The Trump divide

GOP frontrunner lays out his plan for America in a no holds barred interview with Hannity. Monday, March 21-10 PM ET


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Buzz Cut:
• The Trump divide
• Pennsylvania roadblock for Trump?
• Obama dives in for Dems and legacy
• That’s no horse blanket

At a time in the election cycle when party unity becomes the order of the day, Republican powerbrokers are instead dividing into distinct groups as the reality of Donald Trump as nominee becomes more probable.

One alliance is the among the GOP establishment, several of whom are reluctantly coalescing around Texas Sen. Ted Cruz as the best bet to prevent Trump from leading the ticket. Fellow Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who in the past said picking between Cruz and Trump was like choosing between drinking poison or getting shot, signified this side of the party most clearly when he announced he’d fundraise for Cruz next week.

Former presidential rival Florida Sen. Marco Rubio also indicated that he would endorse Cruz when the time came. Rubio said Thursday he didn’t have an announcement planned but added, “There’s time to prevent a Trump nomination, which I think would fracture the party and be damaging to the conservative movement.”

Another group – conservatives also focused on blocking Trump – met in Washington Thursday to discuss strategy, including reaching out to candidates who’ve since suspended their campaigns to try and prevent their delegates from jumping to Trump if they become unbound in a brokered convention. Following that meeting, conservative pundit Erik Erickson told the WashEx, “If Trump’s the Republican nominee, then I’m not Republican anymore.”

Then there are those who advocate party unity at all costs. They say Trump as nominee would be a boost come November, bringing in disaffected Democrats and independents. Former Speaker Newt Gingrich recently said Trump could run a “shattering” campaign against presumed Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

Republican National Committee officials emphasize that they will support whoever wins the nomination. RNC Communications Director, Sean Spicer, reiterated this saying the party would back the nominee “100 percent” and was confident the party will have a nominee going into the convention in Cleveland adding, “If we don’t, then we will prepare like we do for every other contingency.”

Graham’s endorsement of Cruz is surprising, and shows how desperate some Republicans are to block Trump, but whether Graham’s backing translates to support for Cruz is not all that certain. Not too long ago, Rubio enjoyed a similar slew of endorsements and calls from party higher ups to rally behind him, and now he’s out of the running. With the calendar running short, calls to unify behind Cruz could well be another case of too little too late.

If Cruz wins the majority of delegates (he needs 80 percent of the remaining delegates to clinch) the party might unite behind what would be a remarkable finish. But that is a steep climb for the Texan. If Trump wins a majority however, persistent concerns over his electability and potential damage to down-ballot candidates make solid party unity hard to imagine.  If neither gets to 1,237 expect the divide over Trump to grow into a chasm as Republicans head to Cleveland.

Pennsylvania roadblock for Trump? - David Drucker explains how the Keystone State’s way of allotting delegates could be a hurdle for Trump in achieving the 1,237 majority: “Pennsylvania’s delegates, if they wanted to band together in opposition to Trump, could deliver a trove of votes to Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas or Ohio Gov. John Kasich on the first ballot, possibly forcing a contested convention.”

Hacking group releases Trump’s private info - WashEx: “International hacking group Anonymous has followed through on repeated threats against Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, and announced Thursday it has released personal information for Trump and top executives within his company…In a video posted Thursday, a spokesperson for Anonymous encouraged viewers to use the information to stop Trump from winning the Republican nomination. ‘We have attached a gift, of sorts. Trump’s Social Security Number, cellphone number and other details that might be able to assist you all in independently investigating this would-be dictator. These are provided for informational purposes only, do with it what you will,’ the spokesman said.”

Ryan featured guest for Stop-Trump donors - NYT: “Representative Paul Ryan, the Republican House speaker who is the dreamed-of presidential candidate of many donors and Republican operatives hoping to stop Donald J. Trump, was a featured guest at a Florida dinner of party donors and strategists, an aide confirmed. Mr. Ryan’s attendance Thursday at the Palm Beach conference, hosted by the hedge fund executive Paul Singer, came as he has repeatedly said he is not running for president…Mr. Singer and other major donors have financed Our Principles PAC, which is advised by the strategist Brian Baker and was founded in late January with the goal of halting Mr. Trump’s rise. 

