TRUMP BRANDING: “incompetent Hillary” — Nolan McCaskill: “Trump appears to be adding a new line to his collection of signature insults, a list that includes ‘low-energy Jeb Bush,’ ‘lyin’ Ted Cruz’ and ‘Little Marco Rubio.’ I think people will see I’m much more competent than she is,’ Trump told Bloomberg Politics’ ‘With All Due Respect’ … [To Sean Hannity, in a phoner on Fox’s “Hannity”:] ‘Incompetent Hillary doesn’t know what she’s talking about’ … [On his Twitter feed:] ‘Incompetent Hillary, despite the horrible attack in Brussels today, wants borders to be weak and open-and let the Muslims flow in. No way!’” http://politi.co/1WKQyfC

STATE OF THE ART — “GOP campaigns hunt for convention killer app … [T]racking and counting delegates in a contested convention is going to require a once-in-a-generation feat of political and technological engineering,” by Darren Samuelsohn: “Trump’s plan includes arming his whip team and campaign surrogates with new custom-built hardware so they can keep in constant touch during what could be multiple rounds of balloting. Barry Bennett, a Trump convention strategist, said the campaign … would use a closed-loop system to ensure maximum speed communicating on the convention floor without having to worry about the potential for shaky Internet service in what will no doubt be an overloaded Quicken Loans Arena. …

“[T]he key for Cruz is deciphering which delegates are bound to other candidates and which ones ‘we can persuade,’ Chris Wilson, head of the Cruz research and analytics shop, said in an interview. … In case of Internet malfunctions, the Cruz system is going to be built so it’s capable of running both online and offline.” http://politi.co/1WKR4du

By Mike Allen (@mikeallen; mallen@politico.com) and Daniel Lippman (@dlippman; dlippman@politico.com)

CLEVELAND-BOUND! PAM STEVENS, the House GOP’s Director of Media Affairs and Strategic Initiatives, “has been scouted by the Republican convention to serve as media affairs director overseeing TV, Radio, Specialty Media and Media Events.” She’s taking a leave of absence, beginning April 1 and returning Aug. 1. Pam’s incredible portfolio will include women, vets, Hispanics, African Americans, international — and all the entertainers.

INSIDE THE CAMPAIGNS — “Shadow campaign to deny Trump his delegates begins : Kasich and Cruz quietly work to persuade delegates to break with GOP voters in a contested convention,” by Kyle Cheney: “The fight will heat up in April, when a slew of states — including Arizona, Colorado and North Dakota — begin selecting their own slate of delegates, using methods ranging from statewide and Congressional district conventions to meetings of state party leaders to county-level votes or caucuses.” http://politi.co/1XPvYv1

TAKING ON TRUMP — “Top GOP official meets with Stop Trump crowd,” by Alex Isenstadt: “Sean Cairncross, the RNC’s chief operating officer, addressed a trio of exclusive, off-the-record gatherings that will bring together many of the party’s most prominent hard-right voices, including the Conservative Action Project breakfast, anti-tax activist Grover Norquist’s Wednesday meeting, and what’s known as the Paul Weyrich lunch …

“[T]he RNC … has been in talks with Ben Key, a longtime GOP operative who played a role in overseeing the crafting of the post-2012 Republican autopsy, to serve as a top staffer on the committee that will be tasked with drawing up the party’s official platform.” http://politi.co/1RAK2Ka

— “GOP elites line up behind Ted Cruz: Establishment is increasingly prepared to lose with Cruz than hand the party to Trump,” by Eli Stokols: “[O]n Monday, Our Principles PAC, a group founded by establishment donors to oppose Trump, sent a tracker to shoot video footage of members of Congress showing up to meet with Trump in an effort to intimidate more rank-and-file Republicans from showing any openness to his candidacy."http://politi.co/22xnYVX

TOP TWEETS: @jonward11: “3 weeks ago, Paul Ryan said, ‘I hope this is the last time I need to speak out on this race.’ lol” … @daveweigel: “I’m old enough to remember when Cruz warned that The Establishment was getting behind Trump bc Bob Dole said he preferred Trump to Cruz” … @kausmickey: “’The Koch Brothers manipulation of our political process’ — just denounced by Hillary — has not been so manipulative this cycle.”

WALL STREET PREPS FOR TRUMP … Chris Krueger of Guggenheim Partners, “This Week in DC … Breakdown: Trump v. Clinton by Sector”: “There is no sense in pretending. We have fast-forwarded the tape to the most likely general election matchup (Trump v. Clinton) and identified the potential implications for both scenarios using a standard breakdown by industry sector. In our minds, there are three potential election outcomes: 1) Trump Presidency with full GOP Congress (Senate and House hold); 2) Clinton Presidency with Democratic Senate and GOP House; and 3) Clinton Presidency with full Democratic Congress.

