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Buzz Cut:
• Delegate selection game keeps states in play
• Trump campaign manager won’t face charges
• Dem debate wasn’t in the plan
• Hillary gets tepid response from black leaders
• ‘Teeing off is not a crime’

DELEGATE SELECTION GAME KEEPS STATES IN PLAY
In a year where every delegate counts, the selection game has become a truly delicate and complex matter. Case in point: Marco Rubio’s delegates. The Florida senator may not be running for president anymore, but he’s still third in line when it comes to the delegate math…for now.

Determining if Rubio’s delegates remain bound through the first ballot at the Republican National Convention this summer is a case-by-case situation based on each state’s party rules, but it looks like he’ll be losing a good portion of them before then.

Minnesota, where Rubio won 17 delegates, says their rules allow delegates to vote for whomever they want at the national convention if the winner of their state or district isn’t on the ballot, same for Oklahoma.

Rubio earned 171 delegates before suspending his campaign in March, many of whom haven’t been selected as states are still holding their conventions to pick the individuals that will serve as delegates.

So it makes sense that Sen. Ted Cruz and frontrunner Donald Trump would home in on those state conventions where there are potentially free delegates for the taking.

But both candidates have spent time in states that have already voted. Why? Aren’t their delegates already bound to vote for the winner of their state or district?

It varies by state but yes, by and large the delegates being selected at these county, district, and state conventions, in states that have already held  their contests, are bound to whoever won the majority in their area, on the first ballot.

Yet with the increasing likelihood that no candidate wins a majority of delegates ahead of the national convention, the strategy becomes more about keeping the delegates if the convention goes to second ballot and they become freed.

Take Virginia for example. Cruz kept organizers on the ground even after the state’s March primary in an effort to get his supporters picked as delegates. The campaign made sure his supporters applied to be delegates before the party filing deadline, and submitted a list of potential delegates. Trump’s campaign actually missed the deadline to assemble such a list.

Cruz ended up with delegate candidates in 10 of the 11 districts in Virginia. Meaning that despite Trump’s victory in the Old Dominion State, the individuals selected as delegates may not choose to stay with Trump if the national convention goes to the second ballot, especially if they are Cruz supporters.

This is what the Cruz campaign is banking on across the country, and why he has spent so much time and effort at state conventions and his organization has been courting party leaders. This is also why Trump has made two big hires recently in an effort to step up his delegate game.

While the Trump campaign has taken heat for lagging in the pursuit of delegates, there are still several acts to go. The show on the main stage may be the battle for the remaining primaries, the winner of the sideshow of delegate selection may well be the ultimate determiner of who becomes the nominee.

[GOP delegate count: Trump 755; Cruz 545; Kasich 143 (1,237 needed to win)]

Looking ahead - FiveThirtyEight’s delegate expert Nate Silver lays out the road ahead for the GOP primaries, and adjusts some of his prior predictions. The big states he recommends taking a closer look at: New York, California and Indiana.

New national poll shows Trump’s lead shrinking - CBS News: “Last month, Trump’s lead over Cruz was 20 points, but now it’s dropped to 13 points…[Trump] also leads among women, 44 percent, to 29 percent for Cruz and 19 percent for Kasich. Republicans, independents, white evangelicals, and non-college graduates also prefer Trump. But Cruz leads among very conservative voters -- with 46 percent, compared to 40 percent for Trump -- and those who attend religious services weekly, and the race is close among those with a college degree. If Kasich were to drop out and the choice was between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, Trump would still lead by 10 percentage points, 48 percent to 38 percent.”

Trump campaign manager won’t face charges - Fox News: “Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s campaign manager will not be prosecuted on a charge of misdemeanor battery over allegations he grabbed the arm of a reporter, the campaign confirmed late Wednesday. Trump campaign social media director Dan Scavino posted on his Facebook page that the charge would not be pressed against Corey Lewandowski.”

[Watch Fox: New Fox News national polls on the Democratic and Republican presidential primary races are released tonight on “Special Report with Bret Baier” 6 p.m. ET]

WITH YOUR SECOND CUP OF COFFEE…
Today in 1865, President Abraham Lincoln was shot at the Ford Theater in Washington by actor John Wilkes Booth. Following the shooting, Booth fled to Maryland thinking after the dust settled he would come out a hero. Seeing newspaper headlines in the following days, however, Booth learned just what his place in history would be. Smithsonian: “As he waited to cross the Potomac River into Virginia, Booth finally glimpsed some recent newspapers for the first time since he had fled Ford’s Theatre. To his horror, they described him not as a hero but as a savage who had slain a beloved leader at the peak of his fame. ‘I am here in despair,’ he confided to his pocket diary on April 21 or 22. ‘And why? For doing what Brutus was honored for, what made [William] Tell a hero. And yet I for striking down a greater tyrant than they ever knew am looked upon as a common cutthroat.’ Booth died clinging to the hope that he would be absolved—and lionized.”

