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Mitch Perry Report for 3.24.16 — Jeb Bush’s endorsement of Ted Cruz means … what?

On why Americans hate politics, example #462.

Jeb Bush came out and endorsed Ted Cruz on Wednesday.

As he put it yesterday, “For the sake of our party and country, we must overcome the divisiveness and vulgarity Donald Trump has brought into the political arena, or we will certainly lose our chance to defeat the Democratic nominee, most likely Hillary Clinton, this fall.”

It’s curious why the former Florida Governor only now is backing Cruz though. Two weeks ago, Bush met up with Cruz, John Kasich and Marco Rubio in Miami, shortly before the last GOP presidential debate. When he failed to endorse anyone at that point — days before Floridians (well, those who hadn’t already voted) went to the polls, it seemed like he would just sit it out.

The endorsement proves that while the establishment probably prefers Kasich to anyone else still standing, the math simply doesn’t work for the Ohio Governor, and the calls for him to drop out will only get louder in the next week. That’s despite the fact that he’s the only Republican candidate alive who polls show would beat Hillary Clinton in the fall.

A writer for the National Review has the audacity to call the Bush endorsement a “game-changer” for Cruz. Really? Do you actually believe that Bush believes in Cruz, and that this now gives folks who were reluctant to back him the “freedom” to do so?

No, this feels like Mitt Romney backing Cruz — another case of a Republican holding their nose as they freak out about Trump leading the party in the fall.

It doesn’t feel very real, though, does it? OK, I’ll take it back if Jeb goes out to Wisconsin next week to stump for Cruz.

How about some greatest hits from the campaign trail?

“I don’t think Ted Cruz would have the same possibilities of beating Hillary Clinton that I would. Nor would Donald Trump for that matter,” Bush said in January.

Last month in February, Bush referred to Cruz and Rubio derisively when talking about Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley.

“The guy has not missed a vote for 22.5 years; he probably has a list of accomplishments and service to the state of Iowa and to this country that’s pretty real,” Bush said of Grassley. “Marco doesn’t have it; he’s gifted. Ted Cruz doesn’t have it; he’s gifted. I’m not saying they’re not talented people. But they don’t have a record of accomplishment and some people will think about that when they make the decision of who’s going to be their vote on Tuesday.”

Or how about when Cruz criticized Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts?

“(Ted Cruz] was supportive of the guy he was critical of, that’s Washington world man, I mean that’s the way they role there. He literally supported John Roberts and then after the fact, with the power of hindsight, this amazing power that only people in Washington have, the rest of us apparently don’t have this skill. He can opine the way he wants.”

In other news …

We attended the Todd JonesBob Henriquez faceoff regarding the Hillsborough County Property Appraiser’s race, so you didn’t have to. Our take.

Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan made an issue yesterday about how the conversations with the Tampa Bay Rays and the county about a potential new stadium will be completely transparent. Except for that part where it won’t be.

Just for laughs: An aide to Congressman Patrick Murphy thought he’d screw around with a video tracker the other day. Pretty funny — though maybe not for the Senate candidate after that video was released.

Hillsborough County will expand its indigent heath care program for up to 6,000 people.

Traffic bad in the Tampa Bay area? Sure, but there are a lot of places where it’s worse.

And the SEIU Florida is backing Pat Frank in the Hillsborough Clerk of the Courts race.

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54 percent of voters say they won’t vote for Donald Trump

Donald Trump may be the leading in the polls, but more than 50 percent of voters said they wouldn’t vote for him in November.

According to a Quinnipiac University Poll, 54 percent of registered voters surveyed said they wouldn’t vote for the New York Republican in the general election. Forty-three percent of respondents stated that they wouldn’t support Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton.

But voters might not have any other options. The survey found that Trump leads the GOP field with 43 percent, followed by Ted Cruz at 29 percent. John Kasich is in third with 16 percent.

Trump leads the field among every cross section of respondents, except those who self-identify as very conservative. Among those Republican and Republican-leaning voters, 47 percent said they supported Cruz.

On the Democratic side, Clinton leads Bernie Sanders 50 percent to 38 percent. Sanders, the poll found, does better among people between 18 and 44 years old and those who self-identify as very liberal.

“Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton may have the overall leads among primary voters, but there is not a love in the room as a big percentage of Americans say of the front runners they could take ‘em or leave ‘em,” said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll, in a statement Wednesday.

The Quinnipiac University Poll was conducted from March 16 through March 21. The survey polled 1,451 registered voters and had an overall margin of error of 2.6 percent. The survey includes 652 Republicans with a margin of error of 3.8 percent; and 635 Democrats with a margin of error of 3.9 percent.

