- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 2, 2016

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Republican turnout Tuesday outstripped Democrats by more than 2-to-1 in Tennessee, a show of muscle that encouraged the state’s GOP leaders even if they didn’t back winner Donald Trump.

Gov. Bill Haslam and U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander endorsed Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who came in third behind Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.

The governor said he was “encouraged” by the voting totals, but he has not yet said whether he would support Trump if he ends up the GOP nominee.

“Now this process will play out in other states across the country,” Haslam said after Trump won Tennessee.

Tennessee’s junior senator, Bob Corker, did not endorse before the primary, but he said he plans to support the GOP nominee this fall. Corker said the primary showed “anger and dissatisfaction” among voters in both parties with fiscal, economic and security issues.

One Republican voicing strong support for Trump’s win was state Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey of Blountville, who said his campaign “has electrified Republican and independent voters alike.”

“The Trump campaign is giving voice to frustrated and alienated Americans who had all but abandoned the political process,” Ramsey said. “If Donald Trump continues on this path to the nomination, I will support him wholeheartedly.”

Exit polling showed 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.

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 Trump because “he’s sick of Washington just like everybody else.”

“I’m ready for a change,” she said.

With all Republican precincts reporting, Trump had 39 percent of the vote, compared with 25 percent for Cruz and 21 percent for Rubio. Trump won every Tennessee county except Williamson, where Rubio won.

Clinton had 66 percent of the Democratic vote, compared with 32 percent for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

The record turnout of 1.2 million for both the Republican and Democratic primaries was nearly 50,000 more than the number who voted in the 2008 contest.

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

Based on Associated Press projections, at least 31 Tennessee delegates will go to Trump, 14 to Cruz and nine to 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 a year said they voted for Trump, while those earning $100,000 or more supported Trump and Rubio about equally.

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 favoring her over 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.

Connie Withers, a Nashville homemaker, also voted for Clinton. She cited Clinton’s experience.

“And I think women know how to straighten things out,” Withers 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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