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• Can Trump reverse slowdown with Michigan romp?
• Trump project enticed Chinese investors with U.S. visas
• Detroit showdown set for Hillary, Bernie
• Fight heats up in Flint
• Nuclear waste, indeed
CAN TRUMP REVERSE SLOWDOWN WITH MICHIGAN ROMP?
Is Donald Trump losing altitude? Four contests on Tuesday – Michigan, Mississippi, Idaho and Hawaii – will reveal how far aloft the Republican frontrunner really is as he goes into the heart of the primary election calendar.
Republicans hoping to bring Trump down got some relief over the weekend as he stumbled in Kansas, despite a last-minute decision to nix an appearance at the largest annual conservative conclave, CPAC, to campaign in the Sunflower State.
Trump also lost in Maine, where he was heavily favored, and even had the backing of the state’s Republican governor. Not surprisingly, Trump also got smoked in Puerto Rico.
But even in the two contests where he won, Trump had trouble. He topped Ted Cruz in Louisiana and Kentucky, states that fit Trump’s demographic footprint perfectly. But in Louisiana, the victory was entirely due to early votes, many having been cast before the current assault from the center and right of the GOP on Trump had begun.
Statistician Nate Silver pointed out that early voters in Louisiana favored Trump more than 2-to-1 over Cruz, but that Cruz edged Trump on Election Day. Trump’s win in the Kentucky caucus was thin, netting him only two more delegates than Cruz’s 15 for second place.
Meanwhile, leading anti-Trump conservative group Our Principles PAC, finally seems to have the funding necessary to, ahem, carpet bomb Trump in the make-or-break contests in Florida and Ohio next week.
Look at it this way: Trump has won 44 percent of the delegates allocated to candidates so far, compared to 34 percent for Cruz, 17 percent for Sen. Marco Rubio, and 4 percent for Ohio Gov. John Kasich.
But in the contests this past weekend, Trump won only 31 percent of the delegates. To win the nomination outright, Trump would have to win about 58 percent of the remaining delegates.
And it’s probably a little worse than that for the frontrunner since, as the Weekly Standard’s Jay Cost points out, more than one in 10 of the delegates will go to Cleveland either unpledged or pledged to a defunct campaign. Given the hard sentiment against Trump among most Republican activists and party elders, he seems unlikely to find much support there.
So what’s going on here?
The conventional wisdom, spouted endlessly over the weekend, was that the attack ads and even the broadside from former Gov. Mitt Romney has done and will do nothing to arrest the Trumpification of the GOP.
The lazy way of the political press this cycle has been to say that nothing hurts Trump with his base voters. There’s certainly some truth to that. But the purpose of Romney’s prosecution brief and of the ads is primarily to harden contra-Trump sentiment among those voters backing other candidates. Of course a core Trump supporter doesn’t care what Romney thinks, but most Republicans still probably do.
Before targeting Trump fans, the anti-Trump faction first had to make sure that the party didn’t simply strike its banner and fall in behind Trump, as looked possible for a moment. The results this weekend certainly seem to suggest that the contras are having an effect.
If his team is getting routed in a basketball game, a coach will try to use aggressive defense to slow down the pace and let his offense get into position to start closing the gap. That seems to be what Republicans have done here. They are burning time they need to try to win, but are at least no longer getting dunked on.
What we may learn tomorrow is whether Trump is really slowing down.
He is expected to win in Mississippi by a margin similar to his 2-to-1 domination in Alabama on March 1 while Hawaii and Idaho look to be tougher for Trump, with Idaho being intensely conservative and Hawaii’s GOP usually taking an establishmentarian bent.
But Michigan, the largest delegate prize of the day, could be very revealing. Most polls have shown Trump dominating the divided field, though one survey shows Ohio Gov. John Kasich in the lead.
If Trump can’t claim the majority of the Great Lakes State’s 59 delegates it will be the next and strongest sign that Trump is bound for a long and painful march to his party’s nomination. The state has an open primary that allows Trump’s Democratic backers to vote and is loaded with the blue-collar, white voters without college degrees who make up the core of his support.
A split decision there would simply not be good enough to get Trump on the path of inevitability. If he wants to start to do that, Trump needs the kind of 20-point landslide he saw in New Hampshire.
[GOP delegate count: Trump 384; Cruz 300; Rubio 151; Kasich 37 (1,237 needed to win)]
Trump project enticed Chinese investors with U.S. visas - Bloomberg: “…No skills are required of the wealthy Chinese being courted by a Chinese-subtitled video to help finance a huge Trump-branded tower in New Jersey. The video leads viewers behind the wheel of a car into Jersey City with scenes of the tower…The video was produced to help raise tens of millions of dollars through a controversial government program that offers expedited visas to foreign investors overwhelmingly from China. While the program has many supporters who argue it attracts foreign capital and creates jobs at no U.S. taxpayer cost, congressional overseers and Homeland Security have raised sharp concerns. Applicants are sometimes cleared in less than a month and the critics say the government is essentially selling visas to wealthy foreigners with no proven skills, paving the way for money laundering and compromising national security.”
