- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 1, 2016

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Tennessee Republicans on Tuesday gave Donald Trump a clear primary victory, while Democrats overwhelmingly voted for Hillary Clinton.

The Trump win came despite a late effort by state Republicans including Gov. Bill Haslam and Sen. Lamar Alexander to drum up support for Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.

Exit polling showed that nearly 6 in 10 Republican voters felt they had been betrayed by politicians from their party, and voters said they were attracted to Trump’s outsider status.

Trump voter Donna Thompson, who is retired from a job at the Grand Ole Opry, the long-running country music show in Nashville, said she voted for him because “he’s sick of Washington just like everybody else.”

“I’m ready for a change,” she said.

Leonard and Elaine Bockhold voted for Trump at Bartlett United Methodist Church in suburban Memphis.

The married couple of 46 years said they admired Trump’s stubbornness and strong policy positions.

Leonard Bockhold said Trump “can’t be bought,” while Elaine Bockhold said Trump is “nobody’s fool.”

Both said they support Trump’s immigration proposals.

“The taller the wall, the happier I’ll be,” Elaine Bockhold said. “It’s time people came in the right way, not the way Obama has let them come in.”

With 82 percent of Republican precincts reporting, Trump had 40 percent of the vote, compared with 24 percent for Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and 20 percent for Rubio.

According to the exit polls, Trump had an especially big lead among voters without a college degree. Among those with at least a college degree, Trump had a small lead over Rubio.

About half of those with incomes under $50,000 per year said they voted for Trump, while those earning $100,000 or more supported Trump and Rubio about equally.

Steve McCoy, a retiree from Knoxville, acknowledged having concerns about Trump’s chances in a general election. But he said he voted for him anyway.

“I just thought that he was a stronger candidate than Rubio or Cruz, not in terms necessarily of electability, but in what he was saying,” he said.

Sixty-seven delegates were up for grabs in the Democratic primary, while 58 delegates are available to Republican candidates. Republican candidates must meet a threshold of at least 20 percent of the vote to qualify for any statewide delegates.

On the Democratic side, Clinton cemented her win with campaign stops and TV ads in Nashville and Memphis. Her supporters cited her experience as secretary of state and first lady in choosing to vote for her over Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Gloria Pryor-Lewis and daughter Greta Lewis, who are African-American, voted for Clinton at Central Christian Church in Memphis.

“She has been the one who has stepped out to at least try to identify with most of the minorities, whether they’re women, black, Asian, Hispanic,” said Greta Lewis.

Pryor-Lewis said she admires Clinton for being a “strong woman.”

“Of course, my daughter calls her arrogant,” she said.

Greta Lewis laughed at her mother’s statement before saying she also voted for Clinton.

“I do like a strong woman like my mother,” said Greta Lewis.

Connie Withers, a Nashville homemaker, also cited Clinton’s experience in casting her vote for her.

“And I think women know how to straighten things out,” she said with a laugh.

___

Associated Press writers Kristin M. Hall and Travis Loller in Nashville, Adrian Sainz in Memphis and Steve Megargee in Knoxville contributed to this report.

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