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Opinion Happy Hour Roundup

* Republicans continue to hope that the damage to the GOP won’t be too awful, once the smoke clears from the wreckage of the Donald Trump candidacy:

Donald Trump won’t be able to mount a third-party bid for president if he loses the Republican nomination, Ted Cruz said Thursday.
“He doesn’t have the option of running as a third-party [candidate],” the Texas senator told Wisconsin radio host Charlie Sykes. “Quite a few states across the country have what are called sore-loser laws, that once you run as a Republican and lose, you don’t get to then turn around and file on the ballot as an independent, so that will not be an option available to him.”….
“You know, Donald doesn’t handle losing well. So there is a risk if he loses — and I believe we’re gonna win this nomination and win 1,237 delegates — there’s a risk that Donald takes his marbles and goes home and throws a fit,” Cruz said. “I hope he doesn’t, but it’s not complicated to see that’s a real risk.”

This seems right. If Trump loses the nomination at a contested convention, he might not be able to mount a full fledged third party bid. But he can rage against the process as illegitimate and call on his supporters not to vote Republican, potentially wreaking a whole lot of damage up and down the ticket.

* Speaking of which, Trump had a really terrific, nice, awesome, great, and wonderful meeting with the Republican National Committee chairman today:

“Reince, I will be the one to unify this party, or it will not be unified. Do we understand each other? Good.”

* Trump wants to make nice with Republicans, really he does:

Those close to Trump say, despite appearances to the contrary, he’s interested in unifying the party around him and reaching out to key GOP figures. His advisers remain optimistic that Trump will win the 1,237 delegates needed for the Republican nomination, but say he’s eager to coalesce the party — including those who’ve been reluctant to embrace him.

As long as Trump is the nominee, everyone will get along just fine!

* Amy Chozick reports that the pro-Clinton Super PAC Priorities USA and Planned Parenthood are teaming up to launch a new online ad that hits Trump squarely in the gender gap:

“When it comes to women, the Republican front-runner is …” the ad begins, and then flashes a scene from Mr. Trump’s long-running reality TV series “The Apprentice” when he tells a female contestant she “must be a pretty picture, dropping on your knees.”
In another scene, after the word “demeaning” flashes across the screen, Mr. Trump tells a female journalist, “You wouldn’t have your job if you weren’t beautiful.”

This is only the beginning of what we’ll be seeing if the GOP does nominate Trump, obviously. Reminder: our poll shows that Trump is viewed unfavorably by 68 percent of white women.

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* A new Public Policy Polling survey finds that Bernie Sanders leads Hillary Clinton among likely Democratic primary voters in Wisconsin by 49-43, another sign he very well may win there next Tuesday. The polling averages show a dead heat.

* However, the new PPP poll also finds the race in Wisconsin much closer between Ted Cruz and Donald Trump, at 38-37, and this is probably a must-win for the #StopTrump forces. The polling averages put Cruz up four.

* Worth watching: Dave Weigel reports that Ted Cruz is denouncing the idea of a convention rules change that could allow for the nomination of a candidate who has won less than eight primaries. This suggests there would be major resistance to any establishment push to nominate anyone other than Cruz or Trump.

* Steve Benen recaps the history of the convention rule that Cruz is objecting to, and suggests why the GOP establishment may be eager to manipulate to their advantage — again.

* Trip Gabriel, reporting from on the ground in Wisconsin, documents real signs of a backlash against Trump, though as Gabriel notes, this is some of the most favorable terrain the #StopTrump forces can hope for.

* E.J. Dionne on how the distorting effects of our discourse create the misleading impression that Trumpism is a deep and widespread phenomenon, when in fact it’s only confined to one corner of the Republican Party.

* Jonathan Cohn serves up some terrific in-depth reporting on the perils of allowing pharmaceutical companies to advertise drugs on television, and why this makes the U.S.A. quasi-exceptional.

* Jonathan Chait on how the fate of human civilization rests to no trivial degree on keeping Republicans out of the White House for as long as possible.

* And the NRA says Obama Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland is hostile to gun rights, and Republicans cite that as a reason to oppose him. But Mike DeBonis reports that legal experts who have looked at Garland’s background find this argument to be largely baseless.

You’re probably shocked that Republicans reflexively mouth the NRA’s take on Garland, even as they refuse to hold a hearing that might allow for a real examination of Garland’s actual record!

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