Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Good morning everyone! Happy Tuesday to you!

Joining today's show are Mike Barnicle, Nicolle Wallace, Mark Halperin, Gen. Michael Hayden, Chris Cillizza, Robert Costa, Chuck Todd, Jeff Greenfield, Hallie Jackson, Fmr. Gov. Tom Ridge, Michael Waldman, Sara Eisen, Marcela Gaviria and Taiji, Japan, the last boat has arrived to the harbor. 12 consecutive blue cove days! 2016-23-2 9:50 ‪#‎dolphinproject‬ ‪#‎tweet4dolphins‬. 

We are all smiling with our eyes today.

Donald Trump's campaign seems to be honing things in a bit because a month ago he said that he was could shoot people in Times Square in New York City and yesterday he said that he would punch some on in the face (which is the last thing that guy could do which is compete in a fight but anyway).

There is a GOP debate on Thursday. That should be telling. The field is at its smallest which means less of them will have to speak more. 

As for the rest of the field and why no one will go after Trump, I am just not sure of those strategies. Ted Cruz has failed. He can’t beat Donald Trump but he just might be the GOP’s only chance to nominate Marco Rubio. If Cruz were to drop out, he'd likely push his base to support Rubio against Trump over spite alone. South Carolina was tailor-made for Cruz. His only true constituency is evangelicals, and they represent roughly 73 percent of the voters who participated in South Carolina’s primary. This is a demographic Cruz has shamelessly courted for months, knowing they were his only path to the nomination. Despite that, Cruz lost South Carolina’s evangelical vote by six points to – you guessed it – Donald Trump
As Politico noted, Cruz still has the support of religious entrepreneurs like James Dobson and Tony Perkins, but these “movement conservative leaders” don’t matter in this election. It hasn’t translated into votes thus far (not enough in any case), and there’s no reason to suspect that will change moving forward.

Cruz continues to reinforce his message: “If you are a conservative, this is where you belong, because only one strong conservative is in a position to win this race. We are the only campaign that has beaten and can beat Donald Trump.” But that’s not really true. Yes, Cruz won in Iowa, but that was under suspicious circumstances. Iowa, moreover, is among the most religious electorates in the Republican Party. And Trump had virtually no ground game there (which is crucial in Iowa) until the very end, whereas Cruz invested heavily and for a long time in the state.

At any rate, if Cruz can’t sway evangelicals in South Carolina, what reason is there to think he can do so in other states? Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report makes a similar point:

“From the beginning, Cruz’s strategy was based on putting together a strong showing among conservative and evangelical voters that would help muscle him through South Carolina and the SEC primary states. Yet in South Carolina, a state where 73 percent of the electorate defined themselves as evangelical, and where Cruz attacked Trump for his past support of abortion rights, Cruz lost the evangelical vote by six points! If Cruz can’t win in South Carolina…what makes him think that he can win in similar-looking southern states that vote on March 1?”

Now that Jeb has suspended his campaign, the race has crystallized even further: John Kasich is an afterthought; Ben Carson is politically dead but appears determined to sell a few more books before exiting stage left; and Rubio – astonishingly – is the last semi-credible candidate standing. The Republican donor class is already begrudgingly accepting the reality of Rubio as their only chance at deflating the Trump juggernaut.

As it stands, Trump seems unstoppable. He holds a comfortable lead in 10 of the 14 states set to vote in Republican primaries in the next two weeks, several of which are are winner-take-all states. Assuming Kasich and Carson eventually drop out, the only plausible scenario in which Trump loses involves the race narrowing to two candidates: Trump and Rubio. And that means Cruz would have to go.

Cruz won’t win the nomination, but he does have a significant support base – and more than enough resources to carry on. Were he to end his campaign, many of his supporters would likely flock to Rubio. The Trump-Cruz spat, after all, has gotten pretty ugly in recent weeks. Out of spite alone, you can expect Cruz to push his voters to support Rubio over Trump in the event he dropped out. If that happened, there may just be enough anti-Trump sentiment to tip the scales.

Unfortunately, for the GOP, if there’s one candidate in this race who couldn’t care less about the fate of the party or the country or anyone other than himself, it’s Ted Cruz. Nothing in Cruz’s recent political history suggests he’ll sacrifice himself or his celebrity for the greater good. Nothing. He’s in this until the very end. And when Trump finally nabs the nomination, Cruz won’t blink. If anything, he’ll be on a stump somewhere campaigning for 2020, with his hands – and pockets – wide open.

