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Donald Trump backs off comment about punishing women who get abortions

Donald Trump campaigns in Wisconsin, where he faces perhaps his toughest anti-Trump effort yet.

California looks ahead to June 7 primary

Horsey: Donald Trump is a macho fantasy of a president

 (David Horsey / Los Angeles Times)
(David Horsey / Los Angeles Times)

Donald Trump’s campaign manager has been charged with battery for manhandling a female reporter, some of his supporters are notoriously fast with their fists, and the candidate himself does not hold back from sending out tweets that are equivalent to a poke in the eye or a kick between the legs. This is a campaign made for mobsters.

Last week, tough guy Trump provoked his main rival, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, into a fit of histrionic chest puffing when, via Twitter, he disseminated an image to millions of his fans that paired a photo of his own glamorous third wife with a distinctly unflattering shot of Mrs. Cruz. The message was obvious: “I am the alpha male with the hot babe in my bed; Cruz is a weak loser married to a homely shrew.”

Donald Trump does an about-face on abortion comment

 (Andrew Harnik / Associated Press)
(Andrew Harnik / Associated Press)

Shortly after igniting a firestorm by saying that women who have illegal abortions should be punished, Donald Trump reversed his stance on the issue. 

In a new statement Wednesday, Trump said that only doctors who perform abortions would be punished if the procedure were outlawed by the federal government or Congress.

"The doctor or any other person performing this illegal act upon a woman would be held legally responsible, not the woman," the statement said. "The woman is a victim in this case as is the life in her womb."

Even as he reversed his position, Trump said "my position has not changed."

The controversy started a few hours earlier when Trump was asked about his stance on abortion during an MSNBC town hall.

"There has to be some form of punishment" for a woman who gets an abortion, he said. 

The comment spurred a quick bipartisan response, with sharp criticism from Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, as well as a rebuke from Republican candidate John Kasich. The anti-abortion group March for Life called Trump's comments "completely out of touch with the pro-life movement."

New target for super PAC supporting Ted Cruz: John Kasich in Wisconsin

As Ted Cruz takes the lead in a Wisconsin poll, the main super PAC backing his campaign is out with its first ads attacking rival John Kasich as he tries to peel away the state's anti-Donald Trump votes.

Cruz wants to sideline Kasich as the nominating contest moves into the northern and Rust Belt states where Kasich, the moderate Ohio governor, could be more attractive to voters than Cruz, the firebrand Texas senator. 

While Cruz is second in the delegate race to Donald Trump, he remains a long shot to reach the 1,237 needed to secure the nomination. But wins in the coming primaries could keep him positioned as a serious challenge to Trump at the party's convention in July.

"John Kasich has no path to win," Cruz said Tuesday at a CNN town hall. "We are competing to win. We're not competing to stop Trump. We're competing to win the nomination."

Kasich has argued that even if he can't win the delegate count, he can make a strong case at the convention for his candidacy.

The new ad, part of a $500,000 TV, radio and digital buy from the Trusted Leadership PAC, began running this week in Wisconsin and portrays Kasich as too liberal.

California GOP strategists launch anti-Trump effort

 (Associated Press)
(Associated Press)

Three veteran California Republican operatives with ties to some of the state’s top donors are launching a super PAC aimed at stopping Donald Trump from clinching the GOP nomination in the state’s June 7 primary.

“It’s our state, and if we’re the last line of defense, we’re going to do our part to stop him,” said Rob Stutzman, who previously worked for former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and 2010 gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman’s unsuccessful run.

Trump, the national Republican front-runner, leads among California Republicans, according to a new USC-Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll. But he was nearly tied with rival Ted Cruz among likely Republican voters.

So the anti-Trump effort will be aimed at boosting Cruz in targeted congressional districts, which award nearly all of the state’s 172 delegates, Stutzman said.

“A vote for Cruz is a vote for an open convention, and obviously that’s the objective at this point,” he said.

Stutzman is joined by strategists Richard Temple and Ray McNally, whose firm has worked for former Presidents George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush; former Gov. Pete Wilson and entities associated with influential GOP donor Charles Munger Jr.

Their effort, which is unnamed thus far, will be competing with a handful of other national anti-Trump efforts. Stutzman said he believes they will be more effective in California since they better understand the geography and political intricacies of the state.

