The Latest: Hometown protesters interrupt Cruz in Houston

AP News
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Posted: Feb 29, 2016 11:12 PM
The Latest: Hometown protesters interrupt Cruz in Houston

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on campaign 2016 on the eve of Super Tuesday (all times local):

11 p.m.

A small but well-coordinated cadre of protesters has kept Ted Cruz from getting a hometown welcome in Houston.

The Texas senator was addressing more than 1,000 people at a Houston Baptist University rally late Monday when he was interrupted repeatedly by demonstrators chanting, "Cruz, bad for Texas, bad for the country."

Cruz, who hails from Houston, at first laughed it off. He said, "It's nice to know three Bernie Sanders supporters got lost."

After more outbursts, Cruz's tone harshened. He derided the protesters as spoiled children, adding, "You have the right to speak, but you don't have the right to interrupt others."

Amid the third major disruption, the crowd booed. As police escorted the protesters out, Cruz said, "If it hurts your ears, go hide at a Bernie Sanders rally."

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10:20 p.m.

Jane Sanders says her husband faces a "rough map" on Super Tuesday but will take his campaign through July's Democratic convention.

Sanders tells reporters traveling to Sen. Bernie Sanders' home state of Vermont that "we expect to win some states and lose some states tomorrow and we think it will only get better as it goes along."

Jane Sanders is a longtime adviser to her husband. She predicts the senator will "split the states" with Hillary Clinton on Super Tuesday but notes that only 15 states will have voted by Tuesday. She says the rest of the nation deserves to have its voices heard in the Democratic primaries.

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8:50 p.m.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie says he won't rule out running for president again.

Christie said on a radio call-in show Monday that he doesn't foresee another campaign, but loves serving and could not say he would never seek the presidency again.

Christie also defended his endorsement of Republican front-runner Donald Trump, saying he has the best chance of any remaining candidate to beat Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton.

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8:40 p.m.

Bernie Sanders raised more than $5 million Monday by simply asking his network of small donors for more money.

In the morning, his campaign announced it had raised $36 million in February, and he set a goal of hitting $40 million by the end of the day.

A website tracking the fundraising effort shows the campaign had exceeded $41 million by Monday evening.

Sanders bested Democratic presidential rival Hillary Clinton in January fundraising. He will have to file February's campaign finance reports by March 20, a due date for all candidates. Those documents will show how much money he has left for his presidential bid.

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8:10 p.m.

Bernie Sanders is rallying 3,600 supporters in the Boston suburbs, recalling that Massachusetts once led the American revolution. He says now it's time for the commonwealth "to lead the political revolution."

Sanders was holding his final rally before the Super Tuesday contests, hoping to claim victory against Hillary Clinton in Massachusetts and a some of the other states holding primaries and caucuses.

The Vermont senator's campaign says it has raised more than $40 million in February and is hoping to raise another $5 million by the end of Monday.

Sanders says the nation needs to think big, noting, "if you start out asking for half a loaf, you're going to end up with crumbs."

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8 p.m.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie says his endorsement of Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump was not part of a bargain to secure a potential Cabinet position.

Christie, speaking on a regular radio call-in show in New Jersey on Monday, declined to discuss whether he would consider a vice presidential or Cabinet position.

In response to questions about disagreeing with Trump during the campaign, Christie pointed to George H.W. Bush calling Ronald Reagan's policies "voodoo economics" before becoming vice president, as well as Vice President Joe Biden's campaign trail disagreements with President Barack Obama before becoming his running mate.

Christie says even though he disagrees with Trump on some issues, he agrees with him on tax and job-creation issues.

Christie announced his support of Trump on Friday at a campaign even in Fort Worth, Texas.

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7:40 p.m.

Former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke says the uproar over his support of Donald Trump is an example of efforts by the media to smear the Republican presidential front-runner.

Duke is also rejecting reports that he gave Trump his "endorsement," saying he simply told people "they should vote for him." He says, "Voting is not a question of endorsing someone."

Duke told Fox News Radio on Monday that he approves of Trump because "he made the point that massive immigration will destroy America."

Trump was criticized by opponents over the weekend for declining to disavow Duke's support during a TV interview. On Monday, Trump said he hadn't heard the question clearly.

Duke says he left the KKK 40 years ago and has "never embraced the term 'white supremacist.'"

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7:35 p.m.

Republican Donald Trump is vowing to restore Christian "power" on the eve of Super Tuesday's primary contests.

Speaking in front of thousands at a rally in Valdosta, Georgia, on Monday evening, Trump repeated his often-mentioned assertion that Christianity is "under siege" and vowed to restore its power by working to repeal rules that limit the political activity of religious groups and other tax-exempt, nonprofit organizations.

Trump says that, "As a political bloc," Christians should be "bigger than women" and "bigger than men." But instead, he says, "we get pushed around."

"You have such power, but you guys are all afraid to use your power," he says, adding, "They're afraid to go out and fight for Christianity in the true sense of the form."

Trump says that, if he's elected, "we are going to work like hell to get rid of that legislation so that you can have your power back."

