Voters in six states cast ballots in presidential primary contests Tuesday, but many were looking ahead to the general election.
Democratic and Republican voters told The Associated Press they have long been weighing and comparing candidates with an eye toward who could come out on top in November.
Elections in New Jersey, California, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota and South Dakota featured a contest between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. Sanders is urging superdelegates to drop their support for Clinton, arguing he is a stronger candidate to take on Donald Trump.
Clinton reached the 2,383 delegates needed to become the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Monday, according to an AP tally.
On the Republican side, Trump has had the nomination locked up for weeks.
Here are some voters’ thoughts:
In San Diego, 82-year-old Harry Backer strolled past cyclists, skateboarders and kayakers on the way to vote for Clinton. The retired teacher, who also worked in construction, said America needs a level-headed, grounded woman with world experience.
“I’m left of Bernie Sanders, but I know that she’s the candidate that can possibly get something done,” Backer said.
He also wanted to be part of history in making Clinton the first woman to top the ticket of a major U.S. political party.
Izabela Biel voted for Trump in Closter, New Jersey, an upscale suburb across the Hudson River from Manhattan. Biel said Trump’s success as a businessman symbolizes the American dream for her.
Biel came to the U.S. from Poland about 25 years ago, and she offered that even though he isn’t the perfect candidate, she prefers him to the Democratic candidates who “want to make everybody equal.”
“I grew up in communism,” said Biel, 46. “I’ve lived it, and I absolutely know that it’s proven that it doesn’t work. You can’t make everybody equal. That just doesn’t exist in the real world.”
In Albuquerque, New Mexico, 72-year-old retiree Thomas Ocken biked to the University of New Mexico to vote for Sanders. Ocken said didn’t think it mattered after news of Clinton’s delegate count, but he wanted to cast a ballot anyway.
“I think Democratic Socialism is much more fair. I’m not afraid of socialism,” Ocken said. “I don’t think he’ll win. At least he’ll put more pressure on Hillary.”
Paul Westendorf, a 53-year-old Sioux Falls, South Dakota, resident who works in financial services, voted for Trump, though he wished he had other viable options. He said it was more about “finding what I dislike the least.”
“It’s hard to get a read on what he really stands for, and I think that some of that is intentional,” Westendorf said.
Westendorf is strongly anti-abortion, and he said he’s uncomfortable because he doesn’t have a good sense of Trump’s true stance on that issue. But he said Trump can surround himself with competent people and build a great team.
In Montana, Sanders supporter Sonya Goes Ahead held out hope that he could still get the delegates needed before the primary.
“The other candidates are not very truthful. They are in it for money,” said Goes Ahead, who grew up on Montana’s Crow Reservation and is studying education at Montana State University in Billings.
Sanders was the first presidential candidate to campaign in Montana, in early May, when he also met privately with American Indian leaders from the state’s reservations
“He wants to help communities, help bring jobs to the reservation,” the 24-year-old Goes Ahead said. “There’s not many jobs in my home – just the schools.”
In Helena, decorative painter Carmela Linguista had no hesitation about whom she was voting for: “Hillary, Hillary, Hillary.”
“Hillary has pretty much devoted her life to the needs of women and children,” Linguista said. “I think her forte is on the world stage.”
She also pulled few punches about Trump.
“The man is insane. He’s a danger,” she said. “He’s not presidential material.”
Claudia Scott, of Albuquerque, New Mexico, voted for Trump – who is “very brash” at times but speaks the truth.
“He’s saying to America what people don’t want to say out loud, but the way the feel,” she said after casting her vote at a middle school.
One of the issues she agrees most with Trump on is immigration, she said.
“I hope he doesn’t change his stand on the way that he feels,” Scott said.
Steve Mays, 60, a warehouse worker from Bismarck, North Dakota, said he was supporting Clinton.
“I think she will be the same as the old Clinton, Bill – and that’s good,” he said. “The economy was good when he was president and he knew how to balance a budget.”
Mays said it makes no difference to him that she would be the first woman president.
“She’s got experience and I trust her,” he said. “It doesn’t bother me at all whether someone is male or female or black or white,” he said.
In Kearney, New Jersey, a blue-collar community, Antonio Cunha voted for Sanders, saying the candidate focuses on issues important to regular people.
“I like the idea of helping people afford college, whether it’s totally free or not,” said Cunha, 32, who works for a civil engineering firm. “Back in the day everybody got around with a high school education, but now I can see how much more people make in their careers if they have college degrees. And everybody’s saddled with that debt, so that would be a big help.”
Associated Press writers Wayne Parry in Atlantic City, New Jersey; David Porter in Closter, New Jersey; Bruce Shipkowski in Toms River, New Jersey; Ellen Knickmeyer in Sonoma, California; Mary Hudetz and Russell Contreras in Albuquerque, New Mexico; Julie Watson in San Diego, and Dirk Lammers in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, contributed to this story.
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Updates with new voter quotes. Removes older. Tightens.
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