Cruz and Kasich team up to try to stop Trump in Republican race

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Polls suggest Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton will boost their delegate leads in five Eastern primaries on Tuesday.

  • Ted Cruz and John Kasich say they’ll sit out certain primaries to let the other have the best shot against Donald Trump
  • Hillary Clinton campaigns in Connecticut, slams GOP candidates
  • Trump’s top strategist insists the campaign will evolve, not the candidate
  • President Obama praises German leader after Trump calls her policies “insane.”
  • Bernie Sanders looks to boost his support among African Americans

Cruz, Kasich divvy up three states in effort to thwart Trump

In an effort to stop GOP front-runner Donald Trump’s bid for the nomination, the campaigns of Republican rivals Ted Cruz and John Kasich announced Sunday night that they would adopt a divide-and-conquer strategy in three nominating contests.

Kasich will halt campaigning in Indiana, allowing Cruz to focus on the 57 delegates up for grabs in the state’s May 3 primary. Cruz will forgo Oregon, which votes May 17, and New Mexico, which votes June 7. Those two states have a total of 52 delegates at stake.

The strategy underscores the unprecedented nature of the Republican presidential race, with GOP stalwarts refusing to line up behind the front-runner and instead embarking on an effort to stop Trump from securing the 1,237 delegates he needs for the nomination.

Though the campaigns did not say they were coordinating, the language in their announcements was practically identical and they were released within minutes of one another.

Jeff Roe, Cruz’s campaign manager, called the prospect of Trump as the GOP nominee “a sure disaster” for Republicans both in this fall’s general election and the party’s long-term prospects.

“Having Donald Trump at the top of the ticket in November would be a sure disaster for Republicans. Not only would Trump get blown out by [Hillary] Clinton or [Bernie] Sanders, but having him as our nominee would set the party back a generation,” he said in the statement.

Kasich’s goal is to have no candidate win the 1,237 delegates required to clinch the nomination, leading to an open nominating contest at the Republican National Committee’s convention in July in Cleveland, said John Weaver, his top strategist.

“Donald Trump doesn’t have the support of a majority of Republicans – not even close, but he currently does have almost half the delegates because he’s benefited from the existing primary system,” Weaver said.

Both statements were aimed at superPACs supporting Kasich and Cruz, as well as groups that were formed with the express aim of stopping Trump from winning the nomination. Weaver even urged outside groups to “honor the commitments made by the Cruz and Kasich campaigns.”

An official with a leading anti-Trump group, #NeverTrump, hailed the plans.

“We’ve seen from victories in places like Ohio and Wisconsin that when #NeverTrump forces unite behind the one alternative that’s better suited to that state that we can beat Trump decisively,” said senior advisor Rory Cooper. “… We’re happy to see the Kasich and Cruz campaigns strategically using their resources to deny Donald Trump delegates where they are in the strongest position to do so.”

Trump immediately dismissed the effort, though:

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Sanders castigates Clinton for relying on Wall Street and special interests

Bernie Sanders taunted rival Hillary Clinton repeatedly Sunday night for ties with the financial firms that he blames for wrecking the nation’s economy.

“This campaign is unlike Secretary Clinton’s,” Sanders told several thousand people gathered on a brisk evening in the New Haven Green on the campus of Yale University.

“This campaign has not raised $15 million from Wall Street and millions more from other special interests,” he said. “This candidate has not given speeches behind closed doors on Wall Street for $225,000 a speech.”

The Vermont senator noted that Clinton has said she would release transcripts of the speeches if other candidates did as well.

Sanders said he was willing to release all of his transcripts, because there were none.

“No speeches, not for $225,000, not for $2.25,” he said, adding that he was willing to address Wall Street firms for free.

“I do want the opportunity to tell these folks to their face that their greed, their recklessness and their illegal behavior has destroyed the lives of many, many Americans.”

Sanders also highlighted what he said were his policy differences with Clinton on the minimum wage, a carbon tax, fracking and Social Security.

The speech on a college campus was a sharp contrast from Clinton, who campaigned half an hour away in gritty Bridgeport earlier Sunday.

She never mentioned Sanders in her comments, instead campaigning as if she were the Democratic nominee, wholly focused on the Republican candidates.

Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island will hold primaries on Tuesday. Polls show Clinton is likely to boost her lead in the delegates needed to lock up the Democratic nomination.

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Hillary Clinton ignores Bernie Sanders, focuses fire on GOP candidates

Hillary Clinton campaigned Sunday as though she were already the Democratic nominee, ignoring rival Bernie Sanders and focusing her fire only on the Republican field.

After outlining her priorities – raising the minimum wage, equal pay, improving Obamacare, increasing gun regulations, criminal justice reform – Clinton turned to GOP candidates Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz.

“I hope you have paid attention to what the Republicans running for president have been saying, because everything I have just said, they disagree with,” she said.

Clinton said people are often shocked by Trump’s incendiary statements.

“But after a while with so many of those comments, those insults, the kind of demagoguery we are seeing from him, we have to ask ourselves what’s really at stake in this election,” she said.

“One of the things that’s at stake are our rights because Republicans wants to undermine and set back our rights.”

Clinton promised to defend abortion rights, Planned Parenthood, same-sex marriage, social security and voting rights, and said she would work to enact comprehensive immigration reform, overturn Citizens United and to hold Wall Street accountable.

As voters head to polls on Tuesday in Connecticut and four other Eastern states, she urged them to consider which candidate would best protect the nation. Neither Trump nor Cruz is qualified, Clinton said.

“When you hear what Trump and Cruz say, it’s not only offensive, it’s dangerous,” Clinton said, pointing to Trump’s proposal to ban Muslims from entering the country and Cruz’s call for police patrolling of Muslim neighborhoods.

Such statements are heard around the world, Clinton said, and make the president’s job harder.

During her half-hour speech in a college gymnasium, Clinton never once mentioned her rival for the Democratic nomination, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

She sounded hoarse, at one point coughing and pausing to drink water and pop a lozenge.

“I’ve been talking nonstop for weeks now,” she said.

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Bernie Sanders vows to stay in but softens attacks on Hillary Clinton

Worried that Bernie Sanders’ sharp criticisms of rival Hillary Clinton could hurt the Democratic ticket in November, some party strategists have urged the Vermont senator to soften his tone a bit.

The issue was raised anew when a top advisor to Sanders suggested this weekend that the campaign may reevaluate the way forward after results are in Tuesday, when five more states hold primaries.

On Sunday, Sanders responded by insisting he would stay in the race at least through the California primary on June 7 no matter how he fares Tuesday in Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island.

Polls show Clinton ahead in all five states and thus likely to boost her growing lead in delegates for the Democratic nomination. Her campaign already has started to look to the fall election by compiling lists of potential running mates.

“We’re going to fight this out [until] the last vote is cast,” Sanders said Sunday on CBS’ “Face of the Nation.” “That’s what democracy is about.”

Sanders hinted he was cognizant that his battle with Clinton, which escalated sharply before last week’s New York primary, could backfire for the Democratic Party.

Although he insisted he had “not the slightest idea” what his campaign chief, Tad Devine, meant when he told NPR that there could be a shift after this Tuesday, Sanders noted: “My own view is that we are going to debate in a respectful manner the differences of opinions that we have.”

In a separate appearance Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Sanders also avoided a critical tone toward Clinton.

He brushed aside a question about reports that Clinton’s aides have begun to consider potential vice presidential candidates, and whether Sanders should be her first consideration.

“Look, I’m focusing right now on dealing with why the middle class of this country continues to disappear,” he said. “I think the American people want us to focus on the real issues impacting them, how their kids can afford to go to college, not worry at this point about who is going to be a vice presidential candidate.”

He also dismissed a Twitter post by Democratic campaign consultant David Plouffe, who wrote that “Sanders has run a stunningly strong campaign fueled by passionate supporters. But raising $$ stating you have path to nomination is fraud.”

“The largest state in the United States of America, California, has not yet voted,” Sanders said. “Nine other states will not have voted after Tuesday... We’re going to give the people in every state in this country the right to determine who they want to see [as] president of the United States, what kind of agenda they want.”

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Is Donald Trump playing a ‘part’? Depends who you ask.

Donald Trump’s proposed makeover seems to be a matter of opinion.

His chief strategist, taking heat for suggesting the GOP front-runner has been playing a “part” in his campaign so far, said Sunday his remarks were taken out of context and that he didn’t mean to imply Trump was about to change his brash style or positions.

