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Trump's Momentum Threatens A Cruz Victory In His Home State Of Texas


Next Tuesday is not just Tuesday. It's Super Tuesday, the day of many presidential primary contests. And the biggest prize of all is Texas. That one state could give a candidate 10 percent of the delegates needed for the Republican nomination. Texas is, of course, the home state of Senator Ted Cruz. But even there, Cruz faces a serious challenge from Donald Trump. Here's NPR's Sarah McCammon.

SARAH MCCAMMON, BYLINE: Yesterday, Ted Cruz came home to Texas.


TED CRUZ: After a whole lot of months on the road, it is good to be home.


MCCAMMON: At a rally in Houston, Cruz asked Republicans in his home state to get to work for his campaign in the remaining days before the Texas primary.


CRUZ: We have six days to stand together and say we will not give up on our country.

MCCAMMON: In any normal election year, a Texas senator who's popular at home should be poised to take the lion's share of the state's 155 delegates. But as Donald Trump often reminds voters, he's popular among evangelicals, an important group in the South and one that Cruz has courted heavily. Trump also won big in South Carolina, where the electorate is similar to many Super Tuesday states. Still, Cruz is a force in Texas, popular with voters like Mickey Martin of McKinney, outside Dallas.

MICKEY MARTIN: I think he's the only one that really wants to go to Washington and actually change things.

MCCAMMON: At a local tea party meeting, Martin said he isn't convinced by Trump.

MARTIN: He reminds me of the theater when you watch worldwide wrestling, you know? They say a good game, and they throw chairs, and they do all that, and then they go out and have beers together afterward because it's all a show.

MCCAMMON: Other Cruz supporters find Trump not just unbelievable, but dangerous. Jimmy Weaver is the Republican chairman in Kaufman County. There's a sign outside his air-conditioning business that counts down the days until, he hopes, Cruz becomes president.

JIMMY WEAVER: I've got a little countdown clock in my truck, and it's set for January 20, 2017.

MCCAMMON: We talked in Weaver's office, where a row of taxidermy deer heads decorates the wall behind his desk. Weaver says he's concerned about the anger Trump is challenging, which reminds him of Germany before World War II.

WEAVER: He's doing the same thing as another individual in history did, and you see where that led. And national pride is - can be a dangerous thing.

MCCAMMON: Other Texans, like Larry Clark, hear optimism in Trump's message. In Rockwall County, he stopped by the library to vote early for Trump.

LARRY CLARK: He's a patriot.

MCCAMMON: Clark says he doesn't trust Cruz, especially after a series of allegations of dishonest campaign tactics.

CLARK: I am a native Texan, but Cruz seems to lie a lot just for votes.

MCCAMMON: This week, Cruz asked his communications director to resign for posting a report to social media that inaccurately quoted rival Marco Rubio as dismissing the Bible. But for many Texas Republicans, like Cindy Mantooth of Irving, Cruz has built a reputation as someone they can trust.

CINDY MANTOOTH: We've seen enough of people with no integrity. We've seen plenty of people go to Washington that say they'll do certain things, and then they totally reject what they said on the stump.

MCCAMMON: Mantooth says Cruz has followed through.

MANTOOTH: I don't trust any of them, so - but Cruz more than anybody else.

MCCAMMON: Cruz has bet big on Super Tuesday, spending months building an organization in the South. Wade Emmert is chairman of the Dallas County Republican Party.

WADE EMMERT: I think he's expecting Texas to be his stopgap, and to have some pretty big victories. And I do think he's going to win. The question is, is it enough to beat expectations?

MCCAMMON: On the other hand, Emmert says if Trump somehow pulls out a win in Texas, that would be the death knell for Cruz's campaign. Sarah McCammon, NPR News, Dallas. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Sarah McCammon worked for Iowa Public Radio as Morning Edition Host from January 2010 until December 2013.
Sarah McCammon
Sarah McCammon is a National Correspondent covering the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast for NPR. Her work focuses on political, social and cultural divides in America, including abortion and reproductive rights, and the intersections of politics and religion. She's also a frequent guest host for NPR news magazines, podcasts and special coverage.