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Hillary Clinton continues to look toward the general election, while Bernie Sanders talks delegates

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Donald Trump meets with Republican Party leaders as Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton fight for the last few primaries ahead of the Democratic convention.

New pro-Trump group pledges to raise $20 million before GOP convention

After Donald Trump softened his position on super PACs, a newly formed independent group with notable California ties announced Thursday that it intended to raise $20 million in support of the presumptive GOP nominee before the Republican National Convention in July.

The Committee for American Sovereignty is being led by Doug Watts, a former top aide to unsuccessful presidential candidate Ben Carson. Watts noted that a super PAC supporting Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton has already booked more than $90 million in air time in seven battleground states.

“It is clear we need to ramp up major donor fundraising efforts, unify Republicans and take on the Clinton machine,” Watts said in a statement. “We have already begun to raise significant funds in California and from supporters across the country.”

During the GOP primary, Trump blistered his rivals for relying on such groups, but he was nonchalant when asked about them last week.

“I know that people maybe like me and they form a super PAC, but I have nothing to do with it,” Trump said on NBC News. “So we’ll see what happens.”

Former California state Sen. Tony Strickland is among the group’s leaders. Among the Californians on the group’s advisory board are Shawn Steel, the state’s Republican National Committeeman; Frank Visco, a former state GOP chairman; and Marcelino Valdez, a state party official.

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A kinder, gentler border wall? One bit of advice from GOP to Donald Trump

Donald Trump’s plan for a “beautiful wall” was the topic of counsel from at least one Republican leader during the presidential hopeful’s visit Thursday to Capitol Hill.

Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, the majority whip who has dealt with immigration issues for years in elected office, tried to impress on the businessman the importance of framing the issue.

“I said, there is a way to talk about these issues that people don’t find offensive, but still makes the point that we’re all for secure borders,” Cornyn said, recounting his side of the conversation.

The exchange, made privately during Trump’s meetings with Senate Republican leaders, is part of the GOP’s efforts to encourage their nominee to tone down his rhetoric to appeal to a broader swath of voters.

Republicans had once hoped to use this election cycle to attract more Latino voters. But nearly four in five Latino voters have an unfavorable view of Trump, polls show.

No word yet on Trump’s response.

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Clinton looks to general election, while Sanders focuses on ‘real delegates’

As Hillary Clinton begins executing her general election strategy against Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders is outlining what he views as his admittedly narrow path toward wresting the Democratic nomination away from the former secretary of State.

In an interview on New York radio station WABC (with an eye toward the looming vote in neighboring New Jersey), the Vermont senator said that he has 45.5% of the current share of pledged delegates that have been awarded in primaries and caucuses so far, a figure on par with the latest estimates.

“My goal is to make that 50% plus 1,” he told WABC. In other words, as he put it, “end up with more pledged delegates, i.e. real delegates: delegates that the people vote for.”

If that were to occur, Sanders said he would head to the party convention in Philadelphia and do “everything that we can” to ensure the nomination.

Here’s where his strategy gets murky.

First, to reach that 50%-plus-1 threshold would require a series of overwhelming victories in the 11 primaries and caucuses that remain. There are 897 pledged delegates still up for grabs, and Sanders would need to win more than 66% of them to hit his target, a steep climb given the proportional allocation rules.

Secondly, there’s the matter of the audience Sanders would then need to win over.

During the WABC interview, Sanders continued to say that if he had the pledged delegate lead he would then seek to win over the elected leaders and party officials who represent the nonpledged delegates, or so-called superdelegates, that would be required to hit the magic number of 2,383.

The nomination, “should not be won solely by someone who has all these establishment super PACs,” he said, before correcting himself: “superdelegates.” That kind of Freudian slip is not the best way to begin that lobbying effort.

Clinton, of course, has a lopsided advantage among that group of voters, with more than 500 superdelegates to Sanders’ roughly 40.

