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Donald Trump’s campaign warns that the ‘rigged’ delegate system could turn away voters

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Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders return to campaign in New York ahead of Tuesday’s primary.

  • Donald Trump campaign officials say the delegate process may hurt the GOP nominee in November
  • 2016’s outsider candidates portend major shifts in party orthodoxy
  • Clinton’s campaign may be headquartered in Brooklyn, but the neighbors are pulling for Sanders
  • President Obama is focused on party unity and will likely sit out the Democratic primary despite some risks

Bernie Sanders draws a massive crowd in New York days before the state’s primary

(Mary Altaffer / Associated Press)

Bernie Sanders hosted what his campaign called his biggest rally yet in Brookyln’s Prospect Park on Sunday, with aides tallying more than 28,000 people coming out on a sunny afternoon.

Actors Danny DeVito and Justin Long, as well as the band Grizzly Bear, warmed up the crowd of mostly young voters before the Vermont senator took the stage.

After a few swings at Donald Trump, Sanders criticized Hillary Clinton, his rival in the Democratic primary, for voting for the war in Iraq and failing to support a carbon tax to fight climate change.

“I am right; she is wrong on this important issue,” he said.

Sanders also continued to criticize Clinton for her ties to Wall Street, such as donations to a super PAC supporting her candidacy.

“You cannot have a super PAC raise many millions of dollars from Wall Street or special interests and then tell the American people with a straight face that you’ll stand up to the big money interests,” he said.

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Hillary Clinton praises a president. But not the one you think. (Or the other one you think.)

Hillary Clinton spends a lot of time on the campaign trail praising a particular occupant of the White House, and it is almost always President Obama.

But on Staten Island on Sunday, Clinton took a surprising detour. She gave props to … George W. Bush.

“I publicly say thank you to President George Bush,” Clinton said, after sharing the story of her and New York Sen. Charles E. Schumer lobbying for $20 billion to help rebuild New York in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks. “He asked us what we needed. … We said, ‘We need $20 billion.’ He said, ‘You got it.’ Despite intense Republican pressure to back down, he never did.”

It was no coincidence that Clinton’s shout-out to a president loathed by many Democratic voters came on Staten Island, a conservative outer borough that voted against her when she first ran for Senate in 2000, but came around to support her in the next election. Home to many of the city’s firefighters and police officers, Staten Island was especially hard hit by 9/11.

Clinton returned in Staten Island to her theme of being a “progressive who gets things done,” arguing that the derisiveness with which other candidates in the race talk about compromise – particularly fellow Democrat Bernie Sanders and Republican front-runner Donald Trump – should worry voters.

It is a theme certain to emerge in the general election if Clinton is the Democratic nominee, particularly in areas similar to Staten Island, a swing region that supported President Obama in the last election but voted for the GOP candidate in the two previous elections – including in 2004, when Bush won the borough by nearly 14 percentage points.

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Ted Cruz scoops up delegates from Donald Trump in weekend contests

Republican Ted Cruz continued his romp through the delegate selection races, sweeping Wyoming and bolstering his showing elsewhere as rival Donald Trump struggles to catch up.

Trump’s team was expecting a “rough” weekend heading into Saturday’s wonky contests in several states, including those where Trump, the GOP front-runner, had already won the popular primary vote.

But maneuvering by the Cruz crew shows just how hard it will be for Trump’s retooled delegate-hunt operation to clinch the 1,237 needed for nomination this summer in Cleveland.

“Trump got shut out,” said Scott Johnson, a Cruz organizer in Georgia who won a delegate spot from a district that the Texas senator lost back in March.

In Wyoming, Cruz picked up 14 delegates after he dashed West for an appearance, much the way he he peeled off the campaign trail earlier this month to lock up votes in North Dakota.

On Saturday, South Carolina’s first congressional district awarded its three delegates, and put Cruz backers in each spot -- even though Trump swept that state’s primary.

And in Georgia, Trump started the day entitled to 26 congressional district delegates, but finished finished with supporters in about half those spots, GOP operatives in the state said.

Cruz, meanwhile, stacked his supporters in about 20 spots in Georgia, essentially doubling his haul.

“It makes no sense,” said Trump backer Lori Pesta, a longtime GOP activist in Georgia, who was voted off a spot in favor of Cruz ally Bob Barr, the area’s former congressman and 2008 libertarian candidate for president.

