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Greg BluesteinTamar Hallerman
Jim Galloway

As Donald Trump rolls, talk of deal-making surfaces

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Conffetti falls as Republican presidential candidate, Ohio Gov. John Kasich speaks to supporters in Berea, Ohio. Kasich won the Ohio primary on Tuesday night. Jeff Swensen/Getty Images

Conffetti falls as Republican presidential candidate, Ohio Gov. John Kasich speaks to supporters in Berea, Ohio. Kasich won the Ohio primary on Tuesday night. Jeff Swensen/Getty Images

The collapse of U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio in Florida last night was an integral part of Donald Trump’s plan to take Cleveland by storm this summer.

Gov. John Kasich’s favorite-son victory in Ohio – a win that in other years would prompt a yawn – was not part of that script and makes it more likely that the Republican National Convention could begin without a candidate who owns the necessary majority of 1,237 delegates. Not The Donald, not Ted Cruz – and certainly not Kasich.logo-all

“We’re going all the way to Cleveland and secure the nomination,” the Ohio governor said last night – omitting the word “win.”

Two alternative plotlines are already out there. From Larry Sabato, of Crystal Ball fame:

[T]here will be 40 days between the end of the Republican primaries on June 7 and the start of the GOP convention. This is plenty of time for intense negotiations between and among the campaigns, facilitated by others within the party. Do not underestimate the possibility that a ticket can be agreed upon before the gavel brings the convention to order. In addition, if Trump has hundreds more delegates than the runner-up (almost certainly, Cruz) and he is over 1,000 delegates, it will be exceedingly difficult to deny him the nomination. In fact, to do so would be to guarantee a meltdown of historic proportions in Cleveland.

Trump seemed to acknowledge that this is a likely course. From The Associated Press:

Donald Trump says Republican senators who are trashing him in public are calling him in private because they want to “become involved” in his presidential campaign, eventually.

Trump didn’t name any senators in his interview on MSNBC the morning after his wins in Florida, Illinois and North Carolina Tuesday night. But he said the Republicans include some who appear on the morning talk shows saying, “Donald Trump, we have to stop him.” Trump added that they “are calling me to work out a deal” to “become involved. They see things here that they’ve never ever seen in the Republican Party.”

Then there’s the third way. From ABC News:

In a sign of anti-Trump sentiment among some Republicans on Mini Super Tuesday, almost two-thirds of non-Trump supporters said they would vote for a third party if Donald Trump were to win the GOP nomination, according to preliminary exit poll data.

And from NBC News:

Let us assume that Russell Moore, the Southern Baptist Convention’s public policy man and a prominent religious conservative opposed to Trump, would be interested in that alternative. He passed along this Tweet a few hours ago:

If you were counting winners from last night’s contests, here’s your list, in order:

Democrat Hillary Clinton, who all but wrapped up her nomination with wins over Bernie Sanders not just in Florida and North Carolina, but Illinois and Ohio, too. By Larry Sabato’s figuring (same link as above), Sanders could win 65 percent of the available delegates in remaining races and would still finish short of Clinton. That’s not counting superdelegates.

Donald Trump, who proved himself impervious to $13 million in negative advertising in Florida alone. The billionaire has four months to develop a taste for pierogis.

John Kasich, who was finally able to deliver a speech in prime time on election night.

and Ted Cruz, who continued to scrounge enough delegates to argue that he’s the most logical convention alternative to Trump.

***

On the home front, the Georgia Restaurant Association has declared it has given up on efforts to pass a “Sunday brunch” bill, which would allow restaurants to serve a mimosa as early as 10:30 a.m. on Sunday. The note from GRA chief Karen Bremer:

I wanted to let everyone know that the brunch bill is officially dead. Again “Leadership” would not allow it to move. Our team did a commendable job and worked hard to get this issue to top awareness for legislators, consumers and of course the press. We will work again next session to get it passed and utilize the techniques we mastered this session. We must not let this over shadow the other good pieces of legislation we assisted with passing or were able to eliminate from the conversation. Thanks to all for your efforts and we are thankful to Brett Harrell & Renee Unterman & Butch Miller for their leadership and concern for small businesses and a level playing field for business and government.

***

State Rep. Allen Peake plans to revive his effort to expand Georgia’s medical marijuana program after it stalled in a Senate committee, whether it be by tacking it onto an unrelated bill in the final days of the legislative session or rolling out a new push next year.

Expect him to face the same buzz saw of opposition from Gov. Nathan Deal, once his staunch ally. Now Deal has emerged as one of the sharpest critics of Peake’s proposal, which seeks to expand the list of medical conditions eligible for medical marijuana and eventually would allow Georgia manufacturers to grow the plant.

The governor said Tuesday that the state has already taken “significant steps” to allow medical marijuana. But he said more sweeping changes would have to come from federal lawmakers.

“I’m ready to have somebody tell me that those who support anything in this arena have put the same kind of pressure on the members of Congress that they put on the members of the Legislature and the Governor’s Office,” he said.

He urged advocates to press Congress to “actually solve the problem rather than us have to make partial fixes.”

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State Sen. Fran Millar, R-Dunwoody, took to Facebook — as he often does — to explain his opposition to HB 859, the measure sent to Gov. Nathan Deal that would allow concealed weapons on public university campuses. From his post:

I agree with Governor Deal that the world will not end with passage of this bill. However, many parents are not comfortable with their child being in an environment where handguns are available.

We are witnessing an increase in the attitude of anger and fear in our country versus optimism and hope.

I would rather see us invest in increased campus security and awareness then allows handguns on site.

I also believe this sentiment was felt by several of my Republican Senator colleagues. However, politics cannot be escaped (especially in an election year) and the bill passed with overwhelming support.

***

U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson may soon unveil what could be the most substantial bipartisan compromise of his tenure so far as chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.

The two-term senator said he hopes to introduce a package in early April that would give the secretary of veterans affairs the ability to hire, fire and discipline executives more effectively. Isakson said the new power would help hold senior leadership in the Department of Veterans Affairs accountable.

“We have our differences still, but patently we want to make sure that we send the signal to the American people and the American media that accountability at the VA is now something that is meaningful,” Isakson said of his work with the senior-most members of the House and Senate VA committees on the compromise.

The legislation would also focus on improving the VA’s caregivers program and addressing the backlog of veterans’ appeals cases. The measure follows reports that several senior VA executives accused of wrongdoing had their demotions overturned by administrative judges.

***

U.S. Rep. Barry Loudermilk faces four primary challengers this spring, but the Cassville Republican said he’s confident no one will outflank him.

“I don’t think there’s any room to run to the right,” Loudermilk said in an interview. “From what we’re hearing, people are happy with the job that we’re doing. We have done everything we’ve committed to doing in our campaign.”

Loudermilk, a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, pointed to a recent endorsement from the tea party group FreedomWorks PAC and said that after spending “months in the political doghouse” for voting against John Boehner for speaker at the beginning of the 114th Congress, he was able to help usher in new party leadership with Paul Ryan’s ascension last fall.

“We’re changing the culture. We have a seat at the table now,” he said, citing the current House budget debate.

***

Former Congressman Paul Broun is asking for money to aid him in his primary race against incumbent Doug Collins for Georgia’s 9th Congressional District seat.

The doctor said the campaign of Collins, R-Gainesville, has initiated “an aggressive smear campaign” targeting his values and voting record in a fundraising email to supporters. From the letter:

“When I announced my candidacy, I knew this would be a difficult race, but I never expected the attacks would begin this fast. I have been in the race less than a week and my opponent, Rep. Doug Collins, is already running radio ads against me.”

Broun’s email doesn’t mention the swipes taken at his residency.