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Guest lineups for the Sunday news shows

Guest lineups for the Sunday TV news shows:

ABC’s “This Week” — White House chief of staff Denis McDonough; Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.; Republican presidential candidate John Kasich; Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus.

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NBC’s “Meet the Press” — Kasich, McConnell; Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev.

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CBS’ “Face the Nation” — Kasich; Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders; Sen. Lindsey Graham R-S.C.

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CNN’s “State of the Union” — Kasich, McConnell, Priebus.

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“Fox News Sunday” — McDonough, Kasich, McConnell.

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Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

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Florida Primary watch party illustrates what’s wrong with the GOP

Was it a party or a wake?

The Pinellas County Republican Party Executive Committee held its Primary Watch Party Tuesday evening in Pinellas Park.

Held at the Big Storm Brewing Company, a brand-new craft brewery and tap house, the event drew about 50 (or so) Party members, who gathered for Presidential Primary results. Nick DiCeglie, President of the Pinellas County Republican Executive Committee, hosted the event.

The event was like none I could remember. Very low key. The crowd was mostly in place by 7 p.m., as polls began to close.

Noticeably missing from the party were any significant Republican officeholders or candidates. There were no signs, no handouts, nor any supporters of Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, John Kasich or – surprisingly – Donald Trump.

As results came in, there was no shouting, no applause. Nothing.

Just people staring at the screens.

Shortly after 7 p.m., as CNN and most other news outlets called the Florida Primary a landslide for Trump, the mood turned even more somber. By 7:45 p.m., people began filing out; Rubio’s withdrawal speech barely elicited any emotion.

From my perspective, the event characterized the Republican Party’s current predicament. Change has always been a problem for Republicans, but the kind of change Trump is bringing about is something they just cannot fathom.

Many people believe the problem with the Republican Party is mainly at the national level, and the real issue is with the current national Republican leadership. But that’s not quite the case.

The core issue trickles all the way down to Pinellas Park and even the Tap House on 49th Street. The old follow-the-leader Party rulebook is being torn to shreds.

Republican leadership at all levels – from counties to the top – are comfortable with how money and influence flow. And at every level, those in charge want to stay in charge.

Yet, Trump attracts waves of new voters to the GOP, voters who clamor for a voice. And that scares the hell out of the Republican establishment.

Pundits, political writers and students of political history wonder if the Republican Party can survive. If Tuesday night at the Big Storm Tap House in Pinellas Park was any indication, it’s a very valid question.

***

E-mail Gene “Doc” Webb at dr.webb@verizon.net. Or send him a Facebook (Gene Webb) Friend request. Please comment below, and be sure to share on Facebook and Twitter. See Doc’s Photo Gallery at Bay Post Photos. Doc is a contributor to Bob Gualtieri for Pinellas County Sheriff.

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Ted Cruz says Americans have “a clear choice going forward”

Ted Cruz declared a victory (of sorts) Tuesday, despite coming up short in four of the five Republican primaries.

“Tonight was a good night,” he said. “Tonight we continued to gain delegates and continued our march to 1,237. And, after tonight, America now has a clear choice going forward.”

Cruz was neck-in-neck with Donald Trump in Missouri, with unofficial election results from Missouri showing the two virtually tied as of 11 p.m. EDT.

In North Carolina, Cruz came in second with nearly 37 percent of the vote. Trump came in first with nearly 41 percent. Cruz also came in second in Illinois with 30 percent, trailing Trump, who was projected to win the state’s 24 delegates with 39 percent of the vote. He came in third in Florida and Ohio.

Cruz told supporters he’s the only candidate to defeat Trump time and time again. The Texas Republican has won nine Republican primaries.

Cruz told supporters he plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act, often called Obamacare; “pass a simple flat tax and abolish the IRS”; and “rein in the EPA and government regulators that are killing small businesses.”

“Going forward, the choice is straightforward,” Cruz said. “Starting tomorrow morning, there is a clear and direct choice. For everyone who wants to see a brighter tomorrow, we welcome you.”

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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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After Ohio victory John Kasich bids farewell to Marco Rubio, vows to fight until convention

Following his first primary victory in his home state of Ohio, Gov. John Kasich continued to spread his can-do message of optimism and civility at a speech to supporters Tuesday night.

After a brief hiccup to handle a Donald Trump-supporting disrupter, Kasich began by calling for a round of applause for Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. He called Rubio a “gifted, talented senator” and congratulated him on his campaign.

