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Donald Trump wins in Indiana

Donald Trump wins the Republican presidential primary in Indiana, continuing his surge toward clinching the GOP nomination over rivals Ted Cruz and John Kasich.

Trump took a major step toward sewing up the Republican presidential nomination Tuesday with a victory in Indiana’s primary election, dashing the hopes of rival Cruz and other GOP forces who fear the brash businessman will doom their party in the general election.

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders were vying for victory in the Democratic primary, though it was too early to call the race as votes were being tallied. Clinton already is 91 percent of the way to her party’s nomination.

While Trump can’t mathematically clinch the GOP nomination with his victory in Indiana, his path now becomes easier and he has more room for error in the remaining primary contests. The real estate mogul will collect at least 45 of Indiana’s 57 delegates, and now needs less than 200 more in upcoming contests.

Cruz, who hasn’t topped Trump in a month, campaigned vigorously in Indiana, securing the endorsement of the state’s governor and announcing businesswoman Carly Fiorina as his running mate. But he appeared to lose momentum in the final days of campaigning and let his frustration with Trump boil over Tuesday, calling the billionaire “amoral” and a “braggadocious, arrogant buffoon.”

Trump responded by saying Cruz “does not have the temperament to be president of the United States.” Earlier Tuesday Trump had rehashed unsubstantiated claims that the Texan’s father, Rafael Cruz, appeared in a 1963 photograph with John F. Kennedy‘s assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald — citing a report first published by the National Enquirer.

Cruz has vowed to stay in the race through the final primaries in June, clinging to the possibility that Trump will fall short of the 1,237 delegates he needs and the race will go to a contested convention. But he now could face pressure from donors and other Republicans to at least tone down in attacks on Trump in an attempt to unite the GOP heading into the general election.

Whether a united Republican Party is even possible with Trump at the helm remains highly uncertain. Even before the Indiana results were finalized, some conservative leaders were planning a Wednesday meeting to assess the viability of launching a third party candidacy to compete with Trump in the fall.

Only about half of Indiana’s Republican primary voters said they were excited or even optimistic about any of their remaining candidates becoming president, according to exit polls. Still, most said they probably would support whoever won for the GOP.

Clinton, too, needs to win over Sanders’ enthusiastic supporters. The Vermont senator has cultivated a deeply loyal following in particular among young people, a group Democrats count on in the general election.

Sanders has conceded his strategy hinges on persuading superdelegates to back him over the former secretary of state. Superdelegates are Democratic Party insiders who can support the candidate of their choice, regardless of how their states vote. And they favor Clinton by a nearly 18-1 margin.

Exit polls showed about 7 in 10 Indiana Democrats said they’d be excited or at least optimistic about either a Clinton or Sanders presidency. Most said they would support either in November.

The exit polls were conducted by Edison Research for The Associated Press and television networks.

A fall showdown between Clinton and Trump would pit one of Democrats’ most experienced political figures against a first-time candidate who is deeply divisive within his own party. Cruz and other Republicans have argued that Trump would be roundly defeated in the general election, denying their party the White House for a third straight term.

Republican leaders spent months dismissing Trump as little more than an entertainer who would fade once voting started. Cruz was among those who actively tried to align themselves with Trump and called him “terrific.”

As Trump began to pick up wins, Cruz became more critical of his rival’s policies. Still, his torrent of attacks Tuesday was by far the most pointed and personal of the campaign to date.

Trump has now won seven straight primary contests and has 80 percent of the delegates needed to secure the GOP nomination. With his victory in Indiana, Trump now has at least 1,041 delegates. Cruz has 565 and Ohio Gov. John Kasich has 152.

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Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

Donald Trump far behind in preparing for general election

The Republican presidential nomination may be in his sights, yet Donald Trump has so far ignored vital preparations needed for a quick and effective transition to the general election.

The New York businessman has collected little information about tens of millions of voters he needs to turn out in the fall. He’s sent few people to battleground states compared with likely Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, accumulated little if any research on her, and taken no steps to build a network capable of raising the roughly $1 billion needed to run a modern-day general election campaign.

“He may be able to get by on bluster and personality during the primaries, but the general election is a whole different ballgame,” said Ryan Williams, a veteran of Mitt Romney‘s presidential campaigns. “They’re essentially starting from zero heading into the general election.”

Trump’s early campaign efforts — fueled in the primary season by the sheer force of his personality and free media coverage — have defied all who predicted they would fall short of what’s required to win the nomination. He

Yet the billionaire’s aides acknowledged they’ll tap into the resources of the party’s establishment — the Republican National Committee, above all — as the scale and scope of the 2016 contest grow exponentially. That’s even as he rails daily against his party’s establishment as corrupt, and they predict his unique success so far will pay off again in November.

