Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders at last night's Democratic debate, sponsored by Univision News and The Washington Post. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

THE BIG IDEA:

During their two-hour debate in Miami last night, Hillary Clinton attacked Bernie Sanders for siding with both the Castro brothers and the Koch brothers.

The Democratic front-runner attacked her rival for being insufficiently critical of George W. Bush and excessively ideological. She also suggested that the Vermont senator was supportive of vigilantes policing the Southern border and auto workers losing their jobs.

So much for pivoting toward Donald Trump and the general election. Clinton’s surprise loss in Michigan seems to have prompted another change-up in her strategy. Her over-reaction during the eighth Democratic debate, which was sponsored by Univision and The Washington Post, is one of four reasons that she lost.

1. By throwing the kitchen sink at Bernie, Hillary sounded nervous and even somewhat desperate – certainly more so than she needs to be.

The former Secretary of State had some very good moments, connecting with an immigrant who wants to be re-united with her husband and opening up about not being naturally good at politics. But the night will likely be remembered for a stream of over-the-top attacks on her insurgent challenger that undermined the credibility of more effective – and legitimate – hits.

“Senator Sanders … stood with the Minutemen vigilantes in their ridiculous, absurd efforts to, quote, ‘hunt down immigrants,’” Clinton said at one point. “No, I do not support vigilantes, and that is a horrific statement and unfair statement to make,” Sanders replied.

Clinton claimed Sanders only criticizes Barack Obama and Bill Clinton. “I wish he would criticize – and join me in criticizing – President George W. Bush,” she said. Bernie is, in fact, a staunch and outspoken Bush critic. The folly of Bush’s Iraq war – which HRC voted for – is a staple of his stump speech. “I gather Secretary Clinton hasn’t listened to too many of my speeches,” he quipped.

But the most disingenuous attack of the night came when Clinton interjected: "I just think it’s worth pointing out that the leaders of the fossil fuel industry, the Koch brothers, have just paid to put up an ad praising Senator Sanders.”She was referring to a web video released by Freedom Partners, part of the Koch political network, which highlighted Sanders’s opposition to the reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank. Just as Obama did (until he became president), the Vermont senator sees federal government-backed loans to General Electric and Boeing as corporate welfare.

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Sanders protested. “There is nobody in the United States Congress who has taken on the Koch brothers — who want to destroy Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and virtually every federal program passed since the 1930s — more than Bernie Sanders,” he said in the third person.

Clinton then highlighted Sanders’s opposition to Ex-Im, which she claimed “has helped hundreds and hundreds of companies here in Florida.”

“So from my perspective,” she said, “you sided with the Koch brothers."

The attack came just a few hours after Vice News posted a story noting that “fossil fuel interests have pumped $3.25 million into the largest super PAC supporting Clinton's candidacy” and she’s taken nearly $268,000 in contributions from individuals employed in the oil and gas sector so far this cycle. Sanders, who has no super PAC, has received just $35,000 from people in that industry.

There is a tactic in high school debate called “the spread.” It’s when you throw out so many arguments that your opponent cannot possibly respond to all of them, especially with the limited time they have to speak. It’s especially effective when your arguments are just off the wall enough that the other side has not prepared responses ahead of time. Then, when you get a chance to respond to their refutation, you zero in on whatever they “dropped” and hammer them for it, spinning the judges on why it is crucially important to the broader topic being debated. It felt like Clinton was trying to do just that last night. Alas, this is not a high school debate tournament and the winner is not determined by points or on what competitive debaters refer to as “the flow.”

By coming at him from all sides, Clinton’s overarching message was mushy and discordant. What’s so baffling is that Clinton did not need to go this route. Despite Tuesday’s setback in the Midwest, she’s marching toward the Democratic nomination. Because of her huge margin in Mississippi, she actually received more delegates. Even if she wanted to attack, a lot of this dirty work is best left to surrogates – or even paid advertising.

The Post’s chief correspondent, Dan Balz, calls Clinton’s attack on Sanders for opposing the auto bailout – which she first outlined during the Sunday night debate in Flint and then doubled down on last night – “a stretch at best” and “a deliberate distortion at worst."

David Axelrod, who was senior adviser to Obama in the White House, felt compelled to weigh in:

“The tactic was reminiscent of the campaign’s earlier claim that Sanders wanted to dismantle the Affordable Care Act and leave millions of people without health insurance,” Balz adds, “an argument that, no matter how one feels about his support for a single-payer type system, did not ring true.”