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POLL CHECK
Real Clear Politics Averages
National GOP nomination:
Trump 39 percent; Cruz 32.3 percent; Kasich 20.5 percent
National Dem nomination: Clinton 46.8 percent; Sanders 45.8 percent
General Election: Clinton vs. Trump: Clinton +10.4 points
Generic Congressional Vote: Republicans +0.5

DEM DEBATE WASN’T IN THE PLAN
As she takes the debate stage in Brooklyn tonight, Hillary Clinton may well be asking herself, “Why am I here?”  By now the Democrat’s frontrunner was supposed to be soaking up unity votes, well on her way to a coronation in this summer. Tonight’s face-off wasn’t even on the party’s original debate calendar – a late add begrudgingly scheduled after a challenge from Bernie Sanders. But here she is, still trying to stamp out the fire stoked by her populist rival and put a lock on the nomination.

This penultimate moment ahead of Tuesday’s crucial New York primary comes amid increasingly bitter exchanges between the rivals, with Sanders calling Clinton’s judgment and credibility into question and Clinton accusing the Vermont senator of being inexperienced. It’s a long way from the kid gloves approach of their early debates and could lead to some feisty moments. But while they may joust over who is the true New Yorker, it would take a major stumble by Clinton or a truly spectacular performance by Sanders to fundamentally alter the race.

Clinton’s delegate lead, particularly her dominance among superdelegates, shows little sign of erosion. Polls put her solidly ahead in New York’s primary. Still, tonight’s encounter presents Sanders with his best and possibly last chance to gain ground on Tuesday and build a level of momentum that changes the dynamics of the primary contests to come. For Clinton, the task is to get back on the original script and the road to Philly.

[Politeness over? - With more than a month passed since their last debate, NPR points to four things to watch for as Clinton and Sanders face off]

Bernie disavows surrogate’s ‘corporate whore’ remark - The Hill: “Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders on Thursday disavowed a campaign surrogate's remark calling rival Hillary Clinton a ‘corporate Democratic whore’ a night earlier. ‘Dr. Song's comment was inappropriate and insensitive,’ Sanders tweeted on Thursday. ‘There’s no room for language like that in our political discourse.’”

Hillary gets tepid response from black leaders - NYT: “A week after her husband had a tense encounter with black protesters, Hillary Clinton on Wednesday received a lukewarm response from a gathering of black leaders and voters in New York. Speaking at the annual conference of the National Action Network, the civil rights organization founded 25 years ago by the Rev. Al Sharpton, Mrs. Clinton declared that ‘America’s long struggle with racism is far from finished’ and presented an agenda that included overhauling the criminal justice system and eliminating lead as a major public threat within five years of taking office. A scattering of audience members occasionally applauded.”

[Dem delegate count: Clinton 1758; Sanders 1069 (2,383 needed to win)]

The Judge’s Ruling: Obama’s faint praise for Hillary - Senior Judicial Analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano says President Obama’s remarks to Fox News that seek to minimize Hillary Clinton’s email issues may actually be damning. “It is difficult to tell from them whether he wants the mountain of evidence of her criminal behavior presented to a federal grand jury or he wants her to succeed him in the White House.” More here.

‘TEEING OFF IS NOT A CRIME’
Guardian: “Teeing off is not a crime, the Communist party of China has decreed, lifting millions of fairway fanatics out of the rough. Banned by Mao Zedong – who despised the ‘sport for millionaires’ – golf enjoyed a renaissance during the 80s and 90s only to be outlawed for the party’s 85 million members in 2015 as a result of president Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption drive…Party leaders appeared to step back from their condemnation of the game this week. ‘Since it is only a sport, there is no right or wrong about playing golf,’ an article in the Discipline Inspection and Supervision News, the official newspaper of China’s anti-corruption agency, declared.”

AND NOW A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“It will be a tremendous defeat for ISIS and for the cells spread everywhere in the world if they were ultimately to lose their safe haven in the Middle East. They would not be able to say we are the wave of the future…” – Charles Krauthammer on “Special Report with Bret Baier

Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News. Sally Persons contributed to this report. Want FOX News First in your inbox every day? Sign up 
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