First Read is a morning briefing from Meet the Press and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Donald Trump's terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week
This was Donald Trump's worst week of his campaign since he lost Iowa to Ted Cruz exactly two months ago. To recap: On Tuesday, his campaign manager was charged with misdemeanor battery. Also on Tuesday, he backed away from his pledge to support the whomever becomes the GOP nominee, giving his Republican critics extra ammunition against him. On Wednesday, he suggested on MSNBC that he would advocate punishing women who seek an abortion, angering both abortion-rights supporters and opponents. (He later backtracked from that abortion statement.) And on top of it all, he finds himself trailing in Wisconsin, which holds its primary on Tuesday. Make no mistake: After Wisconsin, the primary calendar looks much more favorable for Trump, with the map turning to New York (April 19), Connecticut (April 26), Delaware (April 26), Maryland (April 26), Pennsylvania (April 26), and Rhode Island (April 26). But there's a reason why Trump was meeting with Republican National Committee officials in Washington yesterday -- he's got to start getting a better handle on the delegate rules, especially if the nomination is going to come down to a handful of delegates.
Where the GOP delegate race stands
As for that battle over delegates, here is where the GOP delegate race stands:
Trump has a 281-delegate lead over Cruz
Trump must win 54% of remaining delegates to hit 1,237 magic number
Cruz must win 85% of remaining delegates to hit 1,237 magic number
Kasich must win 122% of remaining delegates to hit 1,237 magic number
An easy explanation why Trump and Clinton are trailing in Wisconsin
There's an easy explanation why Trump and Hillary Clinton are trailing in the most recent Wisconsin polling: There is maybe no other state in the country where the conservative and progressive movements are so well organized -- thanks to the political battles there over the past five years. Think about it: On the GOP side, there is perhaps no more successful state Republican party than there is in Wisconsin. And the Democratic side, while it hasn't been as successful in these political fights, is turbo-charged and unfraid when it comes to ideology. One other point to make: While Trump and Trump-ism aren't well-suited to Wisconsin, a loss would certainly embolden the "Stop Trump" movement, even as the primary map moves to more favorable ground for Trump.
Clinton camp shifts focus back to Sanders
Last week, we observed that Hillary Clinton and her campaign had started shifting their attention to the general election. But as our sister publication The Lid noted yesterday, they've also returned their focus back to Bernie Sanders -- especially after his wins in Alaska, Hawaii, and Washington, and as he looks headed to a victory in Wisconsin on Tuesday. "Clinton blasted Sanders [on Thursday] for describing the fracas over Trump's controversial abortion comments as 'a distraction' from other problems facing the country, saying that she views abortion as a 'serious issue' worthy of discussion. She made some similar comments in her interview with Rachel Maddow [on Wednesday], saying 'to think that this is an issue that is not deserving of reaction just demonstrates a lack of appreciation for how serious this is' -- and doing it at a campaign rally today even ups the ante further." We've also seen Clinton ramp her campaign activity in New York ahead of the April 19 primary there, as well as add campaign events in Wisconsin. And today, the Clinton camp is holding a conference call to blast Sanders' "poor record on gun violence prevention."
Sanders raises $44 million in March
And the Sanders campaign will have PLENTY of money available to be a thorn in Clinton's side from now through June - even if the delegate math is out of reach for Sanders. The campaign reported raising $44 million in March, beating the $43.5 million it raised in February. And overall, it has raised $109 million during the first quarter of 2016 (January, February, March).
Where the Democratic delegate race stands
Here's the delegate math on the Democratic side:
In pledged delegates, Clinton holds a 259-delegate lead over Sanders
- Clinton 1237 (56%)
- Sanders 978 (44%)
*** NBC has yet to allocate additional delegates from Washington state***
In overall delegates (including superdelegates), Clinton holds a 683-delegate lead over Sanders
Clinton must win 33% of remaining delegates to hit 2383 magic number
Sanders must win 67% of remaining delegates to hit 2383 magic number
On the trail
Hillary Clinton holds a manufacturing event in Syracuse, NY before participating in an organizing event there, while Bill Clinton stumps in Wisconsin… Bernie Sanders spends his day in Wisconsin… John Kasich campaigns in Pennsylvania… And Kasich and Ted Cruz attend a Milwaukee GOP fish fry later this evening.