New York primary preview: Who will voters pick?

The 'Journal Editorial Report' panel breaks down the latest in the delegate battle


This is a rush transcript from "Journal: Editorial Report," April 17, 2016. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

STUART VARNEY, FOX NEWS HOST:  This week, on the "Journal: Editorial Report," the Republican presidential frontrunner bolsters his lead in the Empire State while the Democratic race tightens up after a heated debate  Can Mr. New York, Donald Trump, hold off Cruz and Kasich?

Plus, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders face off in Brooklyn ahead of Tuesday's primary.  Will Sanders upset the Democratic frontrunner?

And Paul Ryan again says he won't accept the Republican nomination.  Does the RNC hope he changes his mind?  The details after these headlines.  


UMA PEMMARAJU, FOX NEWS HOST:  Hello, everybody.  I'm Uma Pemmaraju.  Here's what's making news at this hour.  

A Maryland firefighter shot dead responding to a call for help, that gunmen opening fire in a home in Washington, D.C.  Firefighters were there for a home health check.  A second firefighter is alive and in critical condition at this hour. Reports indicate a neighbor was wounded as well.  Police are saying that suspect, now in custody, is cooperating.  

In international news, overseas, the death toll rising to at least 41 at this hour in Japan after a massive magnitude 7.23earthquake hits the southern part of that country.  Media reports are saying about 1,500 people have been injured and thousands are now without electricity or water.  This disaster following a magnitude 6.0 quake Thursday night.  Troops are racing to save scores of residents trapped in that rubble.  

I'm Uma Pemmaraju and I invite you to join me at the top of the hour with my show, including special guest Governor Mike Huckabee and former presidential candidate Ben Carson.  

Now back to the "Journal: Editorial Report." See you at the top of the hour.  


VARNEY:  Welcome to the "Journal: Editorial Report." I'm Stuart Varney sitting in for Paul Gigot this week.  

After weeks of campaigning in New York, we are days away from the Empire State primary.  Donald Trump has been pounding Ted Cruz and John Kasich in his home state, hoping to get 50 percent of the Republican vote and win all 95 delegates up for grabs.  A new Siena College poll shows Trump with a 23-point lead in New York.  

Here with a preview of the April 19th primary and beyond, "Wall Street " columnist and deputy editor Dan Henninger, assistant editorial page editor James Freeman, and columnist Mary Kissel.  Dan, to you first.  This New York Republican primary is all about delegates, isn't it?  

DAN HENNINGER, DEPUTY EDITORIAL PAGE DIRECTOR:  Yes, mainly about delegates and some status as well, Stuart.  But if there's one number for people to watch Tuesday night, it is 50, because if Donald Trump goes over 50 in the state, then he gets the state delegates.  But in each of the congressional districts, if you go over 50 percent, you get all three of the delegates.  OK?  That's how he would sweep to 95 percent.  

If he is under 40 percent, either in the statewide or in any of these districts, then Ted Cruz and John Kasich will be picking up individual delegates in districts around the state.  And that's what Ted Cruz is in this state to do, simply to accumulate delegates and deprive Trump of any delegates as well.  

One third thing is second place.  If Ted Cruz comes in third -- or John Kasich comes in third, they're not going to have bragging rights going into next week's primaries in Pennsylvania, Delaware, Connecticut, and Maryland.  

VARNEY:  So momentum and stature has got a lot to do with this.  Just --

HENNINGER:  You do not want to come in third in the New York primary.  

VARNEY:  No, you don't.  That's for sure.  

You want Kasich to drop out, don't you?

JAMES FREEMAN, ASSISTANT EDITOR, EDITORIAL BOARD:  Well, yes.  I think even a kind of unimpressive second over Cruz is not really a victory for him.  These are supposed to be -- this week and next week are supposed to be John Kasich's moment.  This is why he stayed in the race even though he's much further behind Cruz than Cruz is behind Trump.  The reason he stayed in, New York this week, then Maryland and Pennsylvania.  And if you look at these polls, Kasich has got a slight lead on Cruz, or even in some places behind.  I think there's really no premise to the Kasich candidacy if he is not winning big over Cruz in these states kind of built for him.  

