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Former rivals, military leaders, actors to take stage at RNC

Former presidential candidates Ted Cruz, Chris Christie, Scott Walker and Marco Rubio — the latter by video link — are among those set to speak at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. Military leaders, members of Congress, actors, faith leaders and family members of presumptive presidential nominee Donald Trump are also set to speak in what the Republican National Committee calls “an unconventional lineup” that will challenge the status quo and press for Trump’s agenda.

Speaker highlights at the four-day convention, which begins Monday at the Quicken Loans Arena.

MONDAY

Theme: Make America Safe Again

Headliners: Trump’s wife, Melania; Lt. Gen. (ret.) Michael Flynn, U.S. Army; Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa; and Rep. Ryan Zinke, R-Mont.

Others: Willie Robertson, star of “Duck Dynasty”; former Texas Gov. Rick Perry; Marcus Luttrell, retired U.S. Navy SEAL; Scott Baio, actor; Pat Smith, mother of Sean Smith, killed in the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya; Mark “Oz” Geist, member of a security team that fought in Benghazi; John Tiegen, member of Benghazi security team and co-author of the book “13 Hours,” an account of the attacks; Kent Terry and Kelly Terry-Willis, siblings of Brian Terry, a Border Patrol agent whose shooting death revealed the botched “Fast and Furious” gun-smuggling operation; Antonio Sabato Jr., actor; Mary Ann Mendoza, Sabine Durden and Jamiel Shaw, immigration reform advocates; Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas; David Clarke, sheriff of Milwaukee County, Wis.; Rep. Sean Duffy, R-Wis.; Rachel Campos-Duffy, LIBRE Initiative for Hispanic economic empowerment; Darryl Glenn, Senate candidate in Colorado; Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark.; Karen Vaughn, mother of a U.S. Navy SEAL killed in Afghanistan; Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala.; former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani; and Jason Beardsley of Concerned Veterans for America.

___

TUESDAY

Theme: Make America Work Again

Headliners: Tiffany Trump, candidate’s daughter; Kerry Woolard, general manager, Trump Winery in Virginia; Donald Trump Jr.; Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va.; former GOP presidential candidate Ben Carson; and actress Kimberlin Brown.

Others: Sharon Day, co-chairwoman of Republican National Committee; Dana White, president, Ultimate Fighting Championship; Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson; Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge; former U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey; Andy Wist, founder of Standard Waterproofing Co.; Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis.; Chris Cox, executive director, NRA Institute for Legislative Action; golfer Natalie Gulbis; Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.; House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis.; House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.; New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

___

WEDNESDAY

Theme: Make America First Again

Headliners: Former presidential candidates Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio; Eric Trump, son of the candidate; former House Speaker Newt Gingrich; and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, Trump’s pick to be vice president.

Others: radio host Laura Ingraham; Phil Ruffin, businessman with interests in real estate, lodging, manufacturing and energy; Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi; retired astronaut Eileen Collins; Michelle Van Etten, small business owner; Kentucky state Sen. Ralph Alvarado Jr.; Darrell Scott, senior pastor and co-founder of New Spirit Revival Center Ministries, Cleveland; Harold Hamm, oil executive; Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker; Lynne Patton, vice president, Eric Trump Foundation; Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. (by video); Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas; Callista Gingrich, wife of Newt Gingrich.

___

THURSDAY

Theme: Make America One Again

Headliners: Peter Thiel, co-founder PayPal; Tom Barrack, CEO of Colony Capital; Ivanka Trump, daughter of the candidate; and Donald Trump, GOP nominee for president.

Others: Brock Mealer, motivational speaker; Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn.; Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin; Dr. Lisa Shin, owner of Los Alamos Family Eyecare in New Mexico; RNC Chairman Reince Priebus; Jerry Falwell Jr., president of Liberty University and evangelical leader.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

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GOP team addresses America Saturday

After frenzied, final decision-making, Donald Trump announced Indiana Gov. Mike Pence as his running mate Friday, adding an experienced politician with deep Washington connections to the Republican presidential ticket.

Trump’s pick was aimed in part at easing some Republicans’ concerns about his temperament and lack of political experience. Pence spent 12 years in Congress before being elected governor and his demeanor is as calm as Trump’s is fiery. While some conservatives are skeptical of Trump’s political leanings, Pence has been a stalwart ally on social issues.

Yet Pence is largely unknown to many Americans. And his solidly conventional political background runs counter to Trump’s anti-establishment mantra.

The two men scheduled a news conference for Saturday in New York to present themselves to America as the Republican team that will take on Hillary Clinton and her Democratic running mate in November. The duo will head to Cleveland next week for the Republican National Convention.

As Pence arrived for a private meeting with Trump Friday, he told reporters he “couldn’t be more happy for the opportunity to run with and serve with the next president of the United States.”

