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California Primary Weighs Heavily On Republican Race


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin. In most election years, the nominating contest is generally wrapped up by the time California's June primary rolls around. But in this election season where nothing is normal, California is a crucible where Donald Trump will either clinch the nomination or where his rivals will stop him and force an open convention. And that's where we found the three remaining GOP candidates this weekend, in California wooing the party loyalists at the state Republican Convention. NPR's Ina Jaffe was there too.


INA JAFFE, BYLINE: You could say that Donald Trump drew the biggest crowds if you count the hundreds of protesters that surrounded the convention site and delayed his arrival. In the meantime, Trump supporter Luisa Aranda said she, too, had been confronted by protesters on her way into the convention. Maybe it was her T-shirt that said Latinos for the wall.

LUISA ARANDA: Yelling in my face, calling me a traitor, a sellout. How could I be there? I should be joining them. And I said no, my problem is I'm tired of the middle class paying for people like you.

JAFFE: When Trump finally arrived, he had little to say about immigration or the border wall he wants to build or really anything you would call an issue. Mainly, he touted his many recent victories and treated his winning the nomination as a done deal. Still, he complained about delegates being, quote, "bought" and said he'd been unfairly treated by the nomination process.


DONALD TRUMP: It's a rigged system. It's a rigged system, OK? It's a horrible, horrible, disgusting system.

JAFFE: That evening, John Kasich delivered a warmer message about helping people with mental illness and drug addiction and working with Democrats.


JOHN KASICH: And I don't know about you, but I'm worried about a divided, polarized country.

JAFFE: Speaking to reporters, Kasich was even more blunt about the divisions he feels Trump is exploiting. A Trump candidacy, he said, would be a disaster.


KASICH: Do the Republicans actually think that they can win an election by scaring every Hispanic in this country to death, scaring them to the point where they're afraid their families are going to be torn apart and disrupted? Do you have any idea what those folks are going to do in a general election?

JAFFE: In California, Latinos began deserting the Republican party more than 20 years ago. That's when former Republican Gov. Pete Wilson backed Proposition 187. The initiative denied public services and education to immigrants without documentation. Well, Saturday, Wilson made a surprise appearance at the convention.


PETE WILSON: And I am here today to announce to you my wholehearted endorsement and my wholehearted support of that winning Republican leader who will be the next president of the United States, Ted Cruz.


JAFFE: When Cruz spoke, he reminded supporters that the only way he'll be nominated is if Trump is stopped in California, where delegates are doled out based on the winners of each congressional district.


TED CRUZ: We are all in. We are going to be competing for all 172 delegates in California in all 53 congressional districts. It is going to be a battle on the ground, district by district by district.

JAFFE: In the evening, Carly Fiorina, Cruz's running mate if he gets the nomination, did not mince words, telling California Republicans that in this three-way contest, a vote for Kasich is the same as a vote for Trump. And a vote for Trump is the same as a vote for Hillary Clinton. Both, she said, represent the establishment.


CARLY FIORINA: He will not challenge the system. He will not fight the system. He is the system. He will protect it. He will preserve it. And he will use it to his own benefit, which is what he has done all his life.

JAFFE: If this Republican Convention is a preview of what's to come, California voters should have a bloody political battle to witness over the next few weeks. Ina Jaffe, NPR News, Burlingame, Calif. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ina Jaffe is a veteran NPR correspondent covering the aging of America. Her stories on Morning Edition and All Things Considered have focused on older adults' involvement in politics and elections, dating and divorce, work and retirement, fashion and sports, as well as issues affecting long term care and end of life choices. In 2015, she was named one of the nation's top "Influencers in Aging" by PBS publication Next Avenue, which wrote "Jaffe has reinvented reporting on aging."