VARNEY:  Mary, he's -- Cruz is not doing well in the New York primary polling thus far.  

MARY KISSEL, COLUMNIST, EDITORIAL BOARD:  Yes, but Cruz is being strategic, as he's been throughout this campaign.  He's got a very professional --

VARNEY:  You don't want to be third.  

KISSEL:   -- campaign staff.  Well, no, that's true, you don't want to be third.  But, for example, Cruz has come in and he's targeted Democratic districts in Manhattan, where it's very small numbers of Republicans.  These are areas in the Bronx, areas in Brooklyn, some areas outside of Albany where he has a good chance of getting perhaps over 50 percent and picking up some delegates.  

FREEMAN:  And just to be clear, first place is not necessarily a victory for Donald Trump.  This is his home turf.  Cruz won big in Texas.  Even Kasich was able to win his home state, take all those delegates in Ohio.  So I think anything less than a sweep for Trump is not a victory.  

VARNEY:  Well, he's unlikely to get a sweep of all 95 delegates because, as Dan said, you'd have to get 50 percent in every single congressional district to sweep the lot.  But if he wins by -- the poll's showing him at the moment winning by 30 points, some polls showing that far ahead, that is a convincing win for him, isn't it?  

HENNINGER:  Well, it's all about going to Cleveland and how many delegates you have.  I mean, there is a point beyond which if Donald Trump has over 1,000 delegates, or if he gets up around 1,100, the argument that his camp is going to make is you cannot deny Mr. Trump the nomination if he gets that close in Cleveland.  

KISSEL:  Well, that's just not how the rules work, though, Dan.

HENNINGER:  I know.  Well -- (INAUDIBLE) votes in Cleveland.

KISSEL:  He makes that argument, but the rules have been set for a long time and winning a plurality is simply not enough.  

Just want to make a brief comment about John Kasich.  You know, he hasn't won a delegate since what?  March 15th?  It's one thing to say, well, I'm going to beat Hillary Clinton in a theoretical general election poll many months down the road, but one of these days people are going to ask, well then why did voters vote for you?  Show us the numbers.  

VARNEY:  I got to ask this -- do you think that Donald Trump has entered a new phase of his campaign?  I noticed that the other night he was reading from notes.  It wasn't all extraneous off the cuff remarks.  There were no off the cuff insults.  He's trying to calm it down a little bit.  He's got a new campaign staff.  I think he wants to look more presidential.  I know you don't think much to him but would you go along with that?  That he's succeeding a little?

FREEMAN:  That's certainly the strategy and he's certainly talking about doing more prepared speeches and his campaign is talking about that.  Whether he has the discipline to stick to it is a big question.  So far he hasn't done that.  

But I think also the problem with that strategy is it is coming very late in the game.  Not just in the campaign, but he's a guy over the years who has defined himself very sharply, very comprehensively.  Everyone in America basically has an opinion on him now.  Most of them don't like him.  So I don't think prepared texts are going to turn around most of those people.  And that's the problem with nominating him.  

VARNEY:  You're laughing (INAUDIBLE).  

KISSEL:  Well, there's also a lot of turmoil within the Trump campaign.  He's brought in some long-time Washington insiders.  

VARNEY:  He's brought professionals in.  

KISSEL:  Well, lot of reports though of problems there.  It sort of -- it reminds me of Hillary Clinton, the firing of Mark Penn back in 2008.  So he's brought in pros but will they right the ship?  I think it's very late, as James said.  

HENNINGER:  The genius is that he has connected to people by doing what he's been doing.  He has said that.  This is why people like me.  And the question is, if he pivots to this more formalized candidacy, is he going to start losing some of those people?

VARNEY:  That's the whole point, isn't it?  He's an entertainer, brilliant on television.  If he adopts a new format, is he still brilliant on television?  

