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Candidate yard signs line the road near a primary polling station on Super Tuesday in Houston, March 1, 2016. (Stephen Crowley/The New York Times)
Candidate yard signs line the road near a primary polling station on Super Tuesday in Houston, March 1, 2016. (Stephen Crowley/The New York Times)

Globe reporters send postcards from Super Tuesday Add to ...

The Globe and Mail’s Joanna Slater and Adrian Morrow are in key states today, reporting on what may be the most important primary voting day in recent U.S. history. Below are postcards from Super Tuesday.

Braintree, Massachusetts

‘You know what the truth is? He’s a better person than she is’

At Ashley’s Breakfast and Lunch south of Boston on Tuesday morning, the waitresses greet regular customers by name. There’s a brown counter with maroon leather seats and a bewildering array of breakfast options, from a full Irish to an omelette called the Steak Bomb.

Like most mornings, Anthony Spadea and Joel Timberlake take their seats at the counter and order their usual – eggs, toast and coffee. It doesn’t take long for the talk to turn to politics.

Mr. Spadea picks up a copy of the Boston Herald, a conservative tabloid, whose cover today features pictures of Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders under the headline “Supersized!” He taps Mr. Trump’s figure with his finger – he has just come from casting his vote for the real-estate mogul.

“I hope you’re not offended when I say this, but he’s got what they call big balls,” says Mr. Spadea, a 73-year-old financial planner. “He’s a breath of fresh air.”

He allows that Mr. Trump is too arrogant and too proud at times. Then he fixes me in the eye. “You know what the truth is? He’s a better person than she is.” He’s referring to Ms. Clinton’s tenure as U.S. Secretary of State and her response to the attack on the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya. “I’ll take him over her any day in a pressure-filled situation.”

Beside him, Mr. Timberlake, 72, is in full agreement. “All these refugees and immigrants, something’s gotta be done,” he adds. “All these freeloaders are coming into this country and we’re losing jobs left and right.”

Mr. Timberlake believes that Mr. Trump will fulfill his promise to build a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico – after all, there’s a wall in some portions already – and will threaten to cut aid to the country’s southern neighbour to secure its co-operation.

Massachusetts is a predominantly liberal state where Democrats outnumber Republicans. But as in neighbouring New Hampshire, right-leaning voters are gravitating toward Mr. Trump in droves and could give him a significant victory here today.

Joe Gallagher, 61, arrives at the diner after casting his vote and tucks into breakfast. He’s supporting Marco Rubio. “I just didn’t hear any substance” from Mr. Trump, he says. But he’s coming around to the idea that, as a dyed-in-the-wool Republican, he may have to support him in the general election. “I’d have to vote for him,” he says with reluctance. “But I can’t support him yet.”

Joanna Slater

Wellesley, Massachusetts

‘But I don’t know how he’s going to pay for all those things’

Standing outside a public library on a sunny Tuesday morning, Elaine Garnache recalls with a laugh that her father was a “yellow dog Democrat” – in other words, even if a yellow dog was running on the Democratic ticket, it would get his vote.

Ms. Garnache isn’t quite that devoted. But like many in this state, where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by a factor of three to one, she is a reliable Democratic voter in presidential elections. Today those voters face a decision: Will former secretary of state Hillary Clinton take the party forward, or Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders?

Talking to Massachusetts Democrats on Super Tuesday reveals two things: First, their party will have a far easier job of unifying supporters ahead of the general election, and second, many of Mr. Sanders’s supporters believe defeat is near-inevitable.

For Ms. Garnache, a librarian, Ms. Clinton’s experience, intelligence and pragmatism win the day. Yet she speaks warmly about Mr. Sanders, whom she credits for running a great campaign that has energized younger voters.

“I really appreciate Bernie’s vision, especially for social issues,” she says. “But I don’t know how he’s going to pay for all those things.”

Pam Davis, 60, exits the library with a pile of books and a sticker indicating that she has just voted. “Bernie is a mensch, we love him, we love him,” she says. Are his promises unrealistic? Yes, she says, but so are all promises made by politicians. “When you’re as old as I am, you ignore that stuff.” As president, Mr. Sanders would at least be able to get one big thing done, she believes – campaign finance reform.

Even though Mr. Sanders has her vote, Mr. Sanders’s campaign appears increasingly like a lost cause, Ms. Davis says. “Bernie can’t win,” she asserts. “Hillary has the party machine.”

