AP’s election day story on TN presidential primary

By Eric Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee voters are heading to the polls to make their choices in the state’s Super Tuesday presidential primary.

The primary comes after several days of spirited campaigning around the state by all five candidates seeking the Republican nomination and by one of the two Democrats remaining in the race.

Sixty-seven delegates are up from grabs in the Democratic primary, while 58 Republican delegates will be split up among any candidates that reach a threshold of 20 percent of the vote.

While Tennessee Republicans have given the nod to religious conservatives in the last two presidential primaries, Donald Trump has drawn huge crowds and widespread support in this year’s campaign.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz has built a strong campaign structure in Tennessee and has held several rallies around the state.

Republican Gov. Bill Haslam and Sen. Lamar Alexander have endorsed Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who made the final candidate visit to the state Monday.

“This is an election that we can and should win, but we only win if we nominate the right person,” Haslam told the crowd at the Knoxville airport.

Alexander said he endorsed Rubio because “the stakes are high” in the general election this fall.

“If our nominee does not win the election in November, Hillary Clinton’s justices will control the Supreme Court for the next 30 years, and we’ll have Obamacare forever,” he said.

Republican Sen. Bob Corker is alone among Tennessee’s three statewide elected officials to decline to endorse a presidential candidate.

“I certainly plan to support the Republican nominee and believe the American voters will choose who they think is the best person to lead our country,” Corker said in an emailed statement.

Rubio and Cruz have stepped up their criticism of Donald Trump in advance of Super Tuesday. Trump held a large rally outside Memphis on Saturday, predicting big wins in Tennessee and other states.

“We’re going to win Tennessee,” he said. “We’re going to win everything.”

Ben Carson also campaigned in Nashville and Memphis over the weekend, and Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich held a series of town halls in Memphis, Nashville and Knoxville, complaining about the tenor of the debate among GOP candidates.

“Enough of this trash!” Kasich said at his Nashville event Saturday.

On the Democratic side, Clinton held a rally at Meharry Medical College in Nashville on Sunday, where she lamented the failure of efforts to expand Medicaid in Tennessee.

“I’m really sorry that your state did not extend Medicaid to 200,000 working Tennesseans,” she said. “I’m going to do whatever I can as president to convince governors and state legislatures.

“It’s a pretty big deal,” she said.

The only presidential candidate not to make an appearance in Tennessee before the primary was Democratic Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.