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Buzz Cuts:
• Trump or Cruz, who runs better against Hillary?
• Kasich ahead in Ohio
• Crubio?
• Hillary says Benghazi mom ‘absolutely wrong’
• A fever for small government

TRUMP OR CRUZ, WHO RUNS BETTER AGAINST HILLARY?Republicans are down to their final choice: Donald Trump or Ted Cruz. And for party loyalists, the decision basically comes down to which one – if either – can defeat presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

There’s a lot of talk about Trump’s potential crossover appeal with what’s left of white, working-class male Democrats. Cruz, for his part, argues that he would mobilize conservatives in a way not seen in a generation and storm the White House.

Fortunately, we have some actual data to test their hypotheses.

In the two latest national polls that measured head-to-head matchups between GOP contenders and Clinton, the harsh judgement of the general electorate toward frontrunner Trump got even harsher.

Surveys from WSJ/NBC News and WaPo/ABC News show Clinton trouncing Trump by 13 points and 9 points respectively. Trump has always fared poorly in head-to-head matchups with Clinton, leading her in only five of 49 national polls conducted since last year.

But things seem to be getting worse – approaching a Dukakis-sized wipeout for the GOP – and it’s not because of anything Clinton is doing. She continues to mostly trail Cruz as well as other nominal candidates.

So what’s the deal?

Trump’s abysmal numbers with women and struggles with better-educated voters are probably the driving forces behind his overall problems with beating Clinton. But he’s also suffering because of the deepening rift in his own party. Trump is trying hard to show some graciousness toward his fellow Republicans, but we can still expect this final pairing between him and Cruz to be an atomic blast of nastiness.

There’s also the barrage of negative advertising with which conservative groups are now pummeling Trump. Though designed to defeat him in the GOP primary, the devastating attacks on Trump’s character and business record will have an effect beyond the GOP electorate. Much like the case with the 2012 Republican nominee, the attacks of the primary season will carry over in the general election. The attacks on Mitt Romney over his business record and taxes started with his primary rivals in January and ended with his eventual November defeat.

Should Trump actually sew up the Republican nomination outright, he would certainly see his numbers improve. There’s always a bit of a dowry for the nominee as intra-party rivals soften their resistance following primary fights. But that effect is likely to be muted this time given the murderous fighting and the depth of the divide between Trump’s populist revolt and the rest of the party.

But there is no evidence that Trump’s Democratic crossover appeal is nearly significant enough to offset his other huge demographic problems.

Of course, neither is there any evidence to suggest that Cruz’s conservative call to arms will change the electorate in a meaningful way. It’s just that Cruz isn’t starting in the deep hole that Trump is to start.

Cruz has not yet been subject to the avalanche of attack ads that would surely greet him in a general election and Trump’s ugly, personal attacks on Cruz will also surely intensify in the near term.

But for now, it’s safe to say that Cruz is a better general election bet than Trump. There’s more variability with Trump – positive and negative – but Cruz can at least promise to essentially keep the GOP coalition intact and at least keep it close with Clinton.

Kasich ahead in Ohio - Fox News: “Ohio Governor John Kasich bests Donald Trump among Buckeye Republicans by a 34 to 29 percent margin. Ted Cruz is third with 19 percent.  Marco Rubio trails with just 7 percent. That’s according to a new Fox News poll of Ohio likely Republican primary voters.  The governor’s edge is within the poll’s margin of sampling error. Kasich is bolstered by positive evaluations of his job performance as governor.  He has a sky high 79 percent approval rating among the Ohio party faithful. Even so, nearly one quarter of Kasich supporters say they could end up voting for another candidate (23 percent).”

Crubio?- Rubio responded to the possibility of a number-two spot on the Cruz ticket on Wednesday’s special town hall on “The Kelly File.” Watch here.

[GOP delegate count: Trump 458; Cruz 359; Rubio 151; Kasich 54 (1,237 needed to win)]

WITH YOUR SECOND CUP OF COFFEE…
Chinese food in America is now a staple of the national diet. But despite a lengthy presence in the U.S. the national boom for Chinese food is relatively recent. In a discussion with author Andrew Coe, the Atlantic explains how Chinese food came to America and why this culture’s cuisine took off in the United States: “It wasn’t until adventurous ‘Bohemians’ in New York City started exploring Chinatown in the 1880s for exotic treats that the food started to become popular. In the years since, ‘Chinese food’ as understood by Americans has undergone several cycles of trendiness and localization, including the chop suey craze of the early 20th century to the explosion in variety after President Richard Nixon’s 1972 trip to China.”

