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Martin Dyckman: Donald Trump should release his tax returns, Hillary Clinton her speeches

Thanks to Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, the campaign for president has become in part a bizarre version of the old celebrity game show, “I’ve Got a Secret.”

This time, however, we know what secrets are being kept. We just don’t know the details, or what devils may be in them.

Clinton’s are the transcripts of those pricey Wall Street speeches.

But that’s petty stuff compared to what may be in Trump’s income tax returns.

Neither candidate has a plausible excuse for stonewalling the public.

Clinton’s evasion — that she’ll release the texts only if other high-priced speechmakers reveal theirs — evokes the image of children on a playground yelling, “Nyah, you can’t make me!”

Moreover, no one else who’s being paid so well for speeches has the potential to populate the Treasury Department and Federal Reserve with Goldman Sachs executives.

But at least we know how much she was paid and who paid it. And she has released her tax returns from 2007 to 2014. The $725,000 she got for the three Goldman Sachs speeches in 2013 — the ones Bernie Sanders has hectored her over — turn out to account for some 8 percent of her speechmaking income that year. That fee per speech, $225,000, was also the standard for nearly all the 38 other appearances she itemized. So much for her rationalizing that “It’s what they offered.”

A few were higher, notably $400,000 for a joint meeting of two Jewish charities in Chicago. If anything should raise eyebrows, it ought to be that.

If there were anything in the Goldman-Sachs speeches as offensive as Romney writing off “the 47 percent,” it would have leaked by now. Her stonewalling may be nothing more than characteristic stubbornness.

To her credit, the itemized list went beyond what the IRS requires. It will be interesting to see whether she posts one for 2014. We are waiting.

That said, Clinton has gone as far as anyone reasonably could ask in disclosing her personal finances and those of husband Bill. Ted Cruz and John Kasich haven’t revealed nearly as much.

In all but two of the years since they left the White House, the Clintons’ effective federal tax rates were at 30 percent or higher (37.5 percent last year). That’s about par for the top 1 percent of American household incomes, and more than many.

This brings us to one very likely reason why Trump is afraid to release his returns.

Considering the loopholes available to real estate speculators like him, along with the various other ways he might minimize his taxes, Trump could have been paying even less than the 14 percent that embarrassed Mitt Romney.

He may even be paying nothing at all.

Were he to disclose as much as the Clintons have — not just the first two pages of the 1040 form but all of the supporting documents and schedules — they could expose him to be something far less than the mega-billionaire he claims to be.

They could reveal business connections that might not be consistent with the discretion and integrity that Americans can reasonably expect of a president. They could show how much he profits from foreign ventures

And they could show that he gives little or nothing to charity.

His excuse for not revealing them — that he’s being audited — is as phony as calling a lecture scam a “university.”

“I am aware of no legal reason why someone could not voluntarily agree to release his tax returns,” explains John R. Crawford, a board-certified tax law expert at Jacksonville, who is a media contact for the Florida Bar.

“I can certainly understand, however, that someone may be reluctant to release a document when there is a very real possibility that it contains errors and will be changed in the near future, whether as a result of an audit or otherwise,” he added. “Also, the more complex the return, the more carefully it would have to be scrutinized before release in order to make sure that any third party confidential information that may be a part of the return (such as tax ID numbers) are redacted.”

Walt Logan, a recently retired Pinellas-Pasco circuit judge who was a CPA before becoming a lawyer, said the same.

“Whatever time is under audit, there is no prohibition against publication by a taxpayer.”

In a divorce or other family law case, he said, “were either party to take the position that they did not want to produce tax returns due to an audit, most judges — me included without doubt — would order the returns produced. The objecting party would have no basis in tax or law or regulations to fight the order.”

The same result — “produce the returns” — would apply in any litigation over debts or damages, “where income is otherwise relevant,” Logan said.

That Trump doesn’t want the public to know how he makes his money or how he spends it is relevant to his suitability for the presidency.

But he is, after all, the man who bragged that he could commit mayhem on Times Square and his followers would ignore it.

He has a point. He lies every time he opens his mouth, and they ignore it. He talks like some uneducated thug off the street, and they not only ignore it — they love it.

Even worse, he’s now threatening mob violence if the Republican convention thwarts him, and his followers really love that.

Keep in mind that he is still short of a majority of all the Republicans who have voted. This makes him the choice of maybe 10 percent of the U.S. population.

