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“Trump’s Train Did Not Stop in Texas Last Night”: Cruz Wins Home State as SCOTUS Hears Abortion Case

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Senator Ted Cruz was victorious in his home state of Texas on Super Tuesday, reports our guest Andrea Grimes, who has led political coverage at The Texas Observer and also covers women’s health. She says the turnout was impacted by vote suppression and “serious gerrymandering.” This comes as many reproductive rights activists head to protests outside the Supreme Court today during oral arguments on a Texas law that has forced the closure of all but 10 abortion clinics. “If things don’t go in the direction of Whole Woman’s Health, we really could be seeing a wave of draconian anti-abortion legislation taking place across the United States,” Grimes says. She also discusses the state’s new “campus carry” law that allows students with weapons permits to bring guns on campus and which goes into effect later this year ahead of the fall semester. We’re also joined by Donna Murch, associate professor of history at Rutgers University.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, James Peterson, I wanted to turn to the biggest prize last night in the primary, which was Texas, the home state of Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz. Cruz celebrated his victories in Texas, Oklahoma and Alaska with a round of mudslinging against the Republican front-runner, Donald Trump.

SEN. TED CRUZ: Tomorrow morning, we have a choice. So long as the field remains divided, Donald Trump’s path to the nomination remains more likely. And that would be a disaster for Republicans, for conservatives and for the nation. And after tonight, we have seen that our campaign is the only campaign that has beaten, that can beat and that will beat Donald Trump.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Ted Cruz speaking in Houston. We’re going to go to Austin right now to Andrea Grimes, digital editor at The Texas Observer. She has helped lead the paper’s day-to-day political coverage, formerly a senior political reporter at RH Reality Check. We’re still with Donna Murch of Rutgers, as well as James Peterson at Lehigh. So, Andrea, talk about the significance of the Texas primary and Ted Cruz’s victory.

ANDREA GRIMES: Well, you know, all eyes really were on Texas last night. If Cruz had not picked up his home state, it really would have been kind of a nightmare for him. But he performed really well, you know, despite the Trump surge, despite huge voter turnout numbers for the GOP here in Texas. A lot of people thought that that might spell victory for Trump, but in fact Cruz prevailed. And as we’ve heard, he’s promising to, you know, take this thing all the way to the convention. So the Trump train did not stop in Texas last night.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And in terms of what enabled him to—other than name recognition, to marshal that support?

ANDREA GRIMES: You know, I think name recognition did help him. Cruz has a great reputation also with the tea party here in Texas. The tea party has really kind of enjoyed his razzing of the national party in Washington. They like that he challenges the kind of Beltway establishment. And I think that that plays really, really well here. I also think that some of the remarks that Trump has made, racist remarks, baited remarks about the Latinx community, have not played well here in Texas at all, and I think that those two things kind of came together really in terms of Republican turnout to give Cruz that win.

AMY GOODMAN: You know, it’s interesting. Planned Parenthood was talked about twice—in Trump’s news conference that he held at Mar-a-Lago—he didn’t have a party, a big party for Super Tuesday; he held it at his big estate in Florida—and also Ted Cruz talked about Planned Parenthood. That’s particularly significant, because today in Washington the Supreme Court will be hearing the most significant case on women’s right to choose in like two decades. So I wanted to go first to Trump’s news conference, when a reporter asked Donald Trump about his position on Planned Parenthood.

DONALD TRUMP: I’m just doing what’s right. Look, Planned Parenthood has done very good work for some—for many, many—for millions of women. And I’ll say it. And I know a lot of the so-called conservatives, they say that’s really—because I’m a conservative, but I’m a commonsense conservative. But millions of women have been helped by Planned Parenthood. But we’re not going to allow and we’re not going to fund, as long as you have the abortion going on at Planned Parenthood. And we understand that. And I’ve said it loud and clear. But—and we’ll see what happens. But Planned Parenthood, millions of people—and I’ve had thousands of letters from women that have been helped. And this wasn’t a setup. This was people writing letters. I’m going to be really good for women. I’m going to be good for women’s health issues. It’s very important to me, very important to me. And maybe that’s not a perfect conservative view.

AMY GOODMAN: And this was Ted Cruz addressing his supporters in Houston after his victory in Texas. He said he’s the best candidate in his party to defeat Donald Trump.

SEN. TED CRUZ: It’s our choice. Donald Trump has pledged to expand Obamacare into socialized medicine, with the federal government controlling and rationing your healthcare. As president, I will repeal every word of Obamacare. Donald Trump promises to cut deals with Democrats and to continue the Washington cronyism, just like he supported Obama’s TARP Wall Street bailout. I will stand with the people of this country and end corporate welfare, adopt a flat tax and abolish the IRS. Donald Trump funded the Gang of Eight. With your help, I led the successful opposition to the Gang of Eight’s amnesty plan. Donald Trump supports Planned Parenthood. I will direct the Justice Department to investigate Planned Parenthood.

