Will protesters continue to meet Donald Trump on the campaign trail? It's likely.
- Sen. Marco Rubio criticized Donald Trump as he campaigned in advance of Florida's primary.
- Trump defended his use of an apparently doctored video to link a protester to ISIS
- New polls show Trump leading in Florida, but a close race in Ohio
- Hillary Clinton leads her Florida race and Ohio, too, but Illinois looks close
- How black, Latino and Muslim college students organized to stop Trump's rally
Donald Trump has not only roiled the Republican presidential race, but also changed the focus of the Democratic one, at least temporarily.
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders opened a rally at the Ohio State University in Columbus by denouncing Trump’s statement earlier in the day that he might pay the legal bills for a supporter who sucker-punched a protester at a Trump rally in Fayetteville, N.C.
“A candidate for president of the United States should condemn violence, not encourage violence. You don’t go around saying it’s OK to beat people,” he said. “That is not what this country is about.”
The topic also opened the questioning for both Sanders and Hillary Clinton during a CNN town hall held Sunday night in Columbus.
A candidate for president of the United States should condemn violence, not encourage violence. You don’t go around saying it’s OK to beat people up, and 'I’ll pay the legal fees.'
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio lamented the fractious tone of the campaign as he continued to barnstorm through his home state on Sunday, particularly pinning blame on GOP front-runner Donald Trump.
"We are now seeing images on television we haven’t seen in this country since the 1960s, images that make us look like a Third World country,” Rubio told an audience at The Villages, a mega-retirement community near Orlando.
Although he said some of the responsibility for violent acts at Trump's rallies lay with “professional protesters,” he criticized Trump for "telling people in his audience ‘go ahead and punch someone in the face, and I’ll pay your legal bills.’ That’s not an excusable attitude.”
“We are now a nation where people hate each other,” he said. "We are now a nation where we are no longer capable of debating serious public policy without immediately concluding that the person who disagrees with you is evil. This can’t continue.”
Rubio sought to distance himself from the billionaire businessman on multiple fronts, including his approach to global trade.
While Trump has emphasized how globalization has harmed workers at home, Rubio said international markets present opportunity for the American economy.
“They want to buy things from us, and they want to trade with us,” Rubio said. "And they want to be our investors and our partners and our collaborators and our clients and our customers."
And while Trump has taken a tone some see as hostile toward immigrants, Rubio played up his background as the child of immigrants, a theme he said every person in the audience had in common.
“We are still the descendants of go-getters, every single one of us,” he said
"If you’re an American … you are the descendant of someone that refused to accept the circumstances of their birth and came to America in search of a better life.”
If there is one thing Donald Trump has proven, it’s his virtuoso skill at reading an audience.
Campaigning Sunday ahead of Ohio’s big primary on Tuesday, he staged what was described as a town hall meeting in the Cincinnati suburbs, fielding questions from some of the 1,200 fans in attendance.
On the scale of difficulty they ranged from “Can I get a picture with you?” to “Can I have a hug?” (Note: Those are not made-up examples.)
Trump's hourlong remarks hit his usual campaign themes: Build a wall along the southern border and make Mexico pay for it; President Obama has been a disaster; America doesn’t win anymore; the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was a great guy; monied interests control Washington, Hillary Clinton is terrible, John Kasich has been an absentee governor of Ohio; “Little Marco” Rubio, “Lyin’ Ted” Cruz.
Then, apropos of nothing, Trump declared, “Hey, by the way, Pete Rose? Let him in.”
That brought an uproarious response from the crowd.
Rose, the all-time leader in Major League hits, is a baseball legend, especially among fans of the Cincinnati Reds, for whom he played most of his 3,562 games. Still, he's been barred from the Hall of Fame for gambling on Reds games while playing and managing the team.
“It’s so ridiculous,” Trump said, “don’t you think he’s paid the price?”
Another uproarious response.
Apart from that big-league play to local sentiments, the event was most noteworthy for the lack of disruptive protesters, who have become a staple of the Manhattan businessman's events.
About seven minutes into Trump's appearance, a young man stood up waving a Bernie Sanders sign. He was quickly and peaceably escorted from the event hall.
Trump invited other demonstrators to stand up and seemed almost disappointed when there were no takers.
“In some ways,” he said, “it makes it more exciting.”
Hillary Clinton has a significant lead over Sen. Bernie Sanders ahead of Tuesday's Florida primary, but the two are locked in a close race in her home state of Illinois, two new polls show.
In Florida, which has 246 Democratic delegates at stake on Tuesday, the largest prize among the five states voting, Clinton has a lead over Sanders of nearly 2-1 -- 61%-34% in the NBC/Marist poll and 62%-34% in the CBS/YouGov survey. She benefits in that state from a huge margin among African American voters as well as a smaller edge among Latinos.
In Illinois, however, Clinton's margin among African American voters is much smaller, and she trails among Latinos, according to the NBC/Marist results. That poll shows her with a small lead over Sanders, 51%-45%.
