**Want FOX News First in your inbox every day? Sign up here.**
• GOP accelerates race to splitsville
• Power Play: Can Cruz and Kasich deconflict their campaigns?
• Hillary out with first ad dumping on Trump
• Second judge allows further digging into emails
• Ah, the glamor of showbiz
GOP ACCELERATES RACE TO SPLITSVILLE
It’s not surprising by now that the mutual-support pact among current and former Republican presidential nominees has broken down. After all, if you have to come up with a pledge to begin with, you’ve got a problem.
But it’s worth remembering how they got here.
When this all began, the concern among Republicans was that Donald Trump would make good on his threat to mount a third-party run and play general-election spoiler after he was inevitably defeated in the primaries.
Now, with Trump teetering on the threshold of inevitably himself, many of his once, current and would-be future rivals have pulled back from their previously throaty pledges to support the eventual nominee.
The last two anti-Trumps standing, Sen. Ted Cruz and Gov. John Kasich, decisively dodged the question at a CNN town hall on Tuesday night. Kasich used conditional terms, pinning his reticence on Trump’s conduct and candidacy, saying he wouldn’t support someone who was “really hurting the country, and diving the country.” Cruz reverted to his prior objections to supporting a candidate who had attacked his wife, Heidi, but ultimately waved off the question by promising to defeat Trump.
Trump, however, was not equivocal, saying he would not honor the pledge he signed with considerable fanfare back in September because he has “been treated very unfairly" by the Republican Party. Trump was presumably alluding to rules that might still deny him the nomination even if he has the most delegates heading into the party’s convention.
As was observed at the time Trump and others signed the pledge, it was not a contract enforceable by any court, but rather an agreement between gentlemen and one lady that they would unite when the primary was over. So it’s not like the RNC can sue Trump if he bolts the party post-convention.
In that sense, Trump’s breach and the threatened breaches of his rivals means nothing. The Republicans were already hopelessly divided and embittered before Tuesday night, rent by a struggle over Trump’s fitness as a nominee and president.
But make no mistake: This is a considerable escalation and there will be consequences of Trump’s departure from the pact.
Trump’s tacit threat of working to ensure Republican defeat if he is denied the party’s nomination is now explicit. That will further embolden those who say they would rather lose in the fall than support Trump.
We’ve heard suggestions in every election cycle that if the party doesn’t listen to the anguished cries of the supporters of trailing candidates that “the base” will stay home in the fall. But we’ve never heard it from the frontrunner and certainly moving into the realm of overt threats is something we’ve not seen in the modern era.
It is nearly an admission of inevitable defeat that both sides in the dispute vow to send the party to defeat against presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton if their demands are not met. There are certainly enough voters in both camps to make good on their promises.
And if eventual defeat is becoming a foregone conclusion, then the frame of the race has changed massively. Hardliners on both sides of the Trump divide will feel even more liberated to press their cases.
With his revocation, Trump has dropped more napalm on the already incinerated GOP.
With no conclusive end in sight for the Republican nominating process before June at the soonest and each week finding a lower circle of Hell in which the race can reside, it seems increasingly likely that the party will be in full rupture even before what promises to be a heinous convention.
Trump goes after reporter who brought assault charges against his campaign manager - The Hill: “Donald Trump on Tuesday argued that his campaign manager acted appropriately by getting physically involved when a reporter approached him earlier this month. ‘She shouldn’t have been touching me,’ he said during a CNN town hall in Milwaukee, discussing former Breitbart journalist Michelle Fields. ‘She had a pen in her hand,’ Trump told moderator Anderson Cooper. ‘It could have been a knife. It might have been dangerous.’ Trump said he would not punish Corey Lewandowski because his top aide did nothing wrong during the encounter on March 12 in Jupiter, Fla. ‘I would have loved to have fired him, but I stick up for people when they are unjustly accused,’ he said of his campaign manager.”
Wait. Never mind - Pressed by a town hall questioner on what he saw as the three most important functions of the federal government, Donald Trump listed national security, education and health care, later including housing as another key role. When it was pointed out that the latter items were widely rejected as federal functions by conservatives, Trump backtracked.
Cruz says politicians shouldn’t ‘wear their faith on their sleeve’ - CBS News: “Early in his presidential campaign, Ted Cruz ran on a strategy of winning the support of evangelical conservatives, but the GOP candidate on Tuesday said he doesn't want people to vote for him because of his faith…Cruz said in a Milwaukee, Wisconsin town hall televised by CNN… ‘I’m a Christian, I’m not going to hide that... but I also think those in politics have an obligation not to wear their faith on their sleeve.’”
Power Play: Can Cruz and Kasich deconflict their campaigns? - Early signs show there may be an alliance forming between John Kasich and Ted Cruz to stop Donald Trump from obtaining the nomination outright, but at a sacrifice to both. Chris Stirewalt explains the possible scenarios from this alliance in just 60 seconds. WATCH HERE.