2. Clinton’s lurch to the left on immigration may hurt her in a general election. Pretty much every media outlet, including The Post, leads its coverage of the debate with the candidates taking very liberal positions on immigration to appeal to Latino voters. “In front of an expressive audience at Miami Dade College, each candidate pledged to go further than President Obama to protect immigrants in the United States without proper documentation and to give them a path to achieve U.S. citizenship,” Anne Gearan and John Wagner write.

“I will not deport children. I do not want to deport family members, either,” Clinton pledged, when pressed. “Stop the raids. Stop the roundups.”

As she often has before, Clinton ripped Sanders for voting against the 2007 immigration bill championed by Ted Kennedy.

Sanders alleged that Clinton has changed her position over time. When she was a senator from New York, she opposed drivers’ licenses for undocumented immigrants and she sounded a different tune about the refugee crisis in previous interviews.

While Clinton declined to call Donald Trump a “racist,” she described his support for mass deportation and blocking Muslim immigration as “un-American.”

The fight over immigration could become one of the most significant issues of the general election, especially if Trump is the Republican nominee. Hillary might be thinking about activating the Obama coalition, but coming out against enforcement actions to deal with illegal immigration could make it harder to appeal to some voters.

3. Clinton was on the defensive for much of the night, facing tough questions and tenacious moderators who followed up when she dodged.

It’s never good when you’re asked about what happens if you get indicted. Asked if she would drop out if the Justice Department filed criminal charges against her for mishandling (retroactively) classified material on her private email server, Clinton said: “Oh, for goodness - that is not gonna happen. I'm not even answering that question.” (She vigorously denies wrongdoing.)

On how her votes in the Senate for a border “fence” are different from the “wall” Trump is proposing: “He’s talking about a very tall wall, right? A beautiful, tall wall,” she joked. “The most beautiful, tall wall — better than the Great Wall of China— that would run the entire border, that he would somehow, magically, get the Mexican government to pay for. It’s just fantasy!” (The Miami Herald called that a shining moment for her.)

On Benghazi: Clinton was shown a tape of the mother of one of the four dead Americans saying she believes Clinton misled her about the attacks – blaming an anti-Islam video, even as she wrote a more honest email to Chelsea. “She’s wrong. She’s absolutely wrong,” Clinton replied, explaining that she said what she believed at the moment she said it. “This was complicated,” she said. (It’s worth noting that moderator Jorge Ramos got booed by the Democratic audience when he brought up the tragedy in Libya, and the crowd cheered Clinton’s response.)

On her refusal to release the transcripts from speeches to Goldman Sachs: “Let’s not kid ourselves. @HillaryClinton can release her paid Wall Street speeches now, or wait until the general #DoItNow,” Lis Smith, who ran Obama’s war room in 2012 and worked for Martin O’Malley earlier this cycle, wrote on Twitter. “@HillaryClinton’s Wall Street speeches are (probably) fairly anodyne. But the longer you wait, the more nefarious they seem. #Romney”

Many reporters were critical:

4. Sanders did a much better job than he has in previous debates at pushing back on Clinton.

Bloomberg’s Mark Halperin gave Sanders an A- and Hillary a B+ on the grounds that he was “consistently more precise and energetic than in the most recent debate”: “Less negative, more natural, more earnest, and more on message than his opponent … He struck many progressive chords that got the audience revved up and cheering. Clinton’s delegate lead looms large, but he showed why he is inspiring tens of millions of liberals across the country.”

Politico’s Glenn Thrush argued that, while nobody won and nobody lost,There is no more disciplined candidate in the 2016 field than the 74-year-old – none. Sanders’ message discipline allows him to engage in politically expedient character attacks that are the staple of standard-issue negative campaigning – while portraying himself as a class warrior impelled only by principle. Paradoxically, Sanders’ biggest ‘mistake’ of the campaign – saying the American people don’t ‘give a damn’ about Clinton’s email server – has turned out to be one of his canniest moves: The fact that he turned down a free shot at the first debate has given him a permission structure to hammer her relentlessly subsequently.”