The arrogance and contempt symbolized by those secret tax documents speak volumes as to why he does not deserve even that share, much less more.

***

Martin Dyckman is a retired associate editor of the St. Petersburg Times. He lives in suburban Asheville, North Carolina. Column courtesy of Context Florida.

Bob Sparks: Groups believe Pam Bondi’s endorsement of Donald Trump is somehow corrupt

As Donald Trump marches closer to the Republican nomination for president, more prominent elected officials are endorsing him. Florida Gov. Rick Scott is the latest, giving his approval following Trump’s blowout victory in Florida on Tuesday.

The day before the primary, Attorney General Pam Bondi endorsed Trump, the part-time resident of Palm Beach County. The reaction by some Republicans to that endorsement is an example of how deep and wide the gulf within the party has become.

While Trump was my fourth choice among Tuesday’s four candidates, I want no part of the “Anybody But Trump” or the “Our Principles” crowd that is now popping up. These are examples of the establishment on steroids.

For her taking such a step, these saviors of the republic believe Bondi is wrongheaded at best and corrupt at worst. The attorney general’s decision to declare her allegiance to the New York billionaire is just that: her decision. Elected officials have free speech rights, too.

It seems Trump’s foundation contributed $25,000 to Bondi’s 2014 re-election campaign after a news story appeared indicating her office was “reviewing complaints” about Trump University. The online school was under severe fire in New York for alleged fraud.

No action was taken in Florida, which must mean Bondi, according to the anti-Trumpers, was bought off by the contribution. Katie Packer, a former Mitt Romney aide, runs Our Principles.

“It’s too bad people defrauded out of money by Trump University don’t have that kind of money to buy an advocate in the Florida Attorney General’s Office,” Packer was quoted as saying by Politico.

Packer’s hyper hyperbole does not withstand scrutiny. Politico’s Matt Dixon and Marc Caputo found the Attorney General’s Office was in possession of a grand total of one complaint on Trump University when the contribution was given.

Here’s how it works. The Office of the Attorney General receives thousands of complaints each year.

Some are multiple complaints about an individual or entity that lead to official investigations. Others involve one or two complaints, which normally do not trigger more than a preliminary examination.

When Bondi’s spokesman stated the preliminary examination “didn’t rise to her level,” this fits the normal pattern of the Chief Legal Officer’s complaint triage operation. In this case, Florida’s sole complaint would be addressed within the actions already being taken by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

The complainant was also advised to seek private counsel, mirroring advice routinely dispensed in similar circumstances. The attorney general is not permitted to represent an individual.

To be sure, something clearly was amiss within the hallowed cyber walls of Trump U., but the right entity was taking the lead. As one might expect, Trump referred to Schneiderman as “a political hack.”

“She should have to answer for this,” Packer told Politico. “(Trump) gave her money. There was a problem and she didn’t investigate.”

A one-word response is all that is needed. Nonsense.

Many can agree with Packer that our political system is ill. Unfortunately, she and her former boss are now part of the symptoms.

Count me among those who believe Mitt Romney would have been a good president. Many of us who voted for him remain convinced more people would be working and our nation would not be as polarized had the 2012 election gone his/our way. A majority of voters thought otherwise.

When Romney recently fired his full arsenal of rhetorical Tomahawk missiles at Trump, something happened many thought was not possible; the 2016 campaign sank even lower.

After the Romney speech, the confrontations at Trump rallies grew angrier and more intense. Make no mistake, Trump’s longshoreman-style rhetoric provides him with some culpability, but the outside agitators who instigate the violence have become more emboldened in recent days.

Some of the GOP’s conservative base is buying into Anybody But Trump. The dreaded “third party” talk, with Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse among the loudest voices, is increasing.

Sasse, according to Fox News personality Sean Hannity, got into Hannity’s face at CPAC earlier this month for the commentator’s light treatment of Trump, calling it “b******t.” Though we prefer more civility, many conservatives agree that Hannity and Rush Limbaugh have not held Trump to the same conservative litmus test as those administered to Jeb Bush, John Kasich or Chris Christie.

Now we have one of Romney’s former assistants trying to peddle the story that Pam Bondi is possibly corrupt after committing the sin of endorsing Trump. Want to see what quid pro quo really look like, Katie? Read Peter Schweizer’s book Clinton Cash.

