Donald Trump speaks in Appleton, Wis., yesterday. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

THE BIG IDEA:

-- Lyndon Johnson knew, when he lost Walter Cronkite, he had lost Vietnam. Well, Donald Trump is losing Ann Coulter. And he’s almost certain to lose the Wisconsin primary next week.

Coulter became rich by courting controversy, being intentionally provocative and insensitive to build a fan base on the far right. She’s been one of The Donald’s staunchest defenders for months. But even Coulter couldn’t bite her tongue after the Republican front-runner retweeted an unflattering picture of Heidi Cruz juxtaposed against one of his own model-turned-trophy wife.

“I’m a little testy with our man right now,” Coulter told Breitbart’s Milo Yiannopoulos in a podcast that posted earlier this week. “Our candidate is mental. Do you realize our candidate is mental? It’s like constantly having to bail out your 16-year-old son from prison!”

“Everything else I could defend,” she added. “He has been more a victim than victimizer. … This is the worst thing he’s done.”

-- Trump, whom a significant majority of American females already disliked, managed to make himself more toxic yesterday when he said “there has to be some form of punishment” for women who undergo illegal abortions. Facing an onslaught of criticism from pro-life and pro-choice groups, he walked back that comment a few hours later. He sought to clarify that he wants doctors to face punishment for terminating pregnancies. But the damage is done. It’s yet another data point in a “war on women” narrative that could prove fatal should he secure the Republican nomination in Cleveland this July.

A Washington Post-ABC poll conducted earlier this month found that just 23 percent of U.S. women viewed Trump favorably. In the intervening weeks, even before the abortion gaffe, he’s disparaged Mrs. Cruz and gone after a female reporter who was allegedly grabbed by his campaign manager. He’s also continued sniping at Fox News host Megyn Kelly with deeply gendered language.

It should go without saying, but let’s be clear: Women are not just some demographic. They constitute the majority of the population, and they vote at higher rates than men.

-- Wisconsin could be Trump’s Waterloo. Ted Cruz leads him in the Badger State by 10 points in a poll released yesterday by Marquette University law school. The survey, looking at next Tuesday’s primary, shows Cruz has gained 21 points since last month while Trump held steady. Trump gets 35 percent among men and 24 percent among Republican women.

There have been dozens of stories over the past few weeks about how Trump changes the electoral map in a general election. Some experts and strategists speculate that he might be able to compete in the industrial Midwest – states like Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania that have seen their industrial cores hollowed out as manufacturing jobs went overseas. The idea is that Trump would activate some reservoir of blue-collar folks who have either stayed home in the past several presidential elections or voted for Democrats.

What this misses is how many Republican base voters are deeply uncomfortable with Trump and becoming more so. An unknown but not insignificant number of Republican-leaning women in the suburbs of places like Milwaukee will never cast a ballot for Trump, even if they do not like Hillary Clinton. They will either not vote or choose the candidate they perceive to be the lesser of two evils. I picked up on this anecdotally during more than a dozen interviews with conservative women in southeastern Wisconsin last week.

The new Marquette poll backs it up. Overall, 7 in 10 Wisconsinites view Trump unfavorably. In head-to-head matchups of Wisconsin voters, John Kasich led Clinton by nine points (49 percent to 38 percent) and Cruz tied her (44-44). But the Democratic front-runner beat Trump by 10 points (47-37). Bernie Sanders, a democratic socialist without Clinton’s high negatives, beat Trump by 19 points (54-35) when those polled were forced to choose.

-- The bigger picture nationally: “If Trump secures the Republican nomination, he would start the general election campaign as the least-popular candidate to represent either party in modern times,” Philip Rucker and Robert Costa write this morning. In addition to the three-quarters of women who view him unfavorably, “so do nearly two-thirds of independents, 80 percent of young adults, 85 percent of Hispanics and nearly half of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents. Those findings, tallied from Washington Post-ABC News polling, fuel Trump’s overall 67 percent unfavorable rating — making Trump more disliked than any major-party nominee in the 32 years the survey has been tracking candidates.”

  • Big crowds do not a victor make: “Trump’s unpopularity in the Post-ABC poll was driven in part by sharply negative ratings from Democrats and lukewarm Republicans. The greatest risk for his general election viability stems from the unusually poor ratings he gets from swing voting independents and white college graduates.”
  • The same dynamic at play in Wisconsin also applies in Pennsylvania. Yes, Trump can activate blue-collar voters in once-mighty industrial towns. But he’s alienating centrist Republicans around Philadelphia — especially women. “Even if these children of Reagan Democrats love his talk about manufacturing and American pride, he’s going to have to make sure he’s not losing the Republicans who are the heart of the party,” said John Brabender, a GOP strategist who has guided the political career of former senator Rick Santorum (R-Pa.). “That will require a campaign of surgical precision.”

-- Another piece of oft-repeated conventional wisdom — especially by pundits on cable TV — is that nothing Trump does ever hurts him. This may be true among his core supporters, but it is not true among the electorate writ large. Every time he says something like what he said about abortion yesterday, it becomes that much harder for some voters to swallow their fears and doubts. It also less tenable for Trump to recast and reposition himself in the fall.

Part of what frightens GOP insiders so much is The Donald’s rash unpredictability and lack of message discipline. The abortion answer reinforced this. Remember back in 2008 when Republican elites worried about how erratic John McCain was? That seems rather quaint at this juncture. As GOP strategist David Carney told my colleagues Phil and Bob, “It’s like taking a wagon full of nitroglycerine across the prairie. It’s great if you get to the mountains and blow them up for gold. But it’s pretty unpredictable.”

-- Increasingly, Trump is endangering Republicans down ballot. Even if he’s not the nominee, he’s damaging the GOP brand. Don’t think him retracting the statement about punishing women who get abortions will prevent Democrats from running negative ads featuring the clip. Or, for that matter, pressing any Republican incumbent who appears with him on whether they agree.

House Democrats are “headed for significant double-digit gains” unless Trump alters his image, Nathan L. Gonzales, editor of the Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report, tells Paul Kane in a front-page story on whether the GOP might lose the lower chamber

The DCCC is working overtime to capitalize: “Rep. Denny Heck (D-Wash.), chief recruiter for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, acknowledged that there are not enough Democrats with political surfboards — yet — to try to ride Trump’s wave to victory," PK reports. "‘We’ve done very good, but not yet great. The process is still underway,’ Heck said. He conceded they have up to a dozen seats where ‘we’re taking a second look’ but they still have some time to find a candidate. The focus is on districts with a highly educated populace, those in the suburbs and those with large numbers of Hispanic voters, or a combination of all three, because those are the voters most consistently offended by Trump’s message.”

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WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:

Cruz campaigns in Madison. (AP Photo/Andy Manis)

-- Cruz jokingly threatened to run over Trump with his car on “Jimmy Kimmel Live.” “If I saw Donald in [my car’s] backup camera, I’m not confident which pedal I’d push,” Cruz quipped, referring to an earlier April Fool’s Day segment. The Texas senator spoke with Kimmel about his former dreams of being a Hollywood actor, as well as his favorite cereal (Muselix) and least-favorite politician. (“I dislike Obama’s policies more … but Donald is a unique individual.”) Kimmel, for his part, teased Cruz about his Capitol Hill unpopularity, saying his campaign strategy was “waiting around until his GOP colleagues found someone they liked less." (Watch the full appearance here.)

-- News dump: Trump’s tax counsel confirmed he has been under continuous tax audit by the IRS for more than a decade. Amidst the uproar over abortion, Trump's campaign quietly released a March 7 letter in which attorneys support the businessman's claim that he has been “continuously audited” since 2002, citing Trump's “inordinately large and complex tax returns.” Trump has blamed ongoing audits as the reason he hasn’t released his returns for public examination. 

-- Trump didn’t just waver on abortion during his hour-long sit-down with Matthews on MSNBC. The GOP front-runner struggled to articulate his opinion on issues ranging from immigration to his “ban on Muslims.” Another noteworthy portion of the night occurred when Green Bay’s mayor asked Trump how he would elevate the decorum of the campaign, saying that many Republicans are “embarrassed.” “I would much rather talk about the issues, but things get brought up,” said Trump. “Sometimes they get brought up because it’s me … but I’d much rather be discussing nuclear … all of the other things we’re discussing.”

-- Bernie Sanders announced this morning that he has raised $39 million in March, from contributors giving an average of $27 apiece. Today is the first quarter fundraising deadline, so expect lots of last-minute fundraising solicitations in your inbox...

GET SMART FAST:​​

  1. Global sea levels could rise five or six feet by 2100 due to melting of the Antarctic ice sheet. The new numbers nearly double the “worst case scenario” outlined by the U.N. three years ago. (Brady Dennis and Chris Mooney)
  2. President Obama granted clemency to 61 drug offenders. More than one-third of them were serving life sentences. The president has now pardoned 248 federal inmates. (Sari Horwitz and Ann Marimow)
  3. Minneapolis police officers will not be charged after fatally shooting Jamar Clark, a 24-year-old unarmed black man. Prosecutors ruled the shots were fired in self-defense. (Mark Berman)
  4. The FDA changed its guidelines for use of the abortion pill, potentially increasing access to a method of pregnancy termination that has been heavily restricted in some states. (Sandhya Somashekhar and Laurie McGinley)
  5. The FBI agreed to help an Arkansas prosecutor unlock an iPhone and iPod in a homicide case, days after the agency figured out how to hack into a phone used by a San Bernardino terrorist. (AP)
  6. The Supreme Court said the federal government cannot freeze “untainted” assets of the accused, arguing that right to counsel trumps any government interest to preserve potential restitution funds. (Robert Barnes)
  7. The Pentagon announced plans to transfer nearly a dozen more Guantanamo Bay detainees to other countries. (Adam Goldman)
  8. World leaders have gathered in D.C. for a Nuclear Security Summit (expect traffic nightmares). Obama plans to focus on nuclear terrorism threats and will host a special session devoted to defeating the Islamic State. The president outlines his goals in an op-ed for today's Post. (David Nakamura and Steven Mufson)
  9. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker ripped into the U.N. for failing to condemn Iran’s ballistic missile tests. (Karoun Demirjian)
  10. The Justice Department reached a settlement with the city of Newark to resolve years-old allegations of civil rights violations against police officers. The agreement calls for more training for officers, body and in-car cameras and a civilian oversight body overseen by New Jersey Attorney General Peter Harvey. (Matt Zapotosky)
  11. Mississippi’s House and Senate voted to approve a sweeping “religious liberty” bill that LBGT groups have called the worst of its kind. The bill protects doctors who refuse to provide counseling and treatment to LBGT individuals, allows state employees to recuse themselves from licensing a same-sex marriage, and gives foster and adoptive families license to “raise or instruct” children as they see fit. The Human Rights Campaign argues this could force some LBGT children into conversion therapy. (Sarah Kaplan)
  12. The Mississippi Senate also voted to allow armed guards in churches as part of a “Church Protection Act.” The legislation has drawn criticism from Democrats, who say lawmakers are using religion as a shield to expand gun rights in the state. (Niraj Chokshi)
  13. Harvard is memorializing four slaves who lived and worked in Wadsworth House with a new plaque, part of ongoing efforts to acknowledge the university’s role in America’s “system of racial bondage.” Earlier this month, Harvard Law School moved to change its shield, which uses elements of a former slaveholding family’s coat of arms. (Boston Globe)
  14. Obama and Biden endorsed Pennsylvania Senate hopeful Katie McGinty ahead of next month's Democratic primary. It's the second time the White House has tried to freeze out Joe Sestak. Last time didn't work out so well... Whoever wins will face Republican Sen. Pat Toomey.
  15. A federal judge sided with MetLife in a suit against federal regulators, ruling that the company does not qualify as a “systematically important financial institution.” The decision delivers a setback to the Obama administration’s efforts to rein in the financial sector and prevent a repeat of conditions preceding the 2008 financial crisis. (Renae Merle)
  16. A New Jersey college student straightened his teeth for $60 after designing plastic retainers on his school’s 3D printer and laser scanner. (Matt McFarland)
  17. A judge denied the man who landed his gyrocopter on the Capitol lawn permission to join a campaign finance reform protest. (Spencer S. Hsu)
  18. A Texas mother was taken into custody after allowing her three young children to get tattoos. Authorities say she was intoxicated at the time. (Fox 7)
  19. Officials at an Anchorage elementary school said they uncovered a plot among three first-grade students to kill a classmate using poison. (Peter Holley)
  20. A beloved lion named Mohawk was fatally shot by Kenyan wildlife rangers after knocking a man off his motorcycle. Activists criticized authorities for not using tranquilizers instead. (Kevin Sieff)
A Kenyan ranger shoots a lion yesterday after the feline ran away from a national park. (AFP/Getty Images)

-- Montana’s attorney general subdued a man who was allegedly attacking the chief of staff to Republican Sen. Steve Daines. The Billings Gazette: “Tim Fox held the man, 34-year-old David E. Carpenter, to the ground until police could respond, said Police Capt. Kevin Iffland.… Just before midnight, Carpenter became ‘belligerent and enraged’ when someone went to take his drink away and he began to throw punches, [the sheriff] said. The chief of staff for Sen. Daines, Jason Thielman, was being swung at by Carpenter, and when Fox stepped in, Carpenter allegedly struck the attorney general in the face. Fox, 58, ‘took him to the ground and restrained him’ until police arrived.” They were outside a hotel where Daines was hosting an energy conference. The fire alarm had gone off, forcing everyone outside.

MORE ON THE REPUBLICAN RACE:

-- “How the GOP loyalty pledge completely fell apart,” by Dan Balz in Milwaukee: “For months, the GOP candidates maintained a patina of cohesion as their dialogue fell further and further from any sense of civility. Everyone remembers the Michigan debate when the candidates were asked whether they would support Trump as nominee but words and pledges are cheap right now, tossed about by candidates and party officials with little conviction or lasting meaning. Cruz and Kasich hold out hope that events still will break in their favor. Cruz thinks he can amass more delegates than Trump before the convention or, if necessary, deny Trump the nomination on the floor of the conventional hall in Cleveland.  Kasich’s only hope is a brokered convention that turns to him after the first or second ballot or however many ballots it takes. He is hardly the master of his own fate. Hanging on until Cleveland is his strategy at this point … From a distance, the various elements of the Republican coalition appear irreconcilable.”

-- The union of Border Patrol agents endorsed Trump, the first time they have backed a presidential candidate. A statement said the “lives and security of the American people are at stake … the [council] will not sit on the sidelines.” (Joe Davidson)

-- Kasich’s MSNBC town hall was a much lower-key affair than Trump's. The Ohio governor emphasized his bipartisan approach to solving problems in the Buckeye state, including teaming up with Democratic state Sen. Nina Turner (a big Bernie supporter) on police-community relations, and again made the case he’d be best in the general election. He repeated he doesn’t think Trump will be the nominee: “It’s a roller coaster, the way I see him,” said Kasich. “Sometimes he calms down … and then these crazy things start happening.” 

-- Kasich defended his decision to expand Medicaid in Ohio, telling Wisconsin radio host Jay Weber that vowing to repeal Obamacare is a “stupid promise.” 

Trump didn't just court controversy on social issues...

Corey Lewandowski (L) speaks with an aide in Dayton, Ohio, earlier this month. (Reuters/William Philpott/Files)

-- Karen Tumulty went to Florida for an excellent profile of "Corey Lewandowski: His rise — and his relationship with Donald Trump:" “The GOP front-runner and the man he tapped to run his campaign are an unlikely pair. One is a blustery billionaire whose hairstyle is a marvel of engineering and products; the other, an intense political operative who grew up in a blue-collar mill town and sports a no-fuss buzz cut. But they are very much alike in their approach to the rough sport of politics. Both hit hard, play close to the lines — and occasionally step over them. ‘Trump is not for the faint of heart, and neither is Lewandowski,’ said former congressman Robert Ney. Now, [the two] are standing shoulder to shoulder after police charged Lewandowski with battery for allegedly grabbing a journalist … In an interview last week, Lewandowski acknowledged his instincts — and loyalty to Trump — sometimes override his judgment. ‘When I see something I think isn’t right, I think I have some obligation to fix that,’ he said. ‘My job is not to do that.’”

-- Lewandowski acknowledged that Cruz’s campaign was NOT involved in the online ads featuring racy pictures of Trump’s wife, contradicting his own candidate’s repeated claims. (Buzzfeed)

-- Radio host Rush Limbaugh has refused to comment on the misdemeanor battery charge against Lewandowski, saying he has committed to “muzzle himself” on the subject. “I have decided that going forward I cannot share with you my opinion on this story,” Limbaugh said, referring to the story as “Lewandowski-gate.” (Politico)

-- Sixteen conservative women called on Trump to fire Corey:

-- Meanwhile, People Magazine puts Trump on the cover -- again:

-- “I’m a much nicer person than people think," Trump told the magazine. Here's a flavor of the cover story: “Complicating attempts to understand him is his insistence that his public persona isn't the same as his private one. ‘I think I'm somewhat different. I'm a much nicer person than people would think, to see me from the outside,’ Trump says.… Friends vouch for the alter-ego premise, saying that Trump's bellow and bluster is an act, put on by a salesman and TV star for ratings. But whether or not the persona is schtick, it concerns some who've seen the presidency from the inside.… ‘From the speaking standpoint, I would tone it down somewhat [as president] – don't forget I started out competing against 17 people,’ he says. And while he adds that his wife, Melania, 45, and daughter Ivanka, 34, ‘beg’ him to be more presidential on the campaign trail, the unvarnished routine is working. ‘Sometimes when you have to be very tough with somebody who's being tough with you, you can't be so presidential,’ he says. ‘I think it works to my advantage most of the time.’”

MORE ON THE DEMOCRATIC RACE:

Ordering coffee, while accompanied by Charlie Rangel, Hillary Clinton meets voters at Make My Cake bakery in the Harlem neighborhood yesterday. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

-- “Clinton goes hyper-local to kick off New York showdown with Trump, Sanders,” by Abby Phillip: “It was a homecoming for Clinton at a kick-off rally in Harlem for a phase in the campaign set on familiar turf. The Clinton campaign strategy is taking the cliche political truism that ‘all politics is local’ to heart … Clinton intends to revive many stories from her Senate days to make the case for what she might do as president. And she revived some of her toughest criticism of Sanders: his support for legislation protecting gun manufacturers that she opposed, his knowledge of foreign policy issues, and the feasibility of his plans for college affordability and health care. ‘My opponent says, well, we’re just not thinking big enough. Well, this is New York. Nobody dreams bigger than we do,’ she said.”

-- In back-to-back interviews with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, both candidates blamed Republicans and the media for Trump’s rise. “The Republican Party today now is a joke, maintained by a media which really does not force them to discuss their issues,” said Sanders. “All that I’m saying is that Trump is nobody’s fool … He knows how to manipulate the media and you say an absurd thing and the media is all over it.” Clinton denied that she’s “pivoted” to the general election.

-- Jane Sanders complained about the critique that her husband can win only overwhelmingly white states. “I think the criticism is way over-touted by the Clinton campaign,” she said. “We don’t tend to divide people up by race or ethnicity." (John Wagner)

-- Despite rumors, Sanders was not kicked off the D.C. ballot. (Aaron C. Davis)

WAPO HIGHLIGHTS:

-- “Ultrasounds missed her Zika infection–until one showed serious harm to her fetus,” by Lena H. Sun: “Zika successfully hid through nearly half of a District woman’s pregnancy, its damage to her fetus not showing despite a series of early ultrasounds. But suddenly at 19 weeks, another scan revealed significant abnormalities, and one week later identified even greater damage in her baby’s brain. In early February, the woman terminated the pregnancy … The report provides troubling new information about the capacity of the virus to infect a fetus and cause serious harm. The case also indicates that Zika may remain in the blood for a long time: The 33-year-old woman still tested positive for Zika 10 weeks after she likely was infected during a trip to Guatemala – far beyond what scientists have thought is the case. ‘This helps put more pieces together in the puzzle because we know so little about how this virus acts and when and how long it stays in your blood after you have symptoms,’ said Laura Riley.”

-- “DEA drug fighting plane doesn’t fly, but costs soar,” by Joe Davidson: “The boondoggle of the week award goes to the DEA and the Defense Department. They joined forces to combat illegal drugs in Afghanistan, but ended up with an expensive plane that, like their grand plans, won’t fly. But the cost has soared … The Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General determined ‘collectively, the DEA and DOD spent more than $86 million to purchase and modify a DEA aircraft with advanced surveillance equipment to conduct operations in the combat environment of Afghanistan … [to be used in counter-narcotics operations.]  More than 7 years after the aircraft was purchased for the program, it remains inoperable, resting on jacks in Delaware, and has never flown in Afghanistan.’ DEA pointed its finger at DOD … but it must have had a clue at some point. The report says the project was to have been finished in December 2012, ‘but it has missed every intended delivery date that has been established.’”

SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:

The hashtag #WontBePunished trended on Twitter after Trump said women who get illegal abortions should be punished:

Cruz's rapid response director:

Republican incumbents quickly distanced themselves:

Salman Rushdie visited D.C.:

This gif of Kasich eating pizza with a knife and fork is grabbing attention:

This prompted plenty of debate on Twitter:

Kasich even got asked about it on MSNBC:

Kasich also messed up when invoking the song "Empire State of Mind":

The State Department received criticism for this post:

Pretty much anyone with a security clearance has heard that "not a 10" line, but the tweet was deleted:

Federalism....

Finally, a photo for the many fans of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau out there:

GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:

-- New York Times, “Corporations Grow Nervous About Participating in Republican Convention,” by Jonathan Martin and Maggie Haberman: “Some of the country’s best-known corporations are nervously grappling with what role they should play at the Republican National Convention, given the likely nomination of Trump … [and] the possibility of protests or violence. The pressure is emerging as businesses are privately debating whether to scale back participation. ‘I have talked to several people at companies who said, ‘I’ve always gone to the convention, I’ve always participated, but this year we’re not putting it in our budget, we’re not going to sponsor any of the events going on,’’ said consultant Carla Eudy. Apple, Google and Walmart are among the companies assessing their plans for the convention. And Coca-Cola declined to match the $660,000 it gave for the 2012 convention, donating only $75,000 this year and indicating that it does not plan to provide more. ‘These companies have a history-making choice,’ said Rashad Robinson. ‘Do they want riots brought to us by Coca-Cola?’”

-- The disproportionate influence of urban voters in the Republican nominating process works to Trump’s advantage. National Journal’s Josh Kraushaar explains in a smart piece how an “odd quirk” works: “In the vote-rich states of New York and California, each Congressional district allocates three delegates apiece. That means that conservative districts in Staten Island (NY) and Orange County (CA) carry as much importance as heavily-Democratic districts in New York City’s inner boroughs or the densely packed liberal neighborhoods in Los Angeles. Ten of New York's 27 districts and 13 of California's 53 districts have a Cook Political Report rating of D+20 or greater, and allocate 69 delegates in total.”

  • “Against the odds, Trump has won widespread support in some of the most liberal Democratic areas of the country. He carried 40 percent of Cook County’s Republican vote, which includes the city of Chicago and its inner suburbs, allowing him to take most of Illinois’ delegates. Trump won 41 percent of the GOP vote in Wayne County, which encompasses the city of Detroit. He won 36 percent of the GOP vote in the city of St. Louis, and carried Boston’s Suffolk County with 47 percent of Republicans.”
  • “A major reason is that Trump’s (mainly white) supporters are disproportionately concentrated near areas with many minorities, suggesting that strained race relations may have played a role in their backing of Trump. He has won over white Republican voters in rural Southern counties where African-Americans make up a majority of the vote, and he has performed well in urban neighborhoods where the racial composition of surrounding areas has changed over the years. His victory in the city of St. Louis was probably boosted by the recent rioting in nearby Ferguson that polarized the region along racial lines.”

HOT ON THE LEFT: 

“Saudi government ‘wants to EXECUTE gay people who show their sexuality in public & online'” from Daily Express: “The government in the Sunni Kingdom is reportedly demanding tougher punishments on those found guilty and claimed social media has caused a ‘boom in homosexuality.’ Lawmakers have seen a backlash on social media with some using the hashtag #I_am_gay_will_not_be_deterred … Currently, the Saudi government hands out fines, prison sentences and whipping for being openly gay [and] a second conviction automatically merits automatic executions although vigilante executions are also common.”

 

HOT ON THE RIGHT

“NYC wants to regulate where costumed characters go in Times Square,” from Hot Air: “New York City is considering creating ‘specific zones’ for costumed characters who work for tips in Times Square. The reason for enacting such legislation? Safety or at least the ‘safety’ of NYC’s reputation from aggressive panhandlers. New York City is trying to basically create ‘free speech zones’ to where people can demonstrate (or in this case, ply for cash). New York City is giving in to the notion it’s up to the government to make sure people have a ‘safe space’ instead of going for individual responsibility.”

DAYBOOK:

On the campaign trail: The Democrats are in New York. Here's the rundown:

  • Clinton: Purchase, N.Y.
  • Sanders: Pittsburgh, Pa.; Bronx, N.Y.

At the White House: President Obama holds meetings with Korean President Park Geun-Hye, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Chinese President Xi Jinping and French President Francois Hollande. In the evening, he holds a working dinner with the heads of delegations at the Nuclear Security Summit. Vice President Biden meets with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan.

On Capitol Hill: The Senate and House are not in session.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: 

Obama urged Americans to accept refugees with love rather than suspicion at a prayer breakfast. "If Easter means anything it is that you don’t have to be afraid," the president said. "We drown out darkness with light. We heal hatred with love." (Greg Jaffe)

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

-- The old adage of March "going out like a lamb" holds true for Thursday’s gorgeous temps. The Capital Weather Gang forecast: “The sun is likely to hold the upper hand much of the morning but clouds slowly increase through the afternoon. A stray shower is possible by late afternoon but most commuters are unlikely to suffer significant setbacks, from the weather at least. Highs reach the mild low 70s in much of the region.”

-- "Metro’s top officials warned that the transit system is in such need of repair that they might shut down entire rail lines for as long as six months for maintenance, potentially snarling thousands of daily commutes and worsening congestion in the already traffic-clogged region," Robert McCartney reports. "Board Chairman Jack Evans and General Manager Paul J. Wiedefeld put rail riders on notice about possible extended closures at a high-level conference of local leaders. The discussion also revealed strong resistance to what Evans said was a 'dire' need for more than $1 billion a year in additional funding for Metro. The officials’ comments underlined the depth of Metro’s problems, which are steadily becoming more apparent as Wiedefeld continues to probe the rail system’s defects since taking over as the transit agency’s chief executive in November." 

-- Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) vetoed a “religious freedom bill” that would have prohibited state agencies from punishing religious organizations that discriminate against same-sex couples, saying the legislation was “unconstitutional” and “discriminatory.” (Jenna Portnoy)

-- Lawyers asked judges to cancel the deposition of a former University of Virginia student who claimed she was gang-raped in a now-discredited Rolling Stone article, arguing she would be “re-traumatized” if she were forced to recount her ordeal under oath. (T. Rees Shapiro)

-- The MedStar Health is facing continued problems after a cyberware attack shut down its email and records database, with four out of nine hospitals still offline. (John Woodrow Cox)

-- The Caps lost to the Philadelphia Flyers 2-1.

-- The Wizards lost to the Sacramento Kings 120-111.

-- A legislative analysis finds Maryland’s proposed Purple Line will cost a total $2.65 billion – nearly $650 million more than currently budgeted for. Is anyone surprised? (Katherine Shaver)

-- Pot advocates plan to display a 51-foot marijuana joint outside the White House on Saturday. Hundreds of activists have pledged to risk arrest in a protest. (Aaron C. Davis)

VIDEOS OF THE DAY:

Elizabeth Warren attacked Trump as a "loser" during an appearance on Stephen Colbert's CBS show last night:

North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory walked away from reporters after two questions about a bill he signed requiring transgender people to use the bathroom whose gender matches their birth certificate. Watch the moment here.

Watch a little girl who cried about Obama leaving office finally meet him:

This guy almost didn't realize he was being rescued by Prince William:

The Santa Barbara Zoo introduced a new baby giraffe:

Amateur astronomers captured footage of a space rock crashing into Jupiter. See two videos here.