AMY GOODMAN: There you have Ted Cruz laying out the differences between him and Donald Trump. Andrea Grimes, you’ve long covered women’s reproductive rights. How is this playing out in Texas and around the country right now, on this pivotal day when the Supreme Court’s going to hear the Whole Woman’s Health case in Texas that could determine access to abortion clinics around the country?

ANDREA GRIMES: Yeah, the Texas abortion law, HB 2, that passed three years ago has, you know, really made it—made it to the highest court in the land now. I know last night while I was keeping track of Super Tuesday returns, my social media feeds were actually full of reproductive justice activists here in Texas either in D.C. or on their way to D.C. for the Supreme Court oral arguments today. Of course, not many people will get inside, but they’re rallying in D.C. You know, I think we’ve seen a real upswing here in Texas of people who have had abortions telling their own abortion stories, trying to get the word out about the damage that HB 2 has done to Texas. I think that we’re all watching the Supreme Court to find out really, you know, not just how abortion access will play out in Texas, but across the country. The restrictions that are in HB 2 could come up anywhere in the country now. And I think a lot of anti-abortion lawmakers are looking to the Supreme Court perhaps to give them permission to pass restrictions, like admitting privileges for doctors or ambulatory surgical centers for abortion clinics. So, if things don’t go in the direction of Whole Woman’s Health, we really could be seeing a wave of draconian anti-abortion legislation taking place across the United States.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Andrea Grimes, I wanted to ask you about the—one particularity of Texas, the “campus carry” law, where students will now be able, if they have weapons permits, to bring guns on campus, and the impact of that on colleges and professors and students across the state?

ANDREA GRIMES: Yeah, so, our campus carry law is set to go into effect later this year, really right before the fall semester. No private university in Texas has said that they will opt in to the campus carry law. They were given the opportunity to opt out, and all of them did. The public universities here in Texas are really not fans of campus carry. I’m not sure that any education professional, any educator, any, you know, real serious professor who has taken time to think about these things, has really come out in strong favor of campus carry. And notably, the University of Texas at Austin, really the flagship university location here in Texas, the board president said that he’s going to do everything he can to limit the carrying of guns here on campus. It’s going to be difficult, though. We can have guns in classrooms. You can have guns in the hallway. You can have guns, you know, out in the quad. There are very few limitations on where kids can’t carry guns, and that includes in some living spaces. So, you know, it’s kind of tense, I would say, now. But I think we’re also potentially looking at perhaps some litigation. So it remains to be seen, really, kind of what will happen before the law goes into effect this fall.

AMY GOODMAN: And the changing demographics of Texas, Andrea, and how that plays into this Super Tuesday primary and also overall?

ANDREA GRIMES: Well, you know, people always want to wonder: When is Texas turning blue? When is Texas turning purple? The fact is that, demographically, Texas is already tremendously diverse. What we’re facing here is a problem of, in my opinion, voter suppression. We have a serious gerrymandering problem here. We’re dealing with a voter identification act that really hurts people’s ability to vote. So, you know, in terms of demographics, it’s a question we can talk about, but honestly, until some of our problems with gerrymandering and voter ID are dealt with, demographics are not going to be perhaps the biggest arbiter of who our elected officials are. I think that our elected officials do not represent the demographic makeup of the state. And I think they’d like to keep it that way.

AMY GOODMAN: Overall demographics of the South, Professor Donna Murch?

DONNA MURCH: The demographics of the South are also shifting. I mean, in understanding the rise of Trump, all over the country, Mexican populations are growing as the fastest percentage, and that’s true in the South, as well. In South Carolina, the Latino population is relatively small.

But also, on the issue of voter suppression, I think that that’s a big thing that we need to talk about. One thing I found out in researching kind of the black campaign workers working for Sanders was they talked about the number of constraints that I had not heard about. So we know about the usual voter constraints, gerrymandering. But, for example, South Carolina passed a law in which, when you’re trying to register new people to vote, they have to provide their Social Security number on voter registration forms. So when you’re doing door-to-door canvassing, that’s another block. So, I think this is another challenge to think about the broader issues about the outcome. It’s not simply who won and who lost and the percentages, or how electorate itself is shaped and how a very important and, some ways, most vulnerable population is being kept out of the electorate.

AMY GOODMAN: Donna Murch is at Rutgers University. Andrea Grimes is speaking to us from Austin, covering the Texas primary for The Texas Observer. When we come back, we’re going to Denver, Colorado, to find out about one of the states that Bernie Sanders won, the caucus state of Colorado. Stay with us.

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