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5 Mega Tuesday Takeaways: Trump, Clinton Both Building Broad Party Coalitions

Audience members hold up signs supporting Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump during a campaign rally in Boca Raton, Fla., on Sunday.
Paul Sancya
Audience members hold up signs supporting Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump during a campaign rally in Boca Raton, Fla., on Sunday.

Tuesday's big primary night helped both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump extend their delegate leads in their respective parties. And as each state votes, we're beginning to get a clearer glimpse at just who their supporters are.

For Trump, his support continues to cross traditional demographic and socioeconomic lines, underscoring just how difficult it will continue to be for Republicans opposing his controversial candidacy to stop him. But some of his weaknesses with GOP voters could also be a problem for him in a general election.

As for Clinton, she rebounded from last week's loss in Michigan by winning over white voters in Ohio and staved off another Midwest loss in Illinois thanks to black voters, proving she could be competitive outside of the South.

Here are five big things we learned from exit polls last night:

Donald Trump's amorphous coalition grows

As Donald Trump continues to win primaries across the country, his broad coalition is hard to define.

In all of Tuesday's contests, Trump did well with most demographics. Sure, he still has an overwhelming advantage among some — such as white working-class voters.

But exit polls point to an amorphous winning coalition. Depending on the state, Trump won rich voters, poor voters, working-class voters, college-educated voters, suburban voters and rural voters. The one exception (see below) is Ohio, where the local governor, John Kasich, pulled off a win.

But, for some perspective, in Florida, Trump won white working-class voters and white college-educated voters by about the same margins. Then, in North Carolina, he essentially broke even with Ted Cruz among evangelical voters. And, in Illinois, where the suburban vote was key (60 percent), he won that demographic by 12 percentage points (40 percent to Cruz's 28 percent).

His two weaknesses: late-deciders and Hispanics.

Trump is fond of saying "the Hispanics love me," but Florida seemed to cast doubts on that claim. In the state's GOP primary, 17 percent of voters were Latino — and Rubio overwhelmingly beat Trump in that demographic (52 percent to 27 percent).

Kasich had broad support in Ohio, but can he replicate it elsewhere?

The Ohio governor pulled off something Marco Rubio couldn't: winning his home state. He did so by edging out Trump with some of his usually reliable voting blocs — men, older voters, white voters and college graduates. He won every age group, beat Trump with female voters by 13 points, and carried voters under 30 by 21 points.

For comparison, in Florida, Trump crushed Rubio in all those demographics. The state's sitting senator ended up winning just one county in the Sunshine State — his home of Miami-Dade.

But the big win in the state he's never lost a race in could be the apex for Kasich. It's his first statewide win of the presidential race. He's looking ahead toward other states with makeups like Pennsylvania to possibly replicate that coalition, but in any other state where he hasn't been on the ballot for more than three decades (or basically camped out in like in New Hampshire) he's been almost an asterisk.

Clinton's Midwestern wins came thanks to both white and black voters

Sure, Illinois and Ohio are both Midwestern states that border the Great Lakes, but there aren't many parallels between Clinton's dual victories there.

Clinton's big win of the night came from Ohio, where she performed better than she did in Michigan, which she lost to Sanders just a week ago, in many parallel categories.

The two states have some similar demographics: Both are industrial states with large union populations. But in essentially every key group that Clinton lost to Sanders in Michigan, she won (or tied) in Ohio.

White voters were especially key to her victory. In Michigan, Clinton lost white college graduates by 11 points. In Ohio, she won that same group by nine points. Likewise, in Michigan, she lost the union vote by three points, but in Ohio, she won it by 12 points.

And — perhaps the most fascinating factor in her Ohio victory, given her apparent weakness on trade issues after the Michigan defeat — she won by 10 points among Ohioans who said trade with other countries "takes away U.S. jobs."

Illinois, which was a might tighter race, paints a different picture: Clinton struggled with white voters, as she did in Michigan. She lost both white working-class and college-educated folks. And, on that same trade question, she seemed more vulnerable in Illinois, losing to Sanders by 11 points.

Her saving grace were black voters (who made up about 28 percent of the Democratic electorate). She won them overwhelmingly, beating Sanders by 41 percentage points.

Clinton's strength among Hispanics grows

Clinton's 30-point win in Florida was partly fueled by Hispanic voters, another valuable voting bloc in November. Twenty percent of the Democratic electorate was Latino, and she beat Sanders with those voters 72 percent to 28 percent.

That continues a trend for Clinton. In Texas earlier this month, she also topped Sanders in voting by the 28 percent of Hispanic voters making up that electorate, beating him by 34 points with this group. In Nevada, there was some dispute over the accuracy of the entrance polls in the state's Democratic caucuses.

The next big test for Sanders in winning over Latino voters is in Arizona next Tuesday. His campaign has raised expectations in this state — and it's where he was campaigning last night.

Third-party rumbling is growing

As Trump grew his delegate lead on Tuesday night, the so-called #NeverTrump movement (Republicans who are pledging never to unite behind the controversial candidate) could pick up some steam, too, especially after Rubio's withdrawal.

And there are some encouraging signs for those Republicans who want another alternative this fall. In Florida exit polls, 29 percent of voters said they'd consider a third-party candidate if it's Trump and Clinton who are the nominees. And nearly a quarter of GOP voters in the critical general election swing state said they would not vote for Trump. In Ohio, another must-win for Republicans in November, 43 percent of Republican voters said they would consider a third-party alternative.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Asma Khalid is a White House correspondent for NPR. She also co-hosts The NPR Politics Podcast.
Jessica Taylor is a political reporter with NPR based in Washington, DC, covering elections and breaking news out of the White House and Congress. Her reporting can be heard and seen on a variety of NPR platforms, from on air to online. For more than a decade, she has reported on and analyzed House and Senate elections and is a contributing author to the 2020 edition of The Almanac of American Politics and is a senior contributor to The Cook Political Report.
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