To be sure, Sanders came across poorly on his answer about a 1985 TV interview in which he praised Fidel Castro and Nicaragua’s Sandinista government. When moderators played the 30-year-old clip, recorded after he toured South America, Sanders claimed the Castro regime has improved health care and education on the island. “Look, let’s look at the facts here,” he said. “Cuba is, of course, an authoritarian undemocratic country, and I hope very much as soon as possible it becomes a democratic country. On the other hand, it would be wrong not to state that in Cuba they have made some good advances in health care. They are sending doctors all over the world.”

The Clinton campaign pounced:

-- Bottom line: Democrats are headed for a long slog. Dan Balz explains: “A few days ago, Wednesday’s debate here appeared as if it might be an anticlimax as Clinton rolled toward the nomination. Instead, Sanders arrived reenergized and reinvigorated after his surprising victory in Michigan. Rather than questions about Sanders’s viability, Clinton faced questions about what had gone wrong with her campaign. … Whatever transpires from here, this is not the campaign Clinton envisioned. She remains the favorite to win the nomination. Michigan did not change that. But because of that vote, she faces renewed doubts about her effectiveness as a candidate.”

There are contests next Tuesday in Florida, Illinois, Missouri, North Carolina and Ohio. A Washington Post-Univision News poll conducted on the eve of our debate found that Clinton leads Sanders 64 percent to 26 percent among likely Democratic primary voters in Florida. A victory that big in a state as big as Florida could help move the narrative back in her direction.

(Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

-- The Post’s Fact Checkers flag a dozen suspicious or interesting claims made last night. Key nuggets from Glenn Kessler and Michelle Ye Hee Lee:

  • “Neither gets the story entirely correct” about their auto bailout votes.
  • Clinton overstates the significance of her 2007 visit to Wall Street in the months before the crash.
  • Clinton is incorrect to claim that everybody who got money as part of the auto rescue paid it back. “Nearly $80 billion was disbursed, of which $63 billion was paid back. Even counting additional income, $70.5 billion was repaid, or about 88 percent.”
  • Sanders claims one in five Americans cannot afford their prescription drugs. It’s actually one in 10.
  • About Clinton’s insistence that there was nothing untoward about her email set-up because everyone did it: “When Clinton was secretary, a cable went out under her signature warning employees to ‘avoid conducting official Department business from your personal email accounts.’ … Clinton’s decision to use a private email system for official business was highly unusual and flouted State Department procedures, even if not expressly prohibited by law at the time. Moreover, Clinton appears to have not complied with the requirement to turn over her business-related emails before she left government service.”
  • On Hillary’s Minutemen attack: “Clinton was referring to an incident that BuzzFeed documented in December. In 2006, members of Congress had become upset at rumors that American officials were tipping off the Mexican government about the whereabouts of Minutemen patrols,” our Fact Checkers explain.Sanders, then a House member, was one of 76 Democrats who voted in favor of an amendment that barred the Department of Homeland Security from providing ‘a foreign government information relating to the activities of an organized volunteer civilian action group, operating in the State of California, Texas, New Mexico, or Arizona.’ Sanders was running for a Senate seat at the time.”

-- Read the full transcript of the debate here.

-- If you missed it, watch a three-minute video summary here:

Welcome to the Daily 202, PowerPost's morning newsletter.
With contributions from Breanne Deppisch (@b_deppy) and Elise Viebeck (@eliseviebeck)

WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:

A demonstrator raises her fist in protest against Trump as police officers approach to remove her from a campaign rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina, yesterday. Trump was interrupted repeatedly by demonstrators. (Reuters/Jonathan Drake)

-- First in the 202: The Club for Growth is rotating in two new anti-Trump ads as part of its Florida buy, hitting “Don The Con” on Obamacare and jobs. The conservative group is spending $2.2 million on TV and digital spending in the Sunshine State before next Tuesday's primary.

-- Trump is thinking more about the general and trying to install his own person at the RNC: The GOP front-runner has engaged in initial talks with Ray Washburne, the former RNC finance chairman, who helped Chris Christie raise money before he dropped out, on heading the RNC's fundraising operation if he's the nominee, Matea Gold scoops. Washburne is already back at the RNC leading a program to tap elite donors. When asked if he had spoken with Trump, he said "there was a bad connection on the line and added that he had no comment before hanging up." The talks are just one example of the establishment upset that could come if Trump is nominated -- Lewis Eisenberg currently serves as RNC finance chair and RNC head Reince Priebus said this: "Lew is the most successful finance chairman in RNC history. He is and will remain finance [chairman] throughout my term."