Another superdelegate ostensibly on the sidelines, Vice President Joe Biden, all but added himself to the Clinton column this week in an interview with ABC News.

It was a conspicuous statement, coming several weeks before the White House has indicated President Obama will begin taking a more active role on the campaign trail in favor of a presumptive nominee.

White House aides have said Obama would remain on the sidelines until the primary voting is over, while reserving the right to wade in to avoid a messy floor fight at the party’s convention.

For now the White House remains in a holding pattern.

“President Obama is keenly aware of the significant stakes of the outcome of the next election,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters Thursday. “And I assure you that over the next six months, the president will be actively engaged in that debate.”

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Antonio Villaraigosa compares Donald Trump to George Wallace as he stumps for Hillary Clinton

Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa urged Latinos to vote in larger numbers to help silence racist language from Donald Trump, which he compared to the segregationist rhetoric of George Wallace in the 1960s.

“Trump speaks this way because he can,” he said. “He speaks this way because there are no consequences when we vote in the numbers that we do.”

He added, “People like him won’t talk that way, won’t single out broad swaths of America the way he does, if he thought they would vote.”

Voter turnout among Latinos has often lagged in elections, but Democrats hope they’ll be prodded into action by Trump’s calls for deportations and building a wall along the border with Mexico.

Villaraigosa, who met with Latino leaders while stumping for Hillary Clinton in Portland, Ore., said Trump’s rhetoric recalls George Wallace’s campaign for president in 1968, when the former Alabama governor defended segregation as a third-party candidate.

“Gov. Wallace is the last candidate to speak the way this candidate, Donald Trump, speaks,” he said.

Maria Rubio, a nonprofit leader in Oregon, said Trump’s demonization of Latinos, which include describing some Mexican immigrants as rapists and murderers, has filtered down to children.

“These words are being repeated by bullies on the playground,” she said. At an after-school program, Rubio said, Latino children are told “once that wall is built, you’re gone.”

Villaraigosa, who has considered running for California governor in 2018, said he hopes Republicans will eventually come around to overhauling the country’s immigration system.

“We’re going to need a chastened Republican Party who realizes that, let’s get this behind us, let’s pass this thing, let’s throw this hot potato out because building walls instead of bridges doesn’t work,” he said.

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Donald Trump feeling good after meetings on Capitol Hill

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Could Hillary Clinton win Oregon on Tuesday? Here’s a closer look at the numbers.

Like everyone else in Oregon, pollster John Horvick has watched as Bernie Sanders draws massive crowds by capitalizing on liberal dissatisfaction in this left-leaning state.

“It felt like this is Bernie Sanders country,” he said.

That’s why the latest poll results from his firm, DHM Research, were something of a surprise. Hillary Clinton led 48% to 33%, a gap much larger than the margin of error of 5.6 percentage points.

Oregon’s primary is on Tuesday. In an interview in his light-filled loft office in Portland’s trendy Pearl District, Horvick offered some potential caveats, but also reasons to think the poll is correct.

First, the reasons for skepticism. Young voters heavily favor Sanders, and they could sway the results if they turn out in droves.

“It’s like a seesaw,” said Horvick. “If we get those proportions wrong, it has a big effect.”

In addition, roughly 65,000 voters have switched their registration from unaffiliated to Democrat since the beginning of the year, according to the Oregon secretary of state’s office. They are more likely to lean liberal, and they’re more likely to be Sanders supporters.

Because there can be a lag in data transfer, Horvick is unsure if the poll adequately sampled these voters.

Now, some reasons to believe Clinton could pull off a victory here.

Oregon has a closed primary, meaning only registered Democrats can vote, and Sanders hasn’t won a closed primary yet in this campaign. Older voters are much more likely than their younger counterparts to be registered with a party, and they’re more likely to favor Clinton, giving her an edge.

In addition, Horvick’s team calculated a second set of numbers based on a potential turnout where young voters and new voters cast ballots in higher numbers than normal.

Even then, Clinton had a lead that exceeded the margin of error, 45% to 38%.

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Speaker Paul Ryan ‘very encouraged’ after meeting with Donald Trump

Donald Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan had a “great” meeting, they said jointly after a much-anticipated confab of GOP leaders Thursday in Washington.

The two remain far apart on political style and substance, but they put on a positive front as the party struggles to unify around its unorthodox presidential hopeful.

“We had a very encouraging meeting,” Ryan said afterward.

But he added that the meeting was only a first step toward a unification process, and he again did not offer his full endorsement of Trump.

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A joint statement after much-anticipated Trump-Ryan confab

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Scenes from Donald Trump’s meeting at Republican National Committee headquarters

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Donald Trump calls his proposed Muslim ban just a ‘suggestion’

Donald Trump stepped back Wednesday from his proposal of a ban on Muslims from entering the United States by calling the idea only a “suggestion.”

In an interview with Fox News, he responded to new London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s calling his views on Islam “ignorant.”

“We have a serious problem,” Trump said in reference to radical Islamic terrorism. “It’s a temporary ban. It hasn’t been called for yet; nobody’s done it. This is just a suggestion until we find out what’s going on.”

On Monday, Trump offered to exempt the first Muslim mayor of London from a potential ban, which Khan rejected. Trump later criticized Khan for what he called a denial of terrorism.

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George Zimmerman may use money from his gun auction against Hillary Clinton

Proceeds from auctioning off the gun used in the 2012 fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin on Thursday may go in part toward fighting Hillary Clinton.

George Zimmerman, the Florida man who was acquitted of second-degree murder in the 2012 shooting of the unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon, set the auction of the handgun starting at $5,000 on gunbroker.com.

“I’m a free American. I can do what I like with my possessions,” Zimmerman told WOFL Fox 35 in Orlando, Fla., on Wednesday. “It’s time to move past the firearm.”

In the auction description, Zimmerman said he will put the money he gets toward fighting violence against police officers, ending the career of the prosecutor on his case and stopping Democratic presidential candidate Clinton’s “anti-firearm rhetoric.”

Trayvon’s family refused to comment on the actions of “that person,” and instead reiterated their commitment to ending “senseless gun violence in the United States.”

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Trump clarifies when he’ll release his tax returns

He previously told the Associated Press on Wednesday that he won’t release his tax returns.

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Hillary Clinton’s plan for capturing the center

Even as Hillary Clinton continues to absorb fire from a primary challenger on her left, she has begun executing a methodical general election strategy aimed chiefly at winning over voters in the center.

Her campaign has laid out a road map for controlling crucial battleground states that centers on the anxieties of independents and moderate Republican voters, particularly women, who are alarmed by what they have heard from likely GOP nominee Donald Trump.

The Clinton campaign sees in those moderates a rich opportunity to build on the coalition of voters who twice propelled Barack Obama into the Oval Office. Polls suggest moderate voters, at least for now, lean against the GOP standard bearer in numbers that outpace those from recent presidential races.

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Union for Border Patrol agents under fire for endorsement of Trump

The tears begin flowing the moment the U.S. Border Patrol agents swing open the doors of the border enforcement zone, allowing Mexican families to step through and reunite with loved ones at the border fence near San Diego.

The weekly encounters at Friendship Park, across the border from Tijuana, showcase the soft-hearted side of the force protecting America’s Southwest border. But during one recent visit some youngsters didn’t seem to be buying it.

In March, the National Border Patrol Council, the union that represents agents, had endorsed Donald Trump for president. One teenage boy, a high school student from Oakland, asked a pair of agents why.

“He asked how can Border Patrol agents be supporting hateful rhetoric that seems to contradict the spirit of the … event,” said Pedro Rios, director of the American Friends Service Committee, who led the field trip of youngsters to the border and witnessed the exchange.

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