Trump expresses wish to punch heckler and calls Cruz 'sick' at Nevada rally. Republican frontrunner, enjoying double-digit lead over rivals, exudes confidence ahead of fourth state contest.

Donald Trump exuded the confidence of an emboldened Republican presidential frontrunner who has little to fear, using a rally on the eve of the Nevada caucuses to call his rival Ted Cruz “sick” and reacting to a heckler by saying: “I’d like to punch him in the face.”

It was an extraordinary performance, even by Trump’s standards, alarming to those who fear the rise of a demagogue, but speaking to the apparent strength of the billionaire’s lead in Nevada and elsewhere.

Trump enjoys a double-digit lead in Nevada, which hosts the fourth state contest in the Republican race for the White House on Tuesday.

The businessman won the last two states, New Hampshire and South Carolina, although Tuesday’s caucus-style voting procedure could prove better suited to his two main rivals.

Cruz and Marco Rubio, two senators locked in a fight for the mantle of Trump’s chief challenger, spent the day trading punches as they crisscrossed Nevada for a final 24 hours of increasingly bitter campaigning.

It was undoubtedly a better day for Rubio, who received a cascade of endorsements from senior Republicans after ex-Florida governor Jeb Bush pulled out of the race at the weekend. They included the 1996 presidential nominee Bob Dole and a slew of senior lawmakers.

Cruz, on the other hand, was forced to sack his national spokesman, Rick Tyler, after he circulated a video on Sunday that allegedly showed Rubio mocking the Bible as he walked past a Cruz staffer in a hotel lobby.

The row over the video, which a conservative blog wrongly said showed Rubio saying the Bible had “not many answers in it” (he had in fact said it had “all the answers in it”), marked a further deterioration in an already ugly fight between the first-term senators.

Even as Cruz told reporters he had sacked Tyler because of “a grave error of judgment”, he insisted he had been the victim of below-the-belt assaults from rivals who he said “attack us personally, impugn my integrity”.

In reality, the Texan senator’s campaign has been repeatedly accused of engaging in dirty tricks, and both Trump and Rubio are now openly calling Cruz a liar.

Both candidates repeated the allegation on Monday. “I think it’s a very disturbing pattern of deceptive campaigns and flat-out just lying to voters,” Rubio told reporters, before boarding a flight to the remote town of Elko.

At his rally in Las Vegas, Trump said of the Texan senator: “This guy Cruz has lied more than any human being. He holds up the Bible, and he lies.”

Trump went on to complain about a “phony” Cruz ad airing in Nevada that accuses Trump of wanting to leave the state’s federal lands in the hands of the government. “This guy is sick, there’s something wrong with this guy,” Trump said.

When one of two hecklers interrupted the businessman, the property magnate openly talked of violence. “You know what they used to do with guys like that when they were in a place like this? They’d be carried out on a stretcher, folks,” he said.

Noting the protester was smiling as he was escorted out, Trump quipped: “I’d like to punch him in the face, I tell you that.” It was a remarkable comment from a presidential candidate who appears to be building a momentum that could soon be unstoppable.

In his recent wins, Trump has exhibited the breadth of support that provides him with a clear path to the nomination, even if his high poll rating in Nevada masks what some anticipate will be an underlying weakness in the state.

Nevada is like Iowa in that it apportions its delegates through a caucus rather than a straight primary vote. Trump’s defeat in Iowa was largely put down to inferior campaign organisation and the lack of political experience among his supporters.

Caucuses are complicated contests that can be inaccessible to first-time voters, and both Cruz and Rubio have built superior ground games in the state. In 2012, only around 8% of the state’s eligible GOP caucus-goers participated in the contest – and on turnout that low a surprise is possible.

The other two candidates remaining in the GOP field – Ohio governor John Kasich and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson – are trailing badly and not expected to perform well in Nevada.

However, Cruz proved in Iowa that he can excite a dedicated army of deeply Christian voters. However, his performance in South Carolina, where he was effectively tied with Rubio, cast doubt over that strategy after exit polls indicated he won fewer evangelical voters than Trump.

Rubio, on paper at least, should be an especially well-suited candidate for Nevada. He spent part of his childhood in Las Vegas, where his father worked behind a bar and his mother was a hotel maid. He was also baptized as a Mormon, a key voting demographic in the state which his campaign has been courting relentlessly.

