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First Read: A Clinton-Trump general election comes into focus

After the two party front-runners triumphed in Tuesday's primaries, we got a taste of general election rhetoric.
Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks to the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO Convention in Philadelphia, Penn., April 6, 2016. (Photo by Charles Mostoller/Reuters)
Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks to the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO Convention in Philadelphia, Penn., April 6, 2016.

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.

Clinton-vs.-Trump general election comes into focus

Last night was going to break one of two ways, especially on the Republican side: It was either going to mark the beginning of the end of the primary season, or simply the end of the beginning. Well, it was certainly the former after looking at last night's results. In the GOP contest, Donald Trump won all five states, he picked up 109 delegates, and seems like he's on his way to get about two-thirds of those 54 unbound Pennsylvania delegates (though we'll get a more accurate read in the next 24 hours). As we wrote yesterday, Trump had three objectives over the next week to secure a clear path to the 1,237 majority of delegates he needs to win the nomination on a first ballot:

  • Win 90 to 95 of the pledged delegates up for grabs last night (well, he won 109);
  • Get two-thirds of the Pennsylvania unbound delegates (it looks like he's there);
  • Beat Ted Cruz in Indiana next Tuesday.

So it's two objectives down for Trump, one to go. And thus it's a little premature to call himself the "presumptive nominee," as he did last night. But he's on much more solid footing in the quest of 1,237 — certainly more than he was just three weeks ago after his loss in the Wisconsin primary. If you're Ted Cruz or John Kasich or #NeverTrump, you have to stop the GOP front-runner in Indiana. And that's just to stay alive. Here's the updated GOP delegate math:

Trump holds a 392-delegate lead over Cruz (was 286 before last night)

Trump needs to win 50% of remaining delegates to reach 1,237 magic number (was 57%)

Cruz needs to win 119% of remaining delegates to reach 1,237 magic number (was 98%)

Kasich needs to win 190% of remaining delegates to reach 1,237 magic number (was 158%)

And if you assume that Trump will get 36 out of Pennsylvania's 54 unbound delegates, Trump would need to win just 48% of remaining delegates.

Clinton stresses party unity, Sanders emphasizes ideas over winning

In the Democratic race, Hillary Clinton captured four primary states (Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, and Pennsylvania) to Bernie Sanders' one (Rhode Island), and she expanded her pledged-delegate lead from 270 to 331. Consequently, Sanders now needs to win 80% of the remaining delegates (both pledged and superdelegates) to reach a majority, which is all but impossible under the proportional-allocation rules. So that's why you saw Clinton stress party unity during her victory remarks last night. "Whether you support Sen. Sanders or you support me, there's much more that unites us than divides us," she said. And that's also why Sanders' statement about last night was focused more on his ideas than winning. "This campaign is going to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia with as many delegates as possible to fight for a progressive party platform that calls for a $15 an hour minimum wage, an end to our disastrous trade policies, a Medicare-for-all health care system, breaking up Wall Street financial institutions, ending fracking in our country, making public colleges and universities tuition free and passing a carbon tax so we can effectively address the planetary crisis of climate change." Here's the Democratic delegate math:

In pledged delegates, Clinton currently holds a lead of 331 delegates with Washington delegates to still be allocated (was 270 before last night)

  • Clinton 1,620 (56%)
  • Sanders 1,289 (44%)

Clinton must win 36% of remaining pledged delegates to get a majority in pledged delegates (was 41%)

Sanders must win 64% of remaining pledged delegates to get a majority in pledged delegates (was 59%)

In overall delegates (pledged + super), Clinton holds an overall lead of 787 delegates (was 695)

Clinton must win 20% of remaining delegates to reach 2,383 magic number (was 29%)

Sanders must win 80% of remaining delegates to reach 2,383 magic number (was 71%)

Another way to look at the math: Clinton has now won 89% of the delegates she needs for the nomination (2,117 out of 2,383), while Sanders has won 59% (1,330 out of 2,383).

Trump: "If Hillary Clinton were a man, I don't think she'd get 5% of the vote"

As for the Clinton-vs.-Sanders general election beginning to take shape, we got a taste of some rhetoric that will force plenty of Republican political consultants to sweat in their sleep. "I think the only card [Clinton] has is the woman's card. She's got nothing else going," Trump said during his press conference last night. "And frankly, if Hillary Clinton were a man, I don't think she'd get 5% of the vote." Just a reminder: This month's national NBC/WSJ poll found 69% of women with an unfavorable view of Trump. Earlier in the evening, Clinton responded to Trump's previous accusation of her playing the woman's card. "Deal me in," she said.

Democrats are energized, Republicans are divided

Here's something else that might give GOP consultants the night sweats: In battleground Pennsylvania, 69% of Democratic primary voters said their race was energizing their party, versus 58% of Republicans who said their nominating contest was dividing theirs.

Van Hollen and McGinty win last night's top down-ballot races

Meanwhile, here were last night's notable down-ballot results: In Maryland: Chris Van Hollen won the very testy race for the Democratic Senate nomination over Donna Edwards. (Kathy Szeliga will be the long-shot Republican candidate in the general election.) State Sen. Jamie Raskin won the 8th congressional district race in Maryland, the nation's most expensive primary. And in Pennsylvania, establishment pick Katie McGinty notched a double-digit win over Joe Sestak for the Senate Democratic nod.

Demography is destiny

Finally, we want to end of this piece by the Atlantic's Ron Brownstein and Leah Askarinam on how the demographic patterns in the Dem and GOP primary contests have been incredibly stable: "On both sides, the leading candidates have established clear patterns of support—and have faced largely intractable pockets of resistance. For the most part, demography has trumped geography, with the big exception that in the Democratic race challenger Bernie Sanders has run much better against front-runner Hillary Clinton among several groups of voters outside of the South than in Dixie, including whites, the middle-aged, and those who describe themselves as very liberal."

On the trail

Bernie Sanders campaigns in Indiana, hitting West Lafayette (Purdue) and Bloomington (Indiana University)… And Donald Trump delivers a foreign-policy speech in DC before campaigning with Bob Knight in Indianapolis at 6:00 pm ET.

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