“The Trump sector allocation: POSITIVE for consumer discretionary, energy, industrials, information technology (IT), materials, and telecom services; NEGATIVE for consumer staples and healthcare; and NEUTRAL for financial services and utilities. The Clinton sector allocation: POSITIVE for industrials, IT, materials, and utilities; NEGATIVE for consumer discretionary, energy, and telecom services; and NEUTRAL for consumer staples, financials and healthcare. The sectors that benefit regardless: industrials, IT, and materials.”

ROLLING STONE endorses Hillary — Publisher Jann S. Wenner : “Idealism and honesty are crucial qualities for me, but I also want someone with experience who knows how to fight hard.”http://rol.st/1UmyVFu

** A message from Lifeline Facts Campaign: Since its establishment during the Reagan Administration, the Lifeline program has provided enormous value to low-income Americans through discounted phone service. Adding broadband services to Lifeline should not be done at the expense of affordable mobile voice services that over 12 million Lifeline customers currently depend upon. LifelineFacts.com **

TERROR IN EUROPE … “U.S. frustration simmers over Belgium’s struggle with militant threat,” by Reuters’ Mark Hosenball: “Concern that the small European nation’s security and intelligence officials are overwhelmed — and that its coordination with allies falls short … Several U.S. officials say that security cooperation has been hampered by patchy intelligence-sharing by Brussels and wide differences in the willingness of different agencies to work with foreign countries, even close allies.” http://reut.rs/1Pt09lF

— “Westminster Sketch” on POLITICO.eu, “What the anti-Brexit camp feared most: a terrorist attack — No one was saying what everyone was thinking,” by Robert Colvile, a regular contributor to Politico, in London: “[T]he one-word case for remaining in the European Union, as endorsed by focus groups, has been ‘security.’ … [T]his is … why a renewed refugee crisis, or a terrorist attack, are the two things that the Remain camp most feared: because they turn Europe from a source of security into a source of threat.” http://politi.co/1q3JccJ

WASHINGTON, INC. — WSJ A1, at fold, “GOOGLE’S CUBA CONNECTION: Obama administration shared company’s interest in bringing connectivity to island,” by Brody Mullins and Carol Lee: “Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt and other company executives, with encouragement from the White House, traveled to Havana in June 2014 to talk with the Cuban government about the benefits of Internet access. …

“The White House didn’t tell Google … about … secret negotiations with Cuba. But by the time Mr. Obama announced that December the U.S. would restore diplomatic ties, Google had established a toehold in the island nation by rolling out versions of its … search engine and other Internet offerings.” http://on.wsj.com/1RzdYQA

TO TELL YOUR KIDS — ESPN, “[H]ow Nike lost Steph to Under Armour,” by ESPN’s Ethan Sherwood Straus: “Curry’s potential worth to [Under Armour] is placed at more than … $14 billion. … In … 2013 … Nike owned the first opportunity to keep Curry. … The pitch meeting, according to Steph’s father Dell, who was present, kicked off with one Nike official accidentally addressing Stephen as ‘Steph-on,’ the moniker, of course, of Steve Urkel’s alter ego in Family Matters. … A PowerPoint slide featured Kevin Durant’s name, presumably left on by accident, … residue from repurposed materials.” http://es.pn/22HxkeB (h/t MediaRedef)

HOT VIDEOS — “Trevor Noah Is Very Angry at the Media for Its Breathless Coverage of Trump” — 9-min. videohttp://slate.me/1XPfhjl … “Trump vs. Obama: Talking About Women” — BuzzFeed — 2-min. videohttp://bit.ly/1UIVgNh

PIC DU JOUR — Jason Waskey emails with a pic: “Busboys and Poets on 14th St is closely tracking the presidential race [with delegate counts]. Only in DC!” http://bit.ly/1VI3EMk

DAILY DONALD — “Gingrich’s Secret Campaign for Donald Trump,” by Daily Beast’s Tim Mak: “Last week in a closed-door meeting before more than 100 Republican chiefs of staff from the House and Senate in Baltimore, Gingrich raved about the Republican frontrunner, calling him a ‘blue-collar bar room brawler.’” http://thebea.st/25nsSDT

— WashPost Style banner, “NPR offers its reporters ‘Trump Training’ for volatile rallies,” by Paul Farhi : “NPR has sent its political reporters to 90-minute hostile-environment awareness training … [NPR] spokeswoman … Isabel Lara … said the sessions are designed to deal ‘with the stress of covering a very demanding story for a long period of time. We make the training widely available to newsroom staff whether they work internationally or domestically.’” http://wapo.st/1pJyDf0