Under the rules, most delegates will be bound in Cleveland to vote on a first ballot for their state’s presidential preference -- which for many will be Trump.

But with Trump’s ability to reach 1,237 on the first vote in question, Cruz has methodically been stacking his supporters in the delegate spots for the subsequent ballots.

Trump has called the whole process “rigged.”

“This is a very insider-driven process, which empowers well-connected elites at the expense of people who cast their votes during the primary,” said Brian Jack, Trump’s national delegate director.

The campaign was investigating “concerns of voter suppression” in some districts in Georgia, he said. “We want to be sure everyone was treated fairly.”

Here in Marietta, at a district convention that consumed most of Saturday, party officials emphasized a call for unity.

“Even though we don’t agree on everything, we agree we need to elect Republicans,” said Brad Carver, the district chairman who is uncommitted and won a delegate spot.

“This is not about Cruz versus Trump. This is about electing our delegates to the national convention.”

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Trump campaign: The ‘rigged’ delegate process could turn away voters in November

Senior officials in Donald Trump’s campaign defended his complaints about a “rigged” process to choose the GOP nominee, while insisting Sunday that he would yet win enough delegates to avoid a convention fight anyway.

Campaign manager Corey Lewandowski asserted on “Fox News Sunday” that rival Ted Cruz’s path to clinching the nomination would be cut off after Tuesday’s New York primary, which Trump is expected to win overwhelmingly.

“By the end of this month and the next two weeks, Donald Trump will add an additional 200 delegates to his total. He is the presumptive front-runner right now. He is the presumptive nominee going forward,” Lewandowski said.

A Republican candidate must secure 1,237 delegates to be nominated, and though Trump is the front-runner, Cruz has vowed to stay in the race through the convention and is systematically plucking off delegates at state conventions and other lower-level gatherings where they’re selected. If no candidate earns the 1,237 delegate votes on the first ballot at the national convention in July, delegates who were required to back their state’s winners would be free on subsequent ballots to support a candidate of their choosing.

When Trump talks about a rigged system, Lewandowski said, he is talking about rules concerning delegates that “are so arcane that we’re stopping people who want to go and vote.”

Lewandowski used Florida as an example. Trump won the state and should be allocated its 99 delegates to the convention, but Lewandowski noted that a state party official loyal to Sen. Marco Rubio would appoint 30 of those delegates, who may change their support if the nominee selection requires multiple ballots at the national convention in Cleveland.

But Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, in multiple interviews on Sunday news shows, dismissed Trump’s rhetoric about the process as either “hyperbole or positioning.”

“These plans have been released since October of last year,” Priebus said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “Each individual state determines how they’re going to allocate their delegates. So it’s up to the campaigns to know the rules and compete within each of those states with the rules.”

But Paul Manafort, whom the Trump campaign brought on to lead its convention organizing, warned that those party rules risked turning away voters from the process, and perhaps hurting the eventual nominee’s chances of winning in November.

“With Cruz, he wins the reddest of red states, where you have voterless primaries, where the rules favor organization versus appeal to the voters,” he said. “Trump wins in states that we have to win to win the presidency.”

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Coachella’s latest surprise guest? Bernie Sanders

Coachella’s surprise-guest tradition took a (left) turn when presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders showed up on video to introduce the politically inclined rap duo Run the Jewels on the main stage.

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Don’t eat pizza with a fork, and other lessons from the New York primary

If it’s New York, it’s all about the food.

The five remaining candidates have skipped around the state for the last few weeks ahead of Tuesday’s presidential primary, showing their kinship with the locals by eating an enormous amount of food. Preferably, definitively New York food.

Bernie Sanders, the senator from Vermont, showed up at Nathan’s Famous to chow down a hot dog with mustard and sauerkraut, in full view of the cameras, bracketed by his wife, Jane, and Michael Stipe, the bearded former lead singer of R.E.M. and one of Sanders’ celebrity endorsers.

Earlier, the senator confessed to thousands gathered for his rally on the nearby Coney Island boardwalk that he’d eaten an inordinate amount of the dogs during his Brooklyn childhood.

Hillary Clinton ordered beef-on-weck, a roast beef on a soft roll confection, at Buffalo’s Charlie the Butcher restaurant not long ago, and reminded all in hearing range that it was not her first trip there. She later hit the iconic Junior’s Cheesecake in Brooklyn.