-- “I think Islam hates us. There’s a tremendous hatred there,” Trump told CNN’s Anderson Cooper last night. Cooper pressed Trump on whether he was talking about "radical Islam" or "Islam itself." Trump replied, “It’s radical but it’s very hard to define. It’s very hard to separate because you don’t know who’s who.” (Jose A. DelReal)

-- Michelle Fields, the Breitbart news reporter, gives her own account of the physical altercation she had at Trump's Tuesday night press conference in Jupiter, Fla.: "Trump acknowledged the question, but before he could answer I was jolted backwards. Someone had grabbed me tightly by the arm and yanked me down. I almost fell to the ground, but was able to maintain my balance." Fields says that The Post's Ben Terris identified Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski as the culprit. "I quickly turned around and saw Lewandowski and Trump exiting the building together. No apology. No explanation for why he did this ... Even if Trump was done taking questions, Lewandowski would be out of line. Campaign managers aren’t supposed to try to forcefully throw reporters to the ground, no matter the circumstance. But what made this especially jarring is that there was no hint Trump was done taking questions. No one was pushing him to get away. He seemed to have been happily answering queries from my fellow reporters just a moment before." 

The Daily Beast’s Lloyd Grove highlighted "the mild rebuke" of Fields' bosses at the famously Trump-friendly Breitbart: “Trump and his outsider juggernaut seem to be doing much more than reinventing rules and terrifying the Washington establishment. The reality television billionaire might also be laying groundwork for a not-so-brave new world in which a campaign manager can assault a female journalist, while her news organization...responds with a mild rebuke in a vague statement perceived by some to be designed to protect the perpetrator. The Breitbart statement struck sources within Breitbart and outside the company as strangely inadequate, given that it blames an unidentified ‘someone,’ uses the conditional phrase ‘if that’s the case,' and leaves open the possibility that Lewandowski didn’t lay hands on [Breitbart political reporter Michelle] Fields. Fields—who was [later] sporting a purple bruise as a result of the encounter—had yet to hear any supportive words, or anything, for that matter—from Breitbart executive chairman Stephen K. Bannon or editor in chief Alex Marlow.”

Ted Cruz in Miami (Reuters/Carlo Allegri)

-- Ted Cruz, the son of a Cuban immigrant, very rarely mentions that he is Hispanic. But, now that he’s campaigning in south Florida, he’s embracing his heritage. "The first Hispanic president of the United States," is how Cruz's campaign chair for Miami-Dade County, Manny Roman, introduced the senator at a rally in Miami last night. "Y'all know how to make a Cuban feel welcome," Cruz said when he took the stage. Earlier in the day, he won the endorsement of Carly Fiorina. (Katie Zezima)

 GET SMART FAST

  1. North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles into the Sea of Japan, the latest in a series of defiant provocations from Pyongyang. (Anna Fifield)
  2. U.S. special forces captured a top Islamic State chemical weapons engineer in Iraq last month. He may provide valuable intelligence. (Missy Ryan and Mustafa Salim)
  3. Black civil rights groups and activists, including Al Sharpton and Keith Ellison, are strongly lobbying Obama to nominate a black woman to the Supreme Court, calling it an overdue historic first. “At least six federal judges are under consideration, sources have said, including two African Americans: Ketanji Brown Jackson, a U.S. district court judge for the District of Columbia; and Paul J. Watford, an appeals court judge in California,” Jerry Markon, Sari Horwitz and Mike DeBonis report.
  4. The full 5th Circuit has agreed to rehear a challenge to Texas’s voter ID law, increasing the likelihood that the law, which a lower court ruled had a “discriminatory effect” on minority voters," will remain in effect through the 2016 elections. (Politico)
  5. The dean of UC Berkeley’s law school is taking an “indefinite leave of absence” after being sued for sexual harassment by his former executive assistant. (Lindsey Bever)
  6. The first U.S. uterus transplant did not take. Doctors at the Cleveland Clinic were forced to surgically remove the organ due to complications following the procedure. (Lenny Bernstein)
  7. Detroit public school officials say that, unless lawmakers approve emergency funding, they will completely run out of money by April 8. (Emma Brown)
  8. A Cuban newspaper published a nasty editorial ahead of President Obama’s visit later this month, calling on the president to end U.S. policies that attempt to “manufacture internal political opposition” on the island. (Karen DeYoung)
  9. Bill Coby’s wife, Camille Cosby, refused to answer nearly 100 questions about her husband during a deposition. (Karen Heller and Manuel Roig-Franzia)
  10. Officials in Newark, New Jersey, shut down water fountains in 30 schools after they were found to contain elevated levels of lead. (AP)
  11. A Baltimore school police officer is now facing criminal charges after he was caught on tape slapping, kicking, and cursing at a young man. The officer has been charged with second-degree assault, second-degree child abuse and misconduct in office. (Elahe Izadi and Sarah Larimer)
  12. Police in Pennsylvania are searching for two gunmen who opened fire at a backyard party, killing five and injuring several others in an ambush-style attack. (USA Today)
  13. NASA is rescheduling a mission to probe beneath the surface of Mars until 2018, due to equipment problems. (New York Times)
  14. Canada will feature women on its banknotes by 2018, according to self-proclaimed feminist Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. (Elahe Izadi)
  15. Spring breakers, beware: Police may begin monitoring crowded beach parties with drone technology. (Peter Holley)
Rubio senior adviser Todd Harris talks with his candidate last month. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

