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First Read: Trump Gets Outhustled in Delegate Fight

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.

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.

Trump gets outhustled in delegate fight

In a Republican presidential race where every delegate might matter, Donald Trump’s campaign has a big problem on its hands: It continues to get outhustled in the battle for delegates. The latest example played out in Colorado last night in a contest for just three congressional-district delegates, and Ted Cruz appeared to win all three. “Trump aides concede that Colorado is not a promising state, but the level of disorganization at Thursday’s event suggested problems that ran deeper than the topline results,” MSNBC’s Benjy Sarlin reports. “Addressing the audience, Trump’s new Colorado state director Patrick Davis told supporters to vote for the three pro-Trump delegate candidates on a glossy brochure the campaign distributed… There was only one problem: Two of the three names weren’t listed on the ballot… After some digging, Davis returned with a solution to the mystery of the missing delegates. One of the delegates had failed to pay the necessary fee to get on the ballot. He assumed the other was left off for similar reasons… To be fair to Davis, who is a veteran operative in the state, he didn’t have much time to get the campaign up to speed. He only joined Tuesday, right as a Trump aide assigned to the state, James Baker, was let go by the campaign. By the time he showed up for work, Cruz had already swept the six delegates in two Congressional District conventions over the last week.”

Weekends (delegate-selection process) are starting to matter more than Tuesdays (primaries)

More Colorado GOP delegates will be selected today before Saturday’s state convention, where an additional 13 delegates will be picked. And if last night was any indication -- as well as what happened in North Dakota last weekend -- it’s possible Cruz wins all of them. Of course, it’s equally possible that Trump wins all of New York’s 95 delegates on April 19, which would put him on a stronger path to hit the 1,237 delegates needed to win the GOP majority. But we have entered the stage of the 2016 race where what happens on the weekends (delegate-selection process) matters more than what happens on Tuesdays (the primaries). And we are seeing why there was a shakeup in Trump World, with Paul Manafort expanding his influence within the campaign. “The campaign has now gotten to the point where how you win and where you win does matter and then protecting what you won, and that’s why I’m involved in everything from what’s happened to what will be happening,” Manafort told the New York Times. Here’s where the GOP delegate race currently stands:

Trump holds a 236-delegate lead over Cruz

Trump must win 59% of remaining delegates to hit 1,237 magic number

Cruz must win 88% of remaining delegates to hit 1,237 magic number

Kasich must win 133% of remaining delegates to hit 1,237 magic number

A truce in Unqualified-gate? Well, kind of

On Rachel Maddow’s MSNBC show last night, Jane Sanders -- Bernie Sanders’ wife -- said that he won’t use the word “unqualified” again to describe Hillary Clinton. "Bernie has moved on. He has said “OK, let’s not use the word ‘unqualified’, let’s use the word ‘contrast.’” But on Seth Meyers’ show last night, Bernie Sanders claimed that it was Hillary Clinton who started the dispute. “It was said after she and her campaign said that I was unqualified,” he told Meyers. “If people attack me and distort my record we will respond.” (In fact, neither Clinton nor her campaign directly said Sanders was “unqualified.”) For her part, Clinton told NBC’s Matt Lauer, “I believe that voters will be looking at both of us. But I will take Bernie Sanders over Donald Trump or Ted Cruz any time.” Here is where the Dem delegate race stands:

In pledged delegates, Clinton holds a 246-delegate lead over Sanders (with Washington state delegates still to be allocated)

  • Clinton 1281 (55% of delegates won)
  • Sanders 1035 (45%)

In overall delegates (including superdelegates), Clinton holds a 673-delegate lead over Sanders

Clinton must win 33% of remaining delegates to hit 2,383 magic number

Sanders must win 67% of remaining delegates to hit 2383 magic number (was 66%)

Team Kasich hammers Cruz in New York

An interesting thing is happening in the New York GOP race: Team Kasich is blasting Cruz in new ads. Here’s one from Kasich’s Super PAC, per NBC’s Kailani Koenig: “New Yorkers aren’t stupid, Ted. After we were hit, we rallied, rebuilt, but remembered. We tell it like it is; that’s who we are. So when you smear ‘New York values’ in Iowa for votes…we remember that, too.” And here’s an ad from the campaign. The question: Is Kasich trying to steal delegates from Trump? Or is he acting like he’s Trump wingman in hurting Cruz?

Obama White House makes progress on getting Garland meetings with some GOP senators, but there’s been no progress on hearings

President Obama yesterday made his case (again) on Supreme Court Merrick Garland. But here is the reality: While the White House has made progress in getting Garland meetings with GOP senators, it hasn’t made any progress on getting him hearings. And if you can’t get hearings, you aren’t going to see a vote. It’s a reflection that Republican voters are more motivated about the court than Democratic voters are, especially in the midst of a presidential campaign.

On the trail

Hillary Clinton campaigns in Buffalo and Rochester, while husband Bill remains in Pennsylvania… Bernie Sanders holds two rallies in Brooklyn… And John Kasich campaigns in Connecticut and Syracuse, NY.