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Trump, Clinton Win Arizona On Big Night In The West

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Republican front-runner Donald Trump swept to victory in Arizona on Tuesday but rival Ted Cruz showed some fight with a win in Utah that gave hope to establishment Republicans who fear Trump would lead the party to ruin in the presidential election.

On the Democratic side, favorite Hillary Clinton routed challenger Bernie Sanders in Arizona to stretch her advantage in the race for her party’s presidential nomination.

Sanders, however, won contests in Utah and Idaho to bolster his case that he still has a chance despite Clinton’s big lead.

The nominating battles in Arizona and Utah, plus the Democratic contest in Idaho, were overshadowed by attacks in Brussels in which at least 30 people were killed and raised security concerns among U.S. voters.

Trump helped himself in Arizona with a hardline anti-immigration message and tough talk on Islamic militants to easily defeat Cruz, a U.S. senator from Texas, and Ohio Governor John Kasich.

Trump had the backing in Arizona of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, one of the most prominent supporters of a crackdown on illegal immigrants.

The win furthered Trump’s argument that he will eventually win the Republican presidential nomination and that the party should rally around him. He won all of Arizona’s 58 delegates.

“Much bigger win than anticipated in Arizona. Thank you, I will never forget!” Trump said on Twitter. “Hopefully the Republican Party can come together and have a big WIN in November, paving the way for many great Supreme Court Justices!”

Cruz, though, won big in Utah’s caucuses, giving hope to those Republicans who fear Trump’s proposal to deport 11 million illegal immigrants and build a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico would guarantee a Democratic victory in the Nov. 8 election.

Cruz appeared to be on track to win all of Utah’s 40 Republican delegates. Since the state’s 40 delegates are awarded proportionate to the popular vote, he needed to win at least 50 percent of the vote to take all the delegates.

He appeared to benefit from Mormons who dominate the Republican vote in Utah. They did not take kindly to a Trump attack on native son Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican nominee who has led the anti-Trump opposition.

Trump had questioned whether Romney, an elder in the Mormon church, was really a Mormon.

“Trump’s poor showing in Utah is a reminder that while many love his glib comments, those remarks can also have a downside. Questioning Mitt Romney’s faith is something that was sure to backfire in Utah,” said David Yepsen, director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University.

Clinton seized on the Brussels attacks to argue that neither Trump nor Cruz can be trusted to lead the fight against Islamic State militants.

Trump has called for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the United States and Cruz said he would send police patrols into Muslim neighborhoods in the United States.

“This is a time for America to lead, not cower,” Clinton told supporters in Seattle in a victory speech.

Sanders said his Utah and Idaho victories were powered by young people and working-class Americans who support his “political revolution.”

“These decisive victories in Idaho and Utah give me confidence that we will continue to win major victories in the coming contests,” he said.

Trump is trying to beat back efforts to deny him the nomination. His opponents want to stop him from securing the 1,237 delegates needed ahead of the July convention. Trump now has 678 delegates.

“I think it is going to be very hard for them to do,” Trump said on CNN of any effort to deny him the nomination if he falls short. “I have millions of votes more than anybody.”

Sanders is looking for wins in many of the six Democratic contests this week. Alaska, Hawaii and Washington will vote on Saturday. Clinton will keep adding to her delegate total even if she is not the winner in a given state because Democratic delegates are awarded proportionally in all states.

Tuesday’s Republican contests were the first since U.S. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida dropped out a week ago after Trump drubbed him in his home state.

Kasich is the only other candidate still in the race, splitting the anti-Trump vote with Cruz.

 

(Additional reporting by Alana Wise, Emily Stephenson and Eric Beech in Washington and Luciana Lopez in New York; Editing by Leslie Adler, Paul Tait)

Photo: 

Presidential Candidates Seek Donors In A Holiday-Giving Mood

By Tim Higgins, Bloomberg News (TNS)

WASHINGTON — Republicans and Democrats seeking their party’s nomination for the White House are counting on the holiday season to get donors in the giving mood to help year-end fund-raising reports.

“We’ll see a big push now because most of the campaigns are figuring that they want to try to get as much online revenue in as possible before the holidays since it’s very difficult to raise money and focus attention between Christmas and New Year’s,” Tony Corrado, a government professor at Colby College, said. “They are now competing with Amazon, except they don’t have two-day shipping.”

The final totals raised by the campaigns in the fourth quarter, which closes Dec. 31, will take on greater significance during this election than four years ago because they’re required to reveal their finances before the nominating contest kicks off with the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses followed by the New Hampshire primaries. In 2012, the FEC filing deadline came weeks after the Iowa caucuses, which were held on Jan. 3.

