First Read is a morning briefing from Meet the Press and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
As GOP race gets nastier, Clinton pivots to the general election
In one of the least eventful weeks of the 2016 campaign in recent memory -- due to the tragic terrorist attacks in Belgium and the lack of primary contests -- two important developments took place. First, the Republican race got nastier (if that was possible) after Donald Trump and Ted Cruz battled over their wives. "Donald, you're a sniveling coward, and leave Heidi the hell alone," Cruz said after Trump retweeted an unflattering photo of Cruz's wife. Still, Cruz didn't answer the question from NBC's Hallie Jackson if he'd support Trump as the GOP nominee after this episode. "Donald Trump will not be the nominee," Cruz maintained. And consider that Trump vs. Cruz, as well as the "Stop Trump" effort, is going to last another FOUR months until the Republican convention in July. The second development that took place this week was that Hillary Clinton started pivoting heavily toward the general election after her primary victory in Arizona. Note her public events since Tuesday: a counterterrorism speech at Stanford after the attacks in Belgium, and then a homeland security forum at the University of Southern California. And today, per NBC's Monica Alba, Clinton surrogates like former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta will hold a conference call contrasting her foreign-policy/national security approach with the Republican candidates. Now that pivot could be somewhat risky for Clinton, given that Bernie Sanders will likely close his delegate deficit in this weekend's three Democratic contests. But the trends are unmistakable: Democrats are turning to the general, while Republicans are likely bracing themselves for another four months of what we saw this week.
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