- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 15, 2016

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


12:30 a.m.

Sen. Bernie Sanders is urging an energized, late-night crowd of thousands in Chicago to help bring his campaign’s “political revolution” to Illinois on Tuesday.

His voice hoarse, the Democratic presidential candidate took the stage just after 11 p.m. at Roosevelt University’s Auditorium Theatre. The crowd of more than 3,000 stood and cheered as Sanders called for equal pay for women, reducing gun violence and immigration reform.

“It looks to me like Chicago and Illinois are ready for a political revolution,” Sanders says. “And that is what we’re going to see tomorrow.”

Democratic former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who was born in suburban Chicago, has been the favorite to win Illinois. But Sanders’ campaign and aides to Clinton say the race has gotten closer in recent days, as Sanders looks for a repeat of the surprise victory he claimed in Michigan last week.

Clinton, who leads in the overall delegate count, campaigned in Chicago on Monday morning.


10:20 p.m.

Ted Cruz says it would be a “fireable offense” for anyone in his campaign to physically assault a reporter.

The Texas senator made the comment Monday in a news conference prior to a rally in Decatur, Illinois. Cruz was asked about allegations that Donald Trump’s campaign manager assaulted a reporter.

Cruz has been intensifying his anti-Trump rhetoric in recent days, also criticizing and partially blaming the outspoken billionaire for the sometimes violent atmosphere at his rallies.

Cruz says, “At the end of the day, the responsibility for any campaign rests with the candidate.”

Cruz calls it a “bizarre world” in which reporters are asking if it’s OK for political campaign staffers to assault journalists.


10:10 p.m.

GOP presidential hopeful Marco Rubio, speaking in English and Spanish at a hometown rally in West Miami, is urging his most loyal supporters to vote and to bring their friends to the polls Tuesday.

The Florida senator made it clear Monday night he needs his fellow Cuban-American Republicans to vote for him to help defeat GOP front-runner Donald Trump.

Trump’s lead in Florida, according to recent polls, is in double digits.

Speaking through a weak-sounding bullhorn, Rubio did not deny the daunting task ahead.

“If this community doesn’t vote tomorrow in historic numbers, I’m not sure I’m going to win,” Rubio told the crowd in Spanish.


10 p.m.

Bernie Sanders tells an enthusiastic suburban St. Louis crowd that he can win Missouri’s Democratic primary Tuesday, but only if his supporters flood the polls.

The Vermont senator spoke to several thousand supporters Monday night at a rally in the Family Arena in St. Charles, Missouri, a largely Republican St. Louis suburb.

A recent poll showed Hillary Clinton with a slight lead over Sanders in Missouri, one of five states holding primaries Tuesday.

Sanders says he began his campaign at 3 percent in the polls. Now, he noted, he has won nine state primaries or caucuses. Clinton, he says, is no longer considered the inevitable Democratic nominee.

Sanders, his voice hoarse, predicted a win in Missouri - if turnout is large enough.


8:30 p.m.

More than 2 million Florida voters have already made their choice for president in the state’s winner-take-all primary.

The state Division of Elections reported late Monday that almost 1.2 million Republicans had cast ballots, compared with nearly 850,000 Democrats.

Projections are that about 4 million voters will have participated in the Florida primary. Election day is Tuesday, but voters in the Sunshine State have been voting for weeks via absentee and early in-person voting. It is a closed primary.


8:15 p.m.

Authorities in North Carolina say there isn’t enough evidence to press charges against Donald Trump for his behavior in connection with a violent altercation at one of his rallies last week.

In a statement issued Monday night, the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office said legal counsel advised and Sheriff Earl “Moose” Butler agreed that the evidence doesn’t meet the requisites of North Carolina law to support a conviction for inciting a riot.

The sheriff’s office said while other aspects of its investigation are continuing, the investigation related to Trump and his campaign is over and no charges are anticipated.

At the rally last Wednesday in Fayetteville, a man was hit in the face while being escorted out.


8 p.m.

Donald Trump is getting in his final digs at Ohio Gov. John Kasich a day before the state’s Republican presidential primary.

Trump is tearing down Kasich in front of thousands of Ohioans in an airplane hangar in Vienna Township.

Trump says, “Kasich cannot make America great again.” He says Kasich’s only economic success stems from Ohio’s newly thriving petroleum industry.