HENNINGER:  We'll find out.

VARNEY:  The jury is out.  

All right, thanks everybody.

Now, when we come back, look what we have for you -- Bernie Sanders gaining ground in New York.  But even if he does, does well in the Empire State, how will that affect his national campaign?  


VARNEY:  This week, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders faced off one more time, debating in Brooklyn.  Both Democrat candidates have been touting themselves as true New Yorkers, and it looks like it's working for Sanders, who is catching up to Clinton in the polls just the day before they scramble for votes in New York City and New York State.  According to a Siena poll, look at this, Sanders is only, what, ten points behind the former senator of New York.  

Here again, Dan, James, and Mary.  Mary, I have to start with this.  I find it incredible, as a newly minted American citizen, that I should come to this country and six months before the election, a socialist is in a commanding position in the election.  

KISSEL:  But Stuart, are you really surprised?  


KISSEL:  This is where the beating heart of today's modern Democratic Party is.  It's exactly where Barack Obama has dragged the left, to the far, far left.  He spent seven years denigrating business, denigrating CEOs, dividing Americans by class and by race.  So is it any surprise?  Also given the lousy economy that he's gifted us, the desperation for many Americans who really need to have income growth or even, for goodness sakes, a job that they would look to a change?  And that's what Bernie is selling.  

FREEMAN:  First off, Stuart -- I just -- I think it's good news for America that you're on our team now.  Very glad about this.  But I think also, watching the spectacle this week, people should apologize to Ted Cruz, because we saw New York values.  Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, testing the outer limits of left wing politics in America to wild applause in Brooklyn.  This has nothing to do with the ideas that made America great and so I think people ought to reconsider their criticisms of Ted Cruz.  


HENNINGER:  The key phrase in James' remark was Hillary Clinton.  I mean, notice how easily we start combining Bernie Sanders, the socialist, with Hillary Clinton?  And the fact that she has in this big mega media market of New York had to align herself so closely with the left wing socialist policies of Bernie Sanders I think it is beginning to create problems for her in the general election.  She thought that she would get past Bernie and then pivot to the center.  But that's going to become more and more difficult to her as she commits herself to these (INAUDIBLE) ideas.

VARNEY:  But is there not the possibility that Hillary Clinton could lose in New York State?  Bernie is catching up.  He's got the fire.  He's got the crowds.  He's got the people.  

FREEMAN:  I would say a chance, because people don't like her.  You notice in poll after poll, she's ahead -- who are you going to vote for.  But he's ahead on favorability.  So they're looking at her and they're thinking, I guess I got to vote for her.  But that said, that's a very unstable electorate when you consider that actually many of them would prefer Sanders.  

VARNEY:  In the Fox News poll out last week, Bernie Sanders beat all three Republicans in head-to-head match-ups and he was ahead of the game in knowledge required for the presidency and credibility for the presidency.  Stop laughing.  The man won!

FREEMAN:  How can you not laugh?   

VARNEY:  The man won.  What is going on here?  

HENNINGER:  Knowledgeability for the presidency?  

VARNEY:  Yes! He got 70 percent.  70 percent of the people said he was the most knowledgeable for the presidency.  

HENNINGER:  Well, that tells you something about what's happened to the American educational system.  

VARNEY:  That's for sure.  

One more issue I want to bring up.  Hillary says she would create the Office of Immigration Affairs if elected president.  What do you make of that, Dan?  

HENNINGER:  I make of that, that she is laying the ground for the general election.  This is the Hispanic vote, obviously, and we're talking about not really New York but mainly Florida, which would be a big pick-up in the electoral college.  Nevada, New Mexico, and Arizona.  Those are all the states of heavily Hispanic voters and she's decided the Republicans are giving them to me, I'm going to take them and make it official.  


KISSEL:  Yes, she also pivoted to the center on foreign policy last night, a strong defense of NATO, a very pro-Israel, supporting a no-fly zone over Syria.  So I think she is looking ahead.  