“Oh my goodness,” Clinton said as slices of plain, strawberry and pineapple cheesecake were placed in front of her. She gazed at them longingly. But there would be no eating in public.

“I learned early on not to eat in front of all of you,” Clinton said. “So, I’m sitting here just pining. Pining for a bite!”

Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Republican candidate, hadn’t learned that lesson--to his detriment two weeks ago when he used a fork to eat pizza at Gino’s Pizzeria in Queens.

“Look, look, the pizza came scalding hot, OK?” he later explained on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

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George Clooney: Bernie Sanders is right about money in politics

George Clooney said Sunday that he actually agrees with Bernie Sanders and his supporters that there is “an obscene amount of money” in politics.

But Clooney is helping Hillary Clinton raise millions of dollars anyway.

Speaking on NBC’s “Meet The Press,” the film star said he doesn’t enjoy doing the kind of fundraisers he did for Clinton in San Francisco and Los Angeles this weekend but called them necessary for Democrats to compete in November’s elections.

“The overwhelming amount of money that we’re raising ... is not going to Hillary to run for president, it’s going to the down-ticket” candidates, he said.

Winning back control of the Senate in particular can help Democrats ensure that a majority on the Supreme Court will help overturn the influential Citizens United decision on money in politics “and get this obscene, ridiculous amount of money out so I never have to do a fundraiser again,” Clooney said.

According to the Clinton campaign, the California fundraisers benefited the Hillary Victory Fund, a joint fundraising committee between her presidential campaign, the Democratic National Committee and state Democratic parties. Attendees at a fundraiser at Clooney’s home contributed $33,400 to attend, with event co-chairs contributing $353,400.

Sanders’ campaign launched its first advertising in California this weekend with a message designed to contrast Clinton’s reliance on high-dollar fundraising with his grass-roots support.

Clooney said he hoped Clinton would become president, but that if Sanders were the nominee he would “do whatever I can — including, if asked, a fundraiser like this again — to try to get him” elected.

Clooney acknowledged the presence of protesters at the events, and said he agreed with them on more than just the influence of big money.

One protester told him, “You sucked as Batman.” “And I was like, ‘Well, you kind of got me on that one,’” Clooney said.

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Democrats pledge that the party will come together, but differ on how

Despite the increasingly negative tone in the Democratic primary race, Hillary Clinton said Sunday she was confident the party would come together in November.

But in an appearance on ABC’s “This Week,” she also suggested that rival Bernie Sanders undercut the goal of party unity by dismissing her lead as dependent on overwhelming victories in the South.

“The last time I looked at a map of the United States, the South was a part of our country,” she said. “I want to be the president for all of America. And I particularly want to support Democrats in states that have been voting against Democratic candidates for a while now to rebuild the Democratic Party.”

The imperative of bringing Democrats together behind the party’s nominee is driving the White House decision to keep President Obama on the sidelines until at least after the final primaries on June 7, including California’s. Senior officials pointed to the resolution of the 2008 primary, in which Clinton rallied behind Obama after fighting him until the last votes were cast, as a model for how they would like to see the 2016 battle end.

In the ABC interview Clinton also cited her own experiences.

“I had a lot of supporters who were incredibly disappointed when I dropped out,” she said. “But I immediately endorsed then-Sen. Obama. I worked hard to convince my supporters to support him as well.”

“I’m going to hope to secure the nomination and then to work to win the support of the voters who supported Sen. Sanders,” she added.

Sanders, also on ABC, insisted he still had a viable path to winning the Democratic nomination even if Clinton posts a big victory in New York’s primary Tuesday. And he said he would make the case to delegates and super-delegates that he would be the better general election candidate against any Republican nominee, including Donald Trump.

“At the end of the day, we must defeat Trump,” he said. “We must not allow a Republican to get into the White House.”

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On minimum wage, Clinton downplays differences while Sanders says he’d lead the charge

Hillary Clinton defended her approach to raising the minimum wage Sunday while accusing rival Bernie Sanders of exaggerating their differences on the issue when the real contrast is with Republicans.

“Donald Trump has said that American workers are paid too much,” Clinton said on ABC’s “This Week.” “At the end of a campaign that is certainly hard-fought, there are going to be a lot of charges and all kinds of misrepresentations. But I don’t think voters are confused by that.”

