Race shifts toward conventions with Clinton, Trump leading

Sweeping wins across the Northeast by front-runners Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have helped shift the primary race, going into its last leg. Reid Wilson of Morning Consult and Susan Page of USA Today join Judy Woodruff to discuss what Tuesday’s results mean for the candidates and how the nomination contest is shaping to finish.

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    To dig into last night's election results and discuss the race's dramatic shift going into the last leg of the primary contest, we are joined once again by Susan Page of USA Today and Reid Wilson of the Morning Consult.

    And welcome back to both of you.

    Big night last night.

    Reid, how did the results last night change the trajectory of this race? And let's start with the Republicans.

  • REID WILSON, Morning Consult:

    On the Republican side, Donald Trump swept just about everything he possibly could have. The only place where John Kasich or Ted Cruz picked up any delegates who will be pledged to them at the convention was in Rhode Island. And there was just a small handful of delegates.

    More dramatically, I think, there were some reports that suggest that about 39 of the unpledged delegates that came out of Pennsylvania are going to back Donald Trump on the first ballot. That puts him a lot closer to a glide path towards the nomination than he was just a few days ago, even after his big wins earlier this month.

    The problem for Trump, though, is that coming up in May, he's still about 250 delegates short of the number he needs. But in the five contests in May, there are only 199 delegates available. So if Ted Cruz and John Kasich want to stick around, they sure can, least until June.


    So, Susan, where does this leave Ted Cruz and John Kasich?

  • SUSAN PAGE, USA Today:

    Well, I think that leaves them in a predicament, because Donald Trump is now — he called himself last not the presumptive nominee. Now, maybe we're just a step short of that, but he is certainly now the likely nominee.

    He is now likely to be able to get a majority of convention delegates on that first ballot or come so close, it is impossible politically to deny him the nomination. And you saw him reflect that today by giving a big speech on foreign policy that we had never heard before.

    You also saw Ted Cruz trying to get back in the story by doing something that seemed a little premature, which was announcing his vice presidential pick.


    It's still April.

    And what about that, Reid? I mean, normally, the nominee of the party waits until either the convention or right before the convention. Ted Cruz is clearly trying to get some headlines.


    And it looks like this may have been a little bit rushed. Remember, it was just a few days ago when the Cruz campaign leaked that they were vetting Carly Fiorina. The vice presidential vetting process takes weeks and weeks to go through tax records and check and parse interviews for controversial statements.

    So, this clearly is Ted Cruz trying to change the conversation from Donald Trump being the presumptive nominee to some kind of two-person race. I'm not sure how successful he was.


    You know, the one thing it did do, we're now talking about his vice presidential pick and whether it makes sense and what will she do, rather than talking about the fact that, as of last night, he doesn't have a mathematical way to be nominated on the first ballot.

    He's now mathematically — it's now mathematically impossible for him to go to the convention with a majority of delegates.


    His hope, you're saying, is if there's a contested convention.

    But does the pick of Carly Fiorina help him in any way, Susan?


    She doesn't have any delegates. Maybe it helps her — if you're trying to look at where she might help, it helps him maybe with today's news cycle. It may help him a bit in California.

    You remember in 2010 she ran for the Senate in California. That's that big final primary. But this feels, I think, just a little desperate.


    I think one way in which Carly Fiorina will help is that she has been one of the more effective surrogates to attack Donald Trump. When she took him on head to head earlier in this campaign process, you remember Rick Perry attacked him and then dropped out. And Bobby Jindal attacked him and then dropped out.

    Carly Fiorina was the only candidate to attack Donald Trump and then she got boosted to the main stage in that second debate. So, I think that as somebody who can draw a contrast with Donald Trump, that's where she helps Cruz.


    She also had some tough words to say about Ted Cruz earlier in the campaign, which we were hearing again.

    But just quickly, Susan, you brought up Donald Trump's speech today on foreign policy. Are we learning something different from this, as you say, first major speech on the subject?


    The speech was more prepared than the previous comments he's made on foreign policy. He actually had a script. He read it off a teleprompter. He does that only rarely.

    But it was pretty much consistent with what he has said about foreign policy issues in the past, and, in that way, at odds with a lot of traditional American foreign policy, especially in the Republican Party.

    So, I think it was a natural thing for him to do as he prepares to run in a general election against Hillary Clinton.


    Let's move over to the Democrats, Reid. Hillary Clinton won four of the five states last night. Bernie Sanders picks up Rhode Island. Where does this race stand? We learned today that Bernie Sanders is — and we heard that in John Yang's report — is telling some of his staffers they can't — they won't be staying on the payroll any longer. Where does he go from here?


    So, like the Republican side, Hillary Clinton is as close to the Democratic nomination as Donald Trump is. Actually, she's a little closer.

    She's about 200 delegates shy. But there are only about 226 delegates that are going to be awarded in May. So, if Bernie Sanders does want to stick around, he can, and essentially wait until the very last several days of the race before Hillary Clinton reaches that 2,383 delegates she needs.

    But Sanders' problem is that, while he's raised a lot of money, he's spent a lot of money, too. He spent $46 million last month. And though he raised more than $40 million, he is still bleeding some money. I think that's what the staff departures are all about, trying to conserve as long as possible. As his momentum starts to fade, the donations are going to start to fade, too.


    But you already see him pivot from the person who think he actually has a chance of winning the nomination, which I think he no longer does, to someone who is figuring out, what is his role going to be?

    He wants to push for progressive — a progressive platform. He wants to affect the party's stance and Hillary Clinton's stance on issues like on regulating Wall Street or paying for college tuition for young people. He's got a big role in this party. But I think you can see him in his comments and the statement he put out last night that he understands his role in this fight is changing now that Hillary Clinton is on a clear path to be the nominee.


    And, Susan, what does Hillary Clinton need to do at this point?


    Well, she needs Bernie Sanders to get on her side. You know, he's gotten 70 percent of the votes of millennials. And, you know, those voters I don't think would naturally go to Trump if they don't like Clinton. But they might stay home.

    So I think she needs Sanders to embrace her and to give her some of the enthusiasm he's been able to engender on the left side of the Democratic Party.


    Is that something he can do, Reid? Can Bernie Sanders say to these young people and everybody else who has been enthusiastically showing up at his rallies, now I want you to turn around and vote for Hillary Clinton?


    Well, it's not something he has done a lot in the past.

    Bernie Sanders doesn't have a long track record of working for other Democrats around the rest of the country, though he had done some fund-raising before his presidential campaign. What I think Sanders is most likely to do is give as much of a blessing as he possibly can. Let's not forget that if Clinton is the nominee and Democrats take back the Senate, he gets a pretty prominent committee chairmanship.

    On the other hand, though, Clinton is going to try to mobilize these voters by pointing out her contrasts with Donald Trump. Negative advertising is something that voters all say they hate, but, boy, it sure works. That's why we are going to see a lot of it this year, especially when you're contrasting Hillary Clinton with someone like Donald Trump.


    And, Susan, just quickly, he is saying he is staying in until the convention, even if it's to see that the platform reflects language he likes.


    I think he's guaranteed to stay until the California primary on June 7, as Hillary Clinton did in 2008. But what he — whether he goes to the convention in a disruptive role, I don't think so.

    I think he is coming around to the idea that he wants to make sure — he doesn't want to create problems in defeating Donald Trump in November.


    Susan Page, Reid Wilson, thank you both.


    Thank you.


    Appreciate it.

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