First Read: What Saturday’s wins for Sanders mean — and don’t mean

Updated

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.

Sanders had a big weekend, but his path forward remains narrow

If Bernie Sanders was going to breathe new life into his campaign, he absolutely had to rack up huge wins in the Pacific states that voted over the Easter weekend. And he got exactly the kinds of victories he was looking for, winning with over 70 percent of the vote in delegate-rich Washington and putting some icing on the cake with a more than 2-1 vote margin in Hawaii (70 percent to Clinton’s 30 percent) and an even bigger win in Alaska (82 percent to Clinton’s 18 percent). Sanders netted 35 pledged delegates from the contests, narrowing Clinton’s lead with pledged backers from 294 to 259. But here’s Sanders’ challenge: He’s still got to turn that momentum into similarly dominant victories in states like Pennsylvania, New Jersey, California and New York in order to make up what’s still a significant pledged delegate deficit. Those are states where a) he’s been trailing in public polling, at least as of now, b) there are more significant minority populations than in most of the states where he’s excelled so far and c) they’re states with primaries, not the caucuses that have mostly produced his biggest wins. Keep in mind that in Florida - a large, diverse primary contest state where Clinton racked up a big margin of victory - she netted 68 pledged delegates from that contest ALONE, more than twice the advantage that Sanders received from big wins in three smaller states Saturday night.

The delegate count on the Democratic side

Here’s where the delegate count stands as of this morning on the Democratic side.

In pledged delegates, Clinton holds a 259-delegate lead over Sanders (it was 294 before Saturday)

  • Clinton 1237 (56%)
  • Sanders 978 (44%)

In overall delegates (including superdelegates) Clinton holds a 675-delegate lead (it was 709 before Saturday)

  • Clinton 1678 (63%)
  • Sanders 1003 (37%)

Clinton must win 34% of overall remaining delegates to reach the 2383 magic number

Sanders must win 66% of overall remaining delegates to reach the 2383 magic number.

Edging away from supporting Trump as the nominee?

Don’t miss what John Kasich said in his interview with one of us(!) on Sunday about whether or not he’d ultimately support Donald Trump as the GOP nominee. “We’re going to look at it every single day, and we’ll see what happens. We’ve got a long way to go. And I don’t want to project that he’s going to be the nominee. I don’t think he will be. And if he is … I review it every day.” That’s further than the Ohio governor has gone in the past, when he merely insisted that Trump wouldn’t be the party’s pick. Couple that with Cruz’s statement by the end of last week that “I don’t make a habit out of supporting people who attack my wife and attack my family,” as well as Cruz’s continued attacks over the weekend regarding Trump’s conservative credentials. These certainly still aren’t outright no’s, but the two men not named Donald Trump left in the GOP race sure are tiptoeing closer to that line. By the way, don’t miss Trump’s eye-opening interview on foreign policy in the New York Times, in which, as the paper writes, “he approached almost every current international conflict through the prism of a negotiation, even when he was imprecise about the strategic goals he sought.”

Trump threatens lawsuit over delegate allocation

Speaking of delegate fights, Donald Trump upped the ante over the weekend by tweeting the threat of a lawsuit over last week’s maneuvering in Louisiana’s GOP delegate selection. “Just to show you how unfair the Republican primary politics can be, I won the State of Louisiana and get less delegates than Cruz - Lawsuit coming,” he wrote. Now, Louisiana is simply an example of Trump being outgunned when it comes to the nitty-gritty of delegate selection at the local level, and Team Cruz worked within the rules - not outside of them - to build a possible advantage. But for Trump’s supporters, the complaint furthers the fundamental underpinning of their candidate’s appeal - that he’s fighting an unfair and rigged establishment system to better represent the folks who have been most left out of the process.

And the delegate count on the GOP side

Here’s where the delegate count stands on the Republican side as the campaigns continue their focus on Wisconsin and contests beyond:

Trump holds a 282-delegate lead over Cruz

  • Trump 752 (48% of delegates won)
  • Cruz 470 (30%)
  • Rubio 167 (11%)
  • Kasich 143 (9%)

Trump needs to win 54% of remaining delegates to reach 1237 magic number.

Cruz needs to win 85% of remaining delegates to reach 1237 magic number.

Kasich needs to win 122% of remaining delegates to reach 1237 magic number.

Clinton’s pivot continues with SCOTUS address

Last week, we wrote that Clinton has been pivoting more and more toward a general election stance, even as she continues to duke it out with Sanders to secure the Democratic nomination – and as Republicans continue squabbling, largely over very personal attacks. The latest iteration of her shift towards November: In Wisconsin today, she’ll take on Republicans for their stonewalling of Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland, namechecking both Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley and GOP frontrunner Donald Trump while arguing that the court fight should be at the top of voters’ minds. The nomination is an issue where Clinton appears to have the electorate on her side; polling - including our own NBC News|SurveyMonkey poll out earlier this month - has consistently shown that a majority would like to see senators take up the nomination rather than punting to the next administration.

Another round of stories about the Clinton email issue

The issue that’s dogged Clinton throughout the campaign continues to bubble up, with new reporting from the Los Angeles Times that federal prosecutors are setting up formal interviews with some of her closest aides regarding the possible mishandling of classified material on her personal email server. And then there’s a lengthy report in the Washington Post detailing how Clinton’s aides pushed to accommodate her wishes to use her own BlackBerry and her private email account. “From the earliest days, Clinton aides and senior officials focused intently on accommodating the secretary’s desire to use her private email account, documents and interviews show,” the paper writes. “Throughout, they paid insufficient attention to laws and regulations governing the handling of classified material and the preservation of government records… They also neglected repeated warnings about the security of the BlackBerry while Clinton and her closest aides took obvious security risks in using the basement server. Senior officials who helped Clinton with her BlackBerry claim they did not know details of the basement server, the State Department said, even though they received emails from her private account. One email written by a senior official mentioned the server.”

On the trail

John Kasich holds a pair of town halls in West Salem and Madison, Wisconsin. Ted Cruz campaign in Altoona and Rothschild. Hillary Clinton delivers an address on the Supreme Court at the University of Wisconsin in Madison and then campaigns in Milwaukee.

Bernie Sanders

First Read: What Saturday's wins for Sanders mean — and don't mean

Updated