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POLL CHECK
Real Clear Politics Averages
National GOP nomination:
Trump 36 percent; Cruz 21.8 percent; Rubio 18 percent; Kasich 12 percent
Florida GOP Primary: Trump 40.7 percent; Rubio 23.7 percent; Cruz 17 percent; Kasich 8.7 percent
Ohio GOP Primary: Trump 36.5 percent; Kasich 34 percent; Cruz 16.3 percent; Rubio 7 percent
National Dem nomination: Clinton 51 percent; Sanders 39.6 percent
Florida Dem Primary: Clinton 62 percent; Sanders 30.5 percent
Ohio Dem Primary: Clinton 57 percent; Sanders 37 percent
General Election Clinton vs. Trump: Clinton +5 points
Generic Congressional Vote: Democrats +1

HILLARY SAYS BENGHAZI MOM ‘ABSOLUTELY WRONG’
WashFreeBeacon: “When confronted with a video Wednesday of the mother of a Benghazi victim saying that she was lied to by Hillary Clinton, the Democratic frontrunner responded by saying, ‘she’s wrong. She’s absolutely wrong.’ Debate moderator Jorge Ramos prefaced the video by commenting on the fact that the email that Clinton sent to her daughter was about the video…Clinton told the audience she feels ‘a great deal of sympathy for the families’ of the victims and she ‘can’t imagine the grief that she has for losing her son.’ But, she then definitively said ‘she [the mother of the Benghazi victim] was absolutely wrong.’”

Won’t answer indictment question, says ‘it’s not going to happen’ - The Hill: “Hillary Clinton on Wednesday refused to answer a question about whether she’d quit the presidential race if she were indicted over her private email server. ‘Oh, for goodness, it’s not going to happen. I’m not even answering that question,’ Clinton said in the CNN/Univision debate in Miami. Clinton was asked by moderator Jorge Ramos about the controversy over her emails and whether she ever improperly sent classified information over her server. The former secretary of State reiterated that her email arrangement was permitted and said the classification of her emails reflects excessive secrecy in the government.”

The Judge’s Ruling: What if the FBI is on to Hillary? - Fox News’ Senior Judicial Analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano asks, what if the government investigation into Hillary Clinton is actually amounting to something? The judge lays out all the questions. Read here.

[Dem delegate count: Clinton 1,223; Sanders 574 (2,383 needed to win)]

SENATE JUDICIARY HAS FIRST MEETING SINCE VACANCY
NYT: “Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday will get a prime opportunity to air their grievances over the handling of the Supreme Court vacancy when the panel gathers for its first business meeting since the death of Justice Antonin Scalia last month. Senator Charles E. Grassley, the Iowa Republican who leads the panel bitterly divided over whether to take up President Obama’s coming nominee, said on Wednesday that he expected a full-blown debate at the session. Democrats will no doubt be happy to oblige him…On Thursday, the combatants will be at close quarters for the discussion. An earlier business meeting scheduled for last week was canceled when Democrats objected to Mr. Grassley’s proposal to hold it in a room off the Senate floor, which would have limited attendance from the news media and the public.”

A FEVER FOR SMALL GOVERNMENT
WSAZ: “In the weeks after passing a bill allowing West Virginians to drink raw milk, one delegate brought the drink in to celebrate and, eventually, several lawmakers have gotten sick. Some lawmakers say it’s just a coincidence and a stomach bug is going around…An anonymous complaint is in at the state Department of Health and Human Resources. And now, state health officials have to investigate why at least one person is saying the raw milk was given illegally and got these lawmakers sick. However, other delegates, like Pat McGeehan (R - Hancock, 01), who is quite sick himself, say that recent stomach bug has been making the rounds for weeks. ‘There’s definitely…some other colleagues that have similar symptoms that I’ve been experiencing,’ McGeehan said. But the timing is coincidental. McGeehan and some other lawmakers drank raw, unpasteurized, milk to celebrate the passing of a bill that makes it legal before getting sick.”

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 digital politics editor based in Washington, D.C.  Additionally, he authors the daily "Fox News First" political news note and hosts "Power Play," a feature video series, on FoxNews.com. Stirewalt makes frequent appearances on the network, including "The Kelly File," "Special Report with Bret Baier," and "Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace."  He also provides expert political analysis for Fox News coverage of state, congressional and presidential elections.