He gave a parable where he compared his own underdog campaign to the Buckeye State. After meeting with rating agencies in New York City when, as he put it, “things were bad.” The agencies had threatened to slash their rating due to high unemployment and debt levels that left bankers looking askew at Ohio’s state government.

“You don’t understand Ohio, and you don’t understand Ohioans,” Kasich recalled telling them. He then recited a well-worn list of economic improvements that took place during his governorship.

Kasich cited attaining 400,000 new jobs, an economic surplus, relatively secure pension programs plus multiple rounds of tax cuts, all while “leaving no one behind.” He said he wishes he could make the New York bankers “eat their words” when it came to doubting Ohio.

The governor former congressman nodded to his many naysayers, including “people in Ohio saying ‘Why don’t they ever call on him?” in the long string of debates leading up to the contest.

Kasich also vowed to continue to draw a contrast between himself and the bawdy antics of Trump.

“I will not take the low road to the highest office in the land,” Kasich said to applause.

The speech was conspicuously devoid of the rock-ribbed red meat served up by other GOP nomination-seekers, saying his primary goal was not to repeal Obamacare or defund Planned Parenthood, but rather to help Americans “find their purpose in life” and to “heal and change the world. “

Kasich also gave a shout-out to many Democrats for supporting him in the state’s open primaries and not casting a vote for Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders. Preliminary polls indicated some 15 percent of Ohio Democrats crossed the aisle on Tuesday.

Kasich ended with a pledge to take his campaign “all the way to” nearby Cleveland, home of the 2016 Republican National Convention. He vowed to secure the nomination there, despite his mathematically unlikely path forward.

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Florida, Ohio primary watch: Marco Rubio seeks survival, Hillary Clinton momentum

Five more states chime into the rambunctious campaign 2016 conversation on Tuesday, and no one’s listening with greater interest than Marco Rubio and John Kasich, both of them desperate to win their home states and avoid being flattened by Donald Trump‘s steamroller. On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton is out to reclaim momentum after Bernie Sanders rocked her with a Rust Belt upset in Michigan.

A look at what to watch for in Tuesday’s voting:

THE TIMELINE

The evening’s first results will be available when polls close at 7:30 p.m. EDT in North Carolina and Ohio. North Carolina has lots of early absentee voters, so close to half the ballots could be counted and reported in the first half-hour. Ohio also is a big absentee-vote state, so expect a fast, early count there as well. At 8 p.m., final polls close in Florida, Illinois and Missouri. Since most polls in Florida close at 7 p.m., there will be a lot of votes ready to report right at 8 p.m., allowing for possible early calls on both sides. Illinois and Missouri are slower counting states. First thing in the morning, the Northern Mariana Islands, where 471 people voted, chipped in all nine of its GOP delegates for Trump.

AND THEN THERE WERE …

Will it still be a four-man Republican race come midnight? Sen. Rubio has been staking his candidacy on a winner-take-all victory in his home state of Florida but hasn’t specified what a loss would mean. Ohio Gov. Kasich has acknowledged that a winner-take-all triumph in Ohio is essential for him, but in recent weeks he’s stopped short of explicitly saying he would drop out should he lose. If they can’t win at home, do these two candidates quickly exit stage left, sleep on it before bowing out — or dig up some shred of a rationale to slog on?

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DUELING TRUMPS

Which Trump will turn up for his ritual “press conference” after the votes roll in? There’s the Trump who’s positioning himself for the general election and trying to act more presidential. And there’s the scrappier Trump, still trying to elbow his rivals out of the race. Scrappy Trump could also decide to train his focus on Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton if she has a good night.

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CLINTON’S AIM

Clinton held off on a full pivot toward the general election after Sanders snatched Michigan from her last week. Tuesday’s results should give her a lot more information — and delegates —to decide when it’s safe to look past Sanders and train her focus on November. Her speech Tuesday night will tell a lot about her thinking on that.

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CRUZ’S AIM

Cruz, too, will have to decide where to focus his attention Tuesday night. Watch to see if he spends more time trying to nudge Rubio and Kasich out of the picture, or takes it to straight to Trump.

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THE MIDPOINT

Check the GOP delegate count at the end of the night. A five-state sweep would allow Trump to cross an important threshold — stacking up more than 50 percent of the delegates awarded so far. After his win in the Northern Mariana Islands, Trump went into the night’s voting with 469 delegates to 370 for Cruz, 163 for Rubio and 63 for Kasich. It takes 1,237 delegates to win the GOP nomination.

