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Will Wis. Primary Wins Affect Contests In New York And Pennsylvania?

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Two monster states now loom in the presidential primaries. They are the biggest states to vote in this busy month of April. One is Pennsylvania.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

The other is New York, home to both of the presidential front-runners - you know, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, the candidates who were thunderously defeated last night in Wisconsin. We're going to talk through the big states ahead, starting with NPR national political correspondent, Mara Liasson, who's on the line. Mara, good morning.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Good morning.

INSKEEP: What's the landscape for these two big states?

LIASSON: Well, they are big. They're 10 percent of the population. They are extremely diverse. They have more moderate voters. They have rural conservatives. Especially thinking about Bernie Sanders, they've got areas that are very depressed in Pennsylvania, the kind of Rust Belt Appalachian areas. But also they've got big diverse cities - Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, places where Hillary Clinton should be able to do better. And they're just bigger, more diverse electorates than what we saw in Wisconsin.

INSKEEP: And extremely interesting on the Republican side as well, right? You have a particular kind of Republican that you'll find in the Eastern states.

LIASSON: Yeah. You've got many more moderate Republicans in New York and Pennsylvania. Wisconsin had an unusual congregation of highly engaged conservative activists who'd been through a lot of battles, recalls for the governor, state Supreme Court justice elections - very, very highly engaged. That's going to be different in New York and Pennsylvania.

INSKEEP: Well, let's just remind people who are just waking up that Bernie Sanders won big in Wisconsin, that Ted Cruz won big in Wisconsin, that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump lost significantly in that state, although we heard in this program from Neil Newhouse, the pollster, who said Wisconsin's results make no difference for these big states coming up. Is that true?

LIASSON: Well, it's possible because to the extent that Trump's loss was due to demographics, I don't think that was all of it. The states coming up are so much better for him. Wisconsin was a really unusual situation where the anti-Trump forces for the very first time were able to completely consolidate. You had a governor who had been a presidential candidate who dropped out and then endorsed Ted Cruz. You had a speaker of the house, Paul Ryan, who while he didn't endorse anyone, had been critical of Trump. You had these talk show hosts who, all of them, were in the stop-Trump movement. That's not going to be true in New York and Pennsylvania.

INSKEEP: On the Democratic side, what was it that worked so well for Sanders?

LIASSON: Well, Wisconsin had a lot of white progressives. That is the perfect situation for Bernie Sanders. New York and New Jersey, Pennsylvania coming up are going to be much more diverse. Of course, New York is where Bernie Sanders was born, and he sure still sounds like it. And the home state advantage I don't think you can ignore. This is a home state for Trump. It's a home state for Hillary Clinton. And she - he already - Trump did very well in his other home state of Florida. But I think for Bernie Sanders, he's going to be facing competing in Hillary Clinton's best state.

INSKEEP: Well, let's talk through this with some other voices now. Brian Mann is a reporter with North Country Public Radio. He's in the Adirondack Mountains. He joins us now via Skype. Brian, good morning.

BRIAN MANN, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: So what does upstate New York, as they call it, think of Donald Trump?

MANN: Well, they like this guy, you know? This is not a part of New York that usually likes Manhattan politicians. But they just haven't seen Donald Trump that way. They see him as a businessman, kind of an iconic figure. I talked with Bob Bayruns. He's a 20-year Air Force veteran who's retired now, and he manages a hardware store here.

BOB BAYRUNS: He's a one-of-a-kind. He's different. And I just think his dynamics and his ability to get people to work for him - I mean, he's successful. He gets people to do things that no other politician can do.

INSKEEP: He himself has been doing things that no other politician could do. But they've gotten him in trouble in recent days. Has Trump's trouble in the last week or two caused any change in the sentiments in upstate New York?

MANN: I kind of expected to hear that, maybe hear some of his supporters here in New York kind of edging toward the door. But as I talked to my neighbors and people around upstate, I just didn't hear that. I reached out last night via Skype to Sue MacNeil. She works at a local hospital, and she's chair of the Republican Party in Fulton County, N.Y., a few hours west of here. And she told me, you know, that people who are put off by Donald Trump's coarse talk, especially about women - she says they're just wimps.

SUE MACNEIL: If you can't stand the heat, then gosh darn it, get out of the gosh-darned kitchen. I grew up with two older brothers. And I learned a lot from the family that I grew up with. And if I couldn't take it, then that was my problem. And talk about political correctness. Women, suck it up.

INSKEEP: Definite views there. OK, so Mara mentioned this is a home state for Trump. It's a home state for Hillary Clinton. Is it also sort of a home state for Bernie Sanders?

MANN: You know, he's right across the lake - Lake Champlain - and sort of to the extent that Vermont has a media market, there are a lot of people here who've sort of known Bernie Sanders over the years. And then, of course, his connection to New York City - so, you know, he has a political brand here. It's not quite on the same level as Hillary Clinton, who of course was a senator from here. But they both have some serious roots for sure.

INSKEEP: Mara Liasson is still listening to this conversation. Mara, I want to ask about something in particular here. We've seen a fair number of reporting - FiveThirtyEight and other people - noting that Donald Trump gets a lot of support from white Republicans who live in heavily minority urban areas. There's something about those areas that draws people to Donald Trump. I suppose there are quite a few such areas in New York and Pennsylvania.

LIASSON: Yes. If that's one of his strengths, he's certainly going to find pockets of that in New York and in Pennsylvania. And that certainly wasn't the case in Wisconsin.

INSKEEP: Well, let's talk now with Terry Madonna, who is a voice from Pennsylvania, about his state. He's at Franklin and Marshall College. He's in Lancaster, Penn. Good morning, sir.

TERRY MADONNA: Good morning.

INSKEEP: Who has an advantage in Pennsylvania?

MADONNA: Well, on the Democratic side, there's no doubt. I mean, Hillary Clinton beat President Obama, then Senator Obama, by 10 points in 2008. Her father was born in Scranton, played football for Penn State, talking about the connections. And we joke in Pennsylvania, if you played football for Penn State you can probably do just about anything given the popularity of that university. Her daughter Chelsea is married to the son of a former Pennsylvania congresswoman. She has deep connections down in Philadelphia in the southeast. Mara was talking about that part of the state in her analysis earlier. This is - she's lead every poll by double digits. I think it's going to be tough for Sanders in this state, given the fact that Hillary Clinton has long-standing connections here, many campaigns, many relationships built up over the years. I won't say it couldn't tighten. I mean, there will be forthcoming polls. I'll have one in two weeks - Quinnipiac is out today. So we'll see, but this looks like pretty much Hillary Clinton territory.

INSKEEP: But let me ask about something else that Mara said. She pointed out that Bernie Sanders does well in disadvantaged areas...

MADONNA: Correct.

INSKEEP: ...People, you know, in old industrial areas for example. Aren't there such places in Pennsylvania?

MADONNA: Oh sure, particularly in the southwestern part of our state. That's the old mining and mill town area, where steel and oil and coal were once - once ruled. Population losses out there have been pretty significant. And many of those Democrats have changed their party registration to Republican. Remember we used to call them the Reagan Democrats. Now I don't know if we call them the Reagan Republicans or not. But the point is that there are fewer of them. I think the Democratic race is largely going to be decided east of the Susquehanna River, in Philadelphia up in the northeastern part of the state, in Scranton and Wilkes-Barre. And there are obviously some, you know, folks - blue-collar, white blue-collar workers with incomes $40,000, $50,000 or less, folks who have not gone to college that both Sanders and Trump talk an awful lot about in their campaigns. Look, it's going to get closer. There isn't any doubt. But most analysts, I think, in this state would be surprised if Sanders wins.

INSKEEP: Now, on the Republican side, if I can ask very quickly, I was in another part of coal country some weeks ago. And you might have expected people to be saying Donald Trump, Donald Trump - Republican voters. But, it wasn't scientific, but what I was hearing from a number of people actually was Ted Cruz, Ted Cruz.

MADONNA: Yeah. Well, he's certainly on the uptick, there's no doubt about it. Now, John Kasich has certainly done a bit better in the last month or so in this state. You were talking about suburban Republican in particular. I think he'll do especially well in the Philadelphia suburbs and up in the Lehigh Valley. But to go back to your question, out in the southwestern part of our state, where I - the part I mentioned earlier...

INSKEEP: Yeah.

MADONNA: ...That's where - that is particularly where Donald Trump does better among these blue-collar workers - white voters, blue-collar as I mentioned earlier. And that race, I think, will tighten. And we'll have to see how it goes. They're going - and they're invading the state now, even as we speak, with campaign headquarters and volunteers. The energy level is definitely up in Pennsylvania.

INSKEEP: Terry Madonna, thanks very much, really appreciate it. I'm going to give the last word here - about 20 seconds - to Mara Liasson. Mara, do the results in Wisconsin increase the chances of a contested convention on the Republican side, as we head into these huge states?

LIASSON: Absolutely. The stop-Trump forces are very optimistic today that he won't enter the convention with the 1,237 votes he needs to get the nomination on the first ballot. But exit polls from Wisconsin showed 55 percent of Republicans said that the nominee should be the person who has the most delegates, not necessarily 1,237.

INSKEEP: Wow, OK. Thanks very much. That's NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson. Thanks to you.

LIASSON: Thank you.

INSKEEP: And we also heard from Terry Madonna of Franklin and Marshall College, as well as Brian Mann of North Country Public Radio. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.