“Our ability to run a different type of campaign against Hillary Clinton in a general election is unique to the success that Mr. Trump has shown in the primaries,” said Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s campaign manager.

Trump’s late start marks a sharp break from past Republican campaigns and that of Clinton, who is already beginning to shift resources to the November election. The Republican front-runner’s organizational disadvantage marks another warning sign for GOP officials who already feared he was unelectable this fall — even if he were well-prepared.

Trump has taken steps in recent week to add experienced political staff to expand his bare-bones organization. Yet the team has been consumed by playing catch up with Republican rival Ted Cruz, devoting almost no energy or planning to the next phase. Trump hopes he can score a victory in the Indiana primary Tuesday that can effectively end Cruz’s bid.

Lewandowski and other aides have also signaled a willingness to work closely with the Republican National Committee should Trump claim the nomination — “hand in glove,” in Lewandowski’s words.

Ed Brookover is working from a recently opened Washington-area office that is tasked with developing Trump’s detailed policy prescriptions and working with allies on Capitol Hill.

“From all reports — we’ve not gone in and kicked the tires yet — the RNC’s got a larger ground game already in place than ever before,” Brookover said. “And they’ve been investing an incredible amount of money on data.” He said that’s “going to be incredibly helpful.”

Indeed, the Republican National Committee has been expanding its national footprint and accumulating detailed information about millions of general election voters since soon after the GOP’s disastrous 2012 election. With only a few employees on the ground at this time four years ago, the RNC now has more than 200 in general election battlegrounds such as Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, Virginia and Colorado.

“We are so far ahead of where we were,” said RNC chief strategist Sean Spicer. “Whether it’s Trump or someone else, that’s going to be a huge advantage.”

On the Democratic side, Clinton has already begun to send waves of campaign staffers to battleground states. Advisers are starting to consider locations for a splashy convention rally in Philadelphia and lawyers are scrutinizing more than two dozen possible vice presidential picks. The Democratic front-runner also has a well-established donor network and is planning lucrative fundraisers in New York, Michigan, California and Texas later this month.

Trump has lashed out at other candidates for raising money from wealthy donors, but GOP leaders anticipate he will need to do the same thing in the coming months. Many Republicans are skeptical that Trump has the willingness or the capacity to cover the estimated $1 billion cost of the campaign ahead.

Absent a massive personal investment, Trump and his party will be tasked with raising millions of dollars a day to match spending levels from the past election. The Romney campaign spent years developing an extensive fundraising network and collected general election cash long before his primary contest was decided.

For now, though, the Trump campaign concedes it has done little to prepare for the fall fight.

“Once we are the nominee, we will look at all the options,” Lewandowski said of fundraising.

Trump still has staff on board in battlegrounds such as Ohio and Florida, though employees and volunteers have been consumed by the primaries.

“We’re focused on winning Indiana and then going on and winning California and New Jersey and anything in between,” said Stephen Stepanek, Trump’s co-chairman in New Hampshire, which is a perennial swing state. “Then we will start talking about the general election.”

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Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

Mitch Perry Report for 5.3.16 – Only six more months of hearing about Hillary vs.The Donald – every day

Well today’s the Indiana primary, and aren’t you all excited about that?

I didn’t think so. A CNN/ORC poll released yesterday shows more than eight of 10 Americans believe Hillary Clinton will challenge Donald Trump for president in November. That was taken before Indiana votes today … or Nebraska next week … or California and New Jersey next month.

But it’s still more fun to talk about a contested convention than start talking every day about a Hillary vs. Donald confrontation, since that’s still a full half-year away!

OK, enough of this: Will this be it for Ted Cruz tonight? It’s been over for quite awhile for the Texas Senator. But you wouldn’t believe that if you tune into cable news — and why would you, since it’s all about ginning up interest (The Sanders/Clinton race tonight could be close, we should add).

Seriously, I’m sure everyone reading this watches their fair share of CNN, Fox and/or MSNBC. I’m telling you I’m trying to walk away from the flat-screen though, because there’s nothing really that new to learn.

I felt a little wistful watching John Heilemann try to keep the excitement up on his Bloomberg show, “With All Due Respect.” Heilemann was a great writer/reporter for New York magazine for years. Now he makes $1 million acting like every other pundit on cable. Good for him. Bad for us.

However this race, thanks to Donald J., has been great for everyone’s ratings (and clicks).

Since the start of the year, CNN’s prime-time audience has more than doubled to 435,000 viewers a night in its target demographic of 25- to 54-year-olds, according to Nielsen.