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CLINTON’S CACHE

With Democrats continuing to dole out delegates on a proportional basis, see where Clinton’s delegate stash stands at the end of the night. She went into the night with 768 pledged delegates compared to 554 for Sanders, according to a count by The Associated Press. Including superdelegates, Clinton holds 1,235 total delegates, more than half the amount needed to clinch the nomination, while Sanders has 580.

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RACE, AGE

Dig into the exit polls to check on whether Bernie Sanders can continue to make Rust Belt inroads with black voters, a huge source of support for Clinton. In his surprise Michigan win last week, Sanders got nearly 3 in 10 black Democratic voters. In earlier states, mainly in the South, he was getting only about half that level of support. Also, check whether younger voters turn out in force for Sanders. In Michigan, 45 percent of Democratic voters were under 45, the most of any state so far, and two-thirds of them supported Sanders.

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LATE DECIDERS

The exit polls also can give clues about whether late deciders on the Republican side are continuing to break against Trump — and whether there are enough of them to make a difference. So far, about a third of voters have been making up their minds in the last week, and they’ve been splintering among Trump alternatives. A spike in late-deciders moving against Trump could signal concern about the increasingly tense tone between Trump and his supporters, and the protesters at his rallies.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

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Marco Rubio, John Kasich fight to keep their hopes alive

Republicans Marco Rubio and John Kasich are fighting for their political futures Tuesday, desperate for wins in their home states of Florida and Ohio to keep their White House hopes alive and complicate Donald Trump’s path to the nomination. Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton is hoping to keep rival Bernie Sanders from building new momentum in the Midwest.

With more delegates up for grabs than almost any other day in the primary calendar, Tuesday’s contests afford Trump and Clinton the chance to put their parties’ nominations out of sight for their competitors. While Florida and Ohio are the biggest prizes, Missouri, Illinois and North Carolina are also awarding of delegates.

Trump enters Tuesday’s primaries embroiled in one of the biggest controversies of his contentious campaign. The GOP front-runner has encouraged supporters to physically confront protesters at his events and is now facing accusations of encouraging violence after skirmishes broke out at a rally last week in Chicago.

During an event Monday in Tampa, Trump was interrupted intermittently by protesters, some of whom were forcibly removed. Trump said he didn’t want to “ruin somebody’s life, but do we prosecute somebody like that?”

The vibe at Trump’s events has deepened the concern over his candidacy in some Republican circles. Rubio and Kasich have suggested they might not be able to support Trump if he’s the nominee, an extraordinary stance for intraparty rivals. House Speaker Paul Ryan has also taken lightly veiled shots at the businessman, who has denied playing any role in encouraging violence against protesters.

“I think the candidates need to take responsibility for the environment at their events,” Ryan said during an interview Monday with WRJN, a radio station in Racine, Wisconsin. “There is never an excuse for condoning violence, or even a culture that presupposes it.”

Kasich, who has been restrained in his criticism, said Tuesday he would be “forced, going forward, to talk about some of the deep concerns” he has about Trump’s campaign.

Kasich appeared to have the best chance of defeating Trump anywhere on Tuesday. The governor spent Monday campaigning in his home state alongside Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican nominee and a fierce critic of Trump.

Rubio, despite having the backing of numerous GOP elected officials, appears to have slipped in recent public polls in Florida. The senator tried to stay upbeat Monday, perhaps his final full day of campaigning in the 2016 race.

“Tomorrow’s the day where we are going to shock the country,” Rubio said during a stop in Jacksonville.

If Trump sweeps Tuesday’s contests, he’d still have to keep winning in order to clinch the nomination. But he would cross an important threshold by collecting more than 50 percent of the delegates awarded so far.

He won easily in the Northern Mariana caucus on Tuesday, picking up nine delegates. That gave him 469 to 370 for Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, 163 for Rubio and 63 for Kasich. It takes 1,237 to win the GOP nomination.

Trump’s closest competition has come from Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who has defeated the businessman in seven states. He’s also the only remaining GOP candidate who still says unequivocally that he would support Trump if he becomes the nominee.

Among Democrats, Clinton has been itching to look ahead to the general election but continues to face persistent competition from Bernie Sanders. While Clinton maintains a commanding lead in the delegate count, Sanders breathed new life into his campaign with a surprising victory last week in Michigan.

Reprising a theme that helped propel that Michigan win, Sanders on Monday pounded Clinton’s past support for trade deals such as the North American Free Trade Agreement. He’s escalated his criticism in recent days, hoping to undercut her edge among minorities and expand his advantage with white working-class voters.