The Super Tuesday contests include a handful of southern states with large numbers of Christian voters.

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6:37 p.m.

Donald Trump is receiving the backing of some big names in NASCAR on the eve of tomorrow's Super Tuesday contests.

Trump kicked off a rally in Valdosta, Georgia, on Monday evening with appearances by NASCAR chief executive Brian France and several current and former drivers.

The drivers include two-time Daytona 500 champion Bill Elliott and his son, Chase Elliott, whom Trump described as "the hottest young driver in the world."

NASCAR disavowed Trump last summer after he kicked off his campaign with a speech in which he referred to immigrants from Mexico as rapists and drug dealers. The sport pulled its events from Trump's Doral hotel and resort in Miami.

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6 p.m.

Gov. Charlie Baker is ruling out voting for Donald Trump in the Massachusetts Republican primary Tuesday, saying "he's not my guy and he's not my candidate."

Baker on Monday wouldn't reveal his candidate, but he suggested he was choosing between Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.

Baker has been sharply critical of Trump, saying previously it was highly unlikely he would vote for Trump in the primary.

Polls show Trump leading in Massachusetts ahead of Super Tuesday.

Baker wouldn't say whether he would support Trump if the New York billionaire emerged as the party's nominee. Baker says he isn't willing to concede the nomination at this point.

Massachusetts is one of a dozen states with presidential contests on Tuesday.

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4:50 p.m.

Melania Trump says her husband heard from her after he repeated a particular profanity at a rally in New Hampshire.

Donald Trump's wife tells CNN that when a woman yelled out the word, Mrs. Trump was thinking at her husband, "Don't repeat it." She said she felt that if he did, the next day in the media, "all they will talk about is that."

She recalls that he repeated it because "he goes with the flow, he goes with the people" and the crowd was cheering. But, she adds, "that was not his word."

Mrs. Trump said she later shared her thoughts with Donald Trump, the Republican presidential front runner.

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4:22 p.m.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio's is throwing fresh jabs at Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump, inviting the crowd to "have a little fun."

Rubio is shifting from policy to personal attacks on Trump , mocking everything from the billionaire businessman's tan to subtle questions about his manhood. He even implied that Trump wet his pants during a recent debate.

Crowds across the South appear receptive to the junior senator's change in tone, exploding into cheers and laughter at the digs. But individually, many voters sheepishly smile and acknowledge that the turn is unfortunate but necessary for anyone to take down Trump.

Come what may for Rubio, his attacks on Trump, the favorite in most of this week's Super Tuesday polls, exposes a deeply-root antipathy for Trump among a segment of the Republican electorate.

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3:45 p.m.

A Secret Service agent and a news media photographer got into a verbal and physical altercation at a raucous Donald Trump presidential campaign rally riddled with protests Monday in Virginia.

Chris Morris, the photographer, was escorted out of the tense rally amid an anti-Trump protest, and detained before being released. The Secret Service says it is investigating "the exact circumstances." The agent has not been identified.

Videos of the incident taken by reporters and attendees show Morris attempting to secure a better position to photograph some of the many protesters kicked out of Trump's Radford event. Rebuffed by the agent, Morris is heard cursing at the agent, who then grabs Morris and takes him to the ground.

Seconds later, Morris touched the agent to demonstrate his version of what happened. He was then escorted out. Trump's campaign says it is not aware of all the details surrounding the incident.

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3:30 p.m.

Gov. Chris Christie does not want to talk about the presidential race. At least, not at his first press conference since dropping out of the race for the GOP presidential nomination and endorsing Donald Trump.

The New Jersey governor wanted to discuss his nomination of a state Supreme Court judge - and did. But over and over again he refused to discuss the presidential race, Donald Trump or anything else "off topic." Not even when a reporter asked permission to bring up another subject.

Christie snapped, "Permission denied."

Another reporter asked why did didn't want to discuss the presidential race.

Christie answered: "Because I don't want to."

Christie has come under intense fire from some of his former allies for endorsing Trump. He has said Trump is the GOP's best chance to win the 2016 presidential race.

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2:43 p.m.

Hundreds of thousands of voters are heading to the polls for early voting in this critical contest that could make-or-break the presidential aspirations of native son, Sen. Marco Rubio.

Seventeen of Florida's 67 counties opened for early in-person voting Monday, including some of the state's most populated areas, with the remaining counties kicking off early voting on March 5. That's on top of the 600,000 people who have already cast their ballots as absentees in the winner-take-all contest.

For Rubio, who launched his longshot campaign nearly a year ago from Miami, a loss in Florida primary threatens to derail his ambitions of balking front-runner Donald Trump, who thus far dominates in early preference polls.

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2:30 p.m.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is imploring supporters in Minnesota to whip up a large turnout in Tuesday's caucuses.

Sanders says at a rally in Minneapolis, "We can win, no question, here in Minnesota if we have the turnout."

Sanders offered a series of areas where he's different from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, including his opposition to super PACs, his vote against the Iraq war and his rejection of trade deals.

Former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura was on hand for the rally and expected to meet with Sanders after the event.

Ventura has said he's split between Sanders and Republican Donald Trump, and is considering launching his own bid for president.

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12:55 p.m.

Donald Trump is mocking one of many protesters in Radford, Va. who interrupted the billionaire's rant about illegal immigration and Mexico.

The protester shouted, and Trump said from the stage, "Are you from Mexico?"

Several minutes of shouting and booing ensued. The protester was removed.

Trump shouted, "Is it fun being at a Trump rally?"

The crowd hooted and Trump briefly quieted them. Then he looked in front of the stage and asked a woman, "You have a problem? Get her out."

That protester was removed, too.

Trump added, "Believe it or not, we're going to unify this country."

He again tried to deliver the punchline to a story but was interrupted.

"You got another one over there? All right, get out."

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12:29 p.m.

Former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura says he's split between backing Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders and Republican candidate Donald Trump.

It may seem like an odd choice between candidates at opposite ends of the political spectrum. But Ventura told The Associated Press on Monday that he sees echoes of his own underdog win for governor in 1998 in their campaigns. Ventura earned a spot in Minnesota's political history books by winning the state's highest office as a member of the Reform Party, a third-party organization later renamed the Independence Party of Minnesota.

But the former professional wrestler says it all comes down to the influence of money in politics. Ventura says he disagrees with some of Trump's platform, namely on foreign policy and immigration, but he appreciates the New York businessman's self-funded campaign, as well as Sanders' stance on accepting contributions.

Ventura said he won't make an official endorsement because he doesn't belong to either party. Plus, he said he's still mulling his own presidential run as a third-party Libertarian candidate.

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11:50 a.m.

Republican front-runner Donald Trump is the star of a Democratic ad in the Arizona Senate race.

"Donald Trump is dangerous for America," says the commercial by Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, who is challenging longtime GOP Sen. John McCain.

The ad highlights Trump's more incendiary statements, his use of profanity and his questioning of McCain's Vietnam War hero status. The commercial questions how McCain could say he would support Trump if he were the Republican presidential nominee.

The ad says, "there was a time where country mattered more than his political party, but 30 years in Washington has changed John McCain."

Lorna Romero, a spokeswoman for the McCain campaign, is responding by saying the ad is "a cheap, pathetic display" and challenged Kirkpatrick to "explain her longstanding support for (President) Obama's radical, liberal agenda."

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11:05 a.m.

Marco Rubio is picking up Monday where he left off, dogging Republican presidential front runner Donald Trump for not disavowing Sunday a white supremacist and the Ku Klux Klan.

Rubio says Trump's decision not to denounce the public support of former KKK leader David Duke disqualifies him from the nomination from "the party of Lincoln."

Trump has said he did not hear or understand the question Sunday on CNN when he was asked about Duke and the KKK. He did disavow Duke's comments earlier.

Rubio shot back Monday that no matter how bad the earpiece, "'Ku Klux Klan' comes through pretty clearly."

The audience responds to Rubio's attacks with chants of "Dump Trump, dump Trump!"

Rubio trails Trump in polls of Republican voters in Tennessee.

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10:50 a.m.

Hillary Clinton is casting herself as a civil alternative to the insults, bullying, and personal attacks that have consumed the Republican race.

"What we can't let happen is the scapegoating, the flaming, the finger pointing that is going on the Republican side," she told voters gathered in Springfield, Massachusetts on Monday morning. "It really undermines our fabric as a nation. So, I want to do everything I can in this campaign to set us on a different course."

Clinton is in the midst of a campaign swing through Massachusetts and Virginia, on the eve of the Super Tuesday primaries, which includes contests in those states.

She made almost no mention of her primary rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders, underscoring how her political fortunes have shifted since her 22-point loss in New Hampshire earlier this month.

Instead, she's focusing more on her potential general election opponents, asking Democratic primary voters for their help combating Republican economic policies. She says the two parties will have a "great debate" over the economy.

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7:30 a.m.

Donald Trump is stepping back from comments he made over the weekend when he claimed to know nothing about former Klu Klux Klan leader David Duke, saying that he couldn't hear the questions clearly.

Trump was asked Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union" whether he rejected support for his presidential campaign from the former KKK Grand Dragon and other white supremacists after Duke.

"Well, just so you understand, I don't know anything about David Duke. OK?" Trump told host Jake Tapper.

On Monday, however, he told NBC's "Today" that he was given a "very bad earpiece" for the interview and that he "disavowed David Duke all weekend long on Facebook and on Twitter."

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7:00 a.m.

Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign has raised more than $36 million in February and is pushing his supporters to help him top $40 million for the month by the end of the day.

Sanders faced an end-of-the-month deadline in his primary campaign against Hillary Clinton. Entering the month, he had raised nearly $95 million since launching his campaign last April.

Sanders has raised most of his campaign money online in small increments and has made overhauling the campaign finance system a central part of the race.

He is campaigning Monday in Minnesota and Massachusetts heading into the Super Tuesday contests.