The Wall Street Journal reports that in the fourth quarter last year, CNN’s average price for a 30-second prime-time spot was about $7,000, up from about $5,000 a year earlier. Fox News and MSNBC also have raised prices.

Thank God Trump survived, and Cruz didn’t, those network honchos are believing. Also a lot of political reporters.

But if it ain’t new, is it really news?

And before we go to the other news of yesterday, a quick shoutout to my sister Michele out in Richmond, California.  Happy Birthday!

In other news …

David Jolly, a former lobbyist, said on Sunday that he doesn’t believe ex-members of Congress should go back into the lobbying game, prompting a response from one of his GOP senate opponents, Todd Wilcox.

Although the business establishment supports the Tampa Bay Express toll lanes project, they’ve kept that support relatively close to the vest in recent months. Not anymore, as they announced the creation of a coalition with a website backing the $3.3 billion proposal. Meanwhile, TBX opponents howled upon learning the news.

Tampa attorney Bob Buesing becomes the first (and only, presumably) Democrat to enter the Senate District 18 seat in Hillsborough County — where he’ll likely face Dana Young in the fall.

Defying his leadership, Sarasota area Congressman Vern Buchanan says he doesn’t care — and is calling for the Congress to fully fund President Obama’s $1.9 billion request to combat the Zika virus.

And while Hillsborough County Commissioners dream up new ideas on where to come up with funding transportation that won’t include a sales tax, County Administrator Mike Merrill just shakes his head.

Donald Trump has a ‘plan B’ for convention – outside help

Donald Trump has a Plan B if he’s faced with a contested convention, and it involves the sort of outside groups that he’s called “corrupt.”

While the billionaire businessman might lock up the Republican presidential nomination in the next five weeks of voting, he and his allies are simultaneously undertaking a parallel effort in case he falls short.

Outside groups, including one led by longtime Trump political ally Roger Stone, and a loose collection of colorful supporters such as “Bikers for Trump” are organizing ahead of the July convention in Cleveland.

They’re soliciting money to pay for their transportation and housing, and they’re already trying to influence the mood of the convention with a social media campaign saying that anything short of a Trump nomination would be “stealing.”

“Our principal focus right now is Cleveland,” Stone said of his group, called Stop the Steal. “We want to bring as large a contingent as possible to demonstrate the breadth of Trump’s appeal so that the party can see graphically what they’re going to lose if they hijack the nomination from him.”

Stop the Steal and other groups are gaining steam even though Trump has insisted he wants no donor help for his bid and is beholden to no one.

Super political action committees “are a disaster, by the way, folks,” Trump said at a Republican debate in March. “Very corrupt.”

Stop the Steal is not technically a super PAC, but it operates under very similar rules.

This past week, Trump’s lawyers sent the Federal Election Commission a letter renewing the campaign’s disavowal of groups using his “name, image, likeness, or slogans in connection with soliciting contributions.” All the groups planning Cleveland activities repeatedly use his name in their literature.

Trump set the stage for what the outside groups are doing by making provocative comments about the complex way Republicans pick a nominee — “rigged,” he calls it. Voters weigh in, but each state has its own rules about what delegates go to the convention and how they must vote on a presidential candidate while they’re there.

Stop the Steal and other Trump fans are pushing a similar message on social media and websites.

“The big steal is in full swing,” one online letter says, calling unfriendly delegates “stooges.”

The Stone-led Cleveland coalition includes We Will Walk, Bikers for Trump, Citizens for Trump and Women for Trump. Stone said the goal is to bring thousands of people to march peacefully in the streets.

“We are prepared to bring the Republican Party down if they mess with Trump and try to take it away from him by doing the dirty tricks,” said Paul Nagy, a New Hampshire Republican. He runs We Will Walk, a group that has collected more than 41,000 online signatures of people who say Trump deserves the nomination.

The public relations offensive is a counterpart to GOP rival Ted Cruz‘s carefully crafted, labor-intensive strategy of recruiting friendly delegates in hopes he can win if Trump falls short on the first ballot of voting.

This weekend in Arizona, Cruz won another strategic victory over Trump, getting numerous friendly delegates elected to head to Cleveland while the Trump backers appeared to be virtually shut out. Those delegates are required to first vote for Trump at the convention because he won the state, but they could later switch their votes to Cruz.

While Cruz is playing within the party’s rules, Trump’s claim that what Cruz is doing amounts to “stealing” resonates with voters.

In mid-April, after Cruz swept Colorado’s elected delegates, stay-at-home mom Erin Behrens said she felt sick about what was happening to her candidate. So Stop the Steal helped her organize protests in the state.

