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Politics & Government

Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump Eye General Election After Key Primary Wins

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

We're going to talk more, this time with NPR political editor Domenico Montanaro. Welcome to the studio.

DOMENICO MONTANARO, BYLINE: Good afternoon.

CORNISH: So as we just heard there, Hillary Clinton was liked by her peers, including many Republicans, when she was a senator. So why does it sound like the opposite talking to Republicans today?

MONTANARO: Well, she's actually joked about this during the campaign. She's saying that republicans like her when she's not running for office, and there's some truth to that. I mean, if you look at her favorability ratings when she was secretary of state, they were sky high. In the '60s, people said that they liked her across the aisle.

As soon as she got into the presidential race, those numbers deflated and everyone retreated to their corners, put on their blue and red jerseys, and that's what happened.

CORNISH: But, of course, Congress itself is a lot more polarized - right? - since she left the Senate.

MONTANARO: Yeah, it certainly is. And if you look at some of the senators who've left since she worked there, they were some of the real big shots in the Senate who wanted and could broker deals. They're gone. I counted up almost a third of the senators she worked with who are known for wanting to govern and compromise. They're no longer there.

But let's also remember, she only served one term. Her name was only on a handful of bills, not major ones. Probably the biggest one being $20 billion in 9/11 recovery funding.

CORNISH: All right, more on likability but this time with the Republicans. And I'm bringing this up because the former Speaker of the House, John Boehner, had an interesting commentary on the presidential candidate and Texas Senator Ted Cruz. And he was speaking at an event at Stanford last night. And those comments were actually published today. And I'll let you tell us what he had to say.

MONTANARO: Well, he certainly did not say anything very nice about him. He called him, quote, "Lucifer in the flesh." And he went further. He used some salty language. And I'll just warn you, if you're in your car with a child in the back seat, now's the time to turn down the volume, count to five and come back (laughter).

He added I get along with almost everyone, but I've never worked with a more miserable son of a bitch in my life.

CORNISH: Yikes, so how did Cruz respond to this?

MONTANARO: Well, and I'll tell you first, remember, Cruz led that effort to cut government funding that resulted in a partial government shutdown over the strenuous objections really of party leadership. So today, Cruz held a 20-minute press conference to push back. He said he rarely talked to John Boehner and that Boehner was part of the problem in Washington, that he never pushed hard enough for conservative principles.

And he dismissed him as nothing but a golf buddy of Donald Trump's. And that's because Boehner also last night said that he's, quote, "texting buddies" with Trump for years.

CORNISH: OK, speaking of Trump, it seems like just a few days ago, we were talking about a contested convention. Now that talk is done. And then before, people were talking about this so-called ceiling for Donald Trump in terms of support. Now that seems like it's wrong too?

MONTANARO: Yeah, and I was one of the people who was wrong, I have to say. You know, I thought that he had about a quarter of Republicans' support pretty firm. Then I thought it was about a third. And once Donald Trump got to about 40 percent, I started to think that that wasn't the case. And then Tuesday night, he winds up winning more than 50 percent, 60 percent, even, in some places.

So he's really stepped on the gas. He's got almost a thousand delegates now, 80 percent of the way to the majority he needs to secure the nomination. And if he does well in Indiana, he may well appear unstoppable and on the road to the nomination. After that, who knows?

CORNISH: That's NPR political editor Domenico Montanaro. Thanks so much.

MONTANARO: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.