THE LATEST ON THE REPUBLICAN RACE 

-- “Inside Rubio’s collapse: A fateful decision that helped unravel his campaign,” Philip Rucker, Ed O'Keefe and Matea Gold: “Rubio’s benefactors were aghast to see him practicing Trump’s gutter politics. ‘Everyone went, ‘What? Why are you going down to that level?’’ recalled one fundraiser. ‘You might as well support Trump.’ Looking back, Rubio’s supporters see these fateful days as central to his unraveling. A strategy designed to get under Trump’s skin and force him on the defensive instead backfired on Rubio … and a cloud of fatalism now hangs over his campaign. ‘I’ve been around for a long time,’ said Sal Pittelli, 70. ‘And you can smell the flop sweat.’”

-- Rubio’s string of punishing defeats has also left Capitol Hill allies grappling with whether he should stay in. Many are saying on the record that he'll need to drop out if he doesn't win Florida. Via Paul Kane

  • Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.): “I think he’s going to have to really rethink moving forward after Florida."
  • Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.): “This is what everyone seems to agree, and the same is true for Kasich (in Ohio). He needs to carry his state … I think most people anticipate [its] necessary for him to still be in the race.”

-- More bad news for Rubio: A Fox News poll published last night shows Trump commanding a 13 point lead over Rubio in Florida, despite his home field advantage. Cruz and Kasich bottom out the field with 16 percent and 10 percent, respectively. Two remarkable data points:

  1. How angry are Florida voters? 63 percent of likely Republican primary voters feels “betrayed” by politicians in their party -- and they go heavily for Trump over Cruz (49-18 percent), with Rubio and Kasich way behind (12 and 11 percent, respectively).
  2. "Just 48 percent of Sunshine State GOPers approve of the job Rubio is doing as senator, while 38 percent disapprove. Among voters who approve of his performance, Rubio bests Trump by 12 points, yet he trails The Donald by a whopping 62 points among those who disapprove.”

-- Post conservative writer Jennifer Rubin, who has long been a Rubio cheerleader, says it is time for the senator to fold"We say this with no joy, having credited Rubio with courage on immigration reform and creativity in advancing a credible domestic agenda. He is by far the most electable of the remaining candidates, but to get to the general election one must win the primary. Blame the times in which we live. Blame the media obsession with Trump. Blame the voters who avert their eyes from ominous signs that Trump is a danger to the republic."

-- Rubio himself recognizes that he blundered with his over-the-top attacks on Trump: "My kids were embarrassed by it," he said yesterday. "My wife didn't like it."

-- Hail Mary: The Rubio-backed super PAC is hitting Kasich in a frantic ad blitz. Phil Rucker scoops: “Rubio-allied Conservative Solutions purchased $1 million in television airtime and $268,000 in Illinois for spots opposing Kasich … hitting the Ohio governor for tax policies and expanding Medicaid.

-- The Chicago Tribune Editorial Board endorses Rubio. “No candidate in this cycle has ridden more ups and downs than Marco Rubio,” said the board. “We like his youth, his bilingual fluency and the fact that he isn't one more Republican who's been standing in line, awaiting his turn to run.”

