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The Daily Trail: Donald Trump's week was bad. Today it got worse.

He's had better weeks. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

Donald Trump likes to say he's running a campaign unlike any other. He's willing to do the things other candidates won't. 

Sometimes there's a reason nobody's touching the hot stove. 

Today, the GOP front-runner learned what happens when a candidate goes off-script on abortion.

The remarks came while Trump was being asked by MSNBC’s Chris Matthews during a pre-taped town hall about the practical implications of banning abortion nationwide. Matthews specifically pressed Trump on the criminal consequences women would face for seeking abortions if Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide, were overturned.

“This is not something you can dodge. If you say abortion is a crime or abortion is murder, you have to deal with it under the law. Should abortion be punished?" Matthews said.

"The answer is that there has to be some form of punishment," Trump said as Matthews pushed him for specifics. "There has to be some form.”

“I would say that it's a very serious problem, and its a problem we have to decide on,” Trump said. “I am pro-life, yes. You'll go back to a position like they had where people will perhaps go to illegal places, but you have to ban it.”

 

He didn't say what he thought the punishment should be.

Within hours, he'd issued a statement saying he thought abortion providers should be punished, not women. “The woman is a victim in this case as is the life in her womb,” he said.

But in the interim, his comment drew immediate and near-universal pushback...from the nation's major anti-abortion groups.

Trump also likes to say he's running as a unifier. At least for today he was right, as the remaining candidates in both parties rushed to condemn his comments -- perhaps none more eagerly than Ted Cruz.

“Once again Donald Trump has demonstrated that he hasn’t seriously thought through the issues, and he’ll say anything just to get attention," Cruz said in a statement. "On the important issue of the sanctity of life, what’s far too often neglected is that being pro-life is not simply about the unborn child; it’s also about the mother — and creating a culture that respects her and embraces life. Of course we shouldn’t be talking about punishing women; we should affirm their dignity and the incredible gift they have to bring life into the world.”

The Texas senator's rapid response director weighed in too:

The Cruz campaign has long been making the case that Trump's policy positions are like the weather in New England (as in, if you don't like them, just wait a couple minutes.) But the mogul's comment may have been even more revealing on another front: they served as yet another reminder that some political laws of nature still apply. 

Being an outsider has its benefits, especially this year. But it also means you're traveling map-less along unfamiliar terrain, racing against veteran drivers on a road they've traveled before. A more seasoned candidate would deliver an answer, intentional or not, that could be interpreted as saying women should be punished for illegal abortions, just as a veteran politician wouldn't have spoken to AIPAC about "Israel and Palestine" (rather than "Israel and the Palestinians.") Political language is a tricky dialect for a non-native speaker; a wayward suffix, an imprecise object noun, can mean the difference between applause and outrage.

When a Trump comment explodes, he isn't the only one to get burned: the fire is edging ever closer to Capitol Hill.

"It’s one of the most controversial things to say on Capitol Hill, sparking looks of shock and disbelief: The House majority is in play this fall," reports Paul Kane.

"For almost five years, ever since state legislatures and commissions finished drawing the new congressional districts for this decade, the Republican stranglehold on the House has been taken for granted because of the precise targeting that fortified GOP-held swing seats to seemingly withstand the toughest political climate. Even leading Democrats, just two months ago at their annual issues retreat in Baltimore, declined to predict anything close to winning the 30 seats they need in November to reclaim the majority.

"Then Republicans started voting in their presidential primary, with Donald Trump taking a commanding lead.

"...By last week, as House Democrats showcased several dozen top recruits on Capitol Hill and at K Street fundraisers, the tone had finally begun to shift. Trump has become so unpopular among key constituencies, including the growing suburbs that are home to several dozen Republican members, that some independent analysts, political strategists and a few Democrats say that anything might be possible come Election Day."

If Trump's campaign was the match, comments like today's (and yesterday's) are like lighter fluid.

"What Trump's comments will do -- and already are doing -- is allow Democrats to a) insist that what Trump said is what all Republicans seeking to outlaw abortion really mean and b) tie every single GOP candidate running for any office in the country to this idea Trump has forwarded," said Chris Cillizza.

"The hardest thing to handle in the context of a political campaign is unpredictability. Trump not only is unpredictable to the nth degree but he also seems to revel in his willingness to say and do random stuff. If you are any Republican not named 'Trump' who hopes to still be in the House or Senate come January 2017 that is a huge problem. Maybe even a YUGE problem."

Democrats concede they are far, far from taking back the House. But for the first time in years, they are sounding optimistic. And for that, they may owe Donald Trump a nice fruit basket or something.

BATTLEGROUND: WISCONSIN

There is nothing Donald Trump loves more than polls. Except when he doesn't.

He probably won't like the latest Marquette University poll.

"The new Wisconsin polling is a very good sign for the NeverTrumpites, says Philip Bump. "The 20 percent of the vote that Marco Rubio had in the state in February has essentially been handed over to Ted Cruz. That's not 1-to-1, of course, but Cruz went from 19 points in February to 40 points now. Kasich picked up some of the vote from the other drop-outs, too -- while Trump didn't budge. Thirty percent in February, 30 in March.

"This is a state, in other words, where the consolidate-against-Trump theory appears to perhaps be working. Who knew! Trump's ceiling varies by state, but here it looks like it might be around 30 percent. Pitting only two candidates against him means that Trump won't win. (After all, he was winning with the same percentage in February -- against more candidates.)"

The senator doesn't just want to win Wisconsin. He wants to win big, reports Dave Weigel. "Cruz, who has spent more time campaigning in Wisconsin than either of his rivals, is shooting not just for a win but for a blowout that would reset the narrative of the primaries. The Marquette poll, taken before Walker endorsed Cruz, finds 47 percent of the governor's supporters already behind the Texan. Trump's resilience comes from the support of more independent voters in the rural parts of the state. But a result that mirrored the findings of this poll would lead to a massive Cruz win, with all 18 statewide delegates and at least 15 delegates from congressional districts, leaving at most nine for Trump to win. (Each of Wisconsin's eight districts hands three delegates to whoever wins the local popular vote.)"

The bad news has been piling up for Trump so far this week: this poll; the battery charges against campaign manager Corey Lewandowski; the abortion answer slip-up.

The good news for Trump: the abortion firestorm overshadowed the Lewandowski drama today. It also drew attention from other statements -- like, say, this one:

In a "somewhat awkward exchange on MSNBC" today, Bernie Sanders's wife Jane was asked whether a potential Sanders win in Wisconsin should be discounted because the population there is largely white, reports John Wagner. "For the record, she doesn’t think so."

"One uncomfortable reality of the Democratic presidential campaign is that Bernie Sanders has tended to perform better in states with largely white populations. Wisconsin is about 88 percent white, according to recent census figures.

"'We don’t tend to divide people up by race or ethnicity, and we just go and offer our solutions,' she said. 'We’d be very happy with a Wisconsin win despite any criticism that the Clinton campaign might put out there.'"

The campaign might be happy. But, if current numbers hold, barely closer to the nomination.

The Marquette poll has Bernie Sanders with some momentum in the state, and a slight edge over Hillary Clinton -- 4 points. If it held, that might be enough to claim a win in the state. But any proportional delegate breakdown based on a narrow victory that resembled those results would barely affect the gap between the Vermont senator and Clinton; by Philip Bump's calculation, it would slice the Vermont senator's pledged delegate deficit "from 263 all the way down to 259."

Still: Hillary Clinton isn't sticking around for most of the Wisconsin home stretch. Instead, she spent the day in the state she served as senator, campaigning like...a senator.

"The Clinton campaign strategy, however, is taking the cliche political truism that 'all politics is local' to heart. Clinton highlighted her work in the Senate on local issues, from seeking medical care for 9/11 first responders to attracting research projects to upstate cities and connecting city restaurant chefs with farmers in the Hudson Valley," reports Abby Phillip.

Clinton and Sanders are still in talks for a New York primary debate in Brooklyn.

Meanwhile, Clinton's campaign released an Empire State attack ad they plan to run against...Donald Trump. (No word yet on the details of the buy in the very pricey New York media market.)

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton released a new ad online celebrating the diversity of her home state New York. (Video: Hillary Clinton)

That tweet was soon deleted, along with a warning about marriage-minded scammers.

But that wasn't the only advice State has had over the past few days for young people heading overseas, using the #springbreakingbadly hashtag. (A message to the social media mastermind behind the campaign: combine a few of these into a screenplay, and you're talking gold.) 

A few samples:

Still left unsaid: how someone might find out where they rate on the official government hot-or-not scale.

TRAIL MIX: The Border Patrol agents union endorsed Donald Trump today: "The lives and security of the American people are at stake, and the National Border Patrol Council will not sit on the sidelines," the group said in its first-ever endorsement of a presidential candidate.

RIP, GOP loyalty pledge -- here's how it fell apart....and why it's looking all cloud, no silver lining right now. "Words and pledges are cheap right now, tossed about by candidates and party officials with little conviction or lasting meaning. Events are in control and everyone knows it," says Dan Balz. "Cleveland is still months away, as the campaign grows ever more strange."

(Here's what the collapse looked like):

The three remaining Republican presidential candidates rowed back on promises to support the eventual GOP presidential nominee March 29. (Video: Deirdra O'Regan/The Washington Post)

(The state seems to inspire him musically; here's an early #TBT to 2009):

Today, Ted Cruz twisted the knife: John Kasich shouldn't be considered at the Republican convention, said the senator, because "he lost 27 states in a row."

YOUR DAILY TRAIL PIT STOP: For those in D.C. right now, there's a lot of potential downers hovering. Metro could shut down entire rail lines for as long as six months. Winter might be making a comeback.

This should make everything better: Here's an adorable puppy falling asleep on an equally adorable baby. Enjoy.

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