Joanna Slater

Houston, Texas

‘He’s trying to insult his way to the White House’

Standing outside a polling station in the Encourager Church, a boxy brown building next to an elevated expressway in the western suburbs of Houston, Martha Matula rhymes off the election issues that swayed her vote in the Texas Republican primary: illegal immigration; the right to carry a gun; the fight against Islamic State.

A 56-year-old property manager, Ms. Matula immigrated to the United States from Mexico legally, and she contends others should do the same.

“I waited and went through the process and I’ve never been on welfare in my life. I have a college degree,” she says. “If I waited, everybody else can wait too.”

On gun control, she adds: “I carry a weapon. I believe in using a gun when I need to – obviously, legally and carefully.”

Ms. Matula cast her ballot for Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who she contends will be the best party standard-bearer to push her issues in Washington as president. And she doesn’t think highly of Donald Trump, the billionaire and reality-television star leading GOP polls nationally and giving Mr. Cruz a run for his money in the latter’s home state.

“Trump is all talk. He’s trying to insult his way to the White House,” she says. “I’m with him on the immigration issue but I’m not with him on the verbiage he uses.”

Mr. Cruz must hope and pray there are a great many voters like Ms. Matula in his home state. According to the Real Clear Politics average of polls, he leads Mr. Trump in Texas, 37 per cent to 28 per cent. But even that may be too small a margin to keep him competitive: Mr. Trump is expected to win most of the other 11 states that vote in Republican primaries today, and Mr. Cruz needs a crushing win at home to rack up the delegates to keep seriously challenging Mr. Trump.

At the Encourager Tuesday morning, voters among the steady trickle are roughly evenly split. Some insist Mr. Trump – who once espoused liberal views on health care and abortion before pulling a U-turn when he decided to run for president – is an abrasive phoney and only Mr. Cruz is the real deal. Others, however, are drawn to Mr. Trump’s outlandish promises to build a wall along the Mexican border and ban all Muslims from immigrating to the United States.

More than anything, Mr. Trump’s outsider status is a draw for voters frustrated by the paralyzed political system.

Leaning against the tailgate of his pickup truck in the church parking lot, Greg Cox contends Mr. Trump’s being completely outside the political system is an asset.

“You’re getting a non-politician who’s been involved in working with both sides of the aisle. He’s given cheques to Democrats and Republicans. Everything now is so party-oriented,” he says. “I don’t agree with everything the Republican Party has got to say and I don’t believe in everything the Democratic Party has got to say. So in a way it’s refreshing to see somebody that does business with both sides.

“I don’t want business as usual; I’m a voter that’s a little bit frustrated,” he adds.

A 63-year-old unemployed oil field worker in a blue checked shirt and jeans, Mr. Cox concedes Mr. Trump is a little over the top, but says he believes he will follow through on his promises to crack down on illegal immigration and re-establish the United States’ strong place in the world.

“I don’t necessarily like his arrogance and he’s been a little bit conceited but I figure all the other candidates [are] business as usual. At this point I’m desperate to see something different,” he says.

Jim Stimson, precinct chair for the Republican Party in the neighbourhood, says the tight race has energized the party’s base.

“We have set a record for early voting – the early voting ended Friday evening and they’ve outdone themselves. And we’ve had very steady turnout today,” he says.

For his part, Mr. Stimson does not know how he is going to vote. And he says the aggressive tenor of the race hasn’t always brought out the best in the candidates.

“The part that really upsets me is when it starts in on name-calling,” he says. “I’d like to see something a little more statesmanlike.”

Jill Fairchild, a 58-year-old math teacher, feels the same. She ultimately cast her ballot for Mr. Cruz but says she could equally have gone for Mr. Rubio. Mr. Trump, however, she says is just making outlandish promises to get elected.

“Everything he says is way crazy, is out there – like he’s just saying what he thinks is going to get people to vote for him,” she says. “But who knows what he’s actually going to do in the end.”

James Gaitens, a 62-year-old geophysicist, acknowledges that at first he didn’t take Mr. Trump’s candidacy seriously. But he was eventually convinced by Mr. Trump’s tough stand on immigration.

As for the notion that building a wall on the border is an outlandish promise?

“We put a man on the moon – we can build wall across the southern border. Or the northern border, if we choose to do it,” he says. “It’s just a matter of political will.”

Adrian Morrow

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Follow us on Twitter: @jslaternyc, @adrianmorrow

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