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.
The biggest beneficiary from Paul Ryan's no-go is Hillary Clinton
House Speaker Paul Ryan's decision yesterday to shut the door on rescuing the Republican Party by accepting its presidential nomination if there's a contested convention was good news for Ted Cruz and John Kasich (because it solidified their status as the anti-Trump alternatives). It was good news for someone like Marco Rubio or Scott Walker or Rick Perry (because Ryan encouraged Republican delegates to nominate only those "who actually ran for the job," which would include candidates who dropped out of the '16 contest). And it was bad news for establishment Republicans who've been pining for a presidential alternative beyond Trump/Cruz/Kasich. But the biggest beneficiary of Ryan's announcement yesterday was Hillary Clinton and the Democrats. Why? Because Ryan is really the ONLY major Republican out there who could be able to unite the party if there's a contested convention, especially with Trump's warning that "I think you'd have riots" if such a convention were to result in anyone but him. The white knight has now been removed from the 2016 board. And the GOP's choices are essentially 1): Trump, 2) Cruz -- with Trump and his supporters not going away quietly under that scenario; or 3) someone else who isn't Paul Ryan.
Trump vs. RNC heats up
And that Ryan news came on a day when Trump and the Republican National Committee sparred in a war of words (and tweets). "The Republican National Committee, they should be ashamed of themselves for allowing this to kind of crap to happen. The rules are no good when they don't count your vote ... like in Colorado," Trump said yesterday. "The rules are no good when you have to play dirty tricks to pick up delegates." RNC Chair Reince Priebus fired back on Twitter, "Nomination process known for a year + beyond. It's the responsibility of the campaigns to understand it. Complaints now? Give us all a break." Priebus is completely right that the rules in places like Colorado have been known for months. Then again, as our colleague Ari Melber points out, Priebus' reaction is striking for someone who's supposed to be neutral. (You don't see NBA referees or MLB umpires fire back at complaining players on Twitter.) But it's also a no-win situation for Priebus; he's damned if he does, damned if he doesn't. By the way, the Washington Post writes that Cruz could pick up at least 130 more votes on a second ballot, given that Trump delegates have been filled by Republicans who aren't necessarily Trump supporters. Here is where the GOP delegate race currently stands, according to NBC's count:
Trump holds a 211-delegate lead over Cruz
- Trump 756 (45% of delegates won)
- Cruz 545 (32%)
- Rubio 172 (10%)
- Kasich 143 (9%)
Trump needs to win 61% of remaining delegates to reach 1237 magic number
Cruz needs to win 87% of remaining delegates to reach 1237 magic number
Kasich needs to win 138% of remaining delegates to reach 1237 magic number
NBC4/Marist poll: Trump and Clinton ahead in Maryland
Meanwhile, our friends at NBC4 -- NBC's Washington DC-area affiliate -- partnered with Marist on a new poll for Maryland, which holds its primary on April 26. The numbers: Trump leads Ted Cruz by 12 points in the state, 41%-29%, with John Kasich in third at 24%. And in the Democratic contest, Hillary Clinton is ahead of Bernie Sanders by 22 points, 58%-36%. In the VERY competitive Senate primary to replace retiring Sen. Barbara Mikulski, Rep. Chris Van Hollen leads Rep. Donna Edwards by six points, 44%-38%.
Sanders picks up the first endorsement from a fellow U.S. senator
The good news for Bernie Sanders: He picked up an endorsement from a fellow senator, Oregon's Jeff Merkley, who gives him an additional superdelegate. The bad news: It's just his FIRST from one of his colleagues; in fact, Ted Cruz picked up Senate endorsements before Sanders did. Here are our updated numbers on the Democratic delegate race -- when you include Merkley's endorsement of Sanders:
In pledged delegates, Clinton holds a lead of 244 delegates (with Washington delegates to still be allocated)
- Clinton 1287 (55%)
- Sanders 1043 (45%)
In superdelegates, Clinton holds a lead of 422 delegates
- Clinton 461
- Sanders 39
In overall delegates (pledged + super), Clinton holds an overall lead of 666 delegates
- Clinton 1748 (62%)
- Sanders 1082 (38%)
Clinton must win 33% of remaining delegates to reach 2383 magic number
Sanders must win 67% of remaining delegates to reach 2383 magic number
#NeverTrump up with digital ad hitting Trump
Yesterday, we noted how the "Stop Trump" efforts hadn't spent a cent in New York -- as Donald Trump looks a big win in the state next week. But NBC's Kelly O'Donnell reports that the group #NeverTrump is up with this ad hitting Trump, alleging that he misused 9/11 recovery funds for small businesses. But it's not a huge buy -- a digital ad of less than $100,000. And this goes to a larger point: Based PURELY on the ad spending in the very expensive state of New York, it seems that the media care more about next Tuesday's contest than the actual campaigns and outside groups do. Here's the New York ad spending as of yesterday:
NC governor tries to walk back controversial law, but will it placate critics?
Finally, there's this story: "North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory on Tuesday attempted to walk back parts of a controversial law that is seen as discriminatory to LGBT people — yet reinforced a provision in the law that restricts transgender people from using the bathroom that aligns with their identification. McCrory said he's using an executive order to expand government equal employment policies to include sexual orientation and gender. He also said that he would ask legislators to reinstate the right to sue for discrimination in North Carolina, which was restricted by HB2, the legislation he signed into law last month that overturned many anti-discriminatory practices enforce by local governments in the state."
On the trail
Hillary Clinton campaigns in New York, hitting Manhattan and the Bronx… Bernie Sanders holds a big rally at Washington Square Park at 8:00 pm ET… Bill Clinton stumps in Silver Spring, MD… Donald Trump holds a rally in Pittsburgh at 7:00 pm ET… Ted Cruz campaigns in Pennsylvania and New York… And John Kasich hits Maryland.