In choosing Pence, Trump appears to be looking past their numerous policy differences. The governor has been a longtime advocate of trade deals such as NAFTA and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, both of which Trump aggressively opposes. Pence also has been critical of Trump’s proposed temporary ban on foreign Muslims entering the United States, calling the idea “offensive and unconstitutional.”

The reaction to the Pence choice from Republican officials was overwhelmingly positive — no small feat for Trump, given how polarizing he’s been within his own party.

“It was a pick that clearly shows he is pivoting to the general election,” said GOP chairman Reince Priebus, who was in the midst of an interview with The Associated Press when Trump announced his decision. “He is choosing a person who has the experience inside and outside Washington, Christian conservative, very different style that I think shows a lot of maturity.”

Pence, a staunchly conservative 57-year-old, served six terms in Congress before being elected governor and could help Trump navigate Capitol Hill. He is well-regarded by evangelical Christians, particularly after signing a law that critics said would allow businesses to deny service to gay people for religious reasons.

Clinton’s campaign moved quickly to paint him as the “most extreme pick in a generation.”

“By picking Mike Pence as his running mate, Donald Trump has doubled down on some of his most disturbing beliefs by choosing an incredibly divisive and unpopular running mate,” said John Podesta, Clinton’s campaign chairman.

Clinton spent Friday holding meetings in Washington about her own vice presidential choice. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a favorite of liberals and one of the Democrats’ most effective Trump critics, and Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, were seen in separate cars that left Clinton’s home. Housing Secretary Julian Castro also met with Clinton, according to a person familiar with the meeting who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe the private gathering.

Trump spent weeks weighing vice presidential contenders, including former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and only zeroed in on Pence in recent days. In fact, the selection process appeared on the verge of sliding out of control in the final hours before the announcement, sparking speculation that Trump might be changing his mind.

Word that Pence would be joining the Republican ticket began trickling out in news reports Thursday before Trump had made a final decision or called Pence to offer him the job, according to a Republican familiar with the situation. Trump was in California for fundraisers, separated from his closest aides, and was fuming about leaks that he viewed as an attempt to pressure him into the decision.

Still, Trump called Pence Thursday afternoon to offer him the job and ask him to fly to New York for a Friday morning news conference. Pence accepted and boarded a private plane, along with his wife.

A few hours later, a huge truck barreled through a crowded holiday celebration in Nice, France, killing more than 80 people. With Pence sitting in a New York hotel, Trump decided to postpone the announcement.

The billionaire businessman then went on Fox News to say he had not yet settled on his “final, final” choice. He also held a midnight conference call with his top aides to discuss the situation, according to two people with knowledge of the call.

By Friday, plans were back on track.

Trump sent out a Twitter message saying he was pleased to announce Pence as his running mate. Moments later, one of Pence’s aides filed paperwork with the Indiana Secretary of State’s office withdrawing him from the governor’s race.

Pence was up for re-election, and state law prohibits candidates from being on ballots in two contests. Trump’s formal announcement came about an hour before Pence’s noon Friday deadline for withdrawing.

Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign chairman, strongly rejected suggestions that the candidate considered changing his mind about Pence.

“Never waffled once he made his decision,” Manafort wrote in an email.

Gingrich, one of the finalists for the vice presidential spot, said he was “very comfortable” with Trump’s decision and praised Pence as someone who could help unite the party.

But as of Friday afternoon, Gingrich had yet to share his support with Trump himself. He told The Associated Press he had not received a call from Trump telling him he wasn’t getting the job.

Meanwhile, Trump did speak with Christie, according to a person familiar with their conversation. Ironically, Christie traveled with Trump to Indiana in April to help introduce the candidate to Pence when Trump was trying to win his endorsement ahead of India’s primary.

Pence endorsed Trump’s rival Ted Cruz instead.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

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Dan Coats says Donald Trump hasn’t made up his mind on VP

The Latest on the 2016 presidential campaign ahead of the Republican and Democratic national conventions (all times EDT):

1:30 p.m.

Indiana Sen. Dan Coats says Donald Trump hasn’t made up his mind about who to select as his running mate.

Coats told The Associated Press Wednesday that he spoke with Gov. Mike Pence late Tuesday — one of the names on Trump’s shortlist of potential running mates — and Pence told him there’s still no decision.

“I think he’s the front-runner,” Coats said, adding, “I think he ought to be the front-runner.”

Coats said Pence is “pretty calm about the whole thing.”

He added that Trump is cognizant that he needs to make a decision by Friday given gubernatorial succession rules in Indiana.

But he concluded that “reading Donald Trump’s mind is not the easiest thing to do.”

___

1:20 p.m.

Hillary Clinton says the Republican Party of Abraham Lincoln has been transformed into “the party of Trump.”

Rattling off a series of attacks against her GOP rival, Clinton says Trump is “dangerous,” ”divisive,” ”fear-mongering” and is “pitting American against American.” Even stalwart Republicans, she says, should be alarmed by Trump’s policies and racist rhetoric.