Campaign swag - What are the most intriguing items you can buy from your candidate’s campaign? The list includes scrunchies and a coloring book.

[GOP delegate count: Trump 678; Cruz 413; Kasich 143 (1,237 needed to win)]

Fox News Sunday - Mr. Sunday sits down with Ohio Gov. John Kasich this week in the wake of his Ohio victory.  Watch “Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace” at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. ET on the Fox News Channel. Check local listings for broadcast times in your area

One of country’s largest U.S. banking institutions traces its origin to this day in 1852, when Henry Wells and William G. Fargo joined several other investors to launch their namesake business. But banking wasn’t the primary focus of the company that would bring forth the famous Butterfield Line of overland stagecoaches which provided regular mail and passenger service to the West. History.com: “The discovery of gold in California in 1849 prompted a huge spike in the demand for cross-country shipping. Wells and Fargo decided to take advantage of these great opportunities. In July 1852, their company shipped its first loads of freight from the East Coast to mining camps scattered around northern California. The company contracted with independent stagecoach companies to provide the fastest possible transportation and delivery of gold dust, important documents and other valuable freight.”

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Real Clear Politics Averages
National GOP nomination:
Trump 36 percent; Cruz 21.8 percent; Kasich 12 percent
National Dem nomination: Clinton 51 percent; Sanders 39.6 percent
General Election: Clinton vs. Trump: Clinton +6.3 points
Generic Congressional Vote: Democrats +1

WaPo: “President Obama is plunging into the campaign fray, not only to help Democrats retain the White House, but also in defense of his own legacy in a political climate dominated by Trump…Obama and his top aides have been strategizing for weeks about how they can reprise his successful 2008 and 2012 approaches to help elect a Democrat to replace him. And out of concern that a Republican president in 2017 — either Trump or Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.) — would weaken or reverse some of his landmark policies, Obama and his surrogates have started making the case that it is essential for the GOP to be defeated in November. As a result, Obama is poised to be the most active sitting president on the campaign trail in decades.”

It’s official: Hillary wins Missouri in Tuesday sweep - WSJ: “It’s official: Hillary Clinton swept all five states that voted Tuesday. The Associated Press called Missouri for Mrs. Clinton just after 6 p.m. ET Thursday, after an extraordinarily close race against Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.). With 100% of precincts reporting, the former secretary of state had 49.6% of the vote to Mr. Sanders’s 49.4%. Mrs. Clinton beat him by just 1,531 votes of more than 619,000 votes cast.”

Bernie says if elected, he’d ask Obama to pull Supreme Court pick - The Hill: “Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders said he’d prefer to nominate his own Supreme Court justice if he becomes president, but he supports President Obama’s nomination. Sanders told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow that Judge Merrick Garland is ‘probably not the most progressive pick that he could have made.’ ‘But I will strongly support the president’s selection of Judge Garland,’ he said…Still, the Vermont senator said he would ask Obama to withdraw his nomination if he becomes president.”

[Dem delegate count: Clinton 1614; Sanders 856 (2,383 needed to win)]

How can fighting poverty unite the political parties? American Enterprise Institute’s President Arthur Brooks explains in his TED Talk.

Reuters: “Veteran race horse Morestead upped the style stakes for this year's Cheltenham Festival by modelling the word’s first Harris Tweed suit designed for a race horse. Complete with a flat cap and tie, Morestead wore the three-piece suit alongside champion jockey AP McCoy. Bookmaker William Hill commissioned former Alexander McQueen apprentice Emma Sandham-King with making the suit, which took four weeks to make and used up more than 18 metres (59 ft) of tweed.”

“I think [a third party run] is not going to happen. I don’t think there’s time…and you have to have a candidate. If Dwight Eisenhower were out there I think you could do it, but he’s not.” – Charles Krauthammer on “Special Report with Bret Baier

Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News. Want FOX News First in your inbox every day? Sign up