[GOP delegate count: Trump 736; Cruz 463; Kasich 143 (1,237 needed to win)]
WITH YOUR SECOND CUP OF COFFEE…
The cover art of The Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” is iconic to say the least – and perhaps nearly as influential as the band’s eight album itself. It was on this day in 1967 that prior to a late-night recording session for the album, the four members of the group gathered in a London studio in their psychedelic martial marching band outfits for the photo shoot that would result in the cover. The group stood before 61 images and mannequins of famous figures, ranging from comedian W.C. Fields to Satanist Alistair Crowley, providing decades of great fodder for obsessive fans’ conspiracy theories. The Beatles Bible tells the story of the famous shoot: “The soon-to-be-famous collage, designed by Peter Blake and his wife Jann Haworth, had been assembled in the studio during the preceding eight days… Jesus and Hitler were among John Lennon’s choices, but they were left off the final list.”
Got a TIP from the RIGHT or the LEFT? Email FoxNewsFirst@FOXNEWS.COM
Real Clear Politics Averages
National GOP nomination: Trump 42.3 percent; Cruz 31.7 percent; Kasich 19.2 percent
National Dem nomination: Clinton 51.3 percent; Sanders 42.3 percent
General Election: Clinton vs. Trump: Clinton +11.2 points
Generic Congressional Vote: Democrats +1
HILLARY OUT WITH FIRST AD DUMPING ON TRUMP
Making good on a promise to knock Donald Trump early on in the campaign cycle, Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton is out with an ad in New York today that frames her candidacy as the best way to defeat Trump.
Though the spot is aimed at Democratic voters in the Empire State’s April 19 primary, there’s no reference to her intramural rival and native New Yorker Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. Instead it juxtaposes images of happy, diverse New Yorkers with images from Trump’s campaign, including a slo-mo video of a protester being sucker punched at a rally for the Republican frontrunner. The spot also features a peek at a sign from what appears to be a Trump construction project reading: “Trump: coming 2016.”
“So when some say we can solve America’s problems by building walls, banning people based on their religion, and turning against each other… Well, this is New York …And we know better,” Clinton narrates.
The ad comes off the heels of a Clinton PAC spokesman saying that the group plans to start hitting Trump early after seeing the failed strategies of his Republican competitors this cycle.
Second judge allows further digging into emails - Fox News: “A second federal judge has ruled that a conservative group should be allowed to dig deeper in its quest for emails sent by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in a decision Tuesday that could allow the group to seek more documents and depositions from current and former State Department officials. U.S. District Court Judge Royce C. Lamberth’s order grants limited discovery to Judicial Watch, which sued in 2014 in order to gain access to records relating to the drafting of the talking points given to then-Ambassador Susan Rice in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2012 attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.”
[Liberal WaPo columnist Ruth Marcus explains how Hillary Clinton beating the rap on mishandling state secrets could leave a bad taste in voters’ mouths.]
Bernie on home turf in Madison - Politico: “When Bernie Sanders takes the stage at a town hall in Madison on Wednesday, it’ll seem like a homecoming of sorts. Outside of his home state of Vermont, there are few places more familiar with Sanders – or more enamored of him – than Wisconsin’s state capital. For years, he’s been a regular headliner at the big annual Wisconsin progressive festival known as Fighting Bob Fest, where he's typically met with raucous applause. In July, 10,000 screaming fans packed Madison’s Veterans Memorial Coliseum to greet his appearance as a presidential candidate -- a moment the Sanders campaign views as a turning point in his bid for the Democratic nomination, a sign of his transformation into a serious contender.”
Makes late pitch to woo superdeleagtes - Fox News: Bernie Sanders’ campaign, buoyed by recent victories, is mounting a late-stage bid to court so-called superdelegates and wrangle just enough of the influential party insiders to close the gap with Hillary Clinton heading into the Democrats’ presidential convention. Like essentially every other Sanders strategy at this point, it’s an uphill and longshot play.
[Dem delegate count: Clinton 1712; Sanders 1004 (2,383 needed to win)]
THE GLAMOR OF SHOWBIZ
KEYC: “This town in Faribault County [Minnesota] is often the butt of many jokes. But they may soon have some national recognition…When you grow up in Kiester, you’ve probably been cracking backside jokes since you were born…So when Preparation H, a medicine for hemorrhoids, floated the idea for filming a commercial here, the townspeople reacted with the same sense of humor they’ve kept for generations…Preparation H approached the City Council to see if they could film a commercial there. The city said yes, but the project is on hold as Preparation H hasn’t confirmed the details yet. Passer says, ‘I’m fine with it. It puts us on the map’…[E]ven though this ad may bring them notoriety, the people of Kiester say they are proud of their small town…Kiester was named for a judge from Blue Earth, Jacob Kiester.”
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.