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Tennessee voters head to presidential primary polls Tuesday

Posted on Monday, February 29, 2016 at 9:21 pm

Tennessee voters can put the series of presidential candidate visits, TV ads and endorsements behind them and as they head to the polls on Tuesday.

Republican candidate Marco Rubio held a rally at the Knoxville airport on Monday, the last of a series of campaign events by the candidates across the state in the days before the primary.

Rubio was joined at the event by Gov. Bill Haslam and U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, who argued that the Florida senator has the best chance of winning the general election in November.

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

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.

“While I am not endorsing a candidate at this time, 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 Texas Sen. Ted Cruz have stepped up their criticism of Donald Trump in advance of Super Tuesday votes in 11 states. Trump held a large rally outside Memphis on Saturday, predicting big wins in Tennessee and other states.

Cruz held two events in Nashville on Friday, and retired brain surgeon Ben Carson also campaigned in Nashville and Memphis over the weekend.

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.

“When did we get to the point in this country where we can call these kinds of names, and have people actually represent themselves as leaders in this country to these young people?” he said. “Enough of this trash!”

Trump was in Millington on Saturday, joined by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a former GOP presidential candidate who had endorsed Trump the day before.

Trump told the crowd that he has “got to win” the Tennessee primary, according to The Commercial Appeal.

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

Protesters gathered outside of the event, and one made his way inside and held up a sign saying “Make America hate again.”

Matt Fylack told the newspaper that said he snatched away the sign and tore it up.

“We were losing jobs to Mexicans. Illegals,” said Fylack, a former union plumber who added that he thinks that U.S.-born children should be deported along with their parents if they are in the country illegally.

On the Democratic side, Clinton held a rally at Meharry Medical College in Nashville, 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.

—By ERIK SCHELZIG, The Associated Press