Wisconsin's Republican women are wary of Donald Trump

 (Tom Lynn / Getty Images)
(Tom Lynn / Getty Images)

On Wednesday morning, Ted Cruz sat down with his wife and his mother in Madison for what the Texas senator called a "celebration of women." 

Later in the day, a poll from Marquette University provided new evidence of why Cruz is targeting women here in Wisconsin, which holds its primary Tuesday.

Not only is Cruz beating Donald Trump among likely Republican voters, he has an even more sizable lead among women. 

Thirty-nine percent are backing Cruz, compared with 24% for Trump. (John Kasich was supported by 25% of women, but he trails behind the other two candidates in overall numbers.) The margin of error among likely Republican voters is plus or minus 5.8 percentage points. 

Trump is even more unpopular within the broader electorate — 77% of registered female voters said they have an unfavorable opinion of him. 

Their distaste for Trump could be a significant problem in a general election match-up with Hillary Clinton, the Democratic front-runner. One poll showed him losing female voters to Clinton by 21 points. 

Donald Trump calls for a ban on abortion and 'punishment' for women who would violate it

If abortion were made illegal, women who undergo the procedure should face an unspecified "punishment," Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump said Wednesday.

In an interview with Chris Matthews of MSNBC set to air Wednesday night, Trump sought to tout his antiabortion bona fides, although he did not specify how his view would translate into law.

When Matthews asked him repeatedly whether women who obtain abortions should be punished if the procedure were made illegal, Trump said, "There has to be some form of punishment."

He added that he has "not determined what the punishment would be."

Trump also told Matthews he did not believe men should also bear responsibility for abortions.

Trump said that if the U.S. should reverse Roe vs. Wade, which legalized abortion, "you'll go back to a position like they had where people will, perhaps, go to illegal places" to have abortions.

Nevertheless, he said, "You have to ban it."

Trump has been viewed skeptically by some who are abortion opponents. They note that the real estate developer has described himself as "very pro-choice" in the past. He has since said he's evolved on the issue and is now "pro-life."

Abortion-rights activists, including Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood, were quick to condemn Trump's comments.

The Democratic presidential candidates also swiftly chimed in, with Hillary Clinton calling Trump's comments "horrific" and Bernie Sanders labeling them "shameful."

John Kasich, who's seeking the Republican nomination as well, also condemned Trump, saying his view wasn't an "appropriate response."

"It's a difficult enough situation," Kasich said.

Donald Trump nets support of union that represents border agents

 (Darren Hauck / Associated Press)
(Darren Hauck / Associated Press)

A prominent union that represents Border Patrol agents endorsed Donald Trump's presidential campaign on Wednesday, lauding the billionaire businessman for his "bold" and "outspoken" views on immigration.  

"If we do not secure our borders, American communities will continue to suffer at the hands of gangs, cartels and violent criminals preying on the innocent," the National Border Patrol Council, which has about 18,000 members, wrote in a letter of support. In total, the ranks of U.S. Customs and Border Protection employees include about 21,000 agents. 

The union, which has chapters nationwide, has not endorsed candidates in the past. It is also restricted by federal regulations from making political contributions to political parties or candidates. 

Trump has repeatedly vowed that should he become president, a massive wall would be constructed along the U.S.-Mexico border to keep Mexicans immigrants, whom he has described as "rapists" and drug runners, from crossing into the country. He's also floated ideas such as ending birthright citizenship and conducting mass deportations. 

In its letter, the union notes that it wants "elected officials to aggressively pursue the interests of the country."

"Mr. Trump is correct when he says immigration wouldn’t be at the forefront of this presidential campaign if, months ago, he hadn’t made some bold and necessary statements," the union wrote. "And when the withering media storm ensued, he did not back down." 

Trump, who has visited with members of the union during stops to Arizona, said he was privileged to have its support. 

"This endorsement represents a total rejection of the corrupt politicians who have allowed transnational gangs and cartels to terrorize American communities," he said. 

Ted Cruz jumps to lead in new Wisconsin poll

 (Robyn Beck / AFP/Getty Images)
(Robyn Beck / AFP/Getty Images)

Ted Cruz has a significant lead in Wisconsin's Republican primary, according to a new Marquette University poll. 

He is supported by 40% of likely Republican voters, while Donald Trump has 30% support and John Kasich has 21%.

The margin of error is plus or minus 5.8 percentage points. Wisconsin holds its primary on Tuesday. 