Born to Cuban parents, Rubio is competing in a state where a third of the population is Latino – although only a tiny fraction will take part in a GOP caucus. While Cruz has pursued the state’s rural, religious vote, Rubio has claimed he can diversify the party’s electorate, with some justification.

Janelle LaFleur, a hotel housekeeping manager in Reno, was already a fan of Rubio before seeing him speak at the sprawling Tuscan villa-style Peppermill casino resort and spa on Monday. But she said that had reinforced her support for the senator and she would caucus for him on Tuesday. “Being a housekeeping manager, I work with people like his mother,” she said.

However, the Florida senator is not remaining in Nevada for the results – forgoing the chance for a victory party in what many assume is a sign his campaign team is not hopeful.

Even a defeat in Nevada may not significantly dent the momentum Trump appears to have built. He looks poised for success on Super Tuesday on 1 March in which 11 states host contests.

Some pundits are anticipating he could win every state bar Texas, Cruz’s home turf. In Massachusetts, one of the Super Tuesday states, Trump leads by an incredible 50 percentage points, according to a recent poll that put his nearest rival, Rubio, on 16%.

Trump is undoubtedly running to win Nevada, too, touring the state on a demanding schedule to get out his base. He used his rally at the South Point casino arena in Las Vegas to repeatedly implore spectators to turn out at caucus sites on Tuesday evening.

“What the hell is a caucus? No one even know what it means,” Trump told his audience. “Forget the word caucus, just go out and vote, OK?” He added: “I don’t want to turn on the television and see Donald Trump has the biggest crowds but his people are too damn lazy.”

Trump rallies have become notorious, but this one nonetheless stood out for the passion of the audience and the swagger of the man on stage.

There is something quintessentially Trumpian about Las Vegas, a city of winners and losers in which the businessman’s named is emblazoned across one of the tallest towers, and on Tuesday he appeared in his element.

The crowd was frenzied even before his arrival, with chants of “USA” and spontaneous ripples of hand waves through the arena. Shortly before he appeared, the room went dark, and the arena was lit up with cellphone lights. Trump entered the auditorium on a long walkway that cut through the adoring crowd.

“So many American politicians lie to get a vote,” said Steven Boz, a rock musician with long, blonde hair, who relocated to Las Vegas from Los Angeles after his acting career didn’t work out. He was approving of the sentiment of the presidential candidate, but like many Trump supporters, and the businessman himself, was vague on detail.

“Trump has a backbone, no political correctness or any of that shit. It’s real. You can’t have anyone come into the country and kill everyone, and all that crap. Build a fucking wall and keep them out and put more money in America,” he said.

After Donald Trump’s massive win in South Carolina, the Republican nominating contest turns, briefly, to the Nevada caucus on Tuesday. The contest has the feeling, though, of an opening act, killing time until the main act takes the stage.

A week later, on March 1st, 12 states will hold Republican primaries, mostly concentrated in the South. It has been dubbed the “SEC primary,” because seven of the states voting are in the South. The outcome will either confirm Trump’s status as the party’s presumptive nominee or serve as the prologue for a fight that strenches into early Spring.

There are 595 delegates at stake on Super Tuesday, around 25 percent of the total number of delegates. The biggest single prize on March 1st is Texas, which has 155 delegates at stake. The delegates at stake on Super Tuesday will be awarded proportionally, so even runners-up should win some delegates from each state.

The states voting on March 1st are: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont and Virginia.

Colorado is holding a caucus on March 1st, but will not be voting in the Presidential contest. Last year, the state Republican party voted to scrap its Presidential contest, chiefly because the caucus vote had been dominated by anti-establishment candidates in recent elections. Republicans will still elect delegates to the Republican convention, but they will be officially untied to any candidate.

The territory American Samoa is also voting on March 1st. It too is skipping the Presidential contest and will simply elect nine unpledged delegates to the party convention in July.

In the last two Presidential elections, no candidate has swept all of the Super Tuesday contests. In the Democrat contest in 2008, Obama won 12 of the states making up that year’s Super Tuesday, while Clinton won 11 and an American territory. Obama just edged Clinton in the total number of delegates won.

On the Republican side in 2008, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ)36%
 won nine states, Mitt Romney seven and Rick Santorum five. In 2012, Romney won six states, while Santorum won three, and Newt Gingrich won one state.