Clinton is casting Trump as ignorant of the Constitution, dismissive of U.S. law and lacking the character to be trusted with American security.

“Imagine if he had not just Twitter and cable news to go after his critics and opponents, but also the IRS – or for that matter, our entire military,” she says. “Do any of us think he’d be restrained?”

___

1:07 p.m.

Hillary Clinton is calling on the country — including herself — to “do a better job of listening” rather than fueling political and other divisions after a series of high-profile shootings.

Clinton says the country must address both gun violence, criminal justice reform and find ways to better support police departments.

“I know that just saying these things together may upset some people,” she says. “But all these things can be true at once.”

Clinton is speaking in the Illinois Old State House chamber in Springfield, the site of Abraham Lincoln’s his famous address about the perils of slavery. She is trying to use the symbolic site to contrast her call for civility with what she sees as rival Donald Trump’s polarizing campaign.

Clinton said she has work to do, as well.

She says that as someone “in the middle of a hotly fought political campaign, I cannot claim that my words and actions haven’t sometimes fueled the partisanship that often stands in the way of our progress.”

Clinton adds, “I recognize that I have to do better too.”

___

12:29 p.m.

Donald Trump is meeting with finalists for the job of his vice presidential running mate.

Trump met Tuesday with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and his family. Early Wednesday, Trump and his children met with Indiana Gov. Mike Pence and his family. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich also was said to be a finalist.

All three have auditioned for the job by opening for Trump at campaign rallies over the past week.

Trump was expected to make an announcement on Friday.

___

10:20 a.m.

Republican Donald Trump huddled with Indiana Gov. Mike Pence at the governor’s mansion in Indiana on Wednesday morning amid swirling speculation about Trump’s vice presidential deliberations.

Pence and Trump walked out of the residence together just before 10:30 a.m. The pair was joined inside by Pence’s wife, Karen, as well as Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, and his son-in-law Jared Kushner.

Trump is said to have narrowed his short list down to a trio of top contenders, including Pence.

Pence joined Trump at a fundraiser and a rally on Tuesday where he received a warm reception from the crowd.

___

10:15 a.m.

The lead super PAC backing Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has begun targeting Spanish-speaking voters in Colorado, Nevada and Florida as part of a $35 million online effort it announced earlier this year.

An online ad from Priorities USA features video clips of Trump calling Hispanics “drug dealers” and “criminals” and leading his supporters in the chant: “Build that wall! Build that wall! Build that wall!”

In Spanish, an on-screen message declares that “hatred is growing in our country.”

The ad campaign also includes a website: unidoscontratrump.org, which means “united against Trump.” The same message will appear in banner ads on social media.

The three targeted states all have significant Latino populations. Trump insists he can do better among Hispanics than the less-than-30 percent Republican Mitt Romney drew in 2012 after calling for “self-deportation” for immigrants in the country illegally.

___

7:35 a.m.

Bernie Sanders says he agrees with the harsh remarks that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has made about Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

The Vermont senator declined to say whether it is appropriate for a sitting Supreme Court justice to openly criticize a White House contender. But he tells ABC’s “Good Morning America” that he agrees Trump is a “total opportunist” and said “the record clear is quite clear that he lies just a whole lot of the time.”

Ginsburg in a series of interviews with The Associated Press, The New York Times and CNN has called Trump unqualified to be president and joked that she would move to New Zealand if he won. Trump said in a tweet that Ginsburg should resign.

Sanders’s comments came a day after he formally endorsed Hillary Clinton as the Democratic nominee for president.

Asked if he is open to being her running mate, Sanders said, “I doubt that will happen.” He said his focus is on helping Clinton win. He says, “We cannot have a man with Trump’s temperament with the nuclear code and running this country.”

5:25 a.m.

Hillary Clinton is turning to the symbolism of Abraham Lincoln’s “House Divided” speech to argue that the nation needs to repair its divisions after high-profile shootings in Texas, Louisiana and Minnesota.

Clinton’s campaign says the Democratic presidential candidate will talk about the importance of uniting the country at the Old State House in Springfield, Illinois, later Wednesday. It’s the site of Lincoln’s famous address in 1858.

Clinton plans to say the nation needs to determine ways to close the divides exposed in the recent shootings.

But she will say that the problems facing the country are much broader and show the need to heal divisions in the nation’s politics and culture.

Heading into the Democratic convention, Clinton has tried to present herself as a unifying figure against Republican Donald Trump.

12:40 a.m.

Donald Trump is urging Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to resign in the wake of harsh remarks she’s made about his presidential campaign.

“Justice Ginsburg of the U.S. Supreme Court has embarrassed all by making very dumb political statements about me,” he tweeted on @realDonaldTrump.

Ginsburg had said that she felt Trump was unqualified for the position. In an interview with The Associated Press last week, she said she didn’t want “to think about that possibility.”

In his Twitter post, Trump said, “Her mind is shot — resign.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that it was “totally inappropriate” for Ginsburg to criticize Trump.

