Trump’s Glide Path to Win

Donald-TrumpBy Susan Cornwell

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Donald Trump's presidential campaign held the first in a series of regular meetings with congressional supporters on Thursday, dispatching a top aide to describe the "glide path" he was on to win the nomination and how the lawmakers could help.

The informational meeting, which Trump did not attend, is the latest move his campaign has made to raise Trump's stature in Washington and follows announcements of key hires.

In another development, a Florida prosecutor announced that Trump's campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, would not be prosecuted on a misdemeanor battery charge involving a reporter he was accused of grabbing at an event last month.

Near Capitol Hill, Trump senior advisor Ed Brookover met with roughly a half dozen U.S. lawmakers who have endorsed Trump to detail how the Republican front-runner will win the 1,237 delegates he needs to clinch the nomination ahead of the party's July 18-21 convention.

"This meeting was sort of a step one as we begin to transition from our primary (election) focus to becoming the nominee, toward the general election," Brookover told reporters. 

Brookover added that Trump was on a "glide path" to the nomination and told lawmakers that conservative estimates showed the New York billionaire could win 1,265 delegates.

"We are going to start holding these (meetings) every week when we are in session," U.S. Representative Chris Collins of New York told reporters after the meeting.

Trump's home state of New York, where he is ahead in polls, holds a crucial primary election on Tuesday. Congressman Tom Marino of Pennsylvania, which is among five states that hold nominating contests on April 26, was also present at the meeting.

Marino told Reuters in a Thursday interview that he knew of one or two other Pennsylvania congressmen who were "seriously thinking" about endorsing Trump.

Trump's lightning-rod campaign is entering a new phase as the brash businessman seeks to improve relations with the Republican Party and generate more support for his anti-establishment presidential bid.

But progressive groups are continuing to hammer controversial statements he has made related to building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and a temporary ban on Muslims from entering the country.

MoveOn.org and other groups called for thousands of demonstrators who oppose Trump's positions to descend on a state party gala in New York City Thursday evening and at a fundraiser in the Long Island town of Patchogue, a suburb that is home to a large Latino population.



WAR OF WORDS

Trump himself has engaged in a war of words with the Republican National Committee and its chairman, Reince Priebus, over party rules that, for example, allowed party regulars in Colorado to choose a slate of delegates to send to the party's nominating convention without Republicans in the state actually voting.

All the Colorado delegates went to U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, who is trying to stop Trump from gaining the 1,237-delegate majority needed to win the nomination on the first ballot at the convention in Cleveland in July.

Failure to win the first ballot would open the way to a contested convention at which Cruz, Ohio Governor John Kasich or an 11th-hour dark horse could theoretically win a second or subsequent ballot and become the party's nominee.

Trump moved on Wednesday to strengthen his position in Washington by announcing he had hired Rick Wiley as his national political director. Wiley, a longtime Republican strategist, was the campaign manager for Scott Walker, the Wisconsin governor who dropped out of the presidential race last autumn.

Many members of the U.S. Congress have backed other Republican presidential candidates who have since abandoned the race. 

"We'll be inviting other members" to subsequent meetings in the weeks to come so they spread Trump's message as they begin "campaigning in their individual districts, and all politics is local," Collins said.

U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan met with reporters as the Trump meeting was under way. Ryan said he had just returned from a trip to Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia that underscored his concerns about some of Trump's statements.

"Everybody pays attention to our politics," Ryan said, noting that he had denounced Trump's proposal to bar Muslims.

"People over there knew about it and thanked me for doing it," the speaker added.

Trump was set to address a fundraising event Thursday evening in Patchogue, the site of the fatal stabbing of Ecuadorean immigrant Marcelo Lucero in 2008 by a teenager who was part of a gang of white youths who targeted Latinos in the area.

The fundraiser's venue is near where Lucero was attacked, and immigrant advocates have planned protests there. Suffolk County Police Commissioner Timothy Sini said several different demonstrations coinciding with the event were expected.

After the fundraiser, Trump and Republican rivals Cruz and Ohio Governor John Kasich were to appear at the New York Republican Gala in Manhattan.

Progressive organizations have called on protesters to demonstrate at the event on social media sites such as Facebook. The gala is near Grand Central Terminal in Midtown, a busy railroad station, and demonstrations could snarl rush-hour traffic in the nation's most populous city.



 (Additional reporting by Doina Chiacu, Steve Holland, Patricia Zengerle and Amanda Becker; Writing by Amanda Becker; Editing by Leslie Adler and Jonathan Oatis)

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