In both elections, for both parties, the candidate who did best on Super Tuesday ultimately went on to be the party’s nominee. Further back, Super Tuesday has also proved decisive. Bob Dole’s sweep of the contests in 1996 effectively confirmed him as the nominee. In 1992, Bill Clinton used his strong showing in the South on Super Tuesday to catapult him to the top of the nomination battle. He had lost both the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary that year.

Although Super Tuesday has always had a Southern flavor, the specific states voting on this pivotal day have changed throughout the elections. It represents the first “nationalization” of the primary contest.

Voting before Super Tuesday is confined to four early states that each have their own traditions and historic quirks. Each of these early states receives special attention from all the campaigns, providing an opportunity to build organizations and a campaign infrastructure. Financial resources are less important in these early contests, because campaigns can afford a great deal of retail politicking.

That dynamic changes heading into Super Tuesday, where candidates become stretched trying to criss-cross the country to hit all the states in a relatively tight window. Earned national media, expensive paid advertising and large national campaign organizations become the real currency of the campaign heading into Super Tuesday.

Polling so far has been sparse in the Super Tuesday states. Only a handful of polls have been conducted this month in any of the states. The most recent show Cruz leading in Texas (+7) and Arkansas (+4). Trump is leading polls in Georgia (+9), Virginia (+6), and Oklahoma (+5). A poll of Minnesota in late January showed Rubio leading in that state by two points.

No other public polling in Super Tuesday states has been released this year. Trump will likely begin most of the state contests with an edge, given his large victories in New Hampshire and South Carolina.

Trump is also the most likely to benefit from the “nationalization” of the primary that takes place on Super Tuesday. He has shown almost a preternatural ability to dominate earned media coverage throughout the campaign. His campaign, relying on large rallies and almost ubiquitous media attention, is particularly suited for the Super Tuesday contests.

Cruz has some advantages given the generally conservative make-up in voters in Super Tuesday states, his native son status in Texas, the richest prize on March 1st, and a large national political organization. Cruz also has a significant war chest that can be utilized for the expensive advertising necessary to compete in all the state contests.

Rubio will benefit from the likely consolidation of the mainstream Republican vote behind his candidacy in the wake of South Carolina. He doesn’t currently have the financial resources of either Cruz or Trump, but will be able to raise more money with Jeb Bush’s exit from the race. His spending to date, which has been second only to Bush’s, hasn’t been particularly effective, but it will keep him competitive.

Rubio may also benefit from a likely cascade of endorsements from other elected Republicans. While these endorsements aren’t necessarily beneficial with the overall electorate in these states, in a three-person race they could help him win some delegates. In South Carolina, it is clear from exit polls that Rubio was helped by the endorsements of almost the entire South Carolina Republican infrastructure.

That said, the Super Tuesday contests do present something of a problem for Rubio. It is hard to imagine him winning any of the states on March 1st. To date, Rubio has come in 3rd, 5th, and 2nd/3rd. No candidate, since Bill Clinton, has become a party’s nominee without winning one of the early contests. Clinton, however, was able to secure the nomination as a result of strong wins in Super Tuesday contests. That path is not open to Rubio.

Appearing Sunday on ABC’s This Week, Rubio said his campaign was looking to the contests beginning March 15th, when delegates are awarded on a winner-take-all basis.

“Well, when we get to the winner-take-all states we have to start winning,” Rubio said in response to a question about when he would win a primary contest. “Come march 15th, if you win a state, you get all of their delegates. We’ll be in real good shape for that.”

The March 15th contests are almost a month away. After the Super Tuesday contests, another eight states vote in primaries or caucuses before the winner-take-all contests begin.

Trump clearly has the edge going into Super Tuesday. Cruz should be able to compete in several of the states, however. At the very least, Cruz is favored to win Texas. Rubio, though, will generally be a spectator for these contests. “Beware the ides of March” is a good warning for the Rubio campaign. His candidacy will have to hope it makes it that far.

Rubio gets boost from Republican endorsements, Cruz missteps. Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio received boosts Monday in his drive to become the mainstream Republican alternative to front-runner Donald Trump, with a string of high-profile endorsements and missteps by rival Ted Cruz's campaign.

Rubio, who eked out a second-place finish in South Carolina's primary by fewer than 1,000 votes over Cruz on Saturday, racked up endorsements from prominent Republicans including U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson and former presidential candidate Bob Dole.