Cruz riding high - AP: “Republican leaders on Sunday grappled with the prospect that the best hope for stopping Donald Trump’s march to the nomination may be Ted Cruz — the only candidate who causes as much heartburn among party elites as the billionaire businessman, if not sometimes more. The Texas senator split contests with Trump in Saturday’s voting, bolstering his argument that only he can defeat the real estate mogul. Trump and Cruz are now significantly outpacing Marco Rubio in the delegate count, further shrinking the Florida senator’s already narrow path to the nomination.”
Graham comes around - (Charleston) Post and Courier: “U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham told Meet The Press’ Chuck Todd on Sunday that Texas Sen. Ted Cruz may be the only realistic option for Republicans who want to stop Donald Trump’s march to the GOP nomination for president. ‘At the end of the day, I know what I’m getting with Ted Cruz,’ Graham said. ‘If Ted is the alternative to Trump, at least he’s a conservative Republican.’”
WITH YOUR SECOND CUP OF COFFEE…
The world is awash today in remembrances of former first lady Nancy Reagan -- her influence, her style, her tenacity, etc. But perhaps more than anything her life story is a love story. USA Today brings us the story of her romance with her beloved Ronnie. R.I.P.
Got a TIP from the RIGHT or the LEFT? Email FoxNewsFirst@FOXNEWS.COM
Real Clear Politics Averages
National GOP nomination: Trump 35.6 percent; Cruz 19.8 percent; Rubio 17.4 percent; Kasich 8.8 percent
Michigan GOP Primary: Trump 37.3 percent; Cruz 19.8 percent; Kasich 16.8 percent; Rubio 18.3 percent
National Dem nomination: Clinton 49.6 percent; Sanders 40 percent
Michigan Dem Primary: Clinton 57.8 percent; Sanders 37.8 percent
General Election Clinton vs. Trump: Clinton +3.4 points
Generic Congressional Vote: Democrats +1
DETROIT SHOWDOWN SET FOR HILLARY, BERNIE
One day after a contentious debate with Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton and socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders the two claimants of the Democratic nomination will tangle again. Fox News’ Bret Baier will host a Democratic presidential town hall live from Detroit at 6 p.m. ET.
Tuesday’s Michigan primary has shaped up to be a crucial test in the Democratic race. Clinton hopes to be able to knock out Sanders with a decisive victory and pre-election polling would suggest she is poised for a big win. Sanders, though remains hopeful that his blue-collar and organized labor support can help him close the gap.
Fight heats up in Flint - Fox News: “Fresh off a series of weekend victories in state caucuses, Bernie Sanders turned up the heat on Hillary Clinton at Sunday’s debate in Flint, Mich., sharply challenging her economic credentials and suggesting her gun control stand would ban guns in America. But the Democratic front-runner fought back, blasting him for voting against the auto bailout, dismissing him as a ‘one-issue candidate’ and hitting him once again for his stance on guns. The Vermont senator reached back to the 1990s as he went after Clinton’s support for ‘disastrous trade agreements’ like NAFTA. His rhetoric was notably more pointed and, reflecting the tension in the race, Sanders even cut her off at times as she tried to speak over him. ‘Excuse me, I’m talking,’ Sanders snapped, during one feisty exchange on the economy.”
The parable of the prodigal husband - WaPo: “Taking her cue from a minister who praised her public grace ‘in the face of adversity,’ an apparent reference to former president Bill Clinton’s dalliance with an intern, Hillary Clinton likened her husband to the prodigal son in the often-cited Bible story…‘When someone has disappointed you, has often disappointed themselves, it is human nature to say: ‘You’re not wanted. We know what you’ve been doing. Go sleep in the bed you made,’ Clinton said…she took from that parable the need to ‘practice the discipline of gratitude every day. There is much to be grateful for even when it doesn’t feel or look like it.’ It was a rare allusion to that painful and humiliating period for Clinton. She did not elaborate or speak directly about the details of her husband's acknowledged infidelity, but the context was clear.”
[Dem delegate count: Clinton 1,130; Sanders 499 (2,383 needed to win)]
NUCLEAR WASTE, INDEED
WVIT: “Bird poop was the likely cause of a December shutdown at a nuclear power plant outside New York City, according to the operator. An Indian Point reactor safely shut down for three days starting Dec. 14 following an electrical disturbance on outdoor high voltage transmission lines, Entergy Corp. said. An outside expert is analyzing whether what’s technically called bird ‘streaming’ was the culprit. In a report to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission last month, the New Orleans-based company said the automatic reactor shutdown was apparently from bird excrement that caused an electric arc between wires on a feeder line at a transmission tower. ‘If it has nowhere to send its electricity, the generator senses that and automatically shuts down,’ Entergy spokesman Jerry Nappi said.”
Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News. Want FOX News First in your inbox every day? Sign up here.
Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as politics editor based in Washington, D.C. Additionally, he authors the daily Fox News Halftime Report political news note and co-hosts the hit podcast, Perino & Stirewalt: I'll Tell You What. He also is the host of Power Play, a feature video series on FoxNews.com. Stirewalt makes frequent appearances on network programs, including America’s Newsroom, Special Report with Bret Baier and Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace. He also provides expert political analysis for FNC’s coverage of state, congressional and presidential elections.