McConnell said that members of the Supreme Court shouldn’t weigh in on American elections.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

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Many experienced GOP strategists unwilling to work for Donald Trump

Donald Trump has finally acknowledged that to best compete against Hillary Clinton he needs more than the bare-bones campaign team that led him to primary success. But many of the most experienced Republican political advisers aren’t willing to work for him.

From Texas to New Hampshire, well-respected members of the Republican Party’s professional class say they cannot look past their deep personal and professional reservations about the presumptive presidential nominee.

While there are exceptions, many strategists who best understand the mechanics of presidential politics fear that taking a Trump paycheck might stain their resumes, spook other clients and even cause problems at home. They also are reluctant to devote months to a divisive candidate whose campaign has been plagued by infighting and disorganization.

“Right now I feel no obligation to lift a finger to help Donald Trump,” said Brent Swander, an Ohio-based operative who has coordinated nationwide logistics for Republican presidential campaigns dating to George W. Bush.

“Everything that we’re taught as children — not to bully, not to demean, to treat others with respect — everything we’re taught as children is the exact opposite of what the Republican nominee is doing. How do you work for somebody like that? What would I tell my family?” Swander said.

Trump leapt into presidential politics with a small group of aides, some drafted directly from his real estate business, with no experience running a White House campaign. An unquestioned success in the GOP primaries, they have struggled to respond to the increased demands of a general election.

As in years past, the primary season created a pool of battle-tested staffers who worked for other candidates, from which Trump would be expected to draw. But hundreds of such aides have so far declined invitations to work for him.

They include several communications aides to Chris Christie, as well as the New Jersey governor’s senior political adviser, Michael DuHaime, who has rejected direct and indirect inquiries to sign on with the billionaire.

Chris Wilson, a senior aide to Ted Cruz, said the Texas senator’s entire paid staff of more than 150 ignored encouragement from Trump’s team to apply for positions after Cruz quit the presidential race. Wilson said that even now, many unemployed Cruz aides are refusing to work for the man who called their former boss “Lyin’ Ted.”

That’s the case for Scott Smith, a Texas-based operative who traveled the country planning events for Cruz, and earlier worked on presidential bids for Bush and Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

“It’s very clear that none of us are going to work for Trump,” Smith said. “Even if I wanted to work for Trump, my wife would kill me.”

Smith, like many experienced strategists interviewed for this story, noted the intense personal sacrifice required of presidential campaigns. Many advisers do not see their families for long stretches, work brutal hours on little sleep and enjoy no job security.

With Trump, Smith said, “I would feel like a mercenary. I can’t be away from my young children if it’s just for money.”

Trump’s need for additional staff is acute. His paltry fundraising network brought in less than $2 million last month. He has just one paid staffer to handle hundreds of daily media requests and only a few operatives in battleground states devoted to his White House bid.

Last month, Trump fired Rick Wiley, who was the campaign manager for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a former 2016 candidate, and was brought on to run Trump’s nationwide get-out-the-vote effort. On Monday, Trump fired campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, who acknowledged he lacked the experience needed to expand Trump’s operation.

“This campaign needs to grow rapidly,” Lewandowski told the Fox News Channel. “That’s a hard job and candidly I’ve never grown something that big.”

Trump credited Lewandowski with helping “a small, beautiful, well-unified campaign” during the primary season. “I think it’s time now for a different kind of a campaign,” Trump told Fox.

Campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks did not respond to multiple requests for comment about the campaign’s hiring. A former adviser, Barry Bennett, played down any staffing challenges, suggesting the campaign should be able to double its contingent by the party’s national convention next month.

Trump announced four new hires in the past week, including a human resources chief to help with hiring, to supplement a staff of about 70. That’s compared with Clinton’s paid presence of roughly 700, many of them well-versed in modern political strategy.

Trump’s senior team, including campaign chief Paul Manafort and newly hired political director Jim Murphy, largely represent an older generation of political hands more active in the 1980s and 1990s. The campaign’s new Ohio director, Bob Paduchik, led state efforts for Bush’s 2000 and 2004 campaigns.

A new generation of top talent active in more recent years has shown little interest in Trump. In Iowa, experienced operative Sara Craig says she will not work for Trump or even support him. “I am more interested in working on down-ballot races,” said Craig, who helped elect Joni Ernst to the Senate from Iowa and directed a pro-Bush super political action committee.

Ryan Williams, who worked on Mitt Romney‘s presidential campaigns, said he’s happy working for a consulting firm, where he’s involved with various other elections across the country, as well as with corporate clients.

“When you sign up for a campaign, you’re putting your name on the effort. Some of the things that Trump has said publicly are very hard for people to get behind,” Williams said.

But Paduchik offered the kind of positive perspective expected of a campaign on the move.

“It’s been great, the response I’ve gotten,” Paduchik said. “Republicans in every corner of Ohio are excited about Mr. Trump’s campaign.”

