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First Read's Morning Clips: Trump Closes in on Polling Milestone

A roundup of the most important political news stories of the day
Image: Donald Trump
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to supporters as a secret service agent stands by during a rally in Fort Worth, Texas, Friday, Feb. 26, 2016.LM Otero / AP

OFF TO THE RACES: Trump nears a polling milestone

A new NBC News|SurveyMonkey poll shows Trump at nearly 50 percent among Republicans nationally.

And on the Democratic side, it's the closest the Democratic race has been since we started the tracking poll in late December.'s Alex Seitz-Wald reports on yesterday's dueling press calls by the two Democratic campaigns.

Gov. Scott Walker is expected to announce his "formal decision" in the 2016 GOP race today, notes NBC’s Andrew Rafferty.

New York, New York: The circus is coming home for the top candidates as they eye the Empire State.

POLITICO reports on the GOP campaigns' efforts to round up delegates in Colorado.

CLINTON: From the Wall Street Journal: "As Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump aim to clinch their parties’ nominations, the former secretary of state is poised to start the general-election campaign with a far more sophisticated operation in key swing states than the businessman."

Her campaign is deriding Team Sanders for demanding more debates, calling the move a "stunt."

She warned of the consequences for the Supreme Court if Trump is elected president.

KASICH: Is his campaign trying to coordinate with Cruz to deprive Trump of delegates? CNN: "John Kasich's campaign is looking to coordinate behind the scenes with Ted Cruz's in a mutual effort to deny Donald Trump enough delegates to win the Republican presidential nomination. They even tried to get 2012 nominee Mitt Romney to help broker it. The only problem for team Kasich is that Team Cruz is not interested."

TRUMP: The DNC is out with a new video called "How the GOP Created Trump," tracing the origins of his movement back to Sarah Palin's rise, Mitch McConnell's pledge to halt Obama's reelection and John McCain's "complete the danged fence" line.

From POLITICO: "Trump is, by far, the GOP delegate leader – and the only candidate with a realistic shot at winning a majority of delegates before the July convention. But at the same time, nearly two-thirds of Americans view Trump unfavorably – and his image rating has declined since Republican voting began in February."

More from the New York Times on the downballot threat that Trump presents for Republicans. "Some party leaders remain hopeful that they can block Mr. Trump by denying him a majority of the delegates to the July convention and coalescing support around another candidate. But the National Republican Senatorial Committee has already conducted polling to test the message that Republicans must control the Senate as a check against a President Hillary Clinton, and that Democrats must not be allowed to fully control the appointment and confirmation of Supreme Court judges, according to two people briefed on the research, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because it was intended to be confidential."

"After being shut out of important Republican National Convention committee slots in Louisiana, Donald Trump’s campaign argued on Monday that the posts were chosen at a “secret meeting” to which Trump delegates weren’t invited," writes the Wall Street Journal. MORE: "One big wrinkle: Mr. Trump’s two Louisiana state co-chairmen both attended the “secret meeting” – which was in fact a gathering at the Louisiana state GOP convention March 12, according to Jason Doré, the state party’s executive director."

From the AP: "Indeed, Trump's campaign on Tuesday will announce plans to open a Washington, D.C. office to run its delegate operation and congressional relations team, said campaign senior adviser Barry Bennett. In addition to the new space, Bennett said Trump has hired a veteran political operative to serve as the campaign's convention manager. Paul Manafort, a seasoned Washington hand with decades of convention experience, will oversee the campaign's "entire convention presence" including a potential contested convention, said Bennett."

OBAMA AGENDA: Taking aim at the press

The New York Times reports on Obama's critique last night of 2016 coverage in the political media.

From the Washington Post: "The Justice Department is abandoning its bid to force Apple to help it unlock the iPhone used by one of the shooters in the San Bernardino terrorist attack because investigators have found a way in without the tech giant’s assistance, prosecutors wrote in a court filing Monday... It is unclear how, precisely, investigators got into the phone, or what FBI agents learned about the plot from the materials they were able to review. On the eve of a hearing in the case last week, the FBI had signaled that it might have found a way into Farook’s device, writing in a court filing that “an outside party demonstrated to the FBI a possible method."

NBC's Ari Melber writes: "Two weeks into the nomination fight, 16 Republican senators now say they will meet with Garland — over 25 percent of the GOP caucus — according to a running count by NBC News."

"If Senate Democrats have their way, Supreme Court nominee Merrick B. Garland would sit for confirmation hearings starting in late April and receive an up-or-down vote on the Senate floor about a month later, just before Memorial Day. That is the timeline proposed in a letter sent Monday to Republican leaders by Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee," writes the Washington Post.