Rubio and Cruz came out of South Carolina with sharper criticism of Trump, who swept the Southern state with a comfortable margin of victory. At the same time, the two senators' rivalry intensified - and soured.

Cruz fired his main spokesman, Rick Tyler, on Monday afternoon over a video that falsely showed Rubio dismissing the Bible.

Tyler had apologized late on Sunday for posting "an inaccurate story" involving a video purporting to show Rubio referring to the Bible and saying, "Not many answers in it." Tyler had retweeted a link to the misleading video and posted it on Facebook.

Cruz fired Tyler the next day, saying his campaign did not question the faith of other candidates. "That's why I'm asking for Rick Tyler's resignation," Cruz said.

The first-term senators from Texas and Florida are locked in a battle to become their party's alternative to political outsider Trump in Nevada's caucus on Tuesday, the last Republican presidential contest before the busy voting month of March.

Tyler's dismissal came amid intense criticism of the Cruz campaign as dishonest from both Rubio and Trump.

Rubio spokesman Alex Conant called Cruz a "candidate willing to do or say anything to get elected" and urged him to apologize.

"There is a culture in the Cruz campaign, from top to bottom, that no lie is too big and no trick too dirty," he said.

Trump seized the opportunity to pile on Cruz, whom he has repeatedly characterized as a liar.

"Wow, Ted Cruz falsely suggested Marco Rubio mocked the Bible and was just forced to fire his Communications Director. More dirty tricks!" the billionaire businessman from New York said on Twitter.

"Ted Cruz has now apologized to Marco Rubio and Ben Carson for fraud and dirty tricks. No wonder he has lost Evangelical support!," continued Trump, who has derided Cruz for failing to live up to expectations he would get solid support from evangelical Christians in South Carolina.

Trump was the big winner in that state on Saturday, finishing ahead of Rubio by 10 percentage points.

Opinion polls show Rubio and Cruz running close in Nevada, and both candidates hope to get a boost going into the contests in a dozen states on March 1. Super Tuesday is the crown jewel in the state-by-state nominating contests to pick the Republican and Democratic candidates for the Nov. 8 presidential election.

Rubio on Monday also secured the backing of three Republican leaders from Nevada: U.S. Senator Dean Heller and U.S. Representatives Cresent Hardy and Mark Amodei.

Senator Hatch said that, unlike many in the Republican establishment, he did not dislike Trump.

"I just feel that Rubio is the more serious candidate. And I feel he has the background to be able to really help turn this mess around,” Hatch told Reuters. Additional reporting by Emily Stephenson, Megan Cassella, Susan Cornwell, Eric Beech; Writing by Doina Chiacu and Alana Wise; Editing by Frances Kerry and Jonathan Oatis. 

One Last Way the Republican Establishment Can Take Down Trump
Two political rivals will need to band together.

After his commanding win in South Carolina last weekend, Donald Trump has moved into the driver’s seat for the Republican nomination. Or, if you believe he was already behind the wheel, he’s put the car in cruise control, kicked all the other competitors into the back seat (except Jeb Bush, who has to ride in the trunk) and is now speeding toward the nomination.

But there is still one way the establishment could throw a roadblock up—by striking a deal with Sen. Ted Cruz, who they may dislike even more than Trump.

The American Spectator published an essay today advocating just such a plan:

"Cruz and Rubio (absent Kasich and Carson not leaving) need to make a big move, taking an action they should be planning anyway: They need to come together on the same ticket, pooling their support.

Yes, a Cruz-Rubio Compact is needed, leading to a Cruz-Rubio or Rubio-Cruz ticket."

Some, such as conservative columnist Ben Shapiro, argue that Rubio, having finished narrowly above Cruz in South Carolina and surging in some polls, may have the upper hand. Rubio also has establishment money behind him, something Cruz is less likely to get. Rubio could offer Cruz the VP spot or even promise to nominate him for the Supreme Court to replace Antonin Scalia. Cruz, a cerebral conservative thinker who idolized Scalia, may be open to that.

A recent poll from NBC News suggested that Trump would lose to either of the candidates in a one-on-one race.

There is just one problem with this idea—Cruz and Rubio seem to really dislike each other. The back-and-forth between the two candidates has been vicious in recent days. And given Cruz’s history of intransigence in the face of political expediency—he is no stranger to government shutdowns—it could be a very tough sell to get him to drop out and support someone he considers less of a conservative marvel than himself.

