Viewer Guide: How do Republicans sort this all out now?

AP News
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Posted: Mar 16, 2016 6:07 AM
Viewer Guide: How do Republicans sort this all out now?

WASHINGTON (AP) — For anti-Trump Republicans, and there are plenty of them, the pressing question a day after the latest round of primaries is: What do we do now?

A guide to what to watch for on Wednesday, after contests in five big states pushed Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton closer to their parties' nominations while knocking one of the Republican front-runner's rivals out of the race:

CONVENTIONAL OUTLOOK: Trump's strong showing Tuesday night pads his delegate count, yet talk of a contested convention got a boost. Party leaders will be reassessing the convention outlook after the latest delegate totals are tallied for the Republicans. An extraordinary struggle at the convention in July appears to be one of the few chess moves left for Republicans aghast at the prospect of Trump taking them into the presidential election in the fall.

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DUELING TRUMPS: Watch to see which Trump emerges: There's the scrappy Trump who's been stirring up tensions between supporters and protesters at his rallies. And there's the more restrained Trump, trying to position himself for the general election and act more presidential.

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CLINTON'S AIM: Clinton held off on a full pivot toward the general election after Bernie Sanders snatched Michigan from her last week. Now she's saying she's ready to train her focus on "the really dangerous path that Donald Trump has laid out." The Democrat seems to have accepted that Trump will be her opponent in the fall if she stays on course to win. It's his own party that is having trouble coming to terms with Trump as the nominee.

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CRUZ'S COURSE: Ted Cruz is eager to take on Trump one-on-one. Watch to see if he expends any more energy trying to nudge John Kasich out of the picture, now that Marco Rubio is gone. Kasich isn't sounding a bit interested in leaving after having won Ohio, where he's governor. And Cruz, despite being No. 2 in GOP delegates, has a mighty climb to catch up to Trump now.

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ESTABLISHMENT OUTREACH: Are leading party figures ready to coalesce around the GOP front-runner? In Trump's mind, it's already happening. "The biggest people in the party are calling. They want to sit down," he said Tuesday. The only name he dropped was House Speaker Paul Ryan. Ryan's spokesman quickly tweeted that the speaker had called Trump at the businessman's request.

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A DILEMMA: The GOP's in a tight spot. Do Republicans circle the wagons around Kasich, who has only won his home state, deep in the primary season, and badly lags in the delegate count? Or around Cruz, whom so many in Washington despise? Watch for talk of a possible third-party effort to give Republicans who won't tolerate Trump someone to vote for. But few see that as a way to win the presidency. With other options so unappetizing, the idea of a contested convention looms larger.

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KASICH'S COURSE: With his home state of Ohio in the rearview mirror, it's time for Kasich to try to lay out a plausible path to the nomination despite having won only that state. He actually doesn't have one in the primary season — the delegate math is too stacked against him. Nevertheless, he planned to campaign in Pennsylvania on Wednesday, and has said he expects to compete in Maryland, Connecticut, New York and New Jersey. As for the West, he joked, "we're gonna hitch up a covered wagon." Kasich said he also expects to be "forced, going forward, to talk about some of the deep concerns" he has about Trump's campaign.

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WESTWARD HO: After Tuesday's action in the Midwest, candidates point their planes west. Next week's races include voting in both parties in Utah and Arizona, and Democratic caucuses in Idaho. The Democrats also have contests in Alaska, Hawaii and Washington state on March 26.

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DEMS FINGER-POINT: Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz scheduled a news conference Wednesday to take stock of the presidential race and mark the third anniversary this week of a Republican Party report that analyzed the GOP's 2012 defeats and laid out a roadmap for a new, more inclusive GOP. Expect finger-pointing to commence.

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SANDERS' MATH: Sanders has his hands full trying to play delegate catch-up after Tuesday's results. He's hoping to make up ground in the West. He was in Arizona, which votes next week, when the votes rolled in Tuesday night and he's running ads there. He's also running short on time and opportunities to catch Clinton.

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BINGE TIME? Watch for candidates to go on fundraising benders. With the primary calendar now taking on a more leisurely pace, there's plenty of time for high-dollar dinners and personal pitches to donors.

Clinton has fundraisers scheduled in Georgia, Tennessee, Connecticut and Virginia later this week, and donor events next week on the West Coast. Sanders will try again to turn the latest results into online ammo: He's raised millions with post-election email pitches.

On the Republican side, Trump may turn his attention to raising money for the Republican Party, as he has promised. That would help him in the general election. Cruz and Kasich would need to raise quick campaign cash to stay in the race. Both have burned through much of their cash.

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OBAMA'S CHALLENGE: President Barack Obama, watching the campaign unfold from the sidelines, says he's "more than a little dismayed" at the vulgarity, divisive rhetoric and violence. He didn't name names, but he was talking about Trump and his rallies. "We've heard silence from too many of our leaders," Obama said Tuesday. Now it's time to see who speaks up.

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Associated Press writers Julie Bykowicz and Cal Woodward contributed to this report.

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Follow Nancy Benac on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nbenac