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Clinton, Cruz, Sanders And Trump Walk Away With Wins In Western Caucuses


Now, the Brussels attacks came on a voting day here in the United States. NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson is covering the primary and caucus voting in Arizona, Utah and Idaho. Hi, Mara.


INSKEEP: How much do attacks like the one in Brussels affect the campaign?

LIASSON: Well, it's too soon to tell. But they can affect the campaign in big ways. In the past, national security and terrorism has always helped Republicans. And just based on poll numbers, the Paris and San Bernardino attacks do seem to have helped Donald Trump in the Republican primaries. His support spiked during those two attacks. And there's some research that national security crises can hurt female candidates.

But now, we're headed to a general election where it looks like one of the nominees will be a former secretary of state, who is making her foreign policy experience an important part of her campaign. She's arguing that she's ready on day one. Hillary Clinton is giving a counter-terrorism address at Stanford University today. And yesterday, she was poking at Donald Trump, talking about how you need steady hands to fight ISIS.

Trump, on the other hand, has credited the Paris attacks with his biggest rise in the polls. Yesterday, he said that the terrorists will cause Hillary Clinton to lose the elections. He's calling for a tougher response, more torture. But that was just hours after he also called for scaling back America's commitment to NATO, whose headquarters just happens to be right in between the two sites of those two attacks in Brussels.

INSKEEP: Well, there you go. Now, people voted yesterday, waiting in extremely long lines in some places. And on the Republican side, they gave Ted Cruz a win in Utah - Trump in Arizona. John Kasich got nothing. Which of them gained more delegates?

LIASSON: Well, Donald Trump won the big prize. Arizona was winner take all. He got 58 delegates. That puts him one more step down the road to getting the 1,237 delegates he needs to win the nomination on the first ballot at the convention in Cleveland. Ted Cruz, because he got over 50 percent in the Utah caucuses, gets all of that state's 40 delegates.

INSKEEP: OK. Well, let me just ask about this. The Stop Trump movement is turning out to be a stop Trump here and there movement. Is that going to be enough actually to block him?

LIASSON: Well, it's still mathematically possible. But the idea of a contested convention, which is the Stop Trump movement's goal, just seems to be a little harder to pull off after yesterday.

INSKEEP: What about the Democrats?

LIASSON: Well, Hillary Clinton won the big prize. That was Arizona. Bernie Sanders won the caucuses in Idaho and Utah. There were no Republican contests in Idaho last night. And right now, it's almost impossible for Sanders to catch up to Clinton's delegate lead. The Democrats give out there delegates on a proportional basis.

And while no Democrats are calling publicly for Sanders to drop out, there is a lot of talk about, if Sanders stays in, how does he campaign? Does he campaign against Trump or against Clinton? And does he prevent the party from unifying against what many Democrats think is a scary and potentially very formidable opponent in the fall?

INSKEEP: Has this been a problem that Hillary Clinton's opponents have faced all along, their fellow Democrats saying don't go too hard after this person who probably is going to be the nominee no matter what you attempt?

LIASSON: Sure. There's a lot of talk about that in Democratic circles, a lot of concern about how Bernie Sanders is campaigning. Does he campaign in a way that helps the party unify for the fall? Or does he campaign in a way that weakens the - Hillary Clinton, who looks like she's going to be the nominee in the fall - that actually just exposes her weaknesses?

INSKEEP: Just got about 20 seconds here, Mara. Are Democrats feeling confident or weirded out by the Republican primary so far?

LIASSON: I would say that there is an equal amount of schadenfreude at the GOP's disarray and anxiety about Donald Trump possibly being able to win in the fall because he's so unpredictable. So I would say Democrats are both worried and optimistic at the same time.

INSKEEP: OK. Mara, thanks very much, appreciate it.

LIASSON: Thank you.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's Mara Liasson on this morning after voting in Utah, Idaho and Arizona. We have a little bit more news this morning. Jeb Bush, former candidate, has now endorsed Ted Cruz in the Republican race. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Mara Liasson is a national political correspondent for NPR. Her reports can be heard regularly on NPR's award-winning newsmagazine programs Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Liasson provides extensive coverage of politics and policy from Washington, DC — focusing on the White House and Congress — and also reports on political trends beyond the Beltway.