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Rounding Up The Week In Politics


And now NPR's Mara Liasson is here to get us up to speed on yesterday's voting. Good morning, Mara.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Good morning, Rachel.

MARTIN: Where do things stand?

LIASSON: Well, we had a bunch of primaries and caucuses on the Democratic side. Bernie Sanders won the Nebraska and Kansas caucuses. That keeps his campaign alive. But Hillary Clinton won Louisiana, which was the big prize of the night, so she ended up winning more delegates than he did yesterday.

On the Republican side, there was a little setback for Donald Trump. He won Kentucky and Louisiana, but Ted Cruz got more delegates last night because he won very big in Kansas and in Maine. Cruz is now less than 100 delegates behind Trump, and he's clearly established himself as the alternative to Trump. Cruz is calling on Rubio and Kasich to drop out.

When you look ahead, the upcoming contests probably favor Trump - Michigan on Tuesday, then the Ohio and Florida, then - way down the road - New York and California. But we've learned a few things. Once again, Republicans are more enthusiastic than Democrats - big turnout for Republicans. In Kansas, for instance, it was double what it was in 2012. We learned that closed primaries for Republicans only favored Cruz because Donald Trump gets a lot of his support from independents and even Democrats. Caucuses favor Cruz because he has a superior organization. We also learned that the Romney strategy suggesting that voters give Rubio and Kasich their home states in order to deny Trump more delegates has fallen on deaf ears. Cruz, yesterday, said he's going to compete hard in Florida and Ohio in the hopes of making Rubio and Kasich drop out so he can go one-on-one with Trump.

MARTIN: All right. So Trump - yesterday, he skipped this scheduled speech at the CPAC, the conservative convention that's held every year in Washington. He skipped it. He was out on the trail and then he held a press conference. And it seemed that he was kind of tamping down his rhetoric. He's pivoting to a general...

LIASSON: Well, I think he's trying to pivot to a general election - trying to be an acceptable candidate to a wider array of voters. But he still has got a very fierce battle on his hands. Yesterday, he called on Rubio to drop out. He agrees with Cruz that it's a two-man race now. He disparaged Ted Cruz. He said he only won Maine because it was next to Canada, where Cruz was born. And he's been warning that if the establishment of the Republican Party runs a third party against him, as some have suggested, he might not bother to campaign and give the election to Hillary Clinton. And as you heard from your Trump supporter, if he feels that he's been treated unfairly and if the nomination is wrangled away from him, he could bolt. He could run as a third party, and he'd take his take his voters with them.

MARTIN: So what do you make of all these establishment attacks on Donald Trump? I mean, obviously, most recently, the speech by Mitt Romney - is any of this moving the needle as the Republican establishment so desperately seems to want?

LIASSON: Well, it's possible that the new infusion of ad money against Donald Trump kept his margins in Kentucky and Louisiana down a bit. But we're also seeing something that we've never seen in 100 years, which is we are seeing the crackup of a major American political party. The base has chosen or is choosing a candidate that the establishment says is absolutely unacceptable. And what that means is this marriage of an elite, big business-backed establishment and a blue-collar, downwardly mobile base has really come to a divorce. The establishment is divorcing itself from its base - from voters who are choosing a candidate who says he stands for things that are anathema to the establishment.

He is against free trade deals, immigration. He says nice things about Planned Parenthood, against reforming entitlements. So if you talk to Democrats, they'll say this is chickens coming home to roost. You know, for decades, the Republicans have courted these white downscale voters with social issues, crime, welfare, abortion, school prayer, gay marriage. But they've never had an economic program for these voters. They promised them if the GOP had both houses of Congress, they could stop Obama in his tracks. That hasn't happened. And as you heard in your interview earlier, these voters are mad at the Republican Party.

MARTIN: Indeed. Mara Liassonm NPR's national political correspondent.

We'll talk again. Thanks, Mara.

LIASSON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.