Candidates woo Wisconsin

BURLINGTON, Wis. (AP) — Republican presidential candidate John Kasich says one way to fix Social Security is to "set up a tent city." He told a town hall in Burlington, Wisconsin, that "one party will never fix Social Security," and people should hold Occupy-style protests in the nation's capital to demand that Republicans and Democrats work together to get the job done.

UNDATED (AP) — The Democratic presidential campaigns are bickering over the date of a possible debate before the New York primary on April 19. Hillary Clinton's campaign says it has offered three different dates to debate Bernie Sanders in New York, and the Sanders camp has rejected all three: April 4, April 14 and April 15. A Sanders spokesman says the dates proposed by the Clinton campaign "don't make a whole lot of sense" — including this coming Monday, the night of the men's college basketball tournament finals.

 

MILWAUKEE, Wis. (AP) — Locked in a tough primary fight in Wisconsin, Hillary Clinton is looking to draw a contrast with Bernie Sanders by emphasizing her Democratic bona fides.

Before 1,500 Wisconsin Democratic activists, officials and donors in a Milwaukee ballroom Saturday, the former secretary of state crowed, "I am a proud Democrat and I support Democrats up and down the ticket, always have and always will."

It was a swipe at Sanders, a longtime independent senator from Vermont who is expected to have a strong showing in the Wisconsin presidential primary Tuesday.

Earlier at the same event, the state Democratic Party's Founders' Day dinner, Sanders said: "There is one campaign that has created an enormous amount of energy and enthusiasm. And that is our campaign."

Sanders was planning to continue his aggressive Wisconsin tour Sunday and Monday. Clinton was expected to return to New York, where she faces an important home-state primary later this month, while husband Bill Clinton is planning to campaign on her behalf Monday in Milwaukee.

After several primary losses and with a tough fight ahead in the April 19 New York primary, Clinton has shown some frustration with her Democratic opponent in recent days. The tension was evident Saturday as the campaigns bickered over scheduling a possible debate before the New York contest.

Clinton did not raise that dispute in Eau Claire or Milwaukee, but toggled between contrasting her positions on key issues with Sanders and casting herself as more electable than any of the Republicans. She argued that in a general election, she was "best able to withstand whatever the Republicans have planned."

It's a suggestion that Clinton's decades of public life have been more thoroughly dissected than Sanders' years as a far-left mayor, U.S. House member and U.S. senator.

"I think we need a nominee who has been tested and vetted," Clinton said in Milwaukee. "For 25 years they've thrown everything they can at me, and I'm still standing."

Speaking before Clinton at the banquet, Sanders suggested the more than $100 million he's raised this year and the influx of new voters he's attracted make him "the strongest candidate to defeat Donald Trump."

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Lucey reported from Eau Claire, Wisconsin.

 

RACINE, Wis. (AP) — Following one of the worst weeks of his campaign, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump was on defense Saturday as he kicked off a three-day sprint to Wisconsin's primary.

Trump began the afternoon with a rally in the Milwaukee suburb of Racine, where he defended a series of controversial comments in recent days on NATO, abortion and nuclear weapons.

"This politics is a tough business," said Trump, whose performance in Tuesday's contest will help determine whether he can seize the Republican nomination without a fight at the convention. "Because you can say things one way and the press will criticize you horribly. You say it another way and the press will criticize you horribly."

Offstage, Trump expressed regret that he had retweeted an unflattering photo of rival Ted Cruz's wife, Heidi, paired with a glamorous photo of his own wife, Melania, as part of a bitter feud between the two men.

"Yeah, it was a mistake," he told New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd. "If I had to do it again, I wouldn't have sent it."

Among his biggest missteps have been Trump's recent comments on abortion, which have managed to unite both abortion rights activists and opponents in their criticism.

During a taping of "Face The Nation" on Friday, Trump said he believed that, when it comes to abortion: "The laws are set. And I think we have to leave it that way." His spokeswoman, Hope Hicks, quickly issued a clarification that Trump meant that laws won't change until he's president and appoints judges who can interpret them differently.

It was the second time in days that he'd stepped in hot water over the issue. On Wednesday, he'd said women should be punished for getting abortions if they're ever banned — a position the notoriously unapologetic campaign quickly reversed.

Trump told one audience on Saturday that his words had been repeatedly taken out of context, and complained he was being held to a different standard than his rivals. He called his comments on "Face the Nation" ''perfect" and "so good."

"They took words out that I said," Trump told the rally, implying CBS had edited his answer about keeping abortion laws as they are. But the video made clear there was no editing in the exchange about abortion and his response was given in full.

Speaking to a friendlier crowd in Eau Claire Saturday night, Trump said that, on the plus side, he gets millions of dollars worth of free media coverage, "so I can't complain that much."

Trump's abortion comments raised concerns in the Republican Party about whether his unpopularity with women as measured in preference polling would make him unelectable in a general election match-up against Democrat Hillary Clinton.

In an apparent effort to address that concern, Trump said his wife will be campaigning with him Monday. His daughter Ivanka, who just had a baby, will also be returning to campaign with him in another week or so, he said.

Trump's three events Saturday passed peacefully, though some of his supporters waiting in line to enter the Eau Claire rally exchanged harsh words with the several dozen protesters gathered outside.

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Lemire reported from Wausau and Eau Claire, Wisconsin.

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