Stone and an ally, Greg Lewis, flew in to help Behrens answer email and arrange a rally. At the April 15 event in Denver, about 200 demonstrators waved banners that read “Banana Republicans” and chanted “Stop the Steal!”

Behrens said in an interview last week that she’s continuing to organize Trump supporters in Colorado. “If there’s funny business and they make it clear they’re going to not give it to Trump, Stop the Steal Cleveland will be one thing,” she said. “But we will have protests, events across the United States. Count on it.”

A good chunk of what the outside groups are doing now is fundraising.

“Bottom line we need to raise $262,000 in the next two weeks,” Stop the Steal’s website says. “If you can’t make it to Cleveland will you help those who can? Will you send $500, $200 or even $100 to this crucial effort?”

A different pro-Trump group, Great America PAC, also is raising money for a Cleveland effort. This one is led by William Doddridge, chief executive officer of the Jewelry Exchange.

Its commercials warn that “party elites” will try to seize the nomination from Trump at the convention and suggest that people stop that from happening by calling an 800 number and giving money.

It needs the help. The group’s latest fundraising report, covering through the end of March, shows it is more than $600,000 in debt. The super PAC can take unlimited contributions from individuals, corporations and unions. Trump’s lawyers have specifically asked it to cease operations.

Stop the Steal isn’t a super PAC, the category of outside group that attracts the most ire from Trump, Stone said. But it’s a distinction without a difference.

It is organized as a political nonprofit “527” group that files periodic disclosure reports about its donors and spending with the Internal Revenue Service rather than the Federal Election Commission. Like an FEC-monitored super PAC, a 527 can take unlimited amounts of money from individuals, corporations and unions.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

Ted Cruz faces make-or-break moment to stop Donald Trump

Facing a make-or-break moment for his slumping campaign, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz was blitzing through Indiana on Monday in a desperate bid to overtake Donald Trump in the state’s primary and keep his own White House hopes alive.

A victory for Trump in Indiana on Tuesday would be a dispiriting blow for Cruz and other forces trying to stop the front-runner, leaving them with few opportunities to block his path. Trump is the only candidate in the race who can reach the 1,237 delegates needed for the GOP nomination through regular voting, though Cruz is trying to push the race toward a contested convention.

“This whole long, wild ride of an election has all culminated with the entire country with its eyes fixed on the state of Indiana,” Cruz said Sunday at a late night rally. “The people of this great state, I believe the country is depending on you to pull us back from the brink.”

Several hundred people came to see him Monday at Bravo Cafe in Osceola, where he predicted a close finish in the primary and said: “We need every single vote.”

“You’re the perfect man for the job,” a man told him as diners consumed coffee and eggs. “God bless you,” Cruz said, gripping his hand.

Cruz was holding five events across Indiana on Monday. Trump was holding a pair of rallies in the state, though he was already confidently looking past Cruz and setting his sights on Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton.

Trump made clear Monday that he would keep up his accusation that Clinton is playing gender politics: “We’re making a list of the many, many times where it’s all about her being a woman.”

“I haven’t started on Hillary yet,” he told CNN, although actually he’s been trashing her record for quite some time.

For her part, Clinton told thousands at an NAACP dinner in Detroit on Sunday that President Barack Obama‘s legacy can’t be allowed to “fall into Donald Trump’s hands” and be consumed by “these voices of hatred.” She cited Trump’s “insidious” part in the birther movement that questioned Obama’s citizenship.

Clinton’s campaign announced Monday that she had raised $26 million in April.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has vowed to stay in the Democratic race, though he acknowledged Sunday that he faces an “uphill climb.” His only path rests on a long-shot strategy of winning over superdelegates, the elected officials, lobbyists and other party insiders who are free to back either candidate.

Trump can’t win enough delegates Tuesday to clinch the Republican nomination. But after his wins in five states last week, Trump no longer needs to win a majority of the remaining delegates in coming races to lock up the GOP nomination.

The importance of Indiana for Cruz became evident even before he and fellow underdog John Kasich formed an alliance of sorts, with the Ohio governor agreeing to pull his advertising money from Indiana in exchange for Cruz doing the same in Oregon and New Mexico.

But that strategy, which appeared to unravel even as it was announced, can’t help either man with the tens of thousands of Indiana voters who had already cast ballots: Early voting began in Indiana three weeks before they hatched their plan.

It also risks alienating those who have yet to vote, said veteran Indiana Republican pollster Christine Matthews. She said she believes many have continued to vote for Kasich in Indianapolis and in the wealthy suburbs north of the city.

“Indiana voters don’t like the idea of a political pact, or being told how to vote,” Matthews said.