Kasich has pulled even with Trump in some Ohio polls, and ahead in others. Trump is blasts Kasich for supporting the North American Free Trade Agreement when Kasich was a U.S. House member from Ohio.

However, Trump seemed unaware that Chevrolet, which builds the Chevy Cruze sedan in nearby Lordstown, Ohio, was planning to build the 2017 hatchback model in Mexico.


7:33 p.m.

Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio is telling voters that those who pick him as their next president will be choosing “optimism over pessimism.”

Speaking to a large crowd of mostly supporters on the eve of the Florida primary, Rubio says the country “cannot afford to lose this and, we will, if we nominate the wrong person to lead this party,” in a reference to front-runner Donald Trump.

Trump is leading Rubio by double-digits in the latest polls in what is a must-win primary for the Florida senator to keep his campaign alive.

Rubio was making the third of four stops in West Palm Beach. His final stop was to be in West Miami, his childhood home.


7:19 p.m.

With Mitt Romney at his side, John Kasich is closing his Ohio pitch in his hometown of Westerville by urging the people who have twice elected him as governor to send a message that voters want a leader who can unite America, not divide it.

Kasich’s pitch has taken on a more pointed tone in recent days, after violence erupted outside a Donald Trump rally in Chicago. He says, “We don’t fix America by demonizing people, we don’t fix America by dividing people.” He adds that the nation is stronger when unified.

Romney has not endorsed anyone in the GOP nomination fight. But he did note at the Kasich event that the Ohio governor has a “real record” unlike others in the race.


6:12 p.m.

GOP presidential hopeful Marco Rubio says a Donald Trump victory as the Republican nominee would “splinter and divide the Republican Party.”

Speaking to reporters in Melbourne, Fla., the Florida senator says he’s focused on winning his home state’s winner-take-all primary.

Rubio says the bombastic billionaire’s “rhetoric … is irresponsible and over the top.”


6:03 p.m.

Bernie Sanders is making his closing arguments before the critical Tuesday primaries, saying he would defeat GOP Donald Trump in a general election because the “American people will not support a president who insults” so many groups.

He said earlier Monday in Charlotte, “We will not for one second accept their bigotry and xenophobia.”

Sanders said that if voters turn out in a wave, he expects to defeat Hillary Clinton as he did in Michigan.


5:44 p.m.

A protester holding a Donald Trump sign has interrupted Texas Sen. Ted Cruz during a rally in Peoria, Illinois.

The apparent Trump backer yelled at Cruz, “Go back to Canada!” as the crowd booed. Cruz was born in Canada and Trump has questioned whether that disqualifies him for the ballot. Cruz’s mother was an American citizen at the time of his birth.

Cruz thanked the man, despite the taunt, saying that he appreciates free speech.

Cruz says, “One difference between this and a Donald Trump rally is I’m not asking anyone to punch you in the face.”

The man held the Trump sign up as a police officer led him out of the Peoria Civic Center.


5:30 p.m.

Democrat Hillary Clinton’s campaign is trying to reaffirm her commitment to coal communities one day after she declared on national television she was going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business.

Clinton was touting a plan she released last year that would set aside $30 billion ton protect the health benefits of coal miners and their families. But her quip about coal miners gave Republicans a perfect soundbite to use against her in states like Kentucky and West Virginia, where the party has made historic gains in coal communities in recent years by running against President Barack Obama’s energy policies.

Clinton said in a news release on Monday that coal will remain a part of the energy mix for years to come.


5:18 p.m.

Hundreds of people are crowding into a small-town, northeast Ohio airplane awaiting Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s final pre-election visit to the pivotal primary state. The name of the company hosting the venue? “Winner Aviation.”

That’s a not-subtle jab at Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who has staked his presidential campaign on winning his home state. But Trump is stepping up his intensity in Ohio, too ahead of Tuesday’s critical primary.

Kasich is in position to win Ohio and deal a blow to Trump’s hope of effectively becoming the presumptive GOP nominee. The two are squabbling right up to primary day, with Kasich underscoring his stewardship of the state at a time of employment gains. Trump is criticizing Kasich for Chevrolet’s decision to build the 2017 Cruse hatchback car in Mexico, not in nearby Lordstown, Ohio.


5:00 p.m.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s campaign rally in suburban Chicago has been interrupted by an animal rights protester.