Terrible optics for Rubio amid questions about his ability to win Florida next Tuesday:

A fundraising appeal -- saying the party will be lost if Trump is the nominee -- only fed the Rubio-is-fading narrative:

-- Anyone but Trump? Jeb Bush is meeting with every other candidate in the GOP field as he weighs whether to make an endorsement before Florida's primary. (Ed O'Keefe)

-- Senate Majority PAC, the main Democratic group focused on Senate races, launched an attack ad against Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) for not wanting any confirmation hearings to consider Obama’s pick for the Supreme Court. The spot is notable because it links her with Trump, showing footage of him saying “delay, delay, delay” and then saying that the vulnerable incumbent agrees with him. Watch:

SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:

Ann Coulter was among the Twitter users upset to hear Spanish during the Democratic debate:

John Dingel had a swift response:

The RNC chief strategist, who has overseen the GOP debates, criticized Clinton for what she did not say:

That prompted this rejoinder from Hillary's traveling press secretary:

The Internet was consumed by a debate over the color of Sanders's suit:

Our Karen Tumulty did a terrific job moderating:

From former Rep. Jason Altmire (D-Pa.):

Sanders met with a group called Black Men for Bernie:

In a fascinating feature, the Post's social media team asked first-generation voters in Miami who they're supporting:

A barista featured on Clinton's Instagram feed is a Sanders supporter and said so:

Wired ran an amazing correction on a story about Trump:

A Trump rally saw a silent protester escorted out:

Rosie O'Donnell ordered a slew of Make Donald Drumpf Again hats from John Oliver:

Paul Ryan paid his respects to Nancy Reagan at the Reagan Library:

Here's the arrival of Reagan's casket:

Ryan spokesman Brendan Buck went off on the Draft Ryan effort:

Illinois Senate candidate Tammy Duckworth, who lost both of her legs in Iraq, lashed out at the GOP in 18 tweets after the NRSC tweeted that she doesn't "stand up" for veterans. Here are a few examples:

As a reminder, here's the original tweet (which the NRSC refuses to apologize for):

Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) lamented Trump's win in his state:

Elizabeth Banks was on Capitol Hill:

And at the Lincoln Memorial:

(Hat tip: Aaron Blake)

GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:

-- “NC Republican Party shuts off its chairman’s email account,” by the News and Observer's Colin Campbell: “N.C. Republican Party Chairman Hasan Harnett’s party email account was shut off this week, and he blamed Director Dallas Woodhouse in a racially tinged episode that highlights strife between the two leaders days before the state’s primary … Harnett sent Woodhouse a scathing email accusing him of trying to undermine the party’s elected leadership. ‘Is this some form of ritual or hazing you would put the first black chairman through?’ Harnett wrote. ‘Or is it because I am not white enough?’ Harnett, a businessman who is part of the tea party movement, was elected last year as the state party’s first African-American chairman. Woodhouse said multiple officials’ emails were shut off Tuesday to address a ‘security issue,’ but said he hadn’t reached out to Harnett to let him know. ‘Why are you fighting me?’ Harnett wrote … ‘I guess time will only tell what your real plot and schemes are all about against me.’”

-- “The Party Goes to Bat for Kasich in Ohio,” by Bloomberg's Margaret Newkirk and Mark Niquette: “He has a unique advantage: the active support of Ohio’s GOP, who threw its support behind Kasich, breaking 64 years of neutrality in the nominating process. His surrogates are descending on official functions for the GOP faithful in a party-coordinated effort, ‘reaching literally thousands of primary voters,’ says Matt Borges, Ohio GOP chairman. The party is also deploying its voter turnout machine on Kasich’s behalf, driving a surge in absentee and early ballots, which typically account for a third of the vote. As of March 4, more than 84,000 had been received, according to Ohio’s secretary of state. ‘At the end of the day, we have the apparatus to turn out the vote,’ says Borges. ‘It’s already been working for weeks, even months, to deliver this victory for John Kasich.’"

-- “Controversy engulfs Virgin Islands' race for GOP convention delegates,” by the Washington Examiner's David M. Drucker: “The Republican consultant from Michigan who advised Rand Paul's presidential campaign is trying to get himself elected as a delegate to the GOP nominating convention, representing the U.S. Virgin Islands. But according to the territory's department of elections, John Yob and his wife, Erica, as well as allies Lindsey and Ethan Eilon submitted false information to skirt laws requiring candidates for delegate to be residents for at least 90 days. According to a letter from territory supervisor of elections Caroline Fawkes, all four have been ruled ineligible and won't be able to register to vote until late March. Additionally, Fawkes said the Yobs registered on St. Thomas after being told by the elections office in St. John that he was ineligible per the residency requirement … GOP insiders who oppose him believe the Yobs and the Eilons are trying to get elected as delegates as a bloc, to give them control over the delegation.”