— “Reid: ‘Never, ever, ever underestimate Trump,’” by Burgess Everett and John Bresnahan: “Reid said the party should brace for how unpredictable this election could be with Trump on the ballot. ‘Never, ever, ever underestimate Trump. No one should do that. I tried, others have tried. He’s a hard guy to predict,’ Reid said in a telephone interview on Wednesday. ‘One of the most unorthodox candidates for the presidency in modern times. Certainly in modern times, post-modern times. A real unusual deal we have here.’” http://politi.co/1RmVPsy

DATA DU JOUR — N.Y. Times p. A3, Upshot, “Lasting Damage for G.O.P.? the Young Reject Trump,” by Toni Monkovich, an Upshot editor: “[T]he Trump brand could weigh on the G.O.P. for a generation. … Pew Research Center … noted that ‘some 43 percent of millennial adults are nonwhite, the highest share of any generation,’ and that ‘the racial makeup of today’s young adults is one of the key factors in explaining their political liberalism.’ … [A] third straight election in which the young vote decisively for Democrats — even if the G.O.P. wins this November — could imprint negative perceptions that last decades.” http://nyti.ms/22Hulmc

HAPPENING TODAY: Biden pushes back on the “Biden Rule” … “Biden tries to clear his name on Supreme Court nominees,” by Isaac Dovere: “A month of being a Senate Republican talking point appears to be enough for Vice President Biden. [At 12:30 p.m.], in a speech at the Georgetown Law Center, … Biden will argue that what Republicans are doing threatens to ‘deepen the gulf between the haves and have-nots’ … A divided Court, Biden will say, just means more for ‘the rich and powerful.’” http://politi.co/1Rn3vbZ

SPEAKER RYAN’s SPEECH — Jake Sherman: “Ryan didn’t mention Donald Trump by name. But he didn’t need to. Standing in the same room he assumed the speakership five months ago, Ryan took aim at the core of Trump’s message. He decried identity politics, criticizing those who pit groups of Americans against each other. He said the nation’s political system doesn’t need to be this bad.” http://politi.co/1SiV1VE

2016 PLAYERS — “Clinton Brings On Former Senate Aide for New York Primary” (April 19) — NYT’s Maggie Haberman: “Resi Cooper, a Democratic consultant who was Mrs. Clinton’s main liaison to Long Island [Senate office as regional director and Senate campaign as political director], will be the state director … The state is almost certainly a lock for Mrs. Clinton. But the margin is a question: … Sanders could fare well in some areas, particularly … New York City. His campaign has … spent … months trying to sign up supporters.” http://nyti.ms/1UbZwot

TRANSITIONS — Rachel McCleery to Treasury : “This Friday … is my last day in Senator Debbie Stabenow’s office. On Monday I will start at the Treasury Department’s Public Affairs office as the spokesperson for tax, budget and economic policy. … Matt Williams, our Michigan Communications Director, will be taking over as Communications Director for the office.”

SNEAK PEEK — New TIME cover, “What if Your Immune System Could Be Taught to Kill Cancer? Inside the brutally selective, hugely expensive, lifesaving trials of immunotherapy.” See the cover http://bit.ly/1UHQ3VP

PLAYBOOK METRO SECTION — “This Iowa Congressman Really Hates the Wharf in Southwest DC,” by Washingtonian’s Benjamin Freed: “Representative Rod Blum, an Iowa Republican, ticked off DC residents earlier this week when he tweeted his apparent desire to see the District hit by a crippling economic downturn.’Washington DC is booming. Tower cranes everywhere. Being built on the backs of US taxpayers. DC needs a recession,’ Blum wrote in the offending tweet, which was accompanied by a photo of seven construction cranes looming over Southwest DC.” http://bit.ly/1MDVzRH … Response from Democratic opponent Pat Murphy: “I know one person in Washington, DC who desperately needs to be out of a job: Rod Blum.” http://bit.ly/1RiJAhH

VALLEY TALK — “The April issue of WIRED features the hyper-competitive and hilarious cast of HBO’s Silicon Valley, which kicks off its third season on April 24, on five different covers. Each of the covers — shot by award-winning photographer Art Streiber — show a different cast member (T.J. Miller, Zach Woods, Thomas Middleditch, Kumail Nanjiani, and Martin Starr) staring with shock, horror, and disgust at another cover of WIRED featuring the rest of the cast. The cover story ‘Get Busy, Stay Busy,’ written by WIRED’s Brian Raftery, takes a look at the new comedy economy where even stars like the guys from Silicon Valley have to work as hard as those ‘ding-dongs’ in the real Silicon Valley.” One of the covers http://bit.ly/1PsO93y... Cover story http://bit.ly/1PsO8g2 … Videohttp://bit.ly/1UO1tpU