Clinton has spoken in favor of a $12 national minimum wage before but said this week that she would sign legislation setting a $15 rate, one supported by labor activists and the Vermont senator.

The former secretary of State said she agreed with Sanders that New York’s new legislation was a model for what she would support, and noted she was with Gov. Andrew Cuomo when he signed the legislation.

New York’s approach gradually increases the minimum wage to $15 an hour in New York City and surrounding counties, and a lower rate upstate that will be reevaluated based on the economic impact to workers and businesses.

“For federal legislation, if it has the same kind of understanding about how we have to phase this in, how we have to evaluate it as we go, if the Congress passes that, of course I would sign it,” she said. “But again, I just have to underscore, I think their campaign is trying to make something where there is nothing.”

Sanders, who appeared after Clinton on ABC, called their differences on minimum wage a “metaphor for what this campaign is about.”

“She just said, ‘If a state passes 15, I’ll be there.’ That’s good,” he said. “The other direction is to say, ‘I’m going to help lead that effort.’ I’m trying to set a high bar. I’m trying to be a leader.”

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Hillary Clinton’s campaign headquarters is in prime territory -- for Bernie Sanders

Hillary Clinton may have set up her headquarters in the new Brooklyn, that place of plentiful thrift shops, artisan craft brews and unkempt facial hair, but the denizens at the center of this laboratory of hipster culture are still keeping their distance.

On the streets of Williamsburg, Clinton supporters are a rare breed. This is Bernie country. Even the elevated pathway into the neighborhood from Manhattan is marked as such, with expertly drawn portraits of Clinton along with the damning words “100% Wall Street” stamped all over.

Clinton’s mere act of planting the flag in Brooklyn irritates some voters in this lefty enclave a few miles from the office she set up across from Borough Hall, on that side of the new Brooklyn so gentrified by now it lacks even the ironic kind of grit that hipsters prize.

The irony of the borough this election, though, is that while Clinton is well-positioned to win the day in the old Brooklyn of immigrants and Hasidic Jews and middle-class workers from which Bernie Sanders hails – and which still controls the bulk of the vote – the urban pioneers she has worked hardest to court are unimpressed.

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In Georgia fight for GOP delegate slots, Cruz loyalists prevail over Trump backers

Maria Murray knew her chance of winning a coveted slot as a delegate to the Republican National Convention was a long shot, but she dusted off her political resume and put on a crisp business suit, accented with a glitter “Trump” brooch and badges, and strode onto stage Saturday to make her case.

Her one-minute speech at a district GOP convention didn’t mention that it’s been decades since Murray, 82, last worked professionally on a political campaign. Instead, she focused her message on the fact that her preferred candidate, Donald Trump, won not only the state of Georgia, but also this exurban district that sprawls far from Atlanta, and he deserved delegates to the national convention in Cleveland in July.

What she and the other Trump enthusiasts weren’t quite expecting, though, was just how organized the forces behind Texas Sen. Ted Cruz would be at shutting them out, keeping their names off the slate of delegates who may very likely decide the GOP presidential nomination.

“I really feel it’s just duping the people,” Murray said. “They tell us to go out and vote. Our votes should mean something.”

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Strong Sanders and Trump runs reflect and inspire upheaval in Democratic and Republican parties

Beyond the contentious back-biting of the presidential contest, the nation’s major political parties are undergoing a dramatic and potentially long-lasting cultural shift.

Both of the outsider challengers — Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders — are campaigning in part against the parties they hope to lead. Both have gained much of their success from confounding what has been mainstream party thought for decades.

As the nominating battles move into their final phase, Sanders has yanked his party leftward — or, at a minimum, greatly hastened a change that was already underway. Trump has pushed against the Republican Party on issues as small as delegate selection and as large as foreign policy and brought with him ground troops to enforce his views. The second-place Republican, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, has made a career of defying Republican leaders, even if Trump is now attacking him as part of the establishment.

The redefinition is occurring on a political landscape shaking from the continued aftershocks of the 2008 economic collapse. That territory has proved inhospitable, to different degrees, to more traditional politicians like Hillary Clinton and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, extending her nomination battle and blunting his candidacy.

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Ted Cruz won 14 delegates in Wyoming on Saturday, so how many does he have in total?

(Jenna VonHofe/AP)

Stay up-to-date on delegate totals with this Los Angeles Times graphic.

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