Beasts of the East

Hillary Clinton has climbed closer to breaking through the “highest, hardest glass ceiling” — the feat that eluded her in 2008. As for Donald Trump, those who thought his ceiling could go no higher got a rude shock.

The front-runners in the Democratic and Republican primaries reinforced their dominance in Tuesday’s primaries. Trump scored a five-state sweep of Pennsylvania, Maryland, Connecticut, Delaware and Rhode Island, and Clinton won four of the states.

For much of the primary season, Trump skeptics held that his ceiling of support from GOP voters was about 30%. Or maybe 35%. Surely not more than 40%.

But an NBC poll Tuesday showed Trump touching the 50% mark for the first time, and his percentages in the five states were even higher — from the mid-50s to the mid-60s. There is no sign the Ted Cruz-John Kasich nonaggression pact helped either GOP also-ran.

The night's winners promptly turned the rhetoric towards each other.

Trump, the self-described "presumptive nominee," let loose with this sound-bite: "Frankly, if Hillary Clinton were a man, I don't think she'd get 5 percent of the vote. The only thing she's got going is the women's card."

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"If fighting for women's health care and paid family leave and equal pay is playing the woman card," she shot back from a victory rostrum in Philadelphia, "then deal me in."

Trump won at least 105 of the 118 bound delegates available, and is more than 75 percent of the way toward the 1,237 needed to clinch.

Clinton easily took the Democrats’ biggest prize — Pennsylvania — along with Maryland, Connecticut and Delaware — and has 88 percent of the delegates she needs. At her victory rally in Philadelphia, Clinton urged Sanders loyalists to help her unify the party. She also reached out to moderate GOP voters.

Click here for latest primary results.

Click here for up-to-date delegate counts.

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How they did it

Exit polls in Connecticut, Maryland and Pennsylvania showed Trump attracted a broad coalition of Republican voters — young and old, men and women, and those who want a candidate who will shake things up.

On the Democratic side, Clinton drew overwhelming support from women and black voters. In Pennsylvania, Clinton was supported by most of those who identified themselves as moderate or somewhat liberal, but she also pulled even with Sanders among those saying they were very liberal.

What they said

Trump: “When the boxer knocks out the other boxer, you don’t have to wait for a decision, and that’s what happened tonight. ... I consider myself the presumptive nominee, absolutely.”

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Clinton: “If you are a Democrat, an independent or a thoughtful Republican, you know that their [Trump and Cruz] approach is not going to build an America where we increase opportunity or decrease inequality.”

Sanders: “This campaign is not just about electing a president. It is about transforming our nation.”

Cruz: “Tonight this campaign moves back to Indiana.”

Kasich campaign tweet: “America deserves a president that will make us proud. John Kasich’s fight will continue.”

No -gate in delegate process

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Trump complains the delegate system for winning the Republican presidential nomination is convoluted and “rigged” against him. He might be right on the first point, but he’s wrong on the second, explains Newsday’s Yancey Roy.

If anything, the system has given Trump a net profit in delegates.

The take-away

History isn’t much good as a guide when it’s misunderstood, writes Newsday’s Dan Janison, and those comparing Trump’s candidacy to Republican Barry Goldwater’s in 1964, or Sanders’ to Ralph Nader’s third-party bid in 2000, are missing key distinctions.

Palace intrigues at Trump Tower

Trump has started to resent efforts by Paul Manafort, one of his recently hired campaign generals, to transform him so he appears more “presidential,” according to Politico, which cites sources close to the campaign.

Manafort was hired to bring a higher level of professionalism to Trump’s bid, including delegate-wooing efforts in which the billionaire was getting outfoxed by Cruz.

But Manafort has overstepped his bounds, in Trump’s view, and campaign manager Corey Lewandowski has gotten some of his power restored. Lewandowski said on CNN Tuesday: “The motto of the campaign has been and continues to be: Let Mr. Trump be Mr. Trump.”

Trump: Run, Bernie, run

The Republican front-runner, who trails Clinton in general-election polls, tweeted unsolicited advice to the second-place Democratic contender:

“Bernie Sanders has been treated terribly by the Democrats — both with delegates & otherwise. He should show them, and run as an Independent!”

You can bet Trump bets that if that ever happened, Sanders would siphon more votes from Clinton than from him. It’s not going to, Sanders’ wife, Jane, told CNN: “Bernie will not be running as an independent.”

Ditto-head deception

Back in February Trump went after Cruz for falsely claiming on social media that Ben Carson was about to drop out. On Wednesday, he called into "Morning Joe" and -- while sounding exhausted to the point where he had to deny being in bed -- told one of his TV cheerleaders, Joe Scaroborough that his rivals should drop out.

"In fact I heard they were having a news conference last night to drop out of the race and they canceled the news conference," Trump said of Cruz and Kasich. He may have meant it as a caustic quip referencing Carson, who has since endorsed him. But it went unexplained on the show, and viewers might have gotten the false impression such an announcement was real.

What else is happening:

  • Trump is two states away from clinching, New York Times analysts say (pay wall).
  • Counter-intuitive as it sounds, Cruz has built pressure on Trump to win delegates at the polls or face severe trouble at the GOP convention...
  • A hapless Cruz calls a basketball hoop a "basketball ring," prompting ridicule....
  • Pro-Sanders progressives are looking for ways to keep their movement alive whether he wins or loses, ABC News says ...
  • Nearly needless to say, Kasich didn't gain any of the ground he sought in the northeast.
  • Those New York affidavit ballots will count, said the director of the city's election board, who apologized for screwups a week ago....
  • “I agree with Donald Trump,”said Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid. “Leave Tom Brady alone” ...
  • Trump found a shortcut under FAA rules to get his Cessna jet ungrounded by selling it to himself ...
  • Sanders says Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) would make a good vice presidential candidate ...
  • Trump plans to deliver what is billed as a serious foreign policy speech in Washington Wednesday, and later holds a rally in Indianapolis. Sanders has rallies in Indiana ...
  • Lena Dunham’s vow to move to Canada if Trump is elected only increases his will to win, he said on “Fox & Friends.” He called her a “B-actor” with “no mojo” ...
  • Cruz says that he has changed diapers, unlike Trump, who said once that men who do that chore are “acting like the wife” ...