The Latest: Cruz suggests he understands outsider appeal


WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on campaign 2016 as candidates vie for votes in states with upcoming primaries, including Wisconsin and New York (all times Eastern Daylight Time):

12:15 a.m.

Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz is suggesting he understands the appeal of outsiders like Donald Trump in this year’s convulsive presidential campaign, even though he believes he’s more qualified to take the Oval Office.

Appearing on “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” Cruz says voters “are ticked off at Washington.” The Texas senator also says Americans are both wary and weary of politicians making promises they don’t keep, saying “they go to Washington and do the exact opposite of what they said they would do.”

Cruz said that “when you stand up to Washington, they don’t like it.”

He sidestepped a question on whether he dislikes Trump more than President Barack Obama.

Cruz said that “I dislike Obama’s policies more,” calling Trump “a unique individual.”

Cruz added, “Compared to Donald, I am the quiet, shy, soft-spoken one.”

9 p.m.

Bernie Sanders is telling hundreds of supporters in Wisconsin that he’s seized the momentum and can defeat both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

Sanders appeared Wednesday night at a rally in a packed hockey arena in Onalaska, a suburb of La Crosse on the Wisconsin-Minnesota border.

He is touting the results of a Marquette University Law School poll that shows him tied or slightly ahead of Clinton and leading Trump in the state. He’s urging his supporters to not let anyone say he can’t win the general election.

Sanders ticked off his usual talking points, railing against the influence of special interest money in elections, pointing out he introduced Senate legislation to legalize marijuana, and calling for raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

Sanders stopped his speech twice to call for medics to attend to supporters in the crowd. It wasn’t clear what happened to them, but Sanders said he thought they had been standing for a long time and had become dehydrated.

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8:25 p.m.

A group of Republican political consultants is organizing a stop-Donald Trump effort in California.

Rob Stutzman — who has worked for actor-turned-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Mitt Romney — says California’s June 7 primary could be the last line of defense to halt Trump’s drive toward the presidential nomination.

Stutzman says the prospect of the billionaire businessman in the White House is a concern for the nation and the world.

The group, which also includes Sacramento-based partners Richard Temple and Ray McNally, is hoping to raise money to reach out to voters. Temple says the group intends “to utilize every tool we have” to stop Trump.

Mail-in ballots for the primary go out in early May.

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8 p.m.

The District of Columbia’s Board of Elections says a challenge has been raised to having Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders on the ballot for the city’s Democratic presidential primary.

Board spokeswoman Margarita Mikhaylova confirms a challenge has been filed. The board’s website says the challenge was filed March 24 by an individual, Robert Brannum. Mikhaylova says she couldn’t elaborate further on the challenge.

Brannum, is a schoolteacher and a former president of the D.C. Federation of Civic Associations. He didn’t immediately respond to a voicemail left by The Associated Press requesting comment.

Mikhaylova says a hearing on the challenge will be held April 6 but she wouldn’t say what agency would be involved.

A campaign spokesman said in an email that he’s confident Sanders will be on the ballot June 14.

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7:45 p.m.

Tax counselors for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump say the billionaire businessman has been under continuous IRS audit for more than a decade.

In a letter from Sheri Dillon and William Nelson released by Trump’s campaign Wednesday night, they write that his personal federal tax returns “have been under continuous examination by the Internal Revenue Service since 2002, consistent with the IRS’s practice for large and complex businesses.”

The letter says examinations of returns from 2009 onward are “ongoing.”

Trump has cited the audits as the reason he refuses to release his tax returns for public examination.

The attorneys also say in the letter that Trump’s personal federal income tax returns are “inordinately large and complex for an individual” because of the nature of his business dealings.

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5:53 p.m.

Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz says that rival Donald Trump’s comments on abortion Wednesday demonstrate his lack of policy know-how.

Cruz says in a statement that, “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 says that the debate over abortion is about the mother as well as unborn children.

He says, “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.”

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5:42 p.m.

John Kasich says he hasn’t yet decided whether he’d back Donald Trump should the businessman with the GOP nomination. The Ohio governor tells MSNBC he thinks about how he would explain an endorsement of Trump to his 16-year-old daughters. But Kasich declined to answer questions about whether Trump is sexist or misogynistic.Kasich has previously criticized Trump for his comments about women, as well as his foreign policy and calls to ban Muslims from entering the country.

Kasich says it’s not just Trump who uses “disturbing” rhetoric, also hitting rival Ted Cruz for recent calls to patrol Muslim neighborhoods.

Kasich is running a distant third in the GOP contest.

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5:19 p.m.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter says NATO has done “important work” for the security of the United States and cited several regions in which it has been effective.

The topic came up during a news conference when a reporter asked about Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s recent comments that NATO has lost its relevancy.

Carter made his remarks Wednesday after attending two change-of-command ceremonies at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., where U.S. Central and Special Operations Commands are headquartered. He was joined by Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford, who also weighed in on NATO.

Dunford said “The relevance of NATO is not at all in question.”

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5:00 p.m.

Donald Trump is walking back his statement earlier Wednesday that women should be punished for seeking abortions if they’re ever banned.

Trump says in a later statement that abortion providers — not women — should be the ones punished if Roe. V. Wade were overturned.

“If Congress were to pass legislation making abortion illegal and the federal courts upheld this legislation, or any state were permitted to ban abortion under state and federal law, the doctor or any other person performing this illegal act upon a woman would be held legally responsible, not the woman,” he said, adding, “The woman is a victim in this case as is the life in her womb.”

Trump had said during a town hall taping earlier Wednesday that women who get abortions should receive “some form of punishment” if abortion is banned.

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4:46 p.m.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump says that a win in Wisconsin would “absolutely cement” his status as his party’s likely nominee, while a loss would mean a continued, protracted fight.

Trump has a path to winning the 1,237 delegates he needs to cinch the nomination ahead of his party’s convention, but that’s not guaranteed.

A loss in Wisconsin won’t help.

“If we don’t win it, it will be, you know, keep going, keep going, we’ll see if we get to that big number,” he said Wednesday in Appleton.

Trump also went after rival Ted Cruz, saying the Texas Senator doesn’t have the temperament or talent to be president.

“He would be one hell of a lousy president,” Trump says.

A new Marquette University poll out Wednesday shows Cruz leading Trump by 10 points among likely Republican primary voters in the state.

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4:04 p.m.

CNN’s town hall meeting with Republican presidential candidates has set a ratings record and left no doubt who is the viewers’ favorite.

Each of the three remaining GOP candidates had an hour on the air Tuesday in advance of the Wisconsin primary. Ted Cruz’s hour was seen by 2.8 million people and John Kasich’s by 3 million. The Nielsen company said the hour with Donald Trump was sandwiched in between the others — and was seen by just over 4 million viewers.

The town hall meetings are the latest effort by news networks to satisfy the seemingly insatiable taste for campaign coverage. Nielsen said CNN’s three-hour event Tuesday reached more viewers on average than any other town hall.

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3:36 p.m.

Bernie Sanders is attracting thousands of people in Wisconsin’s liberal capital city for the second time in less than four days.

His campaign stop Wednesday in Madison comes after a new Wisconsin poll showing him in a close race with Democratic rival Hillary Clinton ahead of the state’s Tuesday primary.

The Marquette University Law School poll shows Sanders tied or slightly ahead of Clinton among likely Democratic voters. The poll of conducted between March 24 and Monday has a 6.3 percentage point margin of error.

As he has across Wisconsin in the past week, Sanders is railing against Republican Gov. Scott Walker and new voting laws that opponents say make it harder for Democrats to cast ballots.

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3:12 p.m.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest says neither President Barack Obama, nor his predecessor, would have put up with the behavior that led to a battery charge against Donald Trump’s campaign manager.

Earnest says he’s confident that neither Obama nor former Republican president George W. Bush would have tolerated someone of their staff being accused of “physically assaulting a reporter, lying about it and then blaming the victim. That is completely unacceptable behavior.”

Trump has defended campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and claims the reporter had grabbed at Trump.

Earnest, speaking at Wednesday’s briefing at the White House, says the actions and statements from the Trump campaign are “completely outside the realm of acceptable behavior” observed by past presidents.

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2:33 p.m.

Donald Trump says the reporter who has accused his campaign manager of battery is destroying a good man.

Trump told a town hall audience on the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay campus on Wednesday that reporter Michelle Fields is ruining Corey Lewandowski over nothing. He questioned why the incident could be a crime while people are getting beheaded in the Middle East and drowning in steel cages. He did not explain that remark.

He says he won’t fire Lewandowski because he, Trump, is loyal to people.

Dozens of protesters gathered outside the building, holding signs that read “No Trumping Zone” and “Build Kindness Not Walls.” A series of confrontations between anti-Trump demonstrators and his supporters have marred recent Trump campaign events, but there was no sign of any pro-Trump groups.

2:30 p.m.

Donald Trump says women who get abortions should receive “some form of punishment” if abortion is banned, without indicating specifically what the punishment should be.

“There has to be some form of punishment,” Trump told MSNBC’s Chris Matthews at the taping of a town hall in Wisconsin Wednesdays in a heated exchange over whether abortion should be banned.

Pressed by Matthews on the nature of that punishment, Trump responded: “I haven’t determined what the punishment should be.”

Trump described himself as “pro-life with three exceptions,” but didn’t provide details as to what those exceptions should be.

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1:20 p.m.

Hillary Clinton’s campaign is aiming to effectively end the Democratic primaries against Bernie Sanders by early May. But first she needs to navigate tricky contests in Wisconsin and her home state of New York.

Clinton enters April with a big delegate lead and insider support among Democrats crucial to the nomination. But Sanders is pointing to victories in five of the past six states holding contests — among them, three western states — and views Wisconsin as a home for the progressive causes he has long supported.

A win by Sanders in Wisconsin next week would put pressure on Clinton to deliver in New York, which she represented in the Senate.

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1:10 p.m.

Ted Cruz is not mentioning rival Donald Trump during a Wisconsin campaign event the Texas senator dubs a “celebration of women.”

Cruz was joined at the event Wednesday by his wife Heidi, 81-year-old mother Eleanor and former GOP presidential rival Carly Fiorina. They sat on a stage in a hotel ballroom and fielded questions from a moderator, casting a far softer tone than in recent days where Cruz and Trump have traded heated comments about their wives.

Cruz said: “All of us are here for something a lot more important than politics. We’re here because we love our families. We’re here because we love our country.”

Fiorina was the only one who made a passing reference to Trump, saying he represents the powerful, wealthy establishment who benefit from the current tax structure and would fight against Cruz’s plan to simplify it.

Cruz said he left the event feeling inspired and hoped that his 5 and 7-year-old daughters had been watching.

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1:05 p.m.

Hillary Clinton unleashed a scathing attack against fellow New Yorker Donald Trump, saying the Republican front-runner is running a campaign of “bluster and bigotry.”

Speaking at a rally in Harlem Wednesday, Clinton accused Trump of playing “coy with white supremacists” and for saying “demeaning and degrading things about women.”

She also sharply criticized his plan to deport illegal immigrants and ban Muslims from entering the country.

“It’s cynical,” she said. “It’s wrong and goes against everything New York and American stand for.”

She also slammed Republican Ted Cruz’s plan to increase police surveillance of Muslim neighborhoods as “a type of profiling.” The mention of both Republican candidates’ names drew loud boos from the enthusiastic Apollo Theater crowd.

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1:00 p.m.

Hillary Clinton is drawing sharp contrasts between herself and her Democratic opponent, Bernie Sanders, calling into question his ability to “get things done.”

Clinton, speaking at a New York City rally Wednesday before the state’s primary next month, said that “my opponent says we’re not thinking big enough.”

“Well, this is New York,” she said, adding that “no one dreams bigger than we do. ” But she added, this is a city that “actually liked to get things done and that’s what we want for our president too.”

She also suggested that Sanders was solely focused on combatting income inequality and not doing enough to address issues like guns and, especially, racial discrimination. That drew loud cheers from the predominantly black crowd gathered in Harlem’s famed Apollo Theater.

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12:50 p.m.

Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump is taking a break from his usual rival-bashing to offer some advice to students at a local Wisconsin college.

The billionaire businessman told students and others gathered at St. Norbert College Wednesday that people who are happiest in life aren’t those who make the most money – though money is certainly nice.

Instead, the happiest people are the ones who love their jobs and have good relationships with their spouses, he said.

He also advised students to never give up and talked about the importance of maintaining momentum.

And he illustrated his advice with stories of success and failure. There was the guy who loved the cola business but gave up too soon. The injury-prone friend Trump said was hurt by a falling sign on the Long Island Expressway while driving home from the hospital for another injury. The builder who went bankrupt after an extended break from the business he built; and the golfer he said worked harder than anyone else.

“Remember: The harder you work, the luckier you get,” he said.

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