Paul Manafort said his candid comments in a private meeting with Republican leaders last week were aimed narrowly for those in the room, and that he was addressing questions about form rather than substance.

It was about “settings that [Trump] was going to be in. Is he going to be giving speeches on policies? Is he going to be involved in settings that are not rally-oriented?” Manafort said on “Fox News Sunday.”

Manafort has broadened Trump’s campaign staff since he was appointed to a senior position several weeks ago in an effort to win the nomination at the Republican National Convention this summer and run a national campaign this fall.

But Manafort’s comments Thursday to a closed-door Republican National Committee meeting rattled the campaign, and delighted Trump’s critics, when they quickly leaked.

In the meeting, Manafort reportedly sought to reassure the party leaders that Trump “gets it and that the part he’s been playing is evolving.”

Trump’s rival for the GOP nomination, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, quickly seized on the comments to slam Trump as a phony who was lying to the public to win their support.

“He’s just trying to fool gullible voters... He’s not going to build a wall, he’s not going to deport anyone,” Cruz said, referring to Trump’s pledge to erect a wall across the Southwest border to battle illegal immigration.

Hillary Clinton, the Democratic front-runner, also took shots at Trump for his “evolving” image.

“Trump keeps saying things like, ‘You know, uh, I didn’t really mean it. It was all part of my reality TV show,’” she said at a rally Saturday in Rhode Island.

“Well, if we buy that, shame on us. Because he already showed us what he believes, and he has already said what he wants to do, and he wants go after every one of the rights we have.”

Manafort, a longtime GOP lobbyist and advisor to the presidential campaigns of Ronald Reagan and other Republicans, insisted Sunday that “we are evolving the campaign, not the candidate.”

He added, “I never said Trump isn’t going to build a wall. I never said Trump was going to change any of his positions.”

Trump, campaigning Saturday in Connecticut ahead of Tuesday’s primaries there and in four other Eastern states, acknowledged the scrutiny of Manafort’s remarks.

“What I say here, it’s always got to be said in a different way,” he said. “Depends on your audience, you have to be different when you have this audience, you have to be different than if we have 12 people sitting in a conference room.”

Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., executive vice president and frequent spokesman for the Trump Organization, also came to the defense of his father Sunday. Appearing on CNN’s “State of the Union,” he said what many have viewed as Trump’s incendiary tone wasn’t just histrionics:

“It’s not that it’s an act ... he’s got to talk about them in a certain way to be able to draw the requisite attention that that topic actually needs,” Trump Jr. said.

“So I think for him this is a very natural evolution. He’s switching over [and] getting focused on the general election where he’s going to have to talk to that broader audience.”

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With Obama on her side, German chancellor dismisses criticism from Donald Trump

Donald Trump may have German roots, but German Chancellor Angela Merkel seems content to ignore the Republican front-runner for now.

Asked Sunday how she viewed the prospect of working with a President Trump, given his harsh criticism of her refugee policy, Merkel first stared icily at the reporter who posed the question -- and then quickly dismissed it.

“I concentrate on the task ahead for 2016. I’m quite busy with that. Thank you very much,” the German leader said at a joint news conference with President Obama here.

She added, however, that she was “looking with great interest at the American election campaign.”

Trump has been an inevitable topic of discussion on Obama’s foreign travels - he has been in Saudi Arabia, England and Germany in the last few days - and in his interactions with world leaders.

He has at times joked about it. He also has warned about the potential foreign policy consequences of some of Trump’s pronouncements and prescriptions.

On Sunday, although the question wasn’t directed to him, Obama came to Merkel’s defense. He praised her for taking a lead role in welcoming Syrian refugees to Germany, a policy that Trump has branded “insane.”

“She is on the right side of history on this,” Obama said.

“She is giving voice, I think, to the kinds of principles that bring people together rather than divide them, and I’m very proud of her for that, and I’m proud of the German people for that,” he added.

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How many delegates does Donald Trump have compared with Ted Cruz?

(David Zalubowski / Associated Press)

Republicans from Maryland to Pennsylvania and Connecticut are set to hold primaries on Tuesday.

Donald Trump is the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination.

So how many delegates does he have?

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