Monday June 17th, 2019 6:50AM

The Latest: Empty seats at Trump rally in Milwaukee

By The Associated Press
  Contact Editor

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on campaign 2016 ahead of Tuesday's Wisconsin primary (all times Eastern Daylight Time):

8:20 p.m.

Donald Trump's final rally on the eve of Wisconsin's primary attracted a smaller than usual crowd, with several hundred seats still empty as he stepped on stage.

Trump is speaking at the Milwaukee Theatre, around the corner from a venue where Democrat Bernie Sanders is holding his own event.

While many of Trump's city rallies have drawn protesters, the frigid temperatures and competing rally appear to have kept them at bay.

Trump's campaign is known for his massive rallies, which typically draw thousands of fans, with lines snaking on for blocks and frequent overflow rooms.


8 p.m.

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have agreed to a Democratic presidential debate next week ahead of the New York primary.

Clinton holds a lead among delegates but Sanders is hoping a win in Tuesday's primary in Wisconsin will help him build momentum in Clinton's home state.

The televised debate will be held in Brooklyn, New York, on April 14, five days before the state's April 19 primary.

Both candidates have personal ties to the debate site. Sanders was born and raised in Brooklyn. Clinton represented New York in the Senate and her campaign's headquarters is based in Brooklyn.

CNN will host the debate in partnership with Time Warner Cable's NY1.


7 p.m.

On the eve of the Wisconsin primary, Hillary Clinton's campaign is arguing that she has a clear lead in delegates and votes and that Bernie Sanders' "path forward relies on overturning the will of the voters."

In a memo published on Monday night, campaign manager Robby Mook says that Clinton has a "nearly insurmountable lead among both delegates and actual voters," noting that she has won 2.5 million more votes than Sanders. He also says she leads by 230 pledged delegates and "it's becoming increasingly unlikely that Sen. Sanders will be able to catch up."

Mook says Sanders' strategy now is "a combination of trying to flip pledged delegates at state and county conventions, while also convincing super delegates that he deserves their support."

Sander is putting up a tough fight against Clinton in Wisconsin. A recent poll from Marquette University suggested he had a slight edge in the race.


6:00 p.m.

Ted Cruz says he's sampled lots of Wisconsin cheese and may soon try some local brew before he leaves the state after Tuesday's primary.

But Cruz says his preferred beer comes not from Wisconsin, but Ireland. Cruz says, "I like a pint of Guinness poured slow. That's a meal in and of itself."

Cruz is finding plenty to eat in the state the day before the primary. He's sampled cheese at two different stops and had a cup of strawberry Gelato at an Italian market in Milwaukee.

He confesses all the eating and being confined to his campaign bus hurts his attempts to exercise. Cruz says he can't get many steps in walking from the front of the bus to the back, but his wife Heidi jokes, "It's good for the core."


5:53 p.m.

Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Bernie Sanders are holding dueling rallies in Milwaukee on the eve of the critical Wisconsin primary.

Trump has scheduled a 7 p.m. rally at the Milwaukee Theatre. Sanders will be appearing at the nearby Wisconsin Center at the same time.

At a rally in Superior earlier Monday, Trump mocked Sanders, declaring, incorrectly, that he'd cancelled his event when, in fact, the Vermont senator had moved it to a venue nearby.


5:52 p.m.

Republican presidential contender Ted Cruz says he loves cheese — but not on his head.

Cruz said Monday afternoon at Mars Cheese Castle, a specialty food shop that doubles as a roadside tourist attraction between Milwaukee and Chicago, that the first rule of politics is "no funny hats."

He gave a thumbs-up to cheese curds and jalapeno cheese bread. But he declined to wear a foam wedge, the preferred headgear of Green Bay Packers fans.

"I would not presume to intrude on the elegance with witch the people of Wisconsin wear their cheese heads," Cruz said.

He also wouldn't pick a favorite cheese — the shop boasts over 600 varieties. "I've never had a bad cheese," he said, adding later, "I like cheese on cheese."


4:22 p.m.

Donald Trump often says that he could act more presidential than any other candidate. But he said Monday that wouldn't be nearly as much fun.

Trump tells a rally crowd gathered in an open airplane hangar in frigid northern Wisconsin that if he were to act too presidential, "only about 20 percent of you would be here, because it would be boring as hell."

Trump says that his wife, Melania, and daughter, Ivanka, have both urged him to be more presidential and tone down his attacks, especially on the debate stage.

But Trump says that he still needs to take care of the "leftovers": his two remaining Republican rivals, Ted Cruz and John Kasich, before he shifts his tone.

He adds, "Let me be un-presidential just for a little while longer."


3:55 p.m.

Ted Cruz is outmaneuvering Donald Trump in North Dakota, scooping up endorsements from delegates who were selected at the party's state convention over the weekend.

All 28 of North Dakota's delegates will go to the national convention as free agents, free to support the candidate of their choice. But in interviews, 10 said they are committed to vote for Cruz at the convention. A few others said they are leaning toward Cruz, though they weren't ready to commit.

None has endorsed Trump so far.

The process of selecting people to be delegates at the national convention is tedious and complicated, and the rules vary from state to state. So far, Cruz is excelling at this insiders' game by getting delegates who would be loyal to him. Trump, however, still has a big lead in the delegate count because of his success at the polls.

The AP delegate count:

Trump: 737.

Cruz: 475.

Kasich: 143.

Needed to win the nomination: 1,237.


3: 40 p.m.

It's Friday evening at the Nite Owls Tavern in Slinger, Wis. There's basketball on the TVs, beer and Old Fashioneds in the glasses, fried fish on the plates — and good-natured conversation that largely eschews the presidential election that seems so far from this cozy, small-town watering hole.

But conflicting opinions are clear when the question is posed: Which candidate would be the best drinking companion?

Not Republican front-runner Donald Trump, says Catherine LeRose, 50, a cook at the bar who supports Hillary Clinton. Not Democratic leader Hillary Clinton, says Dan Gremonprez, 65, of West Bend, a retired engineer.

The "beer test" may seem like a silly way to decide an election, but people generally want to vote for candidates they like, who understand what it is like to be in their shoes.


3:11 p.m.

Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign says it raised $29.5 million for her primary campaign in March, about $15 million less than Democratic rival Bernie Sanders' haul for the month.

Clinton's campaign says it starts April with nearly $29 million in the bank. Sanders campaign has not said how much they had in reserves at the start of the month.

Clinton has maintained an advantage in cash on hand during the primaries.

Her campaign says the total for April does not include $6.1 million raised for the Democratic National Committee and state parties. That money could be used for Clinton in the general election.

Clinton raised $74 million for the primaries during the first three months of 2016. Sanders raised $109 million for the first quarter of 2016.


3:00 p.m.

A White nationalist group has been robo-calling Wisconsin residents, urging them to vote for Donald Trump.

The American National Super PAC placed calls on Saturday evening and all day Sunday to all residential landlines in the state, said William Johnson, who heads the American Freedom Party.

The call features a woman who says she's planning to vote for Trump because he will "not only be presidential," but will also "put America first," ''respect all women and will help preserve Western civilization."

This isn't the first time Johnson has placed calls to boost Trump. He's now run them in a handful of states, including Iowa and New Hampshire.

Johnson said the ad features a "toned-down approach" that he says has proven effective with Trump supporters.

Trump has received criticism for drawing support from a number of White nationalist and supremacist leaders. He has disavowed that support, but sometimes not as swiftly as some would like.


1:35 p.m.

John Kasich is suggesting Donald Trump's calls for him to drop out of the race amount to basic whining.

Speaking at Hofstra University, the Ohio governor notes Trump himself admitted Kasich is winning over his voters. Kasich has long argued that he can bring Trump supporters his way because he offers real solutions.

Kasich says, "they're really not 'his' people, they're Americans who are worried."

Kasich says he won't get "desperate" like Trump and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, to win the GOP nomination.

Although he's poised to lose Wisconsin's primary on Tuesday, Kasich says he's the only one of the three who can make the state competitive for the GOP in the general election


1:10 p.m.

Wooing working class voters, Hillary Clinton is linking herself to successful union-led efforts to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

Clinton joined New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo Monday to praise the state's newly-approved minimum wage at a rally in New York City, predicting the higher threshold would "sweep" the nation.

But Clinton hasn't embraced that standard in her own campaign platform, advocating instead for a national level of $12 an hour. But Clinton says she backs attempts by cities and states to set a higher standard.

Clinton said Monday that the country needs "to build on what was done here in New York and go all the way to was and raise the minimum wage for everybody."

Democratic rival Bernie Sanders has made a $15 an hour wage a top issue of his candidacy.


12:29 p.m.

Bernie Sanders says he's going to "do everything we can to rebuild the trade unions" in Wisconsin.

Sanders' statement of support for organized labor came on the eve of the state's critical Democratic primary and in the wake of laws signed by Republican Gov. Scott Walker that shut down public unions and made Wisconsin a right-to-work state. Speaking in Janesville, Sanders pledged to be, "Scott Walker in reverse."

He pledged to rebuild the middle class by opposing trade agreements that he said have cost American jobs and raising the minimum wage to $15.

Janesville took a huge economic hit in 2009 when General Motors closed its massive production plant. Hundreds of UAW workers have since taken jobs at other GM plants.


12:00 p.m.

Donald Trump says a win in Wisconsin would effectively end the GOP presidential nominating fight and allow him to focus on defeating Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Ramping up his rhetoric on the eve of the vote, Trump implored his supporters to turn out in Tuesday's Wisconsin primary. He says to supporters in LaCrosse, "wouldn't you like to take the credit?"

Trump also is mocking experts who have suggested that he was ill-prepared for office or that his campaign was fraying after a rocky stretch. The pundits, he says, are "terrible."


11:35 a.m.

Presidential candidate Ted Cruz says talk of someone other than him or Donald Trump winning the Republican nomination at a contested convention is "nothing less than a pipe dream."

That was his answer to a question about someone getting the nomination who didn't run this year, such as 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney — or Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who's still in the race despite overwhelming odds.

Cruz told reporters in Madison, Wisconsin, on Monday that if that happened, "the people would rightly revolt."

Cruz is campaigning in Wisconsin ahead of its primary on Tuesday. He says a win in the state would give him momentum moving forward, even though Trump has the clearer path to clinching the 1,237 delegates needed to win the nomination at the end of the primary season.


11:15 a.m.

On the eve of the Wisconsin primary, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is now predicting that he's "going to have a really, really big victory."

Trump's rhetoric in the state has grown increasingly confident over the last three days. Saturday morning, he was on the defensive, complaining about the coverage he's received from the state's talk radio and suggested that his message wasn't getting through to voters.

But as he's moved from rally to rally in the state — many of them featuring crowds in the thousands — in recent days, he's grown more optimistic, moving from thinking he "could surprise" to Monday morning in LaCrosse all but guaranteeing victory.

Trump was down by 10 points to his Republican rival Ted Cruz in a recent state poll.

Local officials said about 2,000 people had gathered in LaCrosse's convention center on the banks of Mississippi River. Trump has also rallies scheduled Monday for Superior, Wisconsin and Milwaukee.

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