MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Let’s talk presidential politics now. The campaign shifted to Arizona this weekend in preparation for Tuesday’s primaries there. Today, Donald Trump held a big rally in Fountain Hills. That’s an upscale suburb of Phoenix. NPR’s Nathan Rott was there, and he’s with us now. Hi Nate.
NATHAN ROTT, BYLINE: Hey, how you doing?
MARTIN: Good. So there were a lot of protests planned around this event today. What happened?
ROTT: Well, it was actually a little calmer and quieter than people had expected. There were a lot of nerves going into the rally because Trump is a very controversial figure here given his strong stance on immigration. You can definitely see that in terms of the police presence. People were commenting that they’d never seen so many sheriff’s department folks in one place before. In terms of what actually happened though, a group of protesters led by a Latino and immigrant’s rights group called Puente blocked a major thoroughfare up to the event in the hour leading up to it. That stopped quite a few people who were trying to get there to see the rally and support Trump. At the actual event, there were smaller pockets of protesters, at least one of which I saw got escorted out. By and large, people were pretty civil, and any arguments that started to get heated were broken up by people in the crowd themselves.
MARTIN: Speaking of a heated issue, immigration has been a very heated and polarizing issue across the country, certainly in Arizona. Trump has taken a hardline stance. Did he talk about that there in the state?
ROTT: Oh yeah. I mean, that was his main talking point and certainly the biggest cheer-getter from the crowd. Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio was who introduced Trump to the event. And for folks that don’t know, Arpaio is a bit of a figurehead in the anti-immigration world and a really controversial one at that. He’s been accused of racial profiling and discrimination. That said, his endorsement is worth its weight in gold in Arizona politics. And he’s firmly backing Trump because of the strong stance that we mentioned. Trump has said that he’d like to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico and have Mexico pay for it. He must have mentioned that at least a half dozen times during today’s event. And every time he did, it drew huge, huge cheers from the crowd, which was mostly older, mostly white, though there were some younger people that were mixed in as well. I talked to a lot of those people, and they said that they do support Trump simply because of that hardline stance on immigration and because it’s so important here.
MARTIN: Just a couple of minutes here left, what are the other candidates doing this weekend?
ROTT: Well, Trump’s biggest rival here in Arizona, Ted Cruz, visited – and really his biggest rival in the election overall at this point – he visited the Mexican border yesterday and held am event at a small Christian college in Phoenix afterwards. It was a much smaller venue and a much smaller crowd than Trump had today. But he also focused on immigration at the event. He used less-strong words. But he did throw some jabs at Trump and said that he is the person that is best served as far as fixing immigration in this country and that Trump’s strong rhetoric and all of that is just that. There’s no actual meat behind that. Ohio Gov. John Kasich is in Utah today campaigning in preparation for the primary there. On the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders visited the border today and met with some immigrants down there. He’s holding an event in downtown Phoenix tonight and is expecting a pretty big turnout there. Hillary Clinton is waiting until Monday for her big event at a high school in Phoenix. And I think it’s worth mentioning again that the primary here in Arizona is hugely important in both races. In Sanders’ case, he needs to win in Arizona to have any chance of getting the nomination. And for Cruz…
ROTT: …He needs to show that he can get backing from mainstream Republicans…
ROTT: …And be an actual threat to the surging Trump.
MARTIN: All right, Nathan, thanks. That’s NPR’s Nathan Rott in Phoenix. And I do want to add that on the program tomorrow, we’re going to talk specifically about the challenge that media groups are facing covering Donald Trump specifically. We’ll talk with editors from Politico, Huffington Post and NPR, and we hope you will tune in on Sunday.
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