Then you can go back to preserving our principles for us. The rest of us will let the voters decide.

***

Bob Sparks is a business and political consultant based in Tallahassee. He is also the former chief spokesperson for Attorney General Charlie Crist. Column courtesy of ContextFlorida.

Ted Cruz says Americans have “a clear choice going forward”

Ted Cruz declared a victory (of sorts) Tuesday, despite coming up short in four of the five Republican primaries.

“Tonight was a good night,” he said. “Tonight we continued to gain delegates and continued our march to 1,237. And, after tonight, America now has a clear choice going forward.”

Cruz was neck-in-neck with Donald Trump in Missouri, with unofficial election results from Missouri showing the two virtually tied as of 11 p.m. EDT.

In North Carolina, Cruz came in second with nearly 37 percent of the vote. Trump came in first with nearly 41 percent. Cruz also came in second in Illinois with 30 percent, trailing Trump, who was projected to win the state’s 24 delegates with 39 percent of the vote. He came in third in Florida and Ohio.

Cruz told supporters he’s the only candidate to defeat Trump time and time again. The Texas Republican has won nine Republican primaries.

Cruz told supporters he plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act, often called Obamacare; “pass a simple flat tax and abolish the IRS”; and “rein in the EPA and government regulators that are killing small businesses.”

“Going forward, the choice is straightforward,” Cruz said. “Starting tomorrow morning, there is a clear and direct choice. For everyone who wants to see a brighter tomorrow, we welcome you.”

Donald Trump celebrates victories in Florida, Illinois and North Carolina

Donald Trump promised to continue to “win, win, win” after victories in at least three of the five states holding Republican primaries Tuesday.

Trump won primaries in Illinois, North Carolina and Florida. He came in second in Ohio, trailing John Kasich. The Missouri Republican primary was too close to call late Tuesday night.

The New York businessman clobbered Marco Rubio in Florida. He received 46 percent of the vote, while Rubio received 27 percent in the Sunshine State. Trump won almost every county in Florida, save for Miami-Dade County. Rubio announced Tuesday he was suspending his campaign.

“I would like to congratulate Donald Trump on winning Florida’s winner-take-all presidential primary,” said Blaise Ingoglia, chairman of the Florida GOP in a prepared statement. “While the Florida GOP will remain neutral in the Republican nominating process, we will continue our grassroots efforts to defeat Hillary Clinton and put a Republican in the White House come November.”

Trump has won 18 Republican primaries and leads in the delegate count. The winner-take-all nature of Florida’s election may help Trump secure the Republican nomination.

“I think we’re going to have a great victory,” Trump said during a celebratory speech on Tuesday. “We’re going to win, win, win, and we’re not stopping.”

Trump said his campaign has “had such incredible support,” pointing toward endorsements from Chris Christie, Ben Carson, Sarah Palin and Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi as an example of that support.

“We have to bring our party together. We have something happening that actually makes the Republican party the biggest political story in the world,” he said. “Millions of people are coming in to vote. We have a great opportunity. Democrats are coming in, independents are coming in and, very importantly, people are coming in who never voted before.”

“I’m very proud to be a part of this,” he said.

After Ohio victory John Kasich tips hat to Marco Rubio, vows to fight until convention

After his first primary victory in his home state of Ohio, Gov. John Kasich continued to spread his can-do message of optimism and civility at a speech to supporters Tuesday night.

After a brief hiccup to handle a Donald Trump-supporting crowd member, Kasich called for applause for Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. He called Rubio a “gifted, talented senator” and congratulated him on his campaign.

He told a parable comparing his own underdog campaign with the Buckeye State. He recalled meeting with bond rating agencies in New York City when, as he put it, “things were bad.” The agencies had threatened to slash Ohio’s rating because of high unemployment and debt levels that left bankers looking askance at its state government.

“You don’t understand Ohio, and you don’t understand Ohioans,” Kasich said he told them. He then recited a much-told list of economic improvements that took place during his governorship.

Kasich cited attaining 400,000 new jobs, an economic surplus, relatively secure pension programs plus multiple rounds of tax cuts, all while “leaving no one behind.” He said he wishes he could make the New York bankers “eat their words” when it came to doubting Ohio.

The governor and former congressman nodded to his many naysayers, including “people in Ohio saying ‘Why don’t they ever call on him?” in the long string of debates leading up to the contest.