Unless Rubio and Cruz come together, though, it’s getting harder to see how this race ends in anything other than Trump making the final speech at the Republican National Convention this summer.

Cruz fires spokesman over 'inaccurate' Rubio video. Ted Cruz asked his communications director Rick Tyler to resign Monday after Tyler distributed a video that falsely depicted Marco Rubio dismissing the Bible.

The incident comes a day before the Nevada Republican caucuses and in the wake of accusations from rival campaigns in recent weeks about Cruz's campaign tactics. Donald Trump has called Cruz a "liar" and Rubio and Ben Carson have also blasted the Texas senator.

Trump, Rubio and Carson have all attacked Cruz for his ethics ever since Cruz's victory in Iowa. Cruz later underperformed in South Carolina two contests later.

Cruz says he spent the morning investigating what happened before making his decision. Campaign manager Jeff Roe confirmed that Tyler had formally resigned.

"I have made clear in this campaign we will conduct this campaign with the very highest standards and integrity," Cruz told reporters Monday, adding that Tyler is a "good man."

"This was a grave error of judgment. It turned out the news story he sent around was false but I'll tell you, even if it was true, we are not a campaign that is going to question the faith of another candidate," Cruz said.

A former, longtime spokesman for Newt Gingrich, Tyler was a senior aide and one of the Cruz campaign's first hires in the run-up to his presidential announcement.

According to MSNBC host Kate Snow, Tyler abruptly left the studio just as he was about to go on air.

"He actually abruptly left just before we were about to go live to him and now we know why," she said on air.

Tyler had apologized late Sunday for the incident.

"I want to apologize to Sen. Marco Rubio for posting an inaccurate story about him here earlier today," said Tyler, the spokesman, wrote in a Facebook post.

The latest dust-up comes as the two senators' campaigns have been clashing heatedly for days about "dishonesty" and "lies" on the trail.

Trump immediately sought to capitalize on the moment.

"Wow, Ted Cruz falsely suggested Marco Rubio mocked the Bible and was just forced to fire his Communications Director. More dirty tricks!," he tweeted.

And Rubio's campaign similarly rubbed salt in the wound, praising Tyler's skills but saying he "had the unenviable task of working for a candidate willing to do or say anything to get elected."

The story mentioned by Tyler was about a video that shows Rubio walking into a hotel lobby past Cruz's father Rafael and a staffer reading the Bible, and subtitles in the video misquote Rubio as saying, "Got a good book there, not many answers in it."

In a corrected version of the video tweeted by Rubio's communications director, Alex Conant, the subtitles quote Rubio saying, "Got a good book there, all the answers are in there."

Rubio himself explained to reporters Monday that he was saying the Book of Proverbs is especially helpful.

"I know exactly what I said to that young man. I said, 'The answer to every question you'll ever have is in that book,' and then I pointed to the Book of Proverbs, which he was reading, and then I said 'Particularly that one,'" Rubio told reporters in Nevada.

Tyler continued, "Since the audio was unclear, I should not have assumed the story was correct. I've deleted the post because I would not knowingly post a false story. But the fact remains that I did post it when I should have checked its accuracy first. I regret that mistake."

Rubio said he accepts Tyler's apology, but called for the Cruz campaign to hold someone accountable.

"It's every single day, something comes out of the Cruz campaign that's deceptive and untrue, and in this case goes after my faith. So I understand, I guess one of their spokespersons apologized and I'll accept his apology, but this is a pattern now and I think we're now at a point where we start asking about accountability," Rubio said.

The Independent Journal review first reported the Cruz-Rubio campaign Bible controversy.

The flub by the Cruz campaign comes after Rubio finished narrowly ahead of Cruz for second place in the South Carolina primary Saturday, behind Donald Trump. In the heated contest there, the Cruz campaign was repeatedly accused by both Rubio and Trump for being dishonest and engaging in dirty tactics.

In one incident, the Cruz campaign used an altered photo on an anti-Rubio website showing a smiling Rubio shaking President Barack Obama's hand, which was featured on a page about the "Rubio-Obama Trade Pact," accusing Rubio of casting the crucial vote to pass the Trade Promotion Authority bill in the Senate to give Obama authority to negotiate trade deals more quickly. Rubio aide