Trump Wins Tennessee GOP Primary

Posted at 4:46 PM, Mar 01, 2016

 Donald Trump has won the GOP primary in Tennessee.

The latest win put him ahead of their rivals in the group of contests known as Super Tuesday.

Trump has also won in Arkansass, Georgia, Massachusetts, Virginia and Alabama.

Complete TN Super Tuesday Results

Preliminary exit poll results show Clinton did especially well among older voters and blacks in Tennessee's presidential primaries, while Trump was the choice of voters favoring a non-establishment candidate.

The Tennessee GOP stopped short of supporting a candidate throughout the night. There was a subdued feeling as officials closely watched the race between the three top candidates. There was a reference to the need for Trump to control his some of his controversial rhetoric.

"That has no room in the Republican party," Brent Leatherwood, Executive Director for the state GOP said. "I think in short order, he will disavow, correct that record.  At the end of the day, we will put up a conservative alternative to Hillary Clinton and we will make sure to defeat her."

Exit polls conducted by Edison Research for The Associated Press and television networks also showed Tennessee voters, especially Republicans, were dissatisfied with the current state of the federal government. 

Several supporters of the Republican candidates stopped by the GOP watch party Tuesday. Many said they have realized just how angry the electorate is. While there was a tight race throughout the entire night for second place, officials said it's too early to say Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz should drop out and support the other candidate.

"I don't know if tonight is that point because again we are at the proportional stage in our primary calendar across the nation," Leatherwood said. "That date is probably March 15 when we turn the page and head to the winner takes all states, and that will be a pivotal  night for coalescing behind one or two candidates."

See Democracy 2016 for more national stories on the other candidates.

However, Gov. Bill Haslam and U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander did not show support for Trump. Both voted Florida Sen. Marco Rubio in Tennessee's Republican presidential primary.

Haslam released a statement shortly after Trump's win was announced.

"The greatest thing about our democratic process is citizens have the right to choose their leaders, and I am encouraged by the hundreds of thousands of Tennesseans who didn’t take that right for granted, engaged in the process and headed to the polls today and during early voting. Now this process will play out in other states across the country," said Haslam.

Haslam and Alexander endorsed Rubio in the closing days of the primary campaign in Tennessee, arguing that he represents the best chance to win the general election this fall.

They both appeared at a Rubio rally at the Knoxville airport in Knoxville on Monday. Haslam told the crowd at that event that a supporter of Donald Trump had tried to argue that the candidate would change if he becomes the nominee or the president.

Haslam said he responded that it would be "too late" if Trump wins. In Haslam's words: "The decisions are too hard, the consequences are too big for our country."

In Franklin, Ted Cruz supporters who congregated at the local campaign headquarters had something to smile about. The Texas Republican took his home state as well as Oklahoma. But with Rubio in the race, Cruz has had a hard time separating himself from the pack.

"Polls show very directly that if Cruz and Trump are in the race, Cruz wins," said state campaign chair Kevin Kookogey, "as long as Marco Rubio's in the race, Trump wins. Yet to this point Marco Rubio hasn't won a single state. Ted Cruz won Iowa, he's going to win Texas tonight and so we don't see any path for Marco Rubio to win." Cruz fans are frustrated that he and Rubio seem to be splitting the Republican vote, undermining each candidate's ability to compete.