“When it came down whether you stand with corporate America, the people who wrote these agreements, or whether you stand with the working people of this country, I proudly stood with the workers,” Sanders said in Youngstown, Ohio. “Secretary Clinton stood with the big money interests.”

Clinton’s team is attempting to tamp down expectations for Tuesday night, though she’s also eying the general election and escalating her attacks on Trump, saying he’s “inciting mob violence.”

The campaign next shifts to the West, where Sanders’ advisers have suggested he could rattle off a win streak and begin cutting into Clinton’s delegate lead.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

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Forget favorite candidates, some people voting strategically

Kennedy Copeland is a Marco Rubio fan who voted for John Kasich in Ohio. Ann Croft is all in to elect Hillary Clinton president but cast her ballot for Rubio in Virginia. Julia Price will back the Democratic nominee in November but voted for Kasich in Tennessee.

Are these voters confused? No, they’re voting strategically in the year of Donald Trump in hopes of altering the outcome of the presidential race by voting for someone other than their favorite candidate in the primaries.

Democrat Croft, for example, figured Clinton didn’t need her help to win Virginia. So she decided to vote instead against Trump in the Republican primary because some of her GOP friends were worried he would win the state.

“I was feeling almost sort of dirty about doing it,” she recalled. But then Croft talked to a friend who had done exactly the same thing, which made her feel better.

In other cases, Democrats are crossing over to do just the opposite: voting for Trump, on the thinking he’d be the weakest candidate to face the eventual Democratic nominee.

The notion of strategic voting — in a way, playing amateur political scientist — is now front and center in Ohio and Florida, which award winner-take-all delegates in the Republican races as part of Tuesday’s five-state round of voting.

Rubio’s campaign raised eyebrows recently by urging Ohioans to cast ballots for Kasich as the best strategy to stop the Trump juggernaut.

Copeland, president of the College Republicans at Xavier University, says she did just that, casting an early vote for Ohio Gov. Kasich “because he has the best chance of winning Ohio against Trump” even though Rubio is her first choice.

Some voters are taking it upon themselves to get strategic without any coaching from a campaign.

In Minnesota, Eric Goodemote said he’d never voted for a Republican for anything before casting his caucus vote for Rubio to block Trump.

He said he found “the prospect of Donald Trump’s mere candidacy so horrifying that I decided to do the other party a favor and cross lines to vote for a guy who I would normally never even have considered.”

Strategic voting happens every election, of course, but political scientists say there’s far more intrigue than usual about what’s going on in this very atypical political year.

Columbia University’s Robert Shapiro says that while it’s not uncommon for a voter to select one candidate over their first choice in the same party based on electability, this year there’s more discussion about crossing party lines to influence what’s happening on the other side.

“We’re talking about something a lot more complicated and a lot more interesting,” says Shapiro, who defines strategic voting as “basically an insincere vote to pursue another purpose.”

More than insincere, it may be illegal in some states — although no one seems too concerned about that.

In Ohio’s semi-open primary system, for example, voters must sign a statement saying that they desire to be affiliated with a particular party and support the party’s principles before casting ballots in that primary.

Democrats who choose to vote in the Republican primary but don’t support the party’s policies “are committing election falsification by stating that they do in fact support those principles,” says law professor Dan Tokaji, an Ohio State University election law expert. “Will they be prosecuted? Almost certainly not.”

Vanderbilt University’s John Geer said that when voters cross over to nominate a weaker candidate in the opposing party it’s known as “raiding.” There’s always some of that, he says, and there may be more than usual this year with Trump in the mix. But, Geer added, “The vast majority of the Democrats that Trump is getting are voting for him because they like him, not because they want to weaken the Republican Party.”

Plenty of voters are upfront about their electoral schemes, and in many states there’s no legal prohibition to voting in either primary.

Sam Brunson, a liberal law professor in Chicago, says he figures Clinton doesn’t need his vote in Tuesday’s open Illinois primaries, so he’ll hold his nose and vote for a Republican — probably Ted Cruz — to try to deny Trump the nomination. He’s worried about the damage to the country that could be caused by a Trump nomination, saying that could send the wrong message to those who are racist and xenophobic.

Others are still waging battles between their heads and hearts in trying to select a candidate.

Republican Nancy Froelich, in Palm Beach, Florida, started out a conversation Monday by saying she was leaning toward voting for Cruz as the best candidate in Tuesday’s Florida lineup. She said she likes Kasich, but thinks voting for him could end up helping Trump. But then again, she said, “it might make more sense to vote for Rubio” to keep Trump from winning in Rubio’s home state.

“Call me back in an hour and ask me again,” she said.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

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