ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
On this latest primary night of 2016, we are watching four states - Michigan, Mississippi, Idaho and Hawaii. Polls closed in Mississippi a little more than a half hour ago. On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton was immediately declared the winner of that state. Things have been less clear on the Republican side in Mississippi. NPR political editor Domenico Montanaro is here in the studio along with NPR senior editor and correspondent Ron Elving. Hey, guys.
DOMENICO MONTANARO, BYLINE: Hey, how are you?
RON ELVING, BYLINE: Hey, Ari.
SHAPIRO: Ron, what are we seeing from the Republican race in Mississippi so far?
ELVING: We are seeing a split of the vote among Donald Trump and Ted Cruz and John Kasich and, to some degree, Marco Rubio, although this is shaping up to be a disappointing night for the Rubio campaign. And we have some exit poll indication that perhaps Donald Trump's early lead in the actual vote that's been announced will hold up, but we do not have enough information yet. Associated Press has not projected a winner in Mississippi, although that could come fairly soon on the Republican side. We already, of course, have it on the Democratic side.
SHAPIRO: Domenico, last week we saw this big stop Trump push after his success on Super Tuesday. Over the weekend, we got the first indication of whether that was having any impact. What do we see based on what we know today so far?
MONTANARO: Well, we have to watch the margins. I mean, we don't have a lot of information in just yet on everything. Mississippi, as Ron noted - we're still watching to see what happens there. It looks like some good signs for Trump because three-quarters of the population there were white evangelicals and in the exit polls, he won them. Ted Cruz wound up winning people who call themselves very conservative, but Donald Trump won everyone else - somewhat conservatives, triple with moderates. So we're not - we can't tell quite yet, but let's watch Michigan, which closes at 9 o'clock. That's going to be a much bigger sign of a bigger, more diverse state.
SHAPIRO: OK, Michigan - the big prize tonight, the most delegates at stake. Ron, on the Democratic side, what are we looking for in Michigan?
ELVING: On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton has had a modest - although it used to be much broader - lead over Bernie Sanders. The early vote that's been coming in - and we should note that in Michigan, you have some Eastern time counties and you have some Central time counties. And that that's why...
MONTANARO: ...Yeah, you've got four that close in Central time, which is why the polls don't - the polls, you know - there won't be a call until 9 o'clock. But you're starting to see a lot of results in.
ELVING: About 20 percent of the vote has been counted, and Bernie Sanders has been maintaining a surprising - narrow, but surprising lead because he had been trailing in the polls. The most recent one that we saw was an eight-point lead for Hillary Clinton. It had been much larger than that.
SHAPIRO: Domenico, given that Hillary has - Hillary Clinton has carried Mississippi, if, best-case scenario for Bernie Sanders, he wins Michigan by a big margin - which of course we don't know yet - what would that mean going forward in terms of the math?
MONTANARO: Well first, we should say that Michigan is an important test for Bernie Sanders. And if he is able to pull it off, it's important for his narrative. Now the math is the math and unfortunately for Bernie Sanders, even if he wins 55-45 in Michigan, which would be a huge win for him considering where Hillary Clinton was going in, and because of Hillary Clinton's huge win in Mississippi - it looks like a big win - even if she, let's say - give her conservatively 62 percent there. He would wind up with more delegates, and he would still - Bernie Sanders would wake up tomorrow further behind than he did going into these contests. How is that possible? It's a little like if you and me drove somewhere and, you know, we knew that it took eight hours to go there but, you know, you have to go 70 miles an hour to get there on time. And, you know, you had to stop off 'cause you are hungry and, you know, my kid in the back seat had to go pee or something, and we took a long time. Well, now...
SHAPIRO: It gets harder and harder to make up the difference in space.
MONTANARO: ...Seventy-one miles an hour, 80 miles an hour - eventually, you either get pulled over by a cop or you stop the car.
SHAPIRO: And Ron, in Michigan on the Republican side, the big story leading up to tonight seems to have been John Kasich's performance in polls. The question is now whether that'll translate into a performance in results.
ELVING: John Kasich needs to win in Michigan in order to queue up the win in Ohio that's absolutely existential for him. So he has really put in a major investment in that state. Plus there have been many, many ads run by many anti-Trump political action groups, and they have been really drilling that man for the last couple of weeks. And we also, of course, had the Mitt Romney speech in which he trashed Donald Trump last week, and that could have some effect. Remember, Michigan is the state that Mitt Romney won in 2008 as well as in 2012.
MONTANARO: And where his father was governor.
ELVING: Where his father was governor, where his family is still well-known. So his word may have meant a little bit more in Michigan than it may have nationally.
SHAPIRO: NPR's Ron Elving and Domenico Montanaro, thanks to both of you.
ELVING: Thank you, Ari. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.