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

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Joe Henderson: Florida Republicans just can’t let go of Marco Rubio

When it comes to Marco Rubio, Florida Republican Party leaders are starting to sound like a jilted lover that can’t quite let it go.

They ignore that Rubio was beaten soundly by Donald Trump in 65 of the state’s 66 counties in the Florida Primary, causing him to drop out of the presidential race. They ignore that he has repeatedly trashed his job as a senator in both word and deed.

They ignore a recent Quinnipiac poll that showed 49 percent of Floridians disapprove of his performance while only 42 percent approve. They’re willing to look past his stumbles on the presidential campaign trail, especially the way Chris Christie made him look foolish and ill-prepared during the New Hampshire primary.

None of this seems to matter.

They are practically crawling to Rubio, all but begging him to change his mind and run for re-election to his seat in the U.S. Senate after he repeatedly said he wouldn’t. Given his serious and considerable baggage, the fact that they see Rubio as their champion says a lot about what they think of their chances to keep that seat in the GOP column.

And while Rubio’s words say “no, no, no” his actions say, “um, maybe … if you ask me real nice.”

For instance, he told CNN he might consider changing his mind if his good friend Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera wasn’t in the race.

“I think he’s put in time and energy to it and he deserves the chance to see where he can take it,” Rubio said.

Of course, friendship didn’t stand in the way of running against Jeb Bush for president. That friendship was strained, too; after he dropped out, Bush refused to endorse Rubio, even after pushing for him to be the vice president for Mitt Romney in 2012.

And while he was still in the campaign, Bush told The Washington Post, “Let me ask you, what has (Rubio) accomplished? What has he done in his life that makes you think he can make the tough calls, develop strategy?”

Good question.

What has Rubio accomplished, other than express disdain for the job he was elected to do? He has name recognition, sure, but as the Quinnipiac poll shows that can cut both ways.

None of that apparently matters to Republicans casting a longing eye in Rubio’s direction. Maybe it should.

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Donald Trump’s abortion flub shows risks of “winging it” on policy

It was a question sure to come up at some point in the Republican primary campaign.

“What should the law be on abortion?” asked MSNBC’s Chris Matthews to Donald Trump at a town hall event in Wisconsin.

“Should the woman be punished for having an abortion?” Matthews pressed. “This is not something you can dodge.”

Trump’s bungled response — an awkward, extended attempt to evade the question, followed by an answer that, yes, “there has to be some form of punishment” — prompted a backlash that managed to unite abortion rights activists and opponents. And it also brought an unprecedented reversal from the notoriously unapologetic candidate less than a week before Wisconsin’s important primary.

The episode demonstrated the extent to which Trump has glossed over the rigorous policy preparation that is fundamental to most presidential campaigns, underscoring the risks of the billionaire businessman’s winging-it approach as he inches closer to the Republican nomination.

“Well, bear in mind I don’t believe that he was warned that that question was coming” and didn’t have a chance to really think about it, said Ben Carson, a former Trump rival who has since endorsed him, in an interview with CNN.

He should have, said political professionals.

“When you’re just winging it, that’s what happens,” said Kevin Madden, a veteran of 2012 nominee Mitt Romney‘s campaign. “Running for president, it’s not a take-home exam.”

And this wasn’t the first time Trump’s approach has gotten him in trouble.

He raised eyebrows during a debate when he appeared unfamiliar with the concept of the nuclear triad, an oversight his opponents happily pointed out.

At a town hall on CNN earlier this week, Trump appeared to falter when asked to name what he believed were the top three priorities of the federal government. Among his answers: health care and education. Trump has vowed to repeal President Barack Obama‘s landmark health care law and gut the budget of the Department of Education.

The lack of preparation extends beyond policy. This week, Trump called into a series of radio stations in Wisconsin, apparently unaware the interviews were likely to be combative.

At the end of a remarkable interview in which he compared Trump’s behavior to that of “a 12-year-old bully on the playground,” WTMJ-AM’s Charlie Sykes asked Trump if he was aware he’d called into someone unabashedly opposed to his candidacy.

“That I didn’t know,” Trump said.

During a recent rally in Vienna, Ohio, Trump delivered his usual indictment of the North American Free Trade Agreement and blasted American companies that have shipped jobs overseas.

But he seemed unaware that Chevrolet, which builds the Chevy Cruze sedan in nearby Lordstown, had recently announced that it was planning to build its 2017 hatchback model in Mexico. It was the kind of local knowledge that requires research and legwork, and could have helped Trump connect with his audience and others in the state.

For most presidential candidates, especially those new to it all, getting up to speed on the intricacies of domestic and foreign policy is a process that begins early. While Trump’s campaign did not respond Thursday to questions about the kind of briefings he receives, it’s clear he has done things differently.

Who does he consult on foreign policy?