A woman holding a sign that says “Animal Liberation Now” disrupted Cruz’s speech Monday in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, before being led away by security. The crowd chanted “We want Ted!” to drown out the woman’s message.

Cruz acknowledged her right to speak, but tried to make a joke out of the disruption, saying he also cares “about human beings.”

Protesters are not as common at Cruz campaign stops as they are for Donald Trump, where fear of violence led to cancellation of a Trump event on Friday night in Chicago.


4:31 p.m.

An independent analysis of Donald Trump’s recently released health care plan finds it would increase the number of uninsured by about 21 million people while costing nearly $500 billion over 10 years.

The estimates released Monday by the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget found that repealing Obama’s health care law would leave 22 million more people uninsured in 2018, and Trump’s replacement plan would only provide coverage to about 1.1 million of those.

The higher costs to the federal budget would come from repealing the tax increases and Medicare cuts used to finance the health care law. The group, which advocates for reducing government deficits, said there is not enough detail in Trump’s plan to estimate possible savings from his proposal to limit Medicaid spending.


4:25 p.m.

Authorities say police issued six citations to people attending a Donald Trump rally in Hickory, North Carolina.

The Hickory Police Department said in a news release that it issued citations for disorderly conduct and resisting an officer, among other charges. The news release didn’t specify if the citations were issued to protesters or Trump supporters.

Trump spoke Monday on the campus of Lenoir-Rhyne University. Police said no one was injured and the rally ended without a major incident.


4:20 p.m.

On the eve of major contests in a handful of crucial states, GOP front-runner Donald Trump says he’s ready to pivot to the general election.

Trump says at a town hall-style event in Tampa Monday afternoon that if he wins the states of Ohio and Florida on Tuesday, “it’s pretty much over.”

He says, “If we win Florida and we win Ohio, we can go and attack Hillary” instead of attacking his Republican rivals. He was referring to Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

Trump is also urging the Republican Party to rally around him in the face of continued resistance from many party leaders.


4:12 p.m.

Authorities in North Carolina say they are looking at Donald Trump’s behavior as they continue their probe of a violent altercation at one of his rallies last week.

The Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office says Monday that investigators are continuing to look at the rally in Fayetteville, during which a man was hit in the face while being escorted out.

They say: “We are continuing to look at the totality of these circumstances … including the potential of whether there was conduct on the part of Mr. Trump or the Trump campaign which rose to the level of inciting a riot.”

Trump’s campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, said the sheriff’s office has “not reached out to us at all.”

Authorities have already charged a rally attendee with assault, disorderly conduct and communicating threats after he was caught on video hitting a man being led out by deputies at the event in Fayetteville


4:05 p.m.

Former Alaska governor and 2012 GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin is lashing out at the media for the way that protesters at Donald Trump’s heated rallies have been covered.

Palin tells a crowd of Trump supporters in Tampa that, “What we don’t have time for is all of that petty, punk-ass little thuggery stuff that’s been going on.”

She says that the media is “on the thugs’ side.”

Palin had canceled a separate event on Trump’s behalf after her husband Todd, got into a snowmobiling accident.

Trump says after taking the stage that Todd Palin is a “tough cookie,” but says, if you’re “too tough, you break ribs every once in a while.”


4:00 p.m.

Bernie Sanders is looking toward primary contests in five states as the linchpin of his strategy to turn the tide against Hillary Clinton and overcome her delegate edge in the Democratic primary.

Clinton urged Democrats to unite behind her bid to focus on a far bigger threat: Republican front-runner Donald Trump.

Clinton’s pitch came as Trump blamed Sanders supporters for protests that prompted the billionaire mogul to cancel a rally at the University of Illinois at Chicago - just a few miles away from the union hall where Clinton wooed supporters.

Sanders is embarking upon a four-state swing through Ohio, North Carolina, Missouri and Illinois, ending the day with an evening rally in Chicago.


3:26 p.m.

Top Senate Republican Mitch McConnell is going on the attack over Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton’s admission that her policies would “put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business.”

McConnell, of coal-rich Kentucky, referred to Clinton’s remarks at Sunday night’s candidate forum and said Clinton and her fellow Democrats view coal miners as “just statistics, just the cost of doing business.”

McConnell cited “boasting from the highest ranks of the Democratic Party” but didn’t refer to Clinton by name.

Clinton made her remarks as she touted her plans to bring renewable energy projects into coal country to try to replace lost mining jobs.

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