MEDIAWATCH — “Fox News Dominates Cable Ratings During Busy 48 Hours,” by The Wrap’s Brian Flood:”Fox News dominated Tuesday night’s ratings when networks had to juggle breaking news following the terrorist attacks in Brussels with ‘Western Tuesday’ political coverage. FNC finished No. 1 in prime time among both total viewers and in the key demographic of viewers age 25–54. The network averaged 3.55 million viewers from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. ET, beating the combined total of CNN (1.87 million) and MSNBC (1.32 million).” http://bit.ly/1VI4GrM

BUSINESS BURST — “Howard Schultz capped off [Wednesday’s] Annual Meeting of Shareholders with a call for civility and values-based leadership. Picking up on this theme, Starbucks is sponsoring a two-page advertisement sharing a message of optimism for the future through the choices individuals make every day. It will run [today] in New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.” The ad and video http://bit.ly/1o8caGS

MARCH MADNESS … USA Today skyline: “SWEET 16 TIPS OFF: No. 1 seeds Oregon, Kansas headline first day of Regional Semifinal games.”

BIRTHDAYS: Su-Lin Nichols (h/ts Charlie, Will and Bill) … Steve Ballmer, L.A. Clippers owner and former Microsoft CEO, is 6–0 … Douglas Kennedy, a great Dad and journalist … White House’s Eugene Kang … Rod O’Connor, recent addition to Messina Group, former Chu whisperer as COS at Energy Dept., and VP Gore alum … Jeb 2016 alum Matt Gorman (h/ts Danny, Allie, Timmy) … Dareh Gregorian, N.Y. Daily News reporter extraordinaire (h/t Maggie) … Sam Rogers, senior customer success maven at TrackMaven, is 3–0 (h/t Veronica) … Jill Martin — Jeremy’s wife, Jonathan’s sister-in-law (h/ts Josie and Ella) … Ted Chiodo, former WH Deputy staff secretary, current COO of SKDKnickerbocker, Kerry and Obama campaign alum (h/t Amy Brundage) … D.C.’s power Aussie, Capital Strategies’ Sarah Gilmore is 26 (h/t Carla Frank) … Vail Kohnert-Yount, international labor affairs staffer at DOL and Georgetown alum, turns a quarter century (h/t Graeme Crews) … Politico’s Kaley Rector … Reps. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Ariz.) and Steve Stivers (R-Ohio) …

… Democratic fundraiser Mark Spengler , Enroll America and DNC alum … Mary Ann “The Sleuth” Akers … Evan Feinberg, executive director of Koch group Stand Together and Generation Opportunity alum … Staci Maiers, senior press officer of National Education Association … Hannah Sherman, celebrating in Seattle (h/t Jon Haber) … Molly Wilkinson, executive director of Electronic Payments Coalition and former general counsel to HSGAC … former Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire is 69 … Lauren Spivey … Elise Sidamon-Eristoff, project management associate in the Afghanistan Regional Business Unit at Chemonics … Kyle Jameson, marketing manager at Uber and a Chartbeat alum …

… John Byrne, CEO and founder of The Raw Story … Robert B. Young Jr. … Tony Wyche … Aaron Rutkoff, deputy managing editor for Bloomberg Digital, formerly of the WSJ and Queens Tribune … Marc Hermann, photographer and human time warp … Peter Fulham … Aaron Olver … Sawyer Reed … Bain Ennis … Beth Swickard … Sarah Compton … Karen Compton (h/ts Teresa Vilmain) … Tommy Hilfiger is 65 … Star Jones is 54 … Peyton Manning is 4–0 … actress Keisha Castle-Hughes is 26 (h/ts AP)

** A message from Lifeline Facts Campaign: Proposed changes at the FCC would lead to the elimination of the vital mobile voice services that over 12 million Lifeline customers depend upon today. Eliminating affordable mobile voice services for low-income Americans would remove their link to present and potential employers, cut their connection to doctors and other health services, jeopardize their ability to dial 9–1–1 during an emergency, and more. Removing this safety net would deny the nation’s most vulnerable populations an essential service and undermine the mission of the Lifeline program. Lifeline should support broadband without eliminating vital voice services. Join Lifeline Facts Campaign and protect affordable mobile voice services by signing the petition at LifelineFacts.com **

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