“I’m speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain and I’ve said a lot of things,” Trump said on MSNBC this month. He’s also said he gets information about international affairs from “the shows” and newspapers.

He announced members of his foreign policy team only this month and met with them Thursday as part of a series of appointments in Washington.

Out on the trail, Trump largely skipped town hall events in the early-voting states that were the hallmarks of several rival campaigns. Chris Christie and John Kasich, for example, held dozens of the events, fielding hundreds of questions on every topic imaginable.

Trump might well note that most of his GOP rivals are gone, and he’s still the front-runner.

But what about his abortion comments?

“None of the other candidates would have made that mistake,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, which supports anti-abortion legislation and candidates.

Michael Steel, an adviser to former Trump rival Jeb Bush, said that candidates and presidents have to be able to respond to issues as they arise, which requires a “tremendous amount” of work behind the scenes. It’s one reason major candidates from both parties typically have government experience.

“I think we’ve seen in a variety of venues including the debates that he doesn’t seem to have the knowledge and background on important policy issues that you would expect from a presidential candidate,” Steel said.

Bush spent the months after he announced his candidacy last summer developing a comprehensive domestic and foreign policy platform. Campaign employees assisted by more than 100 outside advisers briefed him in frequent sessions, said Justin Muzinich, the campaign’s policy director.

“He took policy extraordinarily seriously,” Muzinich said.

Dannenfelser, the abortion opponent, said there is still time for Trump.

“The question is, will he be able to get to the point of confidently communicating his position to contrast with Hillary Clinton in a way that helps?” she said. “I think it’s possible.”

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

 

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Donald Trump celebrates victories in Florida, Illinois and North Carolina

Donald Trump promised to continue to “win, win, win,” after victories in three of the five states holding Republican primaries Tuesday.

Trump won primaries in Illinois, North Carolina and Florida. He came in second in Ohio, trailing John Kasich. The Missouri Republican primary was too close to call late Tuesday night.

The New York businessman clobbered Marco Rubio in Florida. He received 46 percent of the vote, while Rubio received 27 percent in the Sunshine State. Trump won almost every county in Florida, save for Miami-Dade County. Rubio announced Tuesday he was suspending his campaign.

“I would like to congratulate Donald Trump on winning Florida’s winner-take-all presidential primary,” said Blaise Ingoglia, chairman of the Florida GOP in a statement. “While the Florida GOP will remain neutral in the Republican nominating process, we will continue our grassroots efforts to defeat Hillary Clinton and put a Republican in the White House come November.”

Trump has won 18 Republican primaries and leads in the delegate count. The winner-take-all nature of Florida’s election may help Trump secure the Republican nomination.

“I think we’re going to have a great victory,” said Trump during a celebratory speech on Tuesday. “We’re going to win, win, win, and we’re not stopping.”

Trump said his campaign has “had such incredible support,” pointing toward endorsements from Chris Christie, Ben Carson, Sarah Palin and Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi as an example of that support.

“We have to bring our party together. We have something happening that actually makes the Republican party the biggest political story in the world,” he said. “Millions of people are coming in to vote. We have a great opportunity. Democrats are coming in, independents are coming in and, very importantly, people are coming in who never voted before.”

“I’m very proud to be a part of this,” he said.

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Joe Gruters confident Florida GOP will come together to back Donald Trump

Joe Gruters‘ association with the Donald Trump campaign is controversial, because, well, Donald Trump is controversial.

Gruters was named last fall to be the campaign chair for Trump in Florida. That’s in addition to his other public duties, which include being the vice-chair of the Republican Party of Florida, the chair of the Sarasota County Republican Executive Committee, and a member of the board of trustees of Florida State University.

Those conflicting roles have led some of his critics to say that he should step down from one of those public positions. Gruters has rebuffed the critics, and is feeling more confident than ever that his candidate will be the nominee this fall. And he has no qualms about the party coming together in November.

“Listen, primaries are tough,” he said while standing outside the room used by Trump at the Tampa Convention Center on Monday afternoon. “A lot of things get said in primaries. People are unhappy. Their candidate loses, and just like me, there’ve been times before where I didn’t like who are nominee was going to be. But by the end of the day, I was one-hundred percent doing everything I could for the person, and I think the same will happen here.”

Members of the GOP establishment continue to maintain that the majority of Republicans don’t support Trump, referring to how his victories in previous primaries and caucuses rarely exceed forty percent of the total vote.

That’s among a scattered field, however, and Gruters says that Trump’s numbers are growing as candidates like Ben Carson and Chris Christie drop out of the race.

“Eventually, all will be forgiven, and the Republican Party will come together, stronger and united and bigger and better than before, and I think we’re going to win,” he maintains.

Perhaps.

Earlier on Tuesday, former Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford, a former surrogate for Jeb Bush, who is now supporting Marco Rubio, says he has certain expectations of who the GOP’s standard bearer should be, and says Trump is lacking in those qualities at the moment.