VARNEY:  So she's capturing key groups, key constituencies, she's kind of nailing them down as she goes along.  But Bernie is still challenging strongly.  

I'll give you, James, the last word.  

FREEMAN:  Well, she still has a problem with young voters.  You look -- polling in New York, he's not doing well.  He's coming back, but where he's really strong is under 45.  He's winning by double digits in the most recent "Journal" poll.  She's got some pandering to do to young people.  I guess the free college or subsidized college wasn't enough for her.  

VARNEY: I do promise to stay in the United States even if Bernie Sanders is the nominee for the Democrats.  But if he's elected president, all bets are off.  

Time's up.  Thank you, one and all.  

Now when we come back, count him out?  House Speaker Paul Ryan shoots down talk that he's weighing a run for the Republican nomination at a potentially contested convention.  


REP. PAUL RYAN, R-WIS., SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE:  I do not want, nor will I accept, the nomination for our party.



VARNEY:  Well, this week Paul Ryan shot down any remaining speculation of will he or won't he throw his hat into the Republican race at a possibly contested convention this summer.  The House Speaker, who will preside as chair of the convention, emphatically stating he will not accept the GOP nomination, even if it's offered to him.  


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Does Paul Ryan want to be speaker?  

RYAN:  No, he doesn't.  

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Will you running for speaker?  

RYAN:  I'm not.  


RYAN:  Because I don't want to be speaker.  

I do not want, nor will I accept, the nomination for our party.  

Those are apples and oranges.  Being Speaker of the House is a far cry from being President of the United States, specifically because I already in the House.  I'm already a Congressman.  So I was asked by my colleagues to take a responsibility within Congress that I've already been serving in from the one that I had.  That is entirely different than getting the nomination for President of the United States by your party without even running for the job.  So --


VARNEY:  It wasn't quite Shermanesque, but it was emphatic.  Do you believe it, Dan, that he's out?  Gone?  Not going to run for presidency.  Absolutely final.  Emphatically.  You believe it?

HENNINGER:  You've used al ot of words there.


HENNINGER:  Final?  It isn't over till it's over, Stuart.

Look, it's so fascinating that it -- he gives a statement like this but in the kind of constant world of media torque and storm that we live in 24/7, it's impossible for anybody to simply say something and be believed.  But that -- be that as it may, I think Paul Ryan understood that this idea of him becoming a candidate was becoming a distraction, and a destructive distraction, while the other contestants, Donald Trump, Cruz and Kasich, are fighting with this nomination, battling with one another over whether it's fair and they're going to take that to the convention.  He has to preside over that convention as well.

Now, having said all that, if you get to the fifth ballot and they haven't picked a nominee and his name comes up, then I think he's back in the ring.

VARNEY:  Do you think that an outsider, somebody who has not been part of the primary and caucus process, who hasn't got a delegate in the House, who hasn't got a vote in the House -- the convention is what I mean, could such an outsider A) get the nomination? And then, Mary, win the general?

KISSEL:  Well, I don't know.  Anything is possible.  I can't see the future any more than you can, Stuart. But I'll tell you one thing.  The interest in Paul Ryan says a lot about I think the dissatisfaction with the current choice of candidates.  I mean, who is Paul Ryan?  He's a happy warrior.  He's a guy who's very steeped in policy.  He's very willing to do bipartisan deals.  He's very pro-growth.  I wish we had a candidate who encapsulated all of those things, but I don't think we do.

VARNEY:  Will the people who voted for Trump, will they switch their allegiance to any other candidate?  Will they?  Because you can't win the general unless you've got some of those Trump voters with you.  

FREEMAN:  That's really the key is, for Republicans, if you want them returning to a growth strategy, to be about the freedom instead of putting up walls and limiting trade, how do go with someone other than Trump but keep his voters in the tent?  And that's -- that's their challenge in the next few months.

I think it is possible if they're -- if his supporters perceive that he lost fair and square.  And I think that's what's going to happen.  Obviously, there are going to be some hurt feelings, but I think actually probably it ends up being Cruz, but let's say nobody in the race now can really close the deal with everyone.  As you get through these various iterations, Paul Ryan is basically sketching out a strategy for Republicans as that they can win on.

