Ted Cruz hit with ‘New York values’; Trump gets Giuliani backing

U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas is getting a taste of the “New York values” he derided in Iowa as Republicans turn to the next big U.S. presidential contest in the home state of front-runner Donald Trump.

The New York billionaire lost the Wisconsin Republican primary on Tuesday to Cruz and is seeking to rebound in New York on April 19. He won the backing on Thursday of former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who was irked by Cruz’s values comments.

“It’s New York City. We’re family. I can make fun of New York but you can’t,” Giuliani, who led the city through the trauma of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, told the New York Post.

“I support Trump. I’m gonna vote for Trump,” he said.

Ohio Governor John Kasich, running third in the Republican race, chimed in with an ad called “Values,” part of a seven-figure ad buy in New York and Pennsylvania, which votes on April 26.

“New Yorkers aren’t stupid and they certainly won’t fall for Ted Cruz’s lame soliloquies and flattery after he slammed their values,” said Kasich spokeswoman Connie Wehrkamp.

Trump canceled a Friday trip to California to focus on New York. He turned on Cruz Wednesday night during his first rally in the state since the double-digit loss in Wisconsin.

“I’ve got this guy standing over there, looking at me, talking about New York values with scorn in his face, with hated, with hatred of New York,” Trump said, drawing a chorus of boos.

Cruz credited his Feb. 1 Iowa caucuses victory in part to his attacks on Trump’s “New York values.” He told ABC on Thursday the phrase referred to the state’s liberal Democrats.

Cruz took another hit in the Bronx, where a group of high school students protesting his stance on immigration threatened a walkout if their principal did not cancel his appearance.

“Most of us are immigrants or come from immigrant backgrounds. Ted Cruz goes against everything our school stands for,” Destiny Domeneck, 16, told the New York Daily News.

School authorities complied, the newspaper reported on Thursday.

(Reporting by Doina Chiacu and Megan Cassella; Editing by Bill Trott)

Presidential hopefuls Cruz, Sanders look to New York

Decisive wins in Wisconsin boosted U.S. presidential hopefuls Republican Ted Cruz and Democrat Bernie Sanders as they chase the front-runners, building momentum as they gear up for the crucial New York primary in two weeks.

Seeking to fend them off, Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton will now look to recalibrate their campaigns and secure victories in a state that both call home and where they could effectively wind up the primary process if they win with large margins.

Trump will be called on to demonstrate that he can absorb the shock of a loss and bounce back against Cruz. The U.S. senator from Texas showed he is increasingly viewed as the main Trump alternative by those Republicans who cannot bring themselves to support the billionaire to be their presidential nominee for the Nov. 8 election.

Cruz’s emphatic victory in Wisconsin on Tuesday slowed Trump’s progress in amassing the needed convention delegates and increased the chances that Republicans will be faced with a rare contested convention in Cleveland in July.

The Republican race now turns to New York, which votes on April 19. Republican New York Chairman Ed Cox said he believes the state could decide the nomination. “Given the wide diversity in New York, I think it will be a definitive moment,” Cox said.

On the Democratic side, Sanders, a Brooklyn-born U.S. senator representing Vermont, is trying to stage a come-from-behind upset of Clinton, but will struggle to overcome a large deficit in delegates.

Sanders’ win in Wisconsin, which brought his victory tally to six out of the last seven contests, added to Clinton’s frustration over her inability to swiftly knock out a rival who has attacked her from the left. That frustration was on full display on Wednesday when the former secretary of state gave two live televised interviews in which she criticized Sanders.

In contrast to a Republican primary season that has been rife with personal insults, the Democrats have largely avoided personal attacks and stuck to policy arguments. But Clinton attacked Sanders for his position on guns and said he lacked a depth of policy understanding.

“You can’t really help people if you don’t know how to do what you say you want to do,” Clinton said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “I think he hadn’t done his homework and he’s been talking for more than a year about doing things that he hasn’t really studied or understood.”

She criticized him for an interview to New York’s Daily News in which he failed to offer specifics on how he would break up large banks – a key part of his campaign message – when he was asked how he would put to use the existing financial regulation Dodd-Frank law.

“It’s not clear that he knows how Dodd-Frank works,” Clinton told CNN in an interview on Wednesday afternoon.

The Democratic Party nominating race moves to Wyoming on April 9 before New York.

A CONTESTED CONVENTION

Cruz’s win on Tuesday injected fresh energy into what had been a flagging anti-Trump movement and showed the real estate magnate has work to do to repair damage from remarks about abortion that hurt him with Republican women voters.