“I expect the nominee of the Republican Party to be presidential,” he told MSNBC’s Morning Joe. “I expect them to care about the poor. I expect them to care about free markets and free enterprise. I expect them to care about life. This is not a person who has not embodied what I look for in a candidate for the Republican nomination, and somebody I can support in November.

Gruters says that Trump has ignited a movement, referring to the dramatic increase in Republicans turning out to vote in some of the nation’s first primaries and caucuses.  Democratic strategist Steve Schale told the Wall Street Journal that based on the early vote in 14 counties across Florida, more than half didn’t cast ballots in the 2012 GOP presidential primary.

“I think at the end of the day we have to win the general election, and I think that Donald Trump has the ability to expand our base, to increase the size of our tent,” says Gruters. “You’ve seen it in the primaries; I think that the energy and enthusiasm that’s been created will be transferred over to the general election, and I think it’s going to be a historic election with DT carrying states that we were never even considered to have a chance of winning before.”

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Mitch Perry Report for 3.15.16 – Is it really Election Day when 2 million people have already voted?

Although today is Election Day in Florida, that’s sort of a misnomer, considering that over 2 million Floridians have already voted in our presidential primary.

However, nearly a quarter of all registered voters aren’t part of that total, and won’t be after tonight.

That’s because they’re registered independent, or Non-Party-Affiliated. There is 3.25 million of them in the Sunshine State.

I’ve heard the arguments from the political parties about why Florida should retain its closed-primary system that allows only registered Democrats to vote in a Democratic race and the same for Republicans, but that argument is effectively disenfranchising millions of people in Florida.

Things in society are changing, in case you haven’t noticed. And more and more people, especially millennials, want nothing to do with the political party system. That doesn’t mean, however, that they don’t want to participate in the electoral process. They’re not mutually exclusive.

As we reported last week, a poll commissioned by  Open Primaries, a national nonprofit group advocating for open and nonpartisan primary systems,. reported that 88  percent of Florida’s independents believe that their exclusion in Florida’s closed primary system is unfair, and 88 percent said they are independent because neither party represents them.

An attempt to change that via the state Constitution went nowhere this past year. If it’s going to change, it’s going to have to be through a citizen’s led effort here in Florida, since the political parties have no interest in aiding the cause.

That’s too bad, because Democrats in particular like to complain about efforts by Republicans to suppress the vote. Yet the closed primary system in 2016 does just that.

Last Friday I had an interaction with an official at my local bank. After we were done with the business that I came to the bank for, I asked him if he was voting today. He said he wasn’t sure if he was registered or where his polling location was, so we went online to the Hillsborough County SOE’s website.

There he learned that he wasn’t registered. Though disappointed, he excitedly went ahead and signed up then and there, only to be disappointed when I told him that he still was too late to vote today. And because he was registering as a NPA, he wouldn’t be able to vote in our next election, on August 30. He can vote in November, though.

The fact is, in other states you could register as late as Friday to vote today. Why is that system worse than what we have now?

P.S. I went to vote on Saturday at my local polling location, and was stunned to learn that I could not vote. I’ve switched around my party registration all the time, and currently am registered NPA, and had obviously failed to change that by the deadline last month. So that’s on me. Nevertheless, it’s the first election ever that I’m not participating in.

In the news…

Donald Trump brought in the big guns – Sarah Palin, Chris Christie  surprise endorsee Pam Bondi to set the table for him at his town-hall meeting at the Tampa Convention Center on Monday afternoon.

Before the Trump town hall, citizens protesting his candidacy marched to the Convention Center.

A few months ago, David Jolly called on Trump to quit the race after his remark about banning Muslims from the U.S., now realizing they might share the same ticket this November, David Jolly says he’s still pondering getting behind the New York City real estate mogul’s run for the White House.

And Sean Shaw is poised to make another run for the House District 61 seat that encompasses much of Tampa’s downtown urban core.

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In Tampa, Donald Trump says he’s ready to pivot toward Hillary Clinton after hopefully winning Florida and Ohio

Poised to take home Florida’s 99 delegates on Tuesday night, Donald Trump held a town-hall meeting at the Tampa Convention Center before approximately 1,000 people on Monday afternoon, where he acknowledged that he’s ready to close out the primary season and begin pivoting toward Hillary Clinton.

“If we win Florida, and we win Ohio, we can go on to attacking Hillary, and we can stop attacking each other,” Trump said.

While Ohio may or may not go his way, there isn’t a single poll published in months that shows Trump in serious jeopardy of losing Florida, a state where he is a part-time resident (residing in Palm Beach County).

It was a star-studded occasion for conservatives in the house. Sarah Palin, Chris Christie and Attorney General Pam Bondi prepped the crowd for Trump, with Bondi announcing her endorsement for Trump before introducing him to the stage.

“Our country and our world need someone who is going to protect our security like never before, and that’s why I support Donald,” Bondi said, adding that “My mom is with Donald Trump, and so am I.”