Trump went after Cruz on Sunday, suggesting evangelical conservatives have “fallen out of love with him” and mocked his decision to announce former GOP presidential candidate Carly Fiorina as his running mate.

“They’re like hanging by their fingertips,” he said, mimicking Cruz and Kasich: “Don’t let me fall! Don’t let me fall!”

Trump let on that he’s eager to move on to a likely general election race against Clinton.

He said the end game of the primary battle with Cruz is “wasting time” that he could be spending raising money for Republicans running for the Senate.

“It would be nice to have the Republican Party come together,” Trump told supporters in Fort Wayne. “With that being said, I think I’ll win anyway.”

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

Hillary Clinton tops Donald Trump in new Florida poll

Hillary Clinton would defeat Donald Trump in Florida, but Floridians don’t have a favorable impression of either candidate.

A new survey by business group Associated Industries of Florida found that Clinton would defeat Trump in Florida, 49 percent to 36 percent. The former Secretary of State leads the New York Republican in almost every demographic, including Hispanics (+43) and voters in the critical I-4 corridor (+19). The only demographic where Trump leads Clinton is among whites (+8).

While Clinton might be the preferable candidate, she isn’t well liked. The survey found 52 percent of Floridians said they had an unfavorable opinion of her. Forty-six percent of respondents said they had a favorable opinion, while 3 percent said they were unsure.

Clinton was upside down in several major demographics, including Hispanics (-2), non-major party voters (-8) and millennials (-31).

And yet, her unfavorables are nothing compared to those of Trump. The survey found 62 percent of Floridians had an unfavorable opinion of Trump, while 33 percent had a favorable view. Four percent of respondents said they were unsure.

The survey found 87 percent of Hispanics, who will make up about 14 percent of the general electorate, have an unfavorable opinion of Trump. He’s also underwater among females (-32) and non-major party voters (-34).

AIF also looked at how Ted Cruz would fare in Florida. The survey found 58 percent of Floridians said they had an unfavorable view of the Texas Republican; while 28 percent said they had a favorable view.

Cruz was underwater in almost every demographic, including non-major party voters (-25), females (-30) and whites (-27).

Clinton would also defeat Cruz in the Sunshine State. Forty-eight percent of Floridians said they would choose Clinton, while 39 percent stated that they would pick Cruz.

The Associated Industries of Florida survey interviewed 604 likely general election voters by phone from April 25 through April 27.

Congressional GOP beginning to accept Donald Trump as nominee

Congressional Republicans are beginning to accept, and even embrace, an outcome that was once unthinkable: Donald Trump as the GOP presidential nominee.

In the wake of the businessman’s commanding wins in five Eastern states this week, a growing number of lawmakers say that Trump is taking on an air of inevitability. Some argue they should get behind him now instead of trying to stand in his way, as some establishment Republicans are still attempting to do by backing various “Never Trump” efforts.

For some lawmakers, supporting Trump is seen as their only hope of stopping the Democrats’ likely candidate, Hillary Clinton, in November and ensuring a Democratic president doesn’t fill Supreme Court vacancies.

“I don’t understand. I mean, it’s not ‘Never Trump.’ It’s ‘Never Hillary.’ Never, never, never, Hillary. Come on. Wake up and smell the coffee,” said Rep. Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania, who earlier this week cast his ballot for Trump, along with all members of his large family and 57 percent of Republican primary voters in his state.

“I’ve never seen a party attack one of its own candidates with this aggressiveness,” Kelly said of GOP establishment figures who oppose Trump, blaming it on an elitist Washington attitude out of touch with voters.

Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, a respected senior member of the Senate, previously endorsed Jeb Bush and then Sen. Marco Rubio and said he doesn’t intend to endorse Trump. But Hatch said Thursday of Trump: “It looks to me like he’s going to win and if he does I’m going to do everything in my power to help him.”

Some leading Republicans have forecast that a Trump candidacy could spell electoral disaster, help Democrats win back control of the Senate and even cost Republicans seats in the House. They point to Trump’s disparaging comments about women and minorities that have contributed to high unfavorability ratings.

Hatch, along with others, disagreed.

“I think he could be great if he’ll get serious about being president, and I think he will,” Hatch said. “When he gets hit with reality that this is the toughest job in the world, he’s a clever, smart guy who I think will want to be remembered for doing good things, so I have a feeling he can make that transition.”

To be sure, not all are on board, and some lawmakers cringe at the thought of vulnerable Senate Republicans and candidates getting linked to Trump’s controversial stances or attempting to distance themselves from them.