Trump needs some decisive victories in coming primary votes to show he is still on the way to assembling the 1,237 delegates needed for the Republican presidential nomination. He has 743 delegates so far, and Cruz 517, with Ohio Governor John Kasich trailing well back with 143 delegates, according to an Associated Press count.

Trump needs to win 55 percent of the remaining delegates to reach the threshold.

Those who oppose Trump are becoming increasingly resigned to the unlikelihood of Cruz obtaining 1,237 delegates – doing so would require winning more than 80 percent of the remaining delegates.

But the anti-Trump camp hopes that if no candidate reaches the needed number of delegates, Republicans would be able to block Trump in a contested convention and select someone else to be the party’s choice.

Cruz’s win in Wisconsin kept that hope alive, diminishing the chances that he would give up before the convention in Cleveland in July.

“Everybody involved in the campaigns have invested countless time, sweat, tears, money and hopes. It is virtually impossible to just walk away from that,” said Craig Shirley, who wrote a biography of Ronald Reagan, one of two candidates who competed in the last contested Republican convention in 1976.

“To fall just a couple delegates short and just take your marbles and go home, it doesn’t work like that.”

Trump is heading to favorable turf in the Northeast and is already predicting victory in New York. A Monmouth University poll of New York Republicans released on Monday showed Trump with 52 percent of the state’s support, a huge lead over Kasich at 25 percent, and Cruz at 17 percent.

“If this result holds in every single congressional district, Trump will walk away with nearly all of New York State’s delegates,” said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute.

“It’s very important for Trump to bounce back strong. The sense of his inevitability is one of his strengths,” said David Yepsen, director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Center at Southern Illinois University.

Trump was uncharacteristically silent on Twitter the day after his Wisconsin loss, and his only statement on Tuesday night was written rather than spoken, was issued by the campaign and referred to him in the third person.

A Reuters/Ipsos poll on Tuesday showed Cruz about even with Trump among Republicans nationally. His recent gains mark the first time since November that a rival has threatened Trump’s standing at the head of the Republican pack.

(Reporting by Steve Holland.; Writing by Ginger Gibson; Editing by Frances Kerry and Howard Goller)

Republican Collins urges Senate hearings on high court pick

A moderate Republican senator heaped praise on President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee on Tuesday, bucking Senate Republican leaders in calling for confirmation hearings but saying she was not optimistic enough others in her party would agree.

Susan Collins of Maine became only the second Republican senator to meet with Merrick Garland since Obama nominated the centrist appellate judge last month to fill the court’s vacancy left by the Feb. 13 death of Justice Antonin Scalia.

The hourlong meeting came at a time when Republican senators are facing mounting pressure from conservative activists to go along with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s plan to block any nominee chosen by Obama.

“The meeting left me more convinced than ever that the process should proceed. The next step, in my view, should be public hearings before the Judiciary Committee,” Collins told reporters.

Collins called Garland “well-informed, thoughtful, impressive, extraordinarily bright and with a sensitivity” toward the roles assigned under the U.S. Constitution to the government’s executive, legislative and judicial branches.

Garland met last week with Illinois Senator Mark Kirk, who called fellow Republicans “closed-minded” for refusing to consider the nomination.

McConnell and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley have shut the door on hearings or a vote to confirm Garland. They have said Obama’s successor, who will be elected on Nov. 8 and take office on Jan. 20, should fill the vacancy.

Grassley has invited Garland to a breakfast meeting to explain in person why he will not hold hearings, a Grassley spokeswoman said on Monday.

Collins said she was not optimistic she would be able to sway enough of her fellow Republicans to begin a formal confirmation process during this volatile and unpredictable presidential and congressional election year.

The court is evenly split 4-4 between conservatives and liberals following Scalia’s death, meaning his successor could influence its ideological direction for years to come.

Republican Arizona Senator Jeff Flake, set to meet next week with Garland, said if a Democrat wins the presidential election, Garland should be confirmed by the Senate “in a heartbeat” during a post-election legislative session.

Some Republicans are concerned that Hillary Clinton, the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, would select a more liberal nominee than Garland.

Flake’s fellow Judiciary Committee member Lindsey Graham dismissed the idea of such a “lame-duck” session to confirm Garland.

“Absolutely not,” the South Carolina Republican said, adding, “I don’t think that’s fair to the (presidential election) winner. Let’s see what the Democrats say if Hillary Clinton wins.”

(Reporting by Richard Cowan; Additional reporting by Susan Cornwell; Editing by Will Dunham)

Virginia governor vetoes bill to label books ‘sexually explicit’ in schools


Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe on Monday vetoed a bill that would force schools to identify materials as “sexually explicit,” a measure prompted by objections to Toni Morrison’s novel “Beloved.”

The measure passed by the Republican-controlled legislature would have mandated that schools notify parents if teachers planned to use the labeled materials.

“This requirement lacks flexibility and would require the label of ‘sexually explicit’ to apply to an artistic work based on a single scene, without further context,” McAuliffe, a Democrat, said in a statement.

He said the Virginia Board of Education was studying the issue, focusing on existing local policies and potential state policies.

A mother’s objection to “Beloved” being taught in her son’s classroom helped spur the legislation that would have given parents more control over classroom materials.

The measure had been opposed by a number of free speech groups, including the American Library Association and the National Coalition Against Censorship.

The novel by Morrison, a Nobel laureate, is the story of a runaway slave who kills her 2-year-old daughter to save her from a life in slavery.

“Beloved” won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1988. The American Library Association has it on a list of banned or challenged classics.

House Speaker William Howell, a Republican who was among the bill’s sponsors, said he was unaware of McAuliffe’s veto and had no reaction.

“I have to see what his veto message said,” he said.

(Reporting by Gary Robertson; Editing by Ian Simpson and Andrew Hay)

Trump’s prediction of ‘massive recession’ puzzles economists

Donald Trump’s prediction that the U.S. economy was on the verge of a “very massive recession” hit a wall of skepticism on Sunday from economists who questioned the Republican presidential front-runner’s calculations.

In a wide-ranging interview with the Washington Post published on Saturday, the billionaire businessman said a combination of high unemployment and an overvalued stock market had set the stage for another economic slump. He put real unemployment above 20 percent.

“We’re not heading for a recession, massive or minor, and the unemployment rate is not 20 percent,” said Harm Bandholz, chief U.S. economist at UniCredit Research in New York.

The official unemployment rate has declined to 5 percent from a peak of 10 percent in October 2009, according to government statistics. But a different, broader measure of unemployment that includes people who want to work but have given up searching and those working part-time because they cannot find full-time employment is at 9.8 percent.

Coming off a difficult week on the campaign trail, in which he acknowledged he made a series of missteps, Trump’s comments to the Washington Post might be some of his most bearish on the economy and financial markets.

“I think we’re sitting on an economic bubble. A financial bubble,” he said.

While calling it a bubble might be a stretch, the fall in corporate profits and the recent rally in stock prices has pushed up the market’s valuation, and stocks on balance are about 15 percent pricier at the moment than their long-term average valuation.

But a cataclysmic economic downturn originating in the United States appears to be a remote possibility.

“There is a very low probability of a massive recession, less than 10 percent,” said Sung Won Sohn, an economics professor at California State University Channel Islands in Camarillo. “If it happens, it would be because of what is happening overseas, especially in China and Europe.”

While some economists agreed that the stock market may be overvalued, few saw that as foretelling a recession.

“Nobody can predict what the stock market is going to do,” Rajeen Dhawan, director of Economic Forecasting Center at Georgia State University, said. “I cannot predict a stock market crash, so I cannot predict a recession. I don’t see any of the reasons for a recession going forward unless there is a huge problem with the market or there is some catastrophic world event which is beyond the scope of economics.”

The Democratic National Committee criticized Trump for making his remarks, saying they “undermine our economy.”

Trump’s success with voters, despite sometimes saying things only to contradict them later, has also alarmed many leading figures within his own party. Some of them are openly plotting to try to prevent him from becoming the nominee at the party’s national convention in July.

Reince Priebus, the Republican National Committee chairman, said on Sunday that voters were “afraid” of their economic situation when asked about Trump’s remarks on CNN’s ‘State of the Union’ show.

“When people are afraid and when they’re angry, sometimes people say things that they regret,” he said, apparently referring to Trump’s remarks. “The truth is that people are concerned about the future, and every candidate is going to communicate their message differently.”

He also played down speculation that party leaders will seek to dislodge Trump by helping someone who is not yet even a declared candidate prevail at the convention, which becomes governed by complicated voting rules if no candidate arrives with a clear majority of votes.

“I think that our candidate is someone who’s running,” Priebus said, referring to Trump, U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and Ohio Governor John Kasich. The candidates will next face voters on Tuesday in Wisconsin, where recent polls tend to show Cruz holding a small lead over Trump.

(Additional reporting by Richard Cowan and Susan Cornwell; Writing by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Mary Milliken and Jonathan Oatis)