Palin was a surprise speaker, as she had earlier canceled an appearance in the Villages after her husband Todd was injured.

“It’s a movement. This is a strategy. This is finally an opportunity to take our country back, to get out government on our side,” said Palin, stretching out her vowels on “back” and “side.”

The former Alaskan governor weighed in on the violent clashes that took place between supporters and opponents of Trump last Friday night in Chicago. She said: “what we don’t have time for is all that petty, punk-ass little thuggery little stuff that’s been goin’ on from these quote unquote protesters, who are doing nothing but wasting your time and trying to take away your first amendment rights, you’re right to assemble peacefully, and the media being on the thug’s side — what the heck are you guys thinking?” as the crowd booed in response.

Marco Rubio has been barnstorming the state this entire week, yet only a couple of polls show him within single-digits of catching Trump, who has led in every poll taken in this state since last summer.

“You gotta go vote. You gotta represent the people. He defrauded the people,” Trump said, mocking Rubio’s poor attendance in the Senate over the past year as he’s campaigned for president. Criticizing him for being “weak” on immigration, Trump questioned how Rubio ever got elected in the first place.

With Christie looking on, Trump reminisced about how the New Jersey Governor pounded Rubio in that infamous moment in New Hampshire three days before the first in the nation’s primary. “I said, ‘this is weird, he keeps giving the same answer like he’s a robot,” Trump recounted. “After the fifth time, I said, ‘what’s going on over here? And I had this- see this big powerful hand? Because I didn’t want him to go down.” he asked the crowd, extending his right hand in a reference to Rubio’s juvenile campaign patter regarding the size of Trump’s hand.

He never mentioned the words “Jeb Bush,” but took a dig at the since-vanquished presidential candidate by indicating how he had spent only $2 million in winning New Hampshire, while “someone you know” spent $49 million. “I came in first; he came in fifth. Who do you want as your president?”

The fact that Trump is largely (but not exclusively) funded his own campaign is one of the things about him that his supporters appreciate about him.

“I believe because he has no political figures to give back to once he’s in the office, he’s his own person, you know?” said Greg Tapp from Lakeland. “I’ve seen what happens when you have favors you own your political party.”

Trump began his address by touting the fact that his candidacy is bringing so many new voters to the system, and that is definitely not a case of Trump hyperbole. In fact, Tapp said that Tuesday’s primary will be the first election ever where he’s participated.

According to Joe Gruters, who is working for Trump in Florida, there’s been a 67 percent increase in overall turnout to date in all GOP primaries, “and I think that’s directly attributable, or most of it, to Donald Trump,” he said.

Trump generally holds large rallies, but he opted to go for a more intimate feel on Monday, using a small room in the convention center for a town-hall setting. That meant he spoke for only around 37 minutes instead of his usual hour-plus. He also took several questions from the audience.

The first question came from an 18-year-old high school student from St. Augustine, who asked about foreigners coming over from Mexico to take jobs that Americans didn’t want to.

Trump disagreed, saying that Americans do want those jobs. “They want to work, they want to make a lot of money, they want to be rich, they want to buy a nicer house, they want to take care of their family with health care,” he said, never answering the question about American wanting to work for a low wage to do things like immigrants do, like do farm work.

New Jersey resident Ed Thompson, who was visiting friends in Fort Myers on Monday before making the trek up north to Tampa. Thompson says he’s voted Democratic, independent and Republican over the years. He said that one of the things he likes about Trump is his stance on Planned Parenthood, one of several positions where he has differed from his Republican opponents. Trump has he supports the family planning organization, not just for abortions (Title X does not allow using federal funds for abortions. Medicaid, however, doeallow spending government money on them — in very restricted cases). “I have no problem with Planned Parenthood doing great things for people who can’t afford it, to take that kind of a stance from a politician is refreshing because there are no absolutes in this game,” says Thompson.

Thompson blamed the clashes that took place at a Trump rally in Chicago last week to the progressive activist group MoveOn.org, which he claims was a violent organization. “They’re domestic terrorists, as far as I’m concerned, because they rule by fear.”

Half a dozen protesters were ejected from the premises in Tampa on Monday, all in the first fifteen minutes of the event. There was no violence, though, on one occasion, a black woman seemed to get literally in the face of an elderly white woman before she was escorted out of the room.

“There’s no learning curve with Donald,” said Lehigh Acres resident Margaret Braun. Despite the fact that he’s never served in government, Braun thinks that Trump won’t need much schooling. A lifelong Republican, she says she rejects Republicans who have failed in Washington.

“Marco Rubio, we voted for him in 2010, we wanted to change the Senate so we’d have some control, and we did, ” she says. “Oh, we were so happy. But they didn’t do anything! They have no business running for president saying they’re going to help our country when they had the chance.”

It’s that type of sentiment that makes Rubio a major underdog going into Tuesday’s election, and Trump, the front-runner.

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