Kasich also vowed to continue to draw a contrast between himself and Trump’s bawdy antics.

“I will not take the low road to the highest office in the land,” Kasich said to applause.

The speech was conspicuously devoid of the rock-ribbed red meat served up by other GOP nomination-seekers, saying his primary goal is not to repeal Obamacare or defund Planned Parenthood, but rather to help Americans “find their purpose in life” and to “heal and change the world.”

Kasich also gave a shout-out to many Democrats for supporting him in the state’s open primaries rather than casting a vote for Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders. Preliminary polls indicated about 15 percent of Ohio Democrats crossed the aisle Tuesday.

Kasich ended with a pledge to take his campaign “all the way to” nearby Cleveland, site of the 2016 Republican National Convention. He vowed to secure the nomination there, despite his mathematically unlikely path forward.

Marco Rubio suspends presidential campaign after bruising Florida defeat

Marco Rubio ended his campaign Tuesday after being trounced in his own state by New York businessman Donald Trump.

Rubio is expected to come in a distant second behind Republican front runner Trump. According to the Florida Division of Elections, Trump leads the pack with 45 percent of the vote. Rubio trails Trump with 27 percent, followed by Ted Cruz with 17 percent. John Kasich is in fourth with 7 percent.

“After tonight it is clear that while we are on the right side, this year we will not be on the winning side. I take great comfort in the ancient words which teaches us that in their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps,” said Rubio before announcing he was suspending his campaign. “And so yet, while this may not have been the year for a hopeful and optimistic message about our future, I still remain hopeful and optimistic about America.”

The vote results came as a blow to the Florida Republican’s campaign. He long said he would win his home state, and spent the past week barnstorming Florida to drum up support. Florida’s junior U.S. senator failed to gain traction, though, and several recent polls showed Trump handily beating Rubio.

Unofficial county-by-county election results show Trump beat Rubio in most of Florida’s 67 counties. In Miami-Dade, though, where Rubio lives, he received 108,300 votes compared with Trump’s 38,786 votes. In nearby Broward County, Trump received more than 39,600 votes compared with Rubio’s more than 22,900 votes.

Trump received nearly twice as many votes as Rubio in Republican stronghold Collier County. Unofficial election results from Collier County show Trump received more than 30,000 votes compared with the more than 15,500 Rubio received.

Rubio announced he was running for president in April 2015. The 44-year-old Republican faced criticism from some Floridians for his decision to run as a competitor to one-time GOP presidential hopeful Jeb Bush.

Bush, who bowed out of the presidential race after the South Carolina primary last month, received about 2 percent of the vote in Florida, according to unofficial election results.

In a 15-minute speech to supporters Tuesday evening, Rubio thanked supporters for their hard work and dedication over the past year.

“I’m so grateful for all the help that you guys have given us. I just want you to know that there is nothing more that you could have done,” Rubio said. “You worked as hard as anyone could have worked. I want you to know, we worked as hard as we ever could.”

The former Florida legislator said he “endeavored over the last 11 months to bridge this divide within our party and within our country.” He also said he tried to build a campaign “that would love all of the American people, even the ones that don’t love you back.”

“I know firsthand ours is a special nation because where you come from here doesn’t decide where you go.”

Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton take Duval County, NE Florida

Tuesday night saw Duval County and NE Florida fall in line with the majority of voters across the country, and support Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton… with the exception of one county on the Democratic side that Felt The Bern.

In the GOP Primary, Trump had 47 percent with 194 of 199 precincts in, well ahead of Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz at 27 and 18 percent respectively. Rubio won just four precincts with significant GOP concentration, three on the westside south of I-10. Cruz won some precincts with just a handful of Republicans. Turnout was robust throughout the GOP precincts, with just a handful below 40 percent. 54 percent turnout was the total on the GOP side.

On the Democratic side in Duval, Clinton bested Bernie Sanders 67 to 31 percent. Clinton won all but eight precincts. Sanders won three in the liberal Council District 14, and two at the Jacksonville Beaches. Turnout ranged from a low of 22 percent in District 2’s Precinct 204, to above 60 percent in some districts. The total Democratic turnout was much lower than the GOP side, at just 38 percent.

The outlying counties held to Duval’s trend. Though there is variance in the county by county numbers, the outcomes are essentially the same in NE Florida, with Clinton and Trump well ahead of the pack. The Clinton margins in the surrounding counters were 16 percent in St. Johns and Nassau, and 19 percent in Clay, a narrowing of the gap which speaks to a lighter concentration of African Americans in the suburban counties.