HENNINGER:  Yes, that's the point.  I think Ryan understands that somebody has to be the glue for this party before it completely spins apart.  He's the anchor.  You got six, seven candidate -- Senators running for reelection that are on the bubble.  He's the Speaker of the House, he's got to hold the House members together as well.  And Ryan represents the best of the Republican Party right now and I think he's decided he keeps himself out there as the anchor, then perhaps some of these other bad things won't happen to the Republican Party.  

VARNEY:  So what he's putting out is a policy selection, which is attractive to all Republicans and which would keep the down-ballot House seats, the Senate seats, and the Supreme Court nomination, in place for the Republicans.  That's what he's doing, surely?  

KISSEL:  Yes, and I think -- and you saw him do this, with tax -- with health care reform, with ideas on tax reform.  I mean, he's been a consistent voice in Congress for sanity and for policies that we know work.  

FREEMAN:  Just to add, though, as the rules stand now, the Republican Party, you need to have gotten a majority of delegates from eight states, so basically the only people going into Cleveland who are going to be qualified under the current rules are Trump and Cruz.  

VARNEY:  And you've got the change the rules if you want to change the eight-state rule.  That's the rule you got to change if you want a rank outside coming in.  

FREEMAN:  Right.

VARNEY:  What about this possibility -- Cruz hooks up with Rubio delegates on the second ballot, and the Kasich delegates.  Wouldn't that put him over the top?


KISSEL:  What about Mitch Daniels?  What about Kelly Ayotte?  I mean, what about -- oh, I don't know Wisconsin senator Ron Johnson?

HENNINGER:  We've got to get to the second or third ballot before we start doing that thing.  They're bound on the first ballot.  It's around the third ballot when you will indeed see that kind of bargaining going on, for sure, and people being offered the vice presidency and other plums to bring them across.  

VARNEY:  I've only got a minute left but how do you do this if you go to two, three, even four ballots?  Can you pack that all into a relatively brief convention?  

HENNINGER:  Well, I'll tell you what.  Ask Paul Ryan because he's the one who's the chairman of that convention.  As he has said to people a couple of weeks ago, I didn't know I was going to have to do this.  He has got his hands full answering questions exactly like that.  How are they going to pull it off?

VARNEY:  All right, everybody -- (INAUDIBLE) not at all.  

It's -- We have to take one more break.  But when we come back, we got your favorite, hits and misses of the week.  


VARNEY:  That's right, hits and miss of the week.  And, Mary, you are first.  

KISSEL:  Well, I'm going to take a break from our steady diet of politics to give a hit to the Golden State Warriors for the winningest season in NBA history, 73 wins, just an incredible season.  They broke a record last held by the Chicago Bulls in 1996, so kudos to Steph Curry and his teammates.  

VARNEY:  I'll give you that one.  Dan, what've you got?

HENNINGER:  Well, I'm giving a miss to Vladimir Putin and the Russians for this incredible buzzing of the U.S. destroyer in the Baltics this past week.  I mean, those photograph of how closely that plane was coming to our ship were just extraordinary.  And then when we objected, the Russian defense minister more or less mocked the United States.  This is what it's come to and the Obama administration and I think the next president is going to have to put "dealing Vladimir Putin and pushing back" at the top of his foreign policy agenda.  

VARNEY:  Dan?  Pardon me, James.  

FREMMAN:  Yes, I'm going to go, Stuart, with -- this is -- I guess this is a hit.  It's a hit at least for honesty to federal regulators who admitted this week that most of the country's biggest banks are still too big to fail eight years after the financial crisis, six years after the Dodd-Frank law that they said would prevent this.  Very disappointing.  

VARNEY:  Remember, if you have your own hit or miss, be sure to tweet it to us at @JERonFNC.  That's it for me.  Thanks for watching.  Paul will be back next week.  


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