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First Read: A Tale of Two Very Different Campaigns

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.
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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.

A Tale of Two Very Different Campaigns

With roughly two-thirds of the 2016 primary season now behind us, this past weekend epitomized the different strengths and weaknesses of the Donald Trump and Ted Cruz campaigns. In Colorado on Saturday, Cruz’s organizational superiority helped him sweep 34 pledged delegates at the GOP state convention, while the Trump effort was wholly disorganized. “On Saturday, Trump backers passed out flyers at the convention site with official campaign slate of 13 delegates and 13 alternates accompanied by their three-digit number position on the 600-plus person ballot. Seven of the names, however, directed people to the wrong number and one delegate's name was misspelled,” MSNBC’s Benjy Sarlin wrote. A prominent Trump volunteer in Colorado added to NBC’s Alex Jaffe that Trump supporters there “were feeling demoralized.” But the next day came a reminder of Trump’s strength and Cruz’s weakness: A Fox News poll showed Trump over 50% in New York, which would give the real-estate mogul a chance to take all of the state’s 95 delegates, while it had Cruz in third place. And another Fox poll found Trump at 48% in Pennsylvania -- followed by John Kasich at 22%, and Cruz at 20% (again, in third place). An NBC/WSJ/Marist poll of New York will be coming out later this afternoon.

The GOP winner could come down to whose strength is more powerful -- and whose weakness is a bigger liability

It’s becoming increasingly likely that the Republican presidential nomination will come down to whose strength is more powerful -- Trump’s ability to win big states, Cruz’s inside game at conventions and caucuses -- and whose weakness is a bigger liability. On “Meet the Press” yesterday, new Trump convention manager Paul Manafort said that the campaign had “several ways” to get to the 1,237 delegates needed to clinch the Republican nomination, including with the “unbound” delegates who will head to Cleveland. Meanwhile, in his remarks Saturday to the Republican Jewish Coalition, Cruz suggested that the Republican Party is headed for a contested convention – one that he’s better suited to win. “I believe the first ballot will be the highest vote total Donald Trump receives. And on a subsequent ballot, we’re going to win the nomination and earn the majority,” he said, per NBC’s Vaughn Hillyard. Below is where the GOP delegate race stands after the weekend:

Trump holds a 211-delegate lead over Cruz

  • Trump 756 (45% of delegates won)
  • Cruz 545 (32%) – that includes the 13 pledged he picked up on Saturday in Colorado
  • 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

By the way, if Trump wins all of New York’s 95 delegates, that 61% needed to reach 1237 goes down to 55%. That’s how important New York is to his campaign. And a Pittsburgh Tribune survey of the candidates running to be Pennsylvania’s unbound delegates suggests that MANY of them will vote for whomever wins their congressional district. So say Trump is 30-40 short of 1,237 after the final primaries on June 7. He could win a lion’s share of these 54 unbound delegates to make up for the difference.

NBC analysis: Trump is benefiting from the GOP delegate process

A final point to make about Trump and the delegate race via MSNBC’s Ari Melber: “Donald Trump blasted the GOP's delegate rules Sunday, saying a ‘corrupt’ system is denying him delegates in states he won. According to a new NBC analysis, however, Trump has benefited far more than Ted Cruz under the party's arcane rules for allocating delegates. Trump now leads the Republican field with 756 delegates — or 45 percent of all delegates awarded to date. Yet he has won about 37 percent of all votes in the primaries, according to the NBC analysis, meaning Trump's delegate support is greater than his actual support from voters. For each percentage point of total primary votes that Trump has won, he has been awarded 1.22 percent of the total delegates. In other words, as a matter of Republican Party math, Trump has been awarded a delegate bonus of 22 percent above his raw support from voters. By contrast, Cruz has been awarded about 1.14 percent of the delegates for each percentage point of votes he has won — a delegate bonus of 14 percent above his raw support.”

Sanders blasts Clinton’s judgment, while Clinton turns (again) to Trump

Turning to the Democratic race, Bernie Sanders has now backed away from his “unqualified” attack on Hillary Clinton. Instead, he’s now going after her judgment. "She may have the experience to be president of the United States. No one can argue that," Sanders said on “Meet the Press” yesterday. "But in terms of her judgment, something is clearly lacking," he added. Meanwhile, Clinton is up with a TV ad in New York hitting Trump -- not Sanders. “With so much at stake, she’s the one tough enough to stop Trump,” the ad’s narrator says. By the way, here’s the Democratic delegate after Sanders’ 12-point victory in Wyoming, which resulted in a 7-7 pledged-delegate split.

In pledged delegates, Clinton holds a lead of 246 delegates (with Washington delegates to still be allocated)

  • Clinton 1288 (55%)
  • Sanders 1042 (45%)

In overall delegates (including superdelegates), Clinton holds an overall lead of 668 delegates

  • Clinton 1747 (62%)
  • Sanders 1079 (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

The latest skirmish in America’s red-vs.-blue divide

Finally, NBC’s Perry Bacon looks at the latest battle in America’s red-vs.-blue divide. “After North Carolina and Mississippi adopted new laws that deny some legal protections to people who are gay, lesbian and transgender, Democratic mayors and governors in Vermont, Washington, D.C., Seattle, and New York announced bans on non-essential, government-funded travel to those conservative-leaning states... The provisions adopted by state legislatures, cities and governors over the last month illustrate that the core divide between blue states and red states remains firmly entrenched... Blue states are strongly pushing moves aimed at boosting pay and benefits for low and middle-class workers, while red states continue to back limits on abortion and gay rights.”

On the trail

Hillary Clinton spends her day in New York, stumping in Port Washington (a gun-violence roundtable with Rep. Steve Israel), Holbrook, and New York City, while husband Bill campaigns in Brooklyn… Bernie Sanders also is in New York, hitting Binghamton, Albany, and Buffalo… Donald Trump holds a rally at 7:00 pm ET in Albany… Ted Cruz is in California… And John Kasich campaigns in the Empire State.