AKRON, Ohio — Presidential hopefuls in both parties made frenetic pitches across the Midwest and southeast Monday on the eve of presidential primaries in five states that could shore up the two front-runners – or breathe new life into the lagging campaigns of their challengers.

On the Democratic side, Sen. Bernie Sanders staged rallies in four of those states, trying to pull off more come-from-behind wins in states damaged by trade and claim momentum from Hillary Clinton, who enjoys a sizable lead but has not been able to seal the nomination.

For the Republicans, Tuesday offers a chance for Donald J. Trump’s remaining rivals to slow his march to the nomination with two winner-take-all contests that have particularly high stakes for a pair of favorite sons, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and Gov. John Kasich of Ohio.

Multiple polls in the days leading up to Tuesday’s contests showed Sanders closing in on Clinton in three of those states in the industrial midwest – Missouri, Illinois and Ohio. But polls show Clinton far ahead in Florida and North Carolina, setting up the possibility for a parallel outcome to last week’s contest, when Sanders scored a narrow and surprising victory in Michigan, yet Clinton came away with a widened lead in the delegate count due to her resounding victory in Mississippi.

On the campaign trail Monday, the senator from Vermont continuing to hammer Clinton, as he did in Michigan, on the issue of trade, and arguing that he has been a far stronger ally in the fight to protecting manufacturing jobs.

“You in Ohio, and in the Midwest, know about the disastrous trade policies,” he told an audience packed into a theater in Akron, where a once-thriving tire industry has experienced a major decline.



Clinton, meanwhile, appeared to take sharper aim at Republican frontrunner Donald J. Trump than she did at Sanders.

At an MSNBC town hall in Springfield, Illinois, Clinton said Trump is evoking the kind of mob violence “that led to lynching.”

“When you are inciting mob violence, which is what Trump is doing in those clips, there’s a lot of memories that people have,” Clinton told Chris Matthews. “People remember mob violence that led to lynching. People remember mob violence that led to people being shot, being grabbed, being mistreated.”

On the Republican side, Kasich, who has said he will drop out of the Republican contest if he doesn’t win Tuesday’s primary in his home state of Ohio, made two appearances there Monday with Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican nominee for president. It was the first time Romney had stepped out on the trail since his recent broadside against Trump.

Tuesday could also be the last stand for Rubio, a candidate once touted as “the Republican Savior” who more recently has badly trailed Trump in the polls of his home state of Florida.


Barnstorming there Monday, Rubio said the mogul’s abrasive rhetoric has already earned him a spot in history – for all the wrong reasons.

“I don’t think there’s anyone in the history of American politics that compares to the vulgarity of a Donald Trump candidacy,” Rubio told reporters. He repeated himself to emphasize his point: “In this history of American politics.”


Trump struck a dismissive tone Monday in Hickory, North Carolina, amid harsh scrutiny over the sometimes-violent clashes seen at his campaign rallies, insisting during an event here that violence has not been an issue.

“The press is now going, they’re saying, ‘Oh but there’s such violence.’ No violence. You know how many people have been hurt at our rallies? I think, like, basically none except maybe somebody got hit once,” Trump said at Lenoir-Rhyne University after several protesters were escorted out during the first of three interruptions.

“It’s a love fest. These are love fests,” Trump added later. “And every once in a while … somebody will stand up and they’ll say something. … It’s a little disruption, but there’s no violence. There’s none whatsoever.”

In Rockford, Illinois, Cruz made news laying out the one scenario in which he would not support Trump as the nominee: “If, for example, he were to go out on Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, I would not be willing to support Donald Trump.”

Cruz is looking for strong performances in Illinois, Missouri and North Carolina to cut any delegate lead Trump might build Tuesday. Both Missouri and Illinois, where he was scheduled to make five stops Monday, border parts of Iowa that gave Cruz his first victory.

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