In the previous Marquette poll, conducted in February, Trump also had 30% support, and Cruz had only 19%. Candidates who have since dropped out had 31%.

Cruz's leapfrogging of Trump in the new survey suggests that the Texas senator has consolidated support in a diminished Republican field while the New York businessman remains frozen in place. 

In the Democratic primary, Bernie Sanders is leading Hillary Clinton, 49% to 45%. However, that's within the margin of error of 6.3 percentage points for likely Democratic voters. 

Police seek suspects in groping and pepper-spray clash at Trump rally

A 15-year-old girl was groped and pepper-sprayed Tuesday outside a Donald Trump rally in Janesville, Wis., police said.

Authorities were searching for two people, one in the sexual assault and the other in the pepper-spray attack, according to Janesville police.

Video shows [warning: explicit language] the Janesville girl at the heart of a heated, racially tinged face-to-face clash between protesters and Trump supporters outside the hotel where the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination was holding a campaign rally.

The girl, protesting Trump, was holding up a sign reading, “Damn Donald Back At It Again w/ The White Supremacy.” A fellow protester held another reading, “Black Lives Matter.” They were part of a cluster of white protesters in the midst of scores of Trump supporters.

“If black lives matter, stop killing people,” one man yelled to the protesters. The crowd of Trump supporters also chanted at them, “All lives matter!”

As a man with gray hair confronted the girl, she suddenly lowered her sign and accused him of touching her breast.

“Don’t ... touch me,” she shouted at him, using an expletive, as the crowd around her chanted, “Trump, Trump, Trump!”

On the videos, the girl appears to punch the man or push him away, and then another man shoots pepper spray in her face.

Police said a 19-year-old woman from Madison also was pepper-sprayed. Both of those who were sprayed were treated at local hospitals, officials said.

It was the latest in a series of sometimes violent clashes between protesters and Trump supporters at his rallies, including a near-riot at a recent Chicago event that the candidate canceled.

At rallies in North Carolina and Arizona, Trump supporters were arrested after being captured on video punching hecklers. One of those videos is featured in a new Hillary Clinton campaign ad.

At the rally inside the Janesville hotel, Trump gave a lengthy defense of his campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, who was charged with battery Tuesday after officials said he grabbed a reporter’s arm as she tried to interview the candidate after a Florida news conference. Lewandowski denies the allegation.

Susan Sarandon: 'Of course I would never support Trump'

After appearing to hint that she might vote for Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton in a general election matchup, Susan Sarandon insisted she was misunderstood and would "never support Trump."

Sarandon, a Bernie Sanders supporter, chastised fellow actresses Jamie Lee Curtis and Debra Messing on Twitter for criticizing her, telling them to watch her interview instead of just reading misleading headlines.

Sarandon was asked Monday whether she planned to vote for Clinton over Trump.

“I don't know,” Sarandon responded. “I'm going to see what happens.”

Sarandon had also argued during the interview that Clinton doesn’t share the ideals of Sanders supporters. She said Clinton, the Democratic front-runner, accepts money from what she termed immoral supporters — gas-drilling firms, Wall Street and agriculture giants like Monsanto.

“They just feel like she's not authentic, that she's a liar,” Sarandon said in describing her conversations with other liberals. 

And she criticized Clinton’s campaign for failing to understand that voters want what she called a “revolution” in politics -- a familiar Sanders term.

“If you think it's pragmatic to shore up the status quo right now, then you're not in touch with the status quo,” she said. 

Donald Trump suggests police were mistaken in charging his campaign manager

Donald Trump took his support of his campaign manager a step further Wednesday, accusing police of making a mistake in charging him.

"Practically everybody that's seen it -- and I've been watching television, I've been watching lawyers on television saying, 'You must be kidding, that this is the weakest charge we've ever seen,'” Trump said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

The GOP front-runner argued during multiple morning television interviews that his campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, barely touched former Breitbart News reporter Michelle Fields at a March 8 campaign event. Surveillance video shows Lewandowski grabbing Fields, and Lewandowski was charged Tuesday with simple battery. He denies the allegations.

“She wasn’t yanked down; she was hardly even touched. ... He didn’t try to throw her to the ground,” Trump said.

He then said reporters need to investigate a more pressing issue — why did Fields try to touch Trump himself, he asked, and should he press charges against her?

On NBC’s “Today,” host Savannah Guthrie tried to press Trump, but the candidate yelled over her attempts ask other questions.