The CBS/YouGov shows the two nearly tied in Illinois, Sanders 48%, Clinton 46%. A majority of Illinois Democrats want to see the next president pursue a more liberal path than President Obama has followed, that poll found.
Illinois has 182 delegates, the second-biggest group in Tuesday's primaries. Clinton was born in Illinois, although she moved away for college and spent her adult life primarily in Arkansas, Washington and New York, which she represented in the Senate.
Ohio, with 159 delegates, falls somewhere in between the other two in the polling.
The NBC/Marist poll shows Clinton with a large lead, 58%-38%. The CBS/YouGov survey forecasts a somewhat closer contest, 52%-43%. The CBS/YouGov poll showed Clinton with a significant lead among white voters in Ohio, but losing among whites in Illinois.
Facing bipartisan condemnation for a campaign rally that ended in violence, an unrepentant Donald Trump on Saturday blamed the near-riot on opponents who he said harassed his supporters and trampled on his freedom to speak.
Citing the protests Friday night in Chicago, two of Trump's Republican rivals hedged on promises to back the front-runner if he emerges as the GOP nominee.
Democrats seized on the incident to again question Trump's honesty and fitness to serve as president.
Engulfed in controversy — as he has been repeatedly since launching his White House bid — Trump was defiant. He even suggested the upheaval, which played on cable television for hours Friday night and Saturday, would help his candidacy.
Two new polls show Donald Trump with a commanding lead ahead of Florida's primary, but a close race in Tuesday's other top contest, in Ohio.
Among the five states voting on Tuesday, Florida and Ohio have attracted the most attention because both award all their Republican delegates on a winner-take-all basis and because they could mark the end of the road for two candidates, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and Ohio Gov. John Kasich.
In Florida, both the NBC/Marist poll and the CBS/YouGov survey show Trump with a roughly 2-1 lead over Rubio. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and Rubio are in a close contest for second place, the polls found. Rubio has strongly suggested that he would drop out of the race if he does not win.
More than 1.1 million ballots already have been cast in the GOP primary in Florida either through early voting or absentee ballots. In 2012, about 1.7 million people voted in the GOP primary.
In Ohio, Kasich leads Trump 39% to 33% in the NBC/Marist poll and is tied with Trump at 33% in the CBS/YouGov survey. Kasich has said he would quit the race if he does not win his home state.
Both polls also found a potentially close race between Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas in Illinois. In the NBC/Marist poll, Trump leads with 34% to 25% for Cruz and 21% for Kasich. The CBS/YouGov poll showed the race tighter, with Trump at 38%, Cruz at 34% and Kasich at 16%. Both surveys had Rubio in fourth place.
The polls were completed before the latest protests and violence at Trump rallies on Friday and Saturday so they don't reflect whatever impact those incidents might have on voter decisions.
In Florida, in particular, though, the impact of the latest news is likely to be muted because of the large percentage of voters who have already cast ballots. Early voting in the state began March 5.
GOP front-runner Donald Trump — who previously told a crowd that he would pay for legal fees if someone "knock[ed] the crap" out of a detractor — said Sunday he would look into doing just that for a supporter who punched a protester at a North Carolina rally.
Trump, appearing on NBC's "Meet the Press," said he's considering paying the legal fees of a 78-year-old supporter who punched a protester being led out of the event.
"I've actually instructed my people to look into it, yes," Trump said.
The real estate developer repeatedly insisted he does not condone violent behavior, but struck a much more sympathetic tone toward the man whose punch was captured on video tape. Trump said his supporter was provoked by a protester who waved "a certain finger" in the air.
"The man got carried away, he was 78 years old, he obviously loves his country, and maybe he doesn't like seeing what's happening to the country," said Trump.
No. We're not engaged in this delegate denial strategy that came out of the Washington establishment because they have dreams of a brokered convention, dropping their favorite Washington candidate in to win. That would be a disaster. The people would revolt. The only way to beat Donald Trump is beat him at the ballot box. And there's only one candidate that can get the 1,237 and beat Donald Trump, and that's me.
During NBC's "Meet the Press" this morning, moderator Chuck Todd asked Donald Trump if he had "gone over the top" with statements tying a man who rushed the stage at a rally in Ohio to the Islamic State.
Todd told Trump that the video the candidate shared with his followers yesterday had "turned out to be hoax."
During a back and forth, Trump said Todd had not seen the clip. Todd replied that they were "playing the clip right now." Trump then said he respected the American flag more than Todd.
Told again that the video appeared to be a hoax Trump said: "All I know is what's on the Internet."
He later deleted that tweet.
All I know is what's on the Internet.
A flammable brew of populist anger, a candidate's provocative remarks and disruptive protesters found a fuse, and the result, at what was to be a Donald Trump event in Chicago this weekend, was an explosion that continued to reverberate through the presidential campaign Saturday.
In a contest that has had far more than its share of drama, the question is: What happens next?
Would I take my kids to that rally? No, I wouldn't. Why would I do that for? It's too crazy.
Stay up-to-date on complete delegate tallies for the Republican and Democratic presidential candidates ahead of major winner-take-all contests in Florida and Ohio on Tuesday.