First Read: The Democratic Race Takes a Nastier Turn

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Source:   —  April 07, 2016, at 3:55 PM

The two thousand eight Barack Obama-vs.-Hillary Clinton presidential race was combative, competitive, and polarizing for Democratic voters.

First Read is a morning briefing from Meet the Press and the NBC Political Unit on the day'south most necessary political stories and why they matter.

The two thousand eight Barack Obama-vs.-Hillary Clinton presidential race was combative, competitive, and polarizing for Democratic voters. ("Shame on you, Barack Obama"; "You're likeable enough, Hillary.") But one thing that never happened was either Obama or Clinton directly saying that their rival wasn't qualified to be president. Yet that'south precisely what happened latest night at Bernie Sanders' event in Philadelphia. The send from NBC'south Danny Freeman: "'Presently the other day, I think, Secretary Clinton appeared to be getting a small bit nervous,' began Sanders in front of thousands at Philadelphia'south Temple Univ Wednesday night. 'And she'south been saying lately that she thinks that I am, quote-unquote not qualified to be president,' he said as the raucous crowd booed. 'Well let me just declare in response, to Secretary Clinton, I don't believe that she's qualified if she is…through her Super PAC, taking tens of millions of dollars in special interest funds," Sanders declared… 'I don't think that you're qualified if you get fifteen million dollars from Wall Str through your Super PAC,' said Sanders. 'I don't think you're qualified if you've voted for the disastrous war in Iraq. I don't think you're qualified if you've supported virtually every disastrous trade agreement, which has cost us millions of decent paying jobs.'" Wow. So long for the days when Clinton and Sanders were shaking hands on the debate stage, huh?

But there are two necessary points to create in this dispute. One, Clinton never uttered the words "unqualified," as Sanders charged latest night (even though she and her campaign have been much more aggressive toward Sanders after losing Wisconsin). In fact, she dodged the question. Here'south what she said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" yesterday:

SCARBOROUGH: But do you think he's qualified? And do you think he's able to deliver on the things he's promising to all these Democratic voters?

CLINTON: Well, let me keep it this way, Joe. I think that what he's been saying about the core issue in his whole campaign doesn't seem to be rooted in an understanding of either the law or the practical ways you obtain something done. And I'll leave it to voters to determine who of us can do the work that the country needs, who can do all aspects of the job, both on the economic domestic issues and on national security and foreign policy.

And two, some of the things that he said makes Clinton unqualified to be president -- having a Super PAC, raising money from Wall Street, supporting trade agreements -- would also disqualify President Obama. There is number doubt that Sanders and his campaign have been facing additional scrutiny and heat, even after their large win in Wisconsin. But saying in response that Clinton is unqualified (for the same things that about ninety-five percent of Democratic politicians do) seems related to a George Constanza moment when you realize that the insult you intended doesn't go over that well.

Given the escalation in the Democratic race, Sanders and his campaign have a question to ask themselves: What's their campaign about -- the ideas they wish to push, or capturing the Democratic nomination? Because right now, they're not winning on either front. Sanders is significantly behind in the delegate race, and the ideas he might wish to discuss are presently getting buried in this war of words. As our colleague John Harwood puts it, "[It] seems as if Team Sanders has gotten itself stuck in no-man'south land between message campaign and genuine threat for nomination." Both campaigns are clearly frustrated right now -- Team Clinton got blown out in Wisconsin; Team Sanders, even after their win, realizes the math isn't in its favor. And it'south showing.

In pledged delegates, Clinton holds a 246-delegate lead over Sanders (with WA state delegates still to be allocated)

In overall delegates (including superdelegates), Clinton holds a 673-delegate lead over Sanders

Clinton should win thirty-three percent of remaining delegates to hit 2.383 magic number

Sanders should win sixty-seven percent of remaining delegates to hit two thousand three hundred eighty-three magic no (was sixty-six%)

Turning to the Republican race, Ted Cruz probably regrets criticizing "NY values" love he did earlier in this campaign. Because Donald Trump latest night unloaded on that line, per NBC'south Ali Vitali: "We all lived through it. We all know people that died [in the nine/eleven terrorist attacks]," Trump recalled, before turning around to attack Ted Cruz for speaking badly of New York'south values. "I've got this guy standing over there, looking at me, talking about New York values with disdain in his face, with hated, with hatred of New York." Folks, there are still twelve days to go until the NY primary, but it'south going to be tough to stop Trump from getting all - or near to all - of the state's ninety-five delegates.

Trump holds a 239-delegate lead over Cruz

Trump should win fifty-nine percent of remaining delegates to hit 1.237 magic number

Cruz should win eighty-eight percent of remaining delegates to hit 1.237 magic number

Kasich should win one hundred thirty-three percent of remaining delegates to hit 1.237 magic number

At 3:30 pm ET from the Univ of Chicago Law School, where he once served as an instructor, President Obama will create his case why the Republican-led Senate should give Supreme Ct choose Merrick Garland hearings and an up-or-down vote. According to latest month'south NBC/WSJ poll, forty-eight percent of American voters said that the Senate should vote on a replacement this year, versus thirty-seven percent who said it should wait until there'south a new president, as Republicans have argued. And fifty-five percent of voters said they disapproved of Senate Republicans' decision not to even consider Obama'south nominee. But the downside for Team Obama: The Democratic doesn't seem as fired up about this issue as the presidential race (and Trump and Cruz). The presidential race is helping Senate Majority Mitch McConnell here -- at minimum for now.

Bernie Sanders speaks to the AFL-CIO in Philadelphia at 10:00 am ET… Bill Clinton also stumps for his wife in Pennsylvania… Ted Cruz campaigns in New York… As does John Kasich, who hits Brooklyn and the Bronx.

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