This time around candidates and the super PACs supporting them must file year-end reports on Jan. 31. The Iowa caucuses are slated for Feb. 1.

The amount of money a campaign raises each quarter has increasingly become an important gauge for judging whether a candidate is garnering the support needed to be viable. Doing well or better than expect can earn a candidate increased media attention and help build momentum. Campaigns happy with their totals will likely leak their results early in an attempt to generate publicity and momentum.

“This year, it’s going to be more important than it was in 2012 and 2008 because there’s a month before the caucuses,” Corrado said. “Generally, it’s been the case in the past that the cash-on hand figures for the year-end proves to be an important barometer for how well a candidate might do in the caucuses and in New Hampshire.”

On the Republican side, Carly Fiorina’s campaign sought help, pleading in an email to supporters on Dec. 20: “Please, invest $13 in Carly as soon as you can — before the FEC deadline on December 31st — so we can continue to build up our ground game and mobilize our supporters in the early states in 2016.”

Earlier this month, Sen. Marco Rubio’s campaign sent out an email warning that it was the “last chance to buy Christmas gifts” and included a link to the campaign’s website where they were offering “Marco” winter hats and scarfs for sale. Small print on the website notes that all purchases are considered contributions to the campaign.

“What better holiday gift can you give the Marco supporter in your life than new campaign gear?” the email asked.

On the Democrats’ side, the appeals are rolling out, too. “Add your name to our card for the Clinton family,” an email from Hillary Clinton’s aide Huma Abedin told supporters on Dec. 20. “Hillary and Bill won’t have time for any family vacations this holiday season, but you can make sure it’s still special and filled with joy!”

The campaigns will likely take a short break around Christmas as not to intrude into their supports’ family time, said Lara Brown, associate professor and program director of the political management program at The George Washington University.

“But there’s no doubt that fundraising emails will be as prolific as bowl games in the December 26th to January 1st time frame,” she said.

©2015 Bloomberg News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Photo: U.S. Republican presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Marco Rubio speaks at a campaign town hall meeting in Rochester, New Hampshire, December 21, 2015.  REUTERS/Brian Snyder

 

Marco Rubio And Chris Christie Hang Out With Mitt Romney Over July 4th Weekend

A sleepover. A slumber party. Staying the night. A holiday.

Whatever words you want to use, Mitt and Ann Romney decided to have some fun and do a little strategizing with two Republican presidential candidates, New Jersey governor Chris Christie and U.S senator from Florida Marco Rubio. With both in New Hampshire to campaign (by appearing in Wolfeboro’s Fourth of July parade), the Romneys invited the candidates and their families to hang out for the weekend.

Christie and Romney said the meeting wasn’t about securing an endorsement, even if that’s what everyone thinks.

“A lot of these folks helped me during my campaign. I’m going to be as loyal to them as they were to me,” Romney told CNN.

Christie told NJ.com that the Romneys had been family friends for years. “Mitt and Ann, as I’ve said many, many times, are friends of ours,” Christie said. “We’ve been friends for a lot of years, don’t forget. … Mitt Romney came to New Jersey in 2009 and endorsed me in the middle of a contested primary.”

Christie endorsed Romney early in his 2012 run. Romney seriously considered him as his running mate, but a long list of potential scandals spooked him and the promotion was quashed.

Romney mulled running again in 2016 but decided against it in January. He has yet to endorse anyone; the sleepover, along with a meeting next week with Jeb Bush, are seen as overtures to determine who gets his pick. But an endorsement only matters insofar as it translates to votes and money. It’s actually Romney’s deep ties to fundraisers that matter more, argues a political science professor in the Boston Herald: “He’s a kingmaker in terms of finances,” said Erin O’Brien of University of Massachusetts Boston. “Mitt Romney has a donor list all those candidates would kill for. That’s why they’re wooing him.”

Romney, who owns a $10 million vacation home in Wolfeboro—a town that calls itself “America’s oldest summer resort”—told CNN that he didn’t give either of the candidates advice, and stuck to universal topics: family, vacation, life, sports.

The quintessential All-American nature of the day was reiterated by Rubio, who barely spoke to the press, merely mentioning what kind of food was served — hot dogs, hamburgers, and ice cream — and commented on how nice Romney’s house is. He was more vocal about how his supporters were drowned out by Christie-ites, with their blue signs and poles.

Christie tweeted about the weekend (which also included a run-in with Nancy Juvonen, Jimmy Fallon’s wife), thanking his hosts and circulating a picture of himself in a salmon-colored linen button-down shirt with his arms around Romney, hair tousled. Rubio is in the photo too, wearing an uncomfortable, perfunctory smile, appearing to be distancing himself from the other two. (The odd photo provides much fodder for idle speculation: Why is Rubio so distant? Could it explain why he’s been so silent?)

In the tweet, Christie mentions @marcorubiofla, which is not only not Marco Rubio’s account — it is not actually a Twitter account at all. Anna Merlan at Jezebel speculated that the nonexistent Twitter handle could be a slight way of tossing shade.

Rubio, on his actual Twitter account, stayed clear of the Christies and thanked his hosts and shared pictures of his family and supporters.

Photo: Florida senator Marco Rubio, left, and New Jersey governor Chris Christie, right, flank the Republican elder statesman Mitt Romney in New Hampshire this weekend. Despite not running, Romney remains a critical component of the Republican Party. Chris Christie/Twitter

How To Fix An Unfair Presidential Debate System

By Stuart Rothenberg, CQ-Roll Call (TNS)

WASHINGTON — Fox News and CNN, which will broadcast the first two GOP presidential debates, have decided on a system for excluding candidates that could result in Donald Trump participating in those debates but current or former senators and governors being excluded.

Nice going, guys.

I certainly agree having a debate with 16 candidates is simply unwatchable, and there is no easy way to make the early debates fair to the candidates while at the same time more watchable and informative for viewers. But Fox and CNN have both dropped the ball as they try to avoid making tough decisions.

At the first debate on August sixth in Cleveland, Fox will limit participation to candidates who “place in the top ten in an average of the five most recent national polls in the run-up to the event.” Fox apparently will “provide additional coverage and air time on August sixth to the candidates who do not place in the top ten.”

CNN has chosen a similar-but-not-identical approach that is also based on polling leading up to the debate. It will hold two separate forums, one for the top-tier hopefuls and a second for the also-rans.

Fox and CNN, along with the Republican National Committee, can (and surely will) argue they are not excluding candidates from the first debate, the public is. And I’m sure they will say that with a straight face.

Even debate veterans privately admit ten participants are too many. Most of the early GOP debates last time, from August to November 2011, included only eight candidates, and that was bad enough.

But ten is a nice round number, and it allows Fox and CNN to claim they have found a reasonable balance between having too many hopefuls and arbitrarily excluding some. It’s a classic cover-your-behind strategy.

But limiting the field to ten participants means as many as six hopefuls could be excluded from the meaningful debates. Sure, CNN will have a loser’s bracket, but much like the NIT basketball tournament, nobody will care. Being the best of the losers isn’t exactly a winning outcome.

The two networks could end up excluding the only woman in the Republican field (businesswoman Carly Fiorina), the only African-American in the field (Ben Carson), or the only other candidate of color in the race (Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal). For a party that needs to remake its image, excluding candidates who are not white men is a novel strategy.

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, Florida Senator Marco Rubio, Texas Senator Ted Cruz and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul would all appear to have guaranteed slots in the debate. That leaves room for five others. Who could be excluded?

Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum is the last Republican to have won the Iowa caucuses, but he could be excluded. The same goes for former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, who won those caucuses in 2008.

South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham is about to announce his candidacy, but he doesn’t yet have a campaign. He could be on the outside looking in, even though he is a sitting senator from the second primary state. Not only that, but Graham has become one of his party’s leading voices on national security issues. Oh well, who cares about those issues anyway?

Ohio Governor John Kasich appears poised to enter the race, but also has no real campaign yet. He may not be able to ramp up quickly enough to make the top ten cut. But the first debate is in Cleveland, which, the last time I looked, is still in Ohio. And Ohio remains one of the key states in 2016. Oh, what the heck, he’s only the governor.

The rest of the field includes former Texas Governor Rick Perry, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, former New York Governor George Pataki and the aforementioned Trump.

Right now, Trump would make the cutoff, and because of his celebrity status he might very well meet the criteria later this year when the first two debate fields are set. Yet, I think we all know Trump is a carnival barker, not a credible contender for the Republican presidential nomination.

Clearly, any effort to limit the field will generate complaints and criticism. But any approach that limits the field so early in the race, at least five months before the first contest involving voters, seems inherently unfair. And using national polls to select participants in early debates seems odd when the first few actual tests of strength involve small, retail politics states like Iowa and New Hampshire.

After all, we are talking about the first debate or the first couple of debates, not the fifth. Each candidate can rightly argue he or she deserves to be in the first few debates, since those televised events will be the first time many Republican voters will have the opportunity to evaluate and compare the candidates.

The obvious answer is to divide the field in half, randomly assigning individual hopefuls to one of the two debates. Of course, not everyone will like the group he or she is in, and the makeup of each group would determine the particular dynamic of that debate.

After a couple of debates, the hosts of additional debates will have just cause to limit the number of debaters. But doing so in the first couple of debates is inherently unfair and could end up damaging the party’s image. You’d think that that would be something the RNC would want to avoid.

Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr