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Politics In The News: Rocky Weekend For Presidential Front-Runners


Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump has another reason to be angry. His rival Ted Cruz gained dozens of convention delegates in a series of party votes in Colorado. Remember it is delegates, not primary votes, who actually choose the nominee. And as Trump campaigned yesterday in Rochester, N.Y., he had to acknowledge the possibility of losing at the convention.


DONALD TRUMP: When I look at it and I see all these victories that I have, all these victories that he's got and then you look at the establishment, and I want to tell you it's a corrupt deal going on in this country. And it's not good.

INSKEEP: Let's talk through the race in both parties with two columnists, our regular commentator Cokie Roberts - good morning, Cokie.


INSKEEP: And Kathleen Parker of The Washington Post. Good morning to you.

KATHLEEN PARKER: Hey, good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: Delighted to have you both here. Does fighting for delegates amount to a corrupt deal?

ROBERTS: No, of course not. It's the rules. It's the rules of the game. But apparently, Mr. Trump didn't know that, and so he is having trouble keeping up with the delegate count. And Ted Cruz said from the beginning that he believed in data and big data and data mining. So, you know, he can call up each one of these delegates personally and get them to a convention or whatever - a state convention. It's the game - it's the play book that Obama won by in 2008, where in several states, Hillary Clinton won the state but Barack Obama won the delegates. And now Donald Trump is suffering from it, as is Bernie Sanders.

INSKEEP: Now, I want to mention we've had plenty of Trump supporters on the program. In this case, we've got a couple of people who are on record criticizing Donald Trump. But let me ask you, Kathleen Parker, granting that it is the rules, people have attacked these rules for generations as being undemocratic and have even tried to change them. Wouldn't Trump have a point if he arrives in Cleveland with the most votes behind him?

PARKER: Well, yeah, I suspect that'll be a great argument for the base and certainly for the people who feel like, well, gosh, does my vote count at all? But, you know, part of the game is to prevent someone like Trump becoming president. And so that's sort of the, you know, the sort of safety net that's in - that's part of this whole system. And, you know, if he gets to the - he's going to - obviously he's going to make a big case. And so would Bernie Sanders in the same situation.

INSKEEP: Do you feel like he's coming apart in recent days, as some people have suggested?

PARKER: Yeah, I do see this. And I think it's just a natural evolution. I thought it would have happened much sooner, frankly. But, you know, it's sort of like dating...

ROBERTS: (Laughter) We all did.

PARKER: Yeah. I mean, eventually - eventually people become their true selves. You can't fake being whatever you're pretending to be for very long. Now, Trump has never...

INSKEEP: Did you say sort of like dating? Is that what you just said there?

PARKER: Kind of like, you know, I give - I give human beings two years.


PARKER: You can only be your best self for two years, and then it's over. And you've got to admit that you actually, you know, lay on the couch all day Sunday and watch movies rather than go to church, which some people do say about Ted Cruz. But I'm just throwing that out there.

ROBERTS: Well, Trump also yesterday, for the first time in 20 weeks, did not appear, at least telephonically, on a Sunday talk show. So he was sort of going to the mats and trying to figure out a strategy from here on out. But I think this question - I want to get back to this question of the rules because I think there could likely be rules fights at the convention. And that's going to be something interesting to watch and something we haven't seen for a long time. And as I say, Bernie Sanders is making some of the same case, that he's talking about a contested convention on the Democratic side. Now, the Clinton people say that's absolutely not going to happen, that they're quite confident that she will be fine when it comes to the convention. But Kathleen was...

PARKER: I would be worried about how the Clinton prevent - the Clintons prevent that happening (laughter).

ROBERTS: Right. But, you know, yes - you mean go by their own actions.

PARKER: Well, they're just - yeah.

ROBERTS: Yeah. But, you were making the point, Kathleen, that the, you know, that this is what the rules are designed to stop, a candidate who can't win a general election. And of course, Sanders is complaining about the superdelegates, those Democratic officeholders who have lined up behind Hillary Clinton.

INSKEEP: An extra several hundred votes for her at the moment.

ROBERTS: Exactly, although she's also doing fine with pledged delegates and winning voters, by 2.4 million as she constantly points out. But the fact is is that those superdelegates, the chances of them switching and going to Sanders, which is what he has been talking about, is very, very small because he's never done anything for them.

PARKER: Right.

ROBERTS: These are Democratic officeholders, and he has not been out on the hustings for the Democratic Party and working for Democratic candidates ever. And so that - what is their motivation there?

INSKEEP: Well, let me ask about a non-candidate in this race who continues to loom larger and larger. He is House Speaker Paul Ryan. Of course, he ran for vice president in 2012. And the other day, he released a video that can be described as looking a lot like a campaign ad.


PAUL RYAN: We want people to reach their potential votes in their lives. Now, liberals and conservatives are going to disagree with one another on that. No problem. That's what this is all about.

INSKEEP: The music brings a tear to my eye, but what do you think of the politics here?


PARKER: Wow, that was...

ROBERTS: And he has been out on the hustings, raising money for Republican candidates big time. So it's a very, very different picture here. Now, you know, there's a fantasy I think that the Republican convention will turn to him after they go through a few ballots and don't have a nominee. But Kathleen, you know, that's your party. What do you think?

PARKER: Well, now, I think Paul Ryan's been working on this for a long time. Now, whether they can - as you say, Cokie, it'd be very difficult for the Republicans to suddenly snatch someone out of thin air and let two front-runners go after they've put all this time and money into the campaign and, you know, after they have all these votes. But Paul Ryan has been working sort of quietly within the House and speaking to groups and talking in these really kind of broad, reaching terms about how you bring the people's voice back to the conversation. He talks about it in terms of subsidiary, which is part of his Catholic faith.

ROBERTS: Which means getting to the lowest possible form of government.

PARKER: Right, the lowest, the smallest, practical and competent unit rather than this top-down, which I think, you know, he said as other - as other people have done - other leaders, you know...

INSKEEP: Just got to interrupt you here. I just want to ask a bottom line question. Assuming Paul Ryan doesn't run for president, can he and other congressional Republicans at least save themselves?

ROBERTS: Probably, yes. And that's probably the campaign he's running as a parallel campaign to make sure that the House stays Republican.

INSKEEP: Kathleen?

PARKER: Yeah, I would agree with what Cokie has said. And the best worst situation would be for the Republican Party to lose this election with dignity.

INSKEEP: (Laughter) There you go. Kathleen Parker, columnist for The Washington Post, thanks so much. And also thanks to Cokie Roberts, both of them joining us to talk through the political situation as we do most Monday mornings. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.