Donald Trump holds a news conference on March 21, 2016 at his hotel which is under construction in Washington, D.C.
Photo by Mark Peterson/Redux for MSNBC

First Read: Irreconcilable differences for Donald Trump and Paul Ryan

First Read is a morning briefing from Meet the Press and the NBC Political Unit on the day’s most important political stories and why they matter.

Trump-ism vs. Ryan-ism: Some irreconcilable differences:

Ahead of his big meeting on Thursday with Donald Trump, House Speaker Paul Ryan was blunt about where he stands with his party’s presumptive presidential nominee. “We shouldn’t just pretend our party is unified when we know it is not,” Ryan told the Wall Street Journal. “We can’t fake it, we can’t pretend. We have to actually unify.” Indeed, there are some irreconcilable differences between Ryan and Trump on key issues:

  • Entitlements: Ryan has sought to cut them to make them more solvent for the future (hello, Ryan budget plan!); Trump doesn’t want to touch them.
  • Immigration: Ryan has supported immigration reform and argues that mass deportation isn’t practical/possible; Trump wants to send all undocumented immigrants back.
  • Minimum wage: Ryan opposes raising the minimum wage; Trump is now open to it, saying: “I would like to see an increase of some magnitude. But I’d rather leave it to the states. Let the states decide.”
  • Muslim ban: Ryan has condemned banning Muslim immigrants from entering the United States; Trump has made it a central part of his presidential candidacy.
  • Trade: Ryan supports free-trade agreements like TPP (though he says there currently aren’t enough votes to pass it right now);Trump adamantly opposes them.

These aren’t small differences – like whether health-care reform should have an individual mandate, or whether the minimum wage should be increased to $12 an hour or $15. They are significant differences that go right at the heart of what it means to be a Republican. And we haven’t even discussed Trump’s call in the past month to raise taxes on the wealthy, although he appears to have retreated to the standard GOP line here. Ryan holds his usual press conference on Capitol Hill at 10:00 am ET.

Stuck in the middle with you…

But Politico writes that Ryan is stuck in a tough place with Trump. “If Ryan does endorse Trump, he could be seen as caving to the New York billionaire after months of deeming his rhetoric problematic and not emblematic of the Republican Party. A Ryan endorsement could disappoint the conservative intelligentsia, which has applauded Ryan’s courage. In short, lining up with Trump is a major risk to Ryan’s brand. But should he not endorse Trump, Ryan could be seen as a man who worsened a major rift within the Republican Party. He could alienate the grassroots, who helped rocket Trump to the top of the party.” On “Today” this morning, NBC’s Hallie Jackson reported that sources close to Ryan want to see Trump commit to conservative principles and bring Republicans together.

A tale of two vanquished Republicans

On “Today” this morning, Marco Rubio repeated that he intends to support Trump, despite his differences with Trump (and despite calling him a con-man during the primary season). “The only other choice would be to vote for Hillary Clinton or to abstain… Donald Trump obviously wasn’t my first choice… I am not going to support Hillary Clinton,” he said. But yesterday, Ted Cruz refused to endorse Trump.

Sanders wins West Virginia primary, but picks up a net gain of just five delegates (so far)

As expected, Bernie Sanders beat Hillary Clinton in West Virginia last night, 51%-36%, with two minor candidates getting more than 10% of the vote combined. Despite that double-digit win, Sanders picked up 16 pledged delegates to Clinton’s 11 (with two delegates remaining to be allocated). So here is the updated delegate math:

In pledged delegates, Clinton currently holds a lead of 280 delegates (it was 285 before last night)

  • Clinton 1,715 (54%)
  • Sanders 1,435 (46%)

Clinton must win 35% of remaining pledged delegates to get a majority in pledged delegates

Sanders must win 65% of remaining pledged delegates to get a majority in pledged delegates

In overall delegates (pledged + super), Clinton holds an overall lead of 761 delegates (it was 766 before last night)

Clinton must win 14% of remaining delegates to reach 2,383 magic number (was 15% before last night)

Sanders must win 86% of remaining delegates to reach 2,383 magic number (was 85% before last night)

West Virginia wasn’t your, um, typical Democratic primary

Let’s just say that Donald Trump won’t have any trouble winning West Virginia in November. According to the exit polls in last night’s Democratic primary, just 26% of Dem voters said they wanted to continue President Obama’s policies – the lowest percentage here of any state this primary season. And of the 41% who wanted LESS liberal policies, the liberal Bernie Sanders won them, 51%-27% (!!!). What’s more, a third of all Democratic voters last night said they’d vote for Trump in a general election. Even 34% of all Sanders voters said they’d vote for Trump in a hypothetical Trump-Sanders general election, suggesting that many of these folks are hardly Democrats, or that they won’t be voting Democratic in the fall. As MSNBC’s Alex Seitz-Wald put it, “Things got weird in West Virginia Tuesday night.”

How West Virginia transformed, in 28 years, from a state Dukakis won to a place where Clinton will be lucky to get 35% in November:

Sticking with West Virginia, it’s striking to track the Democratic general-election performance over the last 28 years:

  • 1988: 52% (when Dukakis won it)
  • 1992: 48% (when Clinton won it)
  • 1996: 52% (when Clinton won it)
  • 2000: 46% (when Gore lost it)
  • 2004: 43% (when Kerry lost it)
  • 2008: 42% (when Obama lost it)
  • 2012: 35% (when Obama lost it)

By contrast, look at the change in Republican performance in California since 1988:

  • 1988: 51% (when Bush won it)
  • 1992: 32% (when Bush lost it)
  • 1996: 38% (when Dole lost it)
  • 2000: 42% (when Bush lost it)
  • 2004: 44% (when Bush lost it)
  • 2012: 37% (when Romney lost it)

Nebraska: Evidence that the caucus part of the Dem delegate process has helped Sanders

And if you wanted to know how much caucus contests have helped Sanders – and how much primaries have usually benefited Clinton – look no further than what happened in Nebraska last night. As it turns out, Clinton won the PRIMARY, 53%-47%, with 76,000 Nebraska Democrats voting. But in March’s Nebraska CAUCUS, which was the party’s binding contest, Sanders won, 57%-43%, with far fewer Dems participating. So while Sanders supporters believe that the delegate process/system has hurt them, the caucuses have actually been beneficial to their cause – just like they were to Obama in 2008.

On the trail

Hillary Clinton campaigns in New Jersey… And Bernie Sanders stumps in Montana. 

Donald Trump and Paul Ryan

First Read: Irreconcilable differences for Donald Trump and Paul Ryan