THE DAILY DONALD:

-- “Trump’s VIPs Get Front-Row Seats to His Political Spectacle,” by Bloomberg’s Michael C. Bender: “If you can get your mind around the idea of Trump becoming president, it’s easy to imagine him using his South Florida holdings as a series of ‘White House Souths.’ Last week, Trump held a news conference at his lavish Mar-a-Lago Club, where he reserved the first rows for club members, a characteristic display of marketing that gave his VIPs a front seat to the most talked-about story in America. And Tuesday, as primary results rolled in, the scene was repeated at Trump National Golf Club. The upscale scene, lit by chandeliers, was very different than the rawness of his public rallies, where trails of port-a-potties point the masses toward the event site. Guests sipped martinis at an open bar as waitresses dressed in tuxedoes served cocktail weenies, Beef Wellington, and mini-lobster rolls. ‘I like Trump a lot,’ said Paul O'Neill, the former New York Yankee. ‘I belong to his club … I hope he does well.’”

-- “Trump received tax credit for middle class taxpayers,” by the Associated Press' Jeff Horwitz: “In three consecutive years, Trump has received a property tax credit for people with incomes of less $500,000. The perk from the New York State School Tax Relief Program, known as STAR, was small, is given to people who both apply and demonstrate that their incomes are below the half-million-dollar threshold. But late Tuesday, New York City's Department of Finance said that it believes Trump received the benefit in error … [and] New York would now like its money back. ‘I don't think he would have noticed that,’ Lewandowski said of Trump. ‘Maybe $300 on other peoples taxes is a big deal, but not on his.’”

HOT ON THE LEFT

Republicans are even blocking their own nominees now. From the Huffington Post: "The level of obstruction in the Senate hit a new level of absurdity on Wednesday, as a Democratic effort to confirm a federal judge with strong support from his GOP senators and who unanimously cleared the Judiciary Committee was denied a vote. Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) requested on the floor that senators take up and confirm Waverly Crenshaw, a Tennessee district court nominee backed by GOP Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker."

 

HOT ON THE RIGHT

Nancy Reagan inspires Mark Levin's presidential pick. From the Washington Examiner: "Syndicated radio host Mark Levin endorsed Cruz for president during a broadcast late Wednesday. 'I support Ted Cruz for the president of the United States because I believe everything I've just discussed with you he appreciates, he embraces, he understands and he has fought for throughout his life as well,' Levin said ... Levin said he chose to make the announcement now because of the emotional response he has had in the days since Mrs. Reagan died."

DAYBOOK:

On the campaign trail: The Republican candidates debate on CNN. Here's where the Democrats will be:

  • Clinton: Durham, N.C.; Tampa, Fla.; Vernon Hills, Ill.
  • Sanders: Kissimmee, Fla.

At the White House: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visits the White House. Obama holds a bilateral meeting and press conference with Trudeau in the morning, then the Obamas host a state dinner for the Trudeaus in the evening.

On Capitol Hill: The Senate meets at 9:30 a.m. to resume work on the opioid bill. The House is not in session.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: 

“I am not a natural politician, in case you haven't noticed, like my husband or President Obama.” – Hillary, asked why only 37 percent of Americans consider her honest and trustworthy

NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:

--Get ready for a beautiful Thursday to ring in the weekend! The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “This day is nice from start to finish with just enough clouds to give contrast to the dominant sunshine. Highs reach the lower 80s (record territory) except by the Bay.”

-- The Virginia Senate has dropped its plan to put Ken Cuccinelli on the state Supreme Court after he told Republicans he was not interested. Many saw the move as a strategic ploy to keep Cuccinelli from running for governor again in 2017. (Laura Vozzella and Fenit Nirappil)

-- Washington’s population is projected to expand to nearly 1 million residents over the next 30 years. (Robert McCartney)

VIDEOS OF THE DAY:

The Hamilton cast is coming to the White House:

People can't get enough of this gif of Cruz:

A 4-year-old shot his gun-rights-activist mother in the back: