- Associated Press - Friday, March 11, 2016

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Latest on campaign 2016 (all times Eastern Standard Time):

4:30 p.m.

Hillary Clinton apologized Friday after gay-rights and AIDS activists assailed her for saying Nancy Reagan helped start a “national conservation” about AIDS in the 1980s. At the time, protesters were struggling to get more federal help in fighting the disease.

Clinton, one of two contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination, made her initial comments in an interview with MSNBC during its coverage of Nancy Reagan’s funeral. After the outcry, she apologized on her Twitter account, saying she “misspoke” about the Reagans’ record on AIDS.

Many activists remain bitter at Ronald Reagan and his administration for what they view as a devastatingly slow response to AIDS. Though initial reports of the disease surfaced in 1981, President Reagan did not make his first public speech about it until 1987.



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2:42 p.m.

Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump says he “doesn’t quite get” why some people preferred the more mellow performance he delivered in Thursday’s debate.

The billionaire businessman left his usual barbs and personal insults behind at the debate in Miami. He says he told himself ahead of time he wasn’t going to talk about “Lying Ted,” his nickname for rival Ted Cruz.

But Trump told a rally in St. Louis on Friday that the other Trump is more exciting.

He says: “Last night on the debate - I don’t quite get this - I got these phenomenal reviews, right? Because I was, like, nice. But isn’t the other more like exciting? Don’t we like the other better?”

Trump’s rally was repeatedly interrupted by protesters.

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2:15 p.m.

Protesters are roiling a Donald Trump rally in St. Louis, repeatedly interrupting the Republican candidate for president as he seeks to speak at a rally ahead of Tuesday’s elections in Missouri and four other states.

Trump says, “these are not the people who made our country great.”

He’s complimenting the police and security officers who are escorting the protesters out of the rally at the city’s Peabody Opera House.

Trump says the media is focusing too much on the protests that interrupt his rallies, and not enough on “the love that’s in these rooms.”

But he adds, “this is more exciting that having a speech.” The billionaire says he’ll still deliver his speech, but it will just take a little bit longer.

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1:15 p.m.

A large crowd is turning out for a Donald Trump rally in St. Louis, the first public campaign event for the Republican presidential front-runner since one of the billionaire’s supporters was charged with punching a protester at a Wednesday rally.

The line waiting to get into Friday’s lunchtime rally at the city’s Peabody Opera House circled several blocks. Most were turned away - the theater holds just 3,100 people.

Dozens of city police officers stood at various points in the line. Others watched from rooftops of neighboring buildings.

Several protesters marched outside, mostly in an area confined behind a makeshift fence. Some exchanged shouts with Trump supporters.

Trump is seeking support ahead of Missouri’s presidential primary on Tuesday. Rival Ted Cruz is speaking at a rally Saturday in the St. Louis County town of Ballwin. Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton also is holding a St. Louis rally on Saturday.

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1:00 p.m.

Donald Trump boasts that he can win the Hispanic vote in a general election and next week, he faces his first major test in the winner-take-all primary in Florida, a highly contentious swing state with a large and diverse population of Latino voters.

His tough stance on illegal immigration plays well among Florida’s more conservative Latinos. Many Cuban-Americans, especially, view illegal immigration through the same lens as many of their white Republican peers who see immigration as an achievement, not as a right, that shouldn’t be taken for granted by those who come to America illegally.

For that reason, Trump has surged in the polls ahead of this crucial contest, even as two Cuban-Americans - Florida’s own Sen. Marco Rubio, and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz - look to use their heritage in their favor. For Rubio especially, who has collected only two wins so far - one of them in Puerto Rico - Florida’s all-or-nothing contest could be his campaign’s swan song if he doesn’t win.

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12:15 p.m.

Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz hedged on a question about whether former-rival-turned-supporter Carly Fiorina would be on his vice presidential short list if he gets the nomination.

Cruz was joined onstage at a forum in Orlando Friday by Fiorina and Fox News television host Sean Hannity. Fiorina endorsed Cruz this week.

Cruz praised Fiorina but didn’t directly answer a question from Hannity about whether Fiorina would be his pick for a running mate.

Meanwhile, Fiorina said front-runner Donald Trump needs to “man up” and not complain about the number of debates in the presidential primary race.

Trump said after Thursday’s debate that there had been too many debates.

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12:00 p.m.

Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio says he hasn’t thought much beyond what happens in Tuesday’s crucial Florida primary.

He says he’s focused on winning the March 15 winner-take-all primary, dismissing several polls in the last week showing him trailing GOP front-runner Donald Trump his home state.

Rubio is predicting “a close election” but says he’s going to win.

Rubio also says he’s not had any talks or meetings with rivals Ted Cruz or John Kasich to team up to defeat GOP front-runner Donald Trump.

He says he’s “not open” to any such talks about joining forces.

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11:50 a.m.

Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz says he was happy the latest GOP debate was more civil than previous ones.

Cruz said Friday during a forum with Fox News talk show host Sean Hannity in Orlando that the past debates had gotten ugly.

Cruz also said he was happy GOP rival Donald Trump’s anatomy wasn’t a topic of discussion during Thursday night’s debate in Miami.

Cruz answered questions at an Orlando megachurch filled with almost 1,000 supporters during a forum that will air on Hannity’s show.

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11:45 a.m.

Marco Rubio’s campaign is urging people in Ohio to vote for his rival, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, to stop rival Donald Trump from clinching the prized contest.

Alex Conant told The Associated Press Friday that the only way to stop Trump from sweeping next week’s basket of winner-take-all contests is to vote for Kasich in Ohio and Rubio in Florida.

Conant said that “If you want to stop Trump in Ohio, Kasich’s the only guy who can beat him there.”

Conant added: “Marco is the only guy who can beat him in Florida.”

Kasich spokesman Rob Nichols says that his candidate is going to win in Ohio without Rubio’s help “just as he’s going to lose Florida without our help.”

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10:30 a.m.

Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz has secured the endorsement of Missouri Rep. Ann Wagner.

In a statement on Friday, Wagner said that Republicans “must unite to win behind a strong, constitutional conservative like Ted Cruz.”

The congresswoman has served as co-chair of the Republican National Committee during President George W. Bush’s first term and was U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg.

Cruz has the backing of some half dozen House members, but only one endorsement from a fellow senator, Mike Lee of Utah.

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9:50 a.m.

Republicans in the Virgin Islands caucused into the night Thursday, and when they finished counting the votes Friday morning, the winner was … no one.

Party chairman John Canegata says all nine delegates from the U.S. territory will go to the Republican National Convention as uncommitted delegates. That makes them free agents, free to support the candidate of their choice.

Canegata says more than 300 voters cast ballots.

The AP delegate count thus far:

- Donald Trump: 459.

- Ted Cruz: 360.

- Marco Rubio: 152.

- John Kasich: 54.

Needed to win the nomination: 1,237.

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9:35 a.m.

Donald Trump says he felt the response of his supporters to an episode of violence at one of his rallies this week was “very, very appropriate.”

Speaking at a Palm Beach press conference on Friday, Trump said the “audience swung back” at a white man who was caught on video hitting a black man as he was escorted out of a Trump rally by deputies.

Trump praised the police as “amazing,” saying they were “very restrained” in response to the incident.

He said that the man - identified as John Franklin McGraw - began hitting people, and the audience hit back. “That’s what we need a little bit more of,” he said.

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9:30 a.m.

Democrats and Republicans have painted a dark vision of America, a place where jobs are vanishing, leaders are corrupt and threats loom from across the globe.

Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders describes a nation in “real crisis,” with a “rigged economy.” Americans are “a bunch of suckers” who’ve “lost everything,” Republican front-runner Donald Trump says.

Washington is “killing jobs,” as Iranian leaders conspire to “murder us,” warns Republican Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.

Gloomy assessments of the country’s future have emerged as a constant refrain of the 2016 presidential contest, as candidates woo a frustrated and anxious electorate. That insecurity, which pollsters say pervades discussions about economic, domestic and foreign policy issues, is setting the stage for an emotionally-charged general election - no matter who wins the primary contests.

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9:20 a.m.

Republican front-runner Donald Trump says he will defeat the Islamic State group if he is elected president, but he will let the generals “play their own game.”

Speaking at a press conference in Palm Beach, Florida on Friday, Trump said he is going to “find the right generals” to do the job, but he will allow them to then call the shots on how the military should approach the war.

Trump has said he wants to loosen the laws that limit the use of torture if he’s elected to the White House, but then appeared to reverse his stance on the use of torture after he was criticized by top Republican national security experts who called his policy views “wildly inconsistent and unmoored in principle.”

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9:10 a.m.

Former Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson says he and Donald Trump have “buried the hatchet” after months of political wrangling, and he is endorsing the GOP front-runner’s White House bid.

At a press conference in Palm Beach, Florida on Friday, Carson, who left the race earlier this month, described “two Donald Trumps” - the persona reflected on stage, and a private, “very cerebral” person who “considers things carefully.”

In his introduction to Carson Friday, Trump described the retired neurosurgeon as a “special, special person - special man,” and a “friend” who is respected by everyone.

Carson warned that it is “extremely dangerous” when political parties attempt to “thwart the will of the people,” and urged politicians to “strengthen the nation,” rather than create divisions.

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