“He’s looking more inevitable, yeah. I’ve been wrong all along,” said GOP Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, an outspoken Trump critic. “My feeling about Donald Trump is, I don’t think that that’s our best foot forward at all. And I can’t imagine being forced to take some of those positions that he’s taken. A ban on Muslims, build a wall and make the Mexicans pay for it, you name it.”

It remains uncertain whether Trump will amass the 1,237 delegates needed to clinch the nomination ahead of the Republican convention in Cleveland in July. If he does not, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz hopes to make a play to win the nomination as balloting progresses. Ohio Gov. John Kasich also remains in the race.

On Capitol Hill, Cruz remains an unpopular figure, having disparaged party leaders and led the charge to force a 16-day partial government shutdown in 2013 in a futile attempt to cut off money for President Barack Obama‘s health care law.

Former House Speaker John Boehner, who resigned last fall under conservative pressure, lashed out at Cruz in comments published Thursday in Stanford University’s student newspaper, calling him “Lucifer in the flesh” and saying: “I get along with almost everyone, but I have never worked with a more miserable son of a bitch in my life.”

Perhaps partly because of Cruz’s unpopularity, it’s getting easier to find leading lawmakers speaking publicly in favor of Trump. On Thursday, Trump picked up endorsements from House committee chairmen: Bill Shuster of Pennsylvania, who chairs the Transportation Committee, and Jeff Miller of Florida, who chairs Veterans Affairs.

Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., who heads the Foreign Relations Committee, spoke on the phone with Trump on Thursday and later told reporters they had a good and substantive conversation, though he has no plans to endorse him.

On Trump’s foreign policy speech, Corker said: “Let’s face it, the foreign policy establishment in Washington hasn’t been exactly brilliant in their assessments of things, and I do like the fact that he’s challenging that status quo, I really do. … I think his campaign, like anybody who hadn’t been in the public arena before, is evolving.”

Rep. Tom Rooney of Florida was a leading Rubio backer, but said now “it’s time to move on.”

“The people have spoken. The Republican primary electorate has spoken so he deserves the opportunity to be our nominee,” Rooney said. “If he screws it up as the nominee and hurts the down-ballot ticket, then he screws it up. But right now the people want him to be the nominee.”

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

Darryl Paulson: Carly Fiorina for VP: An act of political desperation

On Wednesday, one week after losing all five primaries in the Northeast and one week prior to the “must win” Indiana primary, Ted Cruz took the unusual step of selecting Carly Fiorina as his running mate.

Donald Trump has won 954 delegates and is only 283 delegates short of the 1,237 needed to win the Republican presidential nomination. Cruz has won 562 delegates and has no path to winning the nomination outright even if he sweeps all the remaining contests.

Only once in the past half-century has any major party candidate selected his vice president prior to winning the nomination. In 1976, incumbent Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan were locked in a close race for the Republican nomination.

Going into the convention, Ford was 24 delegates short of the 1,130 needed to win. Reagan was 96 votes short of the majority. In an attempt to secure the support of enough delegates to win, Reagan announced that Sen. Richard Schweiker of Pennsylvania would be his vice president.

The selection of the moderate Schweiker disappointed many conservatives and failed to convince enough Pennsylvania delegates to support Reagan. Ford won the nomination by 117 votes.

Many critics see desperation in Cruz’s selection of Fiorina. It is much like the university student who tells his professor that a family member died in order to avoid a final exam.

As a university professor for 35 years, I was always amazed by the relationship between exams and deaths in the family. I once had a student ask to not take the final since his mother just died. I reminded the student that he asked to avoid a previous exam because his mother died. Without missing a beat, he responded, “My father remarried.”

Trump called Cruz’s action “a desperate attempt to save a failing campaign.” Cruz not only lost all five of the primaries in the Northeast, but he failed to get 25 percent of the votes in any of the five states.

Why Fiorina and why now? Since Cruz cannot win the nomination outright, his only hope is to prevent Trump from getting 1,237 delegates and hope that on the second ballot, when many delegates will not be bound, that they will turn to Cruz.

The arguments for Fiorina relate in part to Trump’s weakness with women voters.

Trump previously attacked Fiorina’s “ugly face” during the primaries, just as he recently attacked Heidi Cruz’s personal appearance.

Trump attacked journalist Megyn Kelly after one of the primary debates saying that she had blood coming out of her “whatever.” He would later say he refused “to call Megyn Kelly a bimbo because that would be politically incorrect.” Of course, Trump called her a bimbo even though he said he would never do that.

Just a few days ago, Trump said Hillary Clinton would never have won so many Democratic primaries if she were a man. He accused her of playing the “gender card” and said most women did not like her.

Another reason for Fiorina’s selection is that she can attack Clinton without being accused of sexism. In fact, Fiorina accused Clinton of tweeting “about women’s rights in this country and takes money from governments denying the most basic human rights.” Like many vice presidential nominees, Fiorina would be the lead attack dog.

Cruz also hopes that Fiorina’s outsider status will help in negating some of Trump’s outsider appeal.

Finally, Cruz is hoping that Fiorina will help him win in California where she ran for the U.S. Senate in 2010. Critics note that Fiorina lost that election by a million votes and then moved to Virginia.

Critics point out that Fiorina failed to generate much support in any of the contests and did not win a single delegate. They also point out that her favorable ratings were in the mid-20s range, while her unfavorables ran from the mid-30s to the mid-40s. Finally, critics point out that voters vote for the candidate at the top of the ticket, and not for the vice president.

The options are closing fast for Cruz. He had to do something to stop the bleeding. Based on past history, Fiorina will probably be no more helpful for Cruz than Schweiker was for Reagan.

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Darryl Paulson is Emeritus Professor of Government at USF St. Petersburg. Column courtesy of Context Florida.

Ted Cruz to tap Carly Fiorina as running mate

Republican presidential contender Ted Cruz has tapped former technology executive Carly Fiorina to serve as his running mate.

The Texas senator plans to unveil his pick for vice president Wednesday afternoon in Indianapolis. That’s according to a Republican with direct knowledge of Fiorina’s selection, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized speak before the official announcement.

“Carly is bright, knowledgeable, brings great financial expertise and she’s a woman,” said Gary Aminoff, the Los Angeles County co-chair of the Cruz campaign. Aminoff said he had also been told Fiorina was Cruz’s choice.

The 61-year-old Fiorina, a former chief executive of Hewlett-Packard, has been a prominent Cruz ally since shortly after abandoning her own presidential bid earlier in the year. She was the only woman in the Republican Party’s crowded 2016 field.

“Of all the people who didn’t make it far in the race, she was one of the best about laying out her plan, talking about who she is and her accomplishments,” said Doug De Groote, a fundraiser for Cruz based near Los Angeles.

It was an unusual move for a candidate who is far from becoming his party’s presumptive nominee, but Cruz is desperate to generate momentum for his struggling campaign. The fiery conservative was soundly defeated by GOP front-runner Donald Trump in all five primaries contests on Tuesday, and he’s been mathematically eliminated from winning the nomination before his party’s national convention in July.

Some Cruz allies praised the selection of Fiorina, but privately questioned if it would change the trajectory of the race. Trump has won 77 percent of the delegates he needs to claim the nomination, and a win next week in Indiana will keep him on a firm path to do so.

Cruz was to appear Wednesday afternoon with Fiorina in Indiana’s capital city, having staked his candidacy on a win in the state’s primary contest next Tuesday. Fiorina’s California ties could also give Cruz a big boost in that state’s high-stakes primary on June 7.

“Carly has incredible appeal to so many people, especially in California,” De Groote said. “She can really help him here.”

Her first major foray into politics was in 2010, when she ran for Senate in California and lost to incumbent Sen. Barbara Boxer by 10 percentage points. She has never held elected office.

Trump criticized a Fiorina pick as “ridiculous” and “dumb” even before it was announced.

“First of all, he shouldn’t be naming anybody because he doesn’t even have a chance,” the New York billionaire said in a Wednesday interview on Fox News.

“Naming Carly’s dumb, because Carly didn’t do well. She had one good debate — not against me by the way, because I had an unblemished record of victories during debates — but she had one victory on the smaller stage and that was it,” Trump said.

He added, “She’s a nice woman. I think that it’s not going to help him at all.”

Throughout her presidential bid, Fiorina emphasized her meteoric rise in the business world. A Stanford University graduate, she started her career as a secretary, earned an MBA and worked her way up at AT&T to become a senior executive at the telecom leader.

She was also dogged by questions about her record at Hewlett-Packard, where she was hired as CEO in 1999. She was fired six years later, after leading a major merger with Compaq and laying off 30,000 workers.

Democrats quickly attacked the Cruz-Fiorina alliance.

“The best way to describe that ticket is mean and meaner,” said Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., who beat Fiorina for Senate in 2010. “He wants to throw people out of the country and she threw thousands of jobs out of the country. Perfect match.”

In an Associated Press-GfK poll conducted in December 2015, Republican voters were more likely to say they had a favorable than an unfavorable view of Fiorina by a 47 percent to 20 percent margin, with 32 percent unable to give a rating.

Among all Americans, 45 percent didn’t know enough about Fiorina to rate her, while 22 percent rated her favorably and 32 percent unfavorably.

By contrast, both Cruz and Trump have high negative ratings even within their own party, according to an April AP-GfK poll. Among Republican voters, 52 percent have a favorable and 41 percent have an unfavorable opinion of Cruz, while 53 percent have a favorable and 46 percent have an unfavorable opinion of Trump.

Among all Americans, 59 percent had an unfavorable opinion of Cruz and 69 percent said that of Trump.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

Donald Trump pulls off clean sweep of 5 Northeast primaries

Donald Trump swept all five Republican primaries Tuesday, a commanding showing across the Northeast that keeps the Republican front-runner on his narrow path to the GOP nomination. Hillary Clinton carried Democratic contests in Maryland and Delaware, the start of what her campaign hoped would be a strong night for the former secretary of state.

Trump’s victories came in Maryland, as well as Connecticut, Delaware, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. His strong showing was a blow to rivals who are running out of ways to stop the brash billionaire.

Clinton aimed to emerge from Tuesday’s contests on the brink of becoming the first woman nominated by a major party. She’s already increasingly looking past rival Bernie Sanders, even as the Vermont senator vows to stay in the race until primary voting ends in June.

Sanders spent Tuesday campaigning in West Virginia, where he drew several thousand people to a lively evening rally. He urged his supporters to recognize that they are “powerful people if you choose to exercise that power.”

Still, there were some signs that Sanders’ campaign was coming to grips with his difficult position. Top aide Tad Devine said that after Tuesday’s results were known, “we’ll decide what we’re going to do going forward.”

Trump’s victories padded his delegate totals, yet the Republican contest remains chaotic. The businessman is the only candidate left in the three-person race who could possibly clinch the nomination through the regular voting process, yet he could still fall short of the 1,237 delegates he needs.

GOP rivals Ted Cruz and John Kasich are desperately trying to keep him from that magic number and push the race to a convention fight, where complicated rules would govern the nominating process. The Texas senator and Ohio governor even took the rare step of announcing plans to coordinate in upcoming contests to try to minimize Trump’s delegate totals.

But that effort did little to stop Trump from a big showing in the Northeast.

Cruz spent Tuesday in Indiana, which votes next week. Indiana is one of Cruz’s last best chances to slow Trump, and Kasich’s campaign is pulling out of the state to give him a better opportunity to do so.

“Tonight this campaign moves back to more favorable terrain,” Cruz said during an evening rally in Knightstown, Indiana. His event was held at the “Hoosier gym,” where some scenes were filmed for the 1986 movie, “Hoosiers,” starring Gene Hackman as the coach of a small-town Indiana basketball team that wins the state championship.

Trump has railed against his rivals’ coordination, panning it as “pathetic,” and has also cast efforts to push the nomination fight to the convention as evidence of a rigged process that favors political insiders.

Yet there’s no doubt Trump is trying to lead a party deeply divided by his candidacy. In Pennsylvania, exit polls showed nearly 4 in 10 GOP voters said they would be excited by Trump becoming president, but the prospect of the real estate mogul in the White House scares a quarter of those who cast ballots in the state’s Republican primary.

In another potential general election warning sign for Republicans, 6 in 10 GOP voters in Pennsylvania said the Republican campaign has divided the party — a sharp contrast to the 7 in 10 Democratic voters in the state who said the race between Clinton and Sanders has energized their party.

The exit polls were conducted by Edison Research for The Associated Press and television networks.

With his three victories Tuesday, Trump will win at least half of the 118 delegates up for grabs in Tuesday’s contests. And he has a chance to win a lot more.

In Pennsylvania, Trump collected 17 delegates for winning the state. An additional 54 delegates are elected directly by voters — three in each congressional district. However, their names are listed on the ballot with no information about which presidential candidate they support.

Those delegates will attend the GOP convention as free agents, able to vote for the candidate of their choice.

Democrats award delegates proportionally, which allowed Clinton to maintain her lead over Sanders even as he rattled off a string of wins in previous contests. According to the AP count, Clinton has 1,946 delegates while Sanders has 1,192.

That count includes delegates won in primaries and caucuses, as well as superdelegates — party insiders who can back the candidate of their choice, regardless of how their state votes.

Clinton’s campaign is eager for Sanders to tone down his attacks on the former secretary of state if he’s going to continue in the race. She’s been reminding voters of the 2008 Democratic primary, when she endorsed Barack Obama after a tough campaign and urged her supporters to rally around her former rival.

Ahead of Tuesday’s results, Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid said that while Sanders has run a “unique and powerful” campaign, he does not believe the Vermont senator will be the party’s nominee.

According to exit polls, less than a fifth of Democratic voters said they would not support Clinton if she gets the nomination. The exit polls were conducted in Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Maryland.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

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