“When you look at this, it was so minor. ... We have people in the Middle East chopping off heads and drowning people in cages,” Trump said on “Today.” 

DNC CEO Amy Dacey doesn't foresee a contested convention

The primary fight between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders may have grown sharper in tone in recent days, but don't count Democratic National Committee Chief Executive Amy Dacey as someone worrying about a contested convention when Democrats pour into Philadelphia ins July.

Dacey said she is confident that one of the two will be the presumptive nominee going into the convention, she told reporters during a stop on her West Coast tour Tuesday.

"I'm fully confident that people are going to come together," she said of the factions behind Clinton and Sanders.

"There will be an ability to come together in a respectful way," she said. 'I don't think it is any comparison to the tone and tenor you've seen on the Republican side."

Despite singing the tune of intra-party "Kumbaya," Dacey stepped up to defend a fundraiser Clinton is hosting this month that costs $353,400 per person to attend. Sanders on Sunday called the reliance on high-priced fundraisers “obscene.”

"There is a lot of talk about campaign finance reform, you know, and there always will be. We are playing the election season on the field that we are on," she said. "And I think the bottom line is we are going to get all the resources that we need to do that."

"We are being very smart about our resources because I think that we will never have enough in comparison to our Republican counterparts," she said.

Dacey spoke before attending a fundraiser at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel in Los Angeles meant to target Asian American supporters in the L.A. area. She was joined by Rep. Judy Chu, who leads the Asian caucus in Congress, Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) and Rep. Mark Takano (D-Riverside).

Dacey said shoring up the Democratic coalition, especially among young people and minorities is key for the DNC.

"[Clinton and Sanders] have run campaigns, both, that are worthy of the office, and they are focused on ensuring everyone in America has a fair shot." she said. "I'm confident one of them will be the 45th president of the United States, but I'm not underestimating the amount of work that is going to take."

Trump stands by campaign manager charged with battery against reporter

Political violence dominated the presidential race once again Tuesday as Florida police charged Donald Trump’s campaign manager with battery on accusations of grabbing a reporter’s arm and bruising her as she tried to interview the Republican front-runner after a news conference.

Trump stood by his campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, and attacked the credibility of the accuser, reporter Michelle Fields, who was working for the conservative news outlet Breitbart when the incident occurred March 8.

Police in Jupiter, Fla., released a video that appears to show Lewandowski yanking Fields as Trump walks through a crowd at the Trump National Golf Club, contradicting Lewandowski’s earlier statement that he never touched her.

What do you think of Donald Trump?

Donald Trump speaks during a news conference at the Trump International Hotel in Washington. (Jim Watson / AFP/Getty Images)
Donald Trump speaks during a news conference at the Trump International Hotel in Washington. (Jim Watson / AFP/Getty Images)

Donald Trump, the business-mogul-turned-politician, has upended the election conversation like no recent candidate before him. Whether he wins or loses the Republican nomination, his run for the presidency is unarguably one for the history books.

To better understand and convey Trump's impact, we're asking: What do you think about Trump?

Follow the link to fill out the form. Your answer may be featured in our upcoming reports.

Hillary Clinton targets Donald Trump in N.Y. ad campaign

Hillary Clinton has begun airing her first campaign ad in the Democratic competition in New York, and its target is not her rival in the April 19 election there. It is Donald Trump.

This first campaign advertisement in which Clinton takes dead aim at Trump features video of one of his supporters sucker punching an African American protester at a campaign rally, as Clinton admonishes the “some” who “say we can solve America’s problems by building walls, banning people based on their religion and turning against each other.”

“This is New York,” Clinton says in the ad. “And we know better.”

The spot is a clear pitch to the diverse coalition that elected President Obama, which Clinton hopes to rebuild if she is the nominee. It praises cultural differences and features scenes of New Yorkers from different races and cultural backgrounds interacting. “We don’t all look the same,” Clinton says in the ad. “We don’t all sound the same, either.”

As Clinton focuses on Trump, she is also paying close attention to her well-funded Democratic rival Bernie Sanders, a Brooklyn native who is vowing to disrupt Clinton’s march toward the nomination with a big push in the state Clinton represented in the Senate. Both candidates will be holding campaign rallies in New York this week. Clinton is to be in Harlem on Wednesday morning, and Sanders is to be in the South Bronx on Thursday. 

By the numbers

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