Trump got between 47 and 51 percent in Duval, Clay, Nassau, and St. Johns. Rubio was in the 26 to 27 percent range in Duval and St. Johns, and a few points lower in the more rural and traditionally conservative Nassau and Clay. Cruz ran behind him in all counties.

A major outlier to these trends: Baker County, to the west of Jacksonville.

Trump scored his biggest vote percentage there: 53 percent. Yet behind him in second was Cruz, at 24 percent, then Rubio at 19 percent.

The Baker Democratic race was a similar outlier. Sanders beat Clinton, 45 to 36 percent, with Martin O’Malley at 13 percent.

Matthew Isbell observed, regarding Baker’s results: “98 people (9% of dem side) showed up and left it blank! Conservative dixie region.”

Florida, Ohio primary watch: Marco Rubio seeks survival, Hillary Clinton momentum

Five more states chime into the rambunctious campaign 2016 conversation on Tuesday, and no one’s listening with greater interest than Marco Rubio and John Kasich, both of them desperate to win their home states and avoid being flattened by Donald Trump‘s steamroller. On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton is out to reclaim momentum after Bernie Sanders rocked her with a Rust Belt upset in Michigan.

A look at what to watch for in Tuesday’s voting:

THE TIMELINE

The evening’s first results will be available when polls close at 7:30 p.m. EDT in North Carolina and Ohio. North Carolina has lots of early absentee voters, so close to half the ballots could be counted and reported in the first half-hour. Ohio also is a big absentee-vote state, so expect a fast, early count there as well. At 8 p.m., final polls close in Florida, Illinois and Missouri. Since most polls in Florida close at 7 p.m., there will be a lot of votes ready to report right at 8 p.m., allowing for possible early calls on both sides. Illinois and Missouri are slower counting states. First thing in the morning, the Northern Mariana Islands, where 471 people voted, chipped in all nine of its GOP delegates for Trump.

AND THEN THERE WERE …

Will it still be a four-man Republican race come midnight? Sen. Rubio has been staking his candidacy on a winner-take-all victory in his home state of Florida but hasn’t specified what a loss would mean. Ohio Gov. Kasich has acknowledged that a winner-take-all triumph in Ohio is essential for him, but in recent weeks he’s stopped short of explicitly saying he would drop out should he lose. If they can’t win at home, do these two candidates quickly exit stage left, sleep on it before bowing out — or dig up some shred of a rationale to slog on?

• • •

DUELING TRUMPS

Which Trump will turn up for his ritual “press conference” after the votes roll in? There’s the Trump who’s positioning himself for the general election and trying to act more presidential. And there’s the scrappier Trump, still trying to elbow his rivals out of the race. Scrappy Trump could also decide to train his focus on Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton if she has a good night.

• • •

CLINTON’S AIM

Clinton held off on a full pivot toward the general election after Sanders snatched Michigan from her last week. Tuesday’s results should give her a lot more information — and delegates —to decide when it’s safe to look past Sanders and train her focus on November. Her speech Tuesday night will tell a lot about her thinking on that.

• • •

CRUZ’S AIM

Cruz, too, will have to decide where to focus his attention Tuesday night. Watch to see if he spends more time trying to nudge Rubio and Kasich out of the picture, or takes it to straight to Trump.

• • •

THE MIDPOINT

Check the GOP delegate count at the end of the night. A five-state sweep would allow Trump to cross an important threshold — stacking up more than 50 percent of the delegates awarded so far. After his win in the Northern Mariana Islands, Trump went into the night’s voting with 469 delegates to 370 for Cruz, 163 for Rubio and 63 for Kasich. It takes 1,237 delegates to win the GOP nomination.

• • •

CLINTON’S CACHE

With Democrats continuing to dole out delegates on a proportional basis, see where Clinton’s delegate stash stands at the end of the night. She went into the night with 768 pledged delegates compared with 554 for Sanders, according to a count by The Associated Press. Including super delegates, Clinton holds 1,235 total delegates, more than half the amount needed to clinch the nomination, while Sanders has 580.

• • •

RACE, AGE

Dig into the exit polls to check on whether Bernie Sanders can continue to make Rust Belt inroads with black voters, a huge source of support for Clinton. In his surprise Michigan win last week, Sanders got nearly 3 in 10 black Democratic voters. In earlier states, mainly in the South, he was getting only about half that level of support. Also, check whether younger voters turn out in force for Sanders. In Michigan, 45 percent of Democratic voters were under 45, the most of any state so far, and two-thirds of them supported Sanders.

• • •

LATE DECIDERS

The exit polls also can give clues about whether late deciders on the Republican side are continuing to break against Trump — and whether there are enough of them to make a difference. So far, about a third of voters have been making up their minds in the past week, and they’ve been splintering among Trump alternatives. A spike in late-deciders moving against Trump could signal concern about the increasingly tense tone between Trump and his supporters, and the protesters at his rallies.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

Marco Rubio, John Kasich fight to keep hopes alive

Republicans Marco Rubio and John Kasich are fighting for their political futures Tuesday, desperate for wins in their home states of Florida and Ohio to keep their White House hopes alive and complicate Donald Trump’s path to the nomination. Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton is hoping to keep rival Bernie Sanders from building new momentum in the Midwest.

With more delegates up for grabs than almost any other day in the primary calendar, Tuesday’s contests afford Trump and Clinton the chance to put their parties’ nominations out of sight for their competitors. While Florida and Ohio are the biggest prizes, Missouri, Illinois and North Carolina are also awarding of delegates.

Trump enters Tuesday’s primaries embroiled in one of the biggest controversies of his contentious campaign. The GOP front-runner has encouraged supporters to physically confront protesters at his events and is now facing accusations of encouraging violence after skirmishes broke out at a rally last week in Chicago.

During an event Monday in Tampa, Trump was interrupted intermittently by protesters, some of whom were forcibly removed. Trump said he didn’t want to “ruin somebody’s life, but do we prosecute somebody like that?”

The vibe at Trump’s events has deepened the concern over his candidacy in some Republican circles. Rubio and Kasich have suggested they might not be able to support Trump if he’s the nominee, an extraordinary stance for intraparty rivals. House Speaker Paul Ryan has also taken lightly veiled shots at the businessman, who has denied playing any role in encouraging violence against protesters.

“I think the candidates need to take responsibility for the environment at their events,” Ryan said during an interview Monday with WRJN, a radio station in Racine, Wisconsin. “There is never an excuse for condoning violence, or even a culture that presupposes it.”

Kasich, who has been restrained in his criticism, said Tuesday he would be “forced, going forward, to talk about some of the deep concerns” he has about Trump’s campaign.

Kasich appeared to have the best chance of defeating Trump anywhere on Tuesday. The governor spent Monday campaigning in his home state alongside Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican nominee and a fierce critic of Trump.

Rubio, despite having the backing of numerous GOP elected officials, appears to have slipped in recent public polls in Florida. The senator tried to stay upbeat Monday, perhaps his final full day of campaigning in the 2016 race.

“Tomorrow’s the day where we are going to shock the country,” Rubio said during a stop in Jacksonville.

If Trump sweeps Tuesday’s contests, he’d still have to keep winning in order to clinch the nomination. But he would cross an important threshold by collecting more than 50 percent of the delegates awarded so far.

He won easily in the Northern Mariana caucus on Tuesday, picking up nine delegates. That gave him 469 to 370 for Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, 163 for Rubio and 63 for Kasich. It takes 1,237 to win the GOP nomination.

Trump’s closest competition has come from Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who has defeated the businessman in seven states. He’s also the only remaining GOP candidate who still says unequivocally that he would support Trump if he becomes the nominee.

Among Democrats, Clinton has been itching to look ahead to the general election but continues to face persistent competition from  Sanders. While Clinton maintains a commanding lead in the delegate count, Sanders breathed new life into his campaign with a surprising victory last week in Michigan.

Reprising a theme that helped propel that Michigan win, Sanders on Monday pounded Clinton’s past support for trade deals such as the North American Free Trade Agreement. He’s escalated his criticism in recent days, hoping to undercut her edge among minorities and expand his advantage with white working-class voters.

“When it came down whether you stand with corporate America, the people who wrote these agreements, or whether you stand with the working people of this country, I proudly stood with the workers,” Sanders said in Youngstown, Ohio. “Secretary Clinton stood with the big money interests.”

Clinton’s team is attempting to tamp down expectations for Tuesday night, though she’s also eyeing the general election and escalating her attacks on Trump, saying he’s “inciting mob violence.”

The campaign next shifts to the West, where Sanders’ advisers have suggested he could rattle off a win streak and begin cutting into Clinton’s delegate lead.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

Forget favorite candidates, some people voting strategically

Kennedy Copeland is a Marco Rubio fan who voted for John Kasich in Ohio. Ann Croft is all in to elect Hillary Clinton president but cast her ballot for Rubio in Virginia. Julia Price will back the Democratic nominee in November but voted for Kasich in Tennessee.

Are these voters confused? No, they’re voting strategically in the year of Donald Trump in hopes of altering the outcome of the presidential race by voting for someone other than their favorite candidate in the primaries.

Democrat Croft, for example, figured Clinton didn’t need her help to win Virginia. So she decided to vote instead against Trump in the Republican primary because some of her GOP friends were worried he would win the state.

“I was feeling almost sort of dirty about doing it,” she recalled. But then Croft talked to a friend who had done exactly the same thing, which made her feel better.

In other cases, Democrats are crossing over to do just the opposite: voting for Trump, on the thinking he’d be the weakest candidate to face the eventual Democratic nominee.

The notion of strategic voting — in a way, playing amateur political scientist — is now front and center in Ohio and Florida, which award winner-take-all delegates in the Republican races as part of Tuesday’s five-state round of voting.

Rubio’s campaign raised eyebrows recently by urging Ohioans to cast ballots for Kasich as the best strategy to stop the Trump juggernaut.

Copeland, president of the College Republicans at Xavier University, says she did just that, casting an early vote for Ohio Gov. Kasich “because he has the best chance of winning Ohio against Trump” even though Rubio is her first choice.

Some voters are taking it upon themselves to get strategic without any coaching from a campaign.

In Minnesota, Eric Goodemote said he’d never voted for a Republican for anything before casting his caucus vote for Rubio to block Trump.

He said he found “the prospect of Donald Trump’s mere candidacy so horrifying that I decided to do the other party a favor and cross lines to vote for a guy who I would normally never even have considered.”

Strategic voting happens every election, of course, but political scientists say there’s far more intrigue than usual about what’s going on in this very atypical political year.

Columbia University’s Robert Shapiro says that while it’s not uncommon for a voter to select one candidate over their first choice in the same party based on electability, this year there’s more discussion about crossing party lines to influence what’s happening on the other side.

“We’re talking about something a lot more complicated and a lot more interesting,” says Shapiro, who defines strategic voting as “basically an insincere vote to pursue another purpose.”

More than insincere, it may be illegal in some states — although no one seems too concerned about that.

In Ohio’s semi-open primary system, for example, voters must sign a statement saying that they desire to be affiliated with a particular party and support the party’s principles before casting ballots in that primary.

Democrats who choose to vote in the Republican primary but don’t support the party’s policies “are committing election falsification by stating that they do in fact support those principles,” says law professor Dan Tokaji, an Ohio State University election law expert. “Will they be prosecuted? Almost certainly not.”

Vanderbilt University’s John Geer said that when voters cross over to nominate a weaker candidate in the opposing party it’s known as “raiding.” There’s always some of that, he says, and there may be more than usual this year with Trump in the mix. But, Geer added, “The vast majority of the Democrats that Trump is getting are voting for him because they like him, not because they want to weaken the Republican Party.”

Plenty of voters are upfront about their electoral schemes, and in many states there’s no legal prohibition to voting in either primary.

Sam Brunson, a liberal law professor in Chicago, says he figures Clinton doesn’t need his vote in Tuesday’s open Illinois primaries, so he’ll hold his nose and vote for a Republican — probably Ted Cruz — to try to deny Trump the nomination. He’s worried about the damage to the country that could be caused by a Trump nomination, saying that could send the wrong message to those who are racist and xenophobic.

Others are still waging battles between their heads and hearts in trying to select a candidate.

Republican Nancy Froelich, in Palm Beach, Florida, started out a conversation Monday by saying she was leaning toward voting for Cruz as the best candidate in Tuesday’s Florida lineup. She said she likes Kasich, but thinks voting for him could end up helping Trump. But then again, she said, “it might make more sense to vote for Rubio” to keep Trump from winning in Rubio’s home state.

“Call me back in an hour and ask me again,” she said.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

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