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First Read's Morning Clips: The New Clinton-Sanders Fight

A roundup of the most important political news stories of the day
Image: U.S. Democratic Presidential candidates Hillary Clinton (L) and Bernie Sanders
U.S. Democratic Presidential candidates Hillary Clinton (L) and Bernie Sanders during the Democratic Presidential candidates' debate, in Flint, Michigan, on March 6. EDWARD M. PIO RODA / EPA

OFF TO THE RACES: The new Clinton-vs.-Sanders fight

The new Clinton v. Sanders fight: He now says she’s not qualified to be president. Danny Freeman has all the latest.

The Wall Street Journal looks at the race for unbound delegates. "Typically sleepy state conventions are briefly becoming the epicenter of the political world as the candidates and political media descend on what were expected to be backwater events."

And here's the Journal's math on how Trump can get to 1,237 before the convention.

A new Maryland poll shows leads for Trump and Clinton.

Will Mike Pence endorse in Indiana?

The Washington Post previews the messy delegate selection in Colorado.

CRUZ: He'll meet with Rudy Giuliani today in New York, writes POLITICO.

Ross Douthat on how Ted Cruz is navigating the convention: "[P]lay things out, and Cruz’s path to victory at a contested convention looks very clear indeed. On the first ballot, Trump wins (let’s say) 1,150 votes, while Cruz wins (say) 825. On the next two ballots, some of the Trump delegates start to jump ship, and most of them go to Cruz, since his people have spent months working on them. By the third ballot, the Texas senator is closing in on 1,237, in a hall filled with people who generally like him and definitely prefer him to Trump."

But the Washington Post looks at Cruz's struggles to win establishment support. "Many top Republicans remain strongly opposed to both Cruz and Trump and hold out hope that long-shot candidate John Kasich, or perhaps another Republican not in the race, can somehow clinch the nomination."

And from the AP: "The Texas Republican is notorious for alienating his colleagues with tactics including pushing a fruitless government shutdown in 2013 and accusing the Senate majority leader of lying. They're now paying it back by refusing to get on board with his presidential bid even as he emerges as the likeliest alternative to businessman Donald Trump following a commanding win Tuesday night in Wisconsin."

CLINTON: The Center for Public Integrity does a deep dive into Clinton's campaign finances here and here. "A Center for Public Integrity investigation reveals that despite Clinton's statements about campaign finance reform, corporations, unions and dark money nonprofits have already poured millions of dollars into a network of Clinton-boosting political organizations. That's on top of the tens of millions an elite club of Democratic megadonors, including billionaire financiers George Soros and Haim Saban, have contributed to pro-Hillary super PACs."

She's looking to repeat her 2000 win in New York.

TRUMP: The Washington Post writes that he'll hire "seasoned operatives" to prepare for a contested convention. "The burst of new hires will have to navigate a political organization unlike that of any modern major presidential candidate, where loyalty is valued above all else and advisers seldom challenge Trump’s vision. Over the past two months, Trump has been growing his campaign staff to deal with a series of unforeseen or underestimated problems, including the need to better monitor delegates to avoid losing more to his chief rival, Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.)."

POLITICO writes: "Interviews with campaign operatives, party insiders and GOP leaders — many of whom spoke on condition of anonymity — suggest campaigns and anti-Trump delegates are at least considering the procedural ways to gum up Trump’s path to the nomination even before most convention delegates have been selected. Though some scoffed at the notion that the convention minutiae would become flash points in a brawl involving Trump, Ted Cruz and John Kasich, campaign officials repeatedly raised them as opportunities to game the convention process."

Mexico is increasingly standing up to Trump's pronouncements.


*** Thursday’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports” line-up: Andrea Mitchell interviews at 12:00pm ET – NBC’s Kristen Welker, Hallie Jackson and Kelly O’Donnell join us with the latest from the campaign trail. Senator Susan Collins will join to discuss her meeting with Supreme Court nominee Judge Merrick Garland. New York Post columnist Fred Dicker will be here to talk rough and tumble New York politics. Former NBC CEO Bob Wright will join to discuss Autism Speaks and his new book “The Wright Stuff.” Susan Page, Anne Gearan and Jeremy Peters will also join to break down the latest battle between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.