Donald Trump Makes Play For Indiana After Nearly Sweeping Rivals In New York

Apr 20, 2016
Originally published on April 21, 2016 3:57 pm
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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Donald Trump won big in New York yesterday and is expected to pull off wins in the upcoming primary races along the East Coast, too. So the next big question mark hangs over Indiana. Voters head to the polls there on May 3. NPR's Asma Khalid is in Indiana, and he's been talking to voters. She now joins us from the state fairgrounds, where Donald Trump just wrapped up a rally. Hi, Asma.

ASMA KHALID, BYLINE: Hi, Robert.

SIEGEL: Trump brought out a big crowd today in Indianapolis, as he tends to. Tell us what you saw.

KHALID: Well, there were a few thousand people here, and I would say I met an interesting mix of people, including this tattoo artist. He told me he supported Obama - President Obama eight years ago, but now he likes Trump because of sort of a similar message, he said, of change. I think, in some ways, Indiana is very friendly turf for Donald Trump. And I would say that because it's a leading manufacturing state. There are plenty of white, working-class voters. And those are folks who, in other states so far, have supported Trump in higher numbers than any other group. Indiana's also a place that has suffered tremendously, both from trade and opioid abuse. One woman we spoke to called it the Mississippi of the North. Some folks here, I think, are just frustrated, and they're looking for a candidate who could upend, you know, the entire political system. You know, I would also say the fact, though, that Trump was here this afternoon - the day after he swept his home state - you know, not just holding a rally, but he also met with the governor - I think that's a sign of how important Indiana is.

SIEGEL: Fifty-seven delegates, I believe.

KHALID: Exactly.

SIEGEL: Have you been able to get out of Indianapolis yet?

KHALID: Yeah. We spent the day yesterday in Vigo County, Ind. It's in the southwest part of the state. It's actually the most inaccurate bellwether county in the country, so a really fascinating place. And there we met a cross-section of voters. I talked to folks who like Ted Cruz, people who like John Kasich and Donald Trump. And I think that is fairly reflective of the state. I would say, for a lot of the voters, I think what they expressed to me most was that this is a really exciting moment for Hoosiers. They are surprised that they're getting this much attention. I spoke with one gentleman. His name is Randy Gentry. He's the head of the Republican Party in Vigo County. And he says, this is just really unchartered territory for folks.

RANDY GENTRY: If you go back and look at, you know, history as far as presidential races, this is usually over by now - Indiana's not even in play. You know, I mean, we're getting to see something that I've never seen in my lifetime, where we actually are in play.

KHALID: And Gentry told me, you know, he just recently decided to support Trump. But he says folks across the state are realizing that Indiana could be a tipping point.

SIEGEL: Asma, do any of the other candidates seem to have an edge in Indiana?

KHALID: Yeah, well, I've talked to folks who are quite involved in Indiana politics, and they think that all three GOP candidates have a distinct constituency here. Indiana, I think, is kind of unique in that way. And one thing I will say that is clear in terms of local politics in Indiana is that there are two kinds of Republicans in the state. And the two wings of Republican ideology here align almost perfectly with the Kasich and the Cruz campaigns, so let me explain that, you know, for a second. There's the establishment, pro-business wing of the party. This is what folks here would refer to as the Mitch Daniels Republican Party. He was the former governor of Indiana. And this would be a natural support base for John Kasich. He's also - you know, Kasich, being the neighboring - governor of a neighboring state, is well-known. Then, there's also the strong conservative, religious side of the party and a powerful evangelical force would align with Ted Cruz.

SIEGEL: Now, Indiana has already chosen the delegates, the individuals who'll be at the convention. Does - do those choices give an advantage to one candidate over another?

KHALID: Well, the delegates who have been selected so far seem to support John Kasich or Ted Cruz. I think the delegate list is definitely not lined up in favor of Donald Trump. And folks say that they will vote the way that they need to, but thereafter, they may vote for whoever they like after that first ballot at the convention.

SIEGEL: That's Asma Khalid in Indianapolis. Asma, thanks.

KHALID: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.