia - I want you to lead the pack. We're going to have a lot of success.

MCCAMMON: Trump is hoping success here and in the other states that vote today will put him on a strong path to the Republican nomination. Sarah McCammon, NPR News, Valdosta, Ga. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Sarah McCammon
Sarah McCammon is a National Correspondent covering the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast for NPR. Her work focuses on political, social and cultural divides in America, including abortion and reproductive rights, and the intersections of politics and religion. She's also a frequent guest host for NPR news magazines, podcasts and special coverage.
Asma Khalid is a White House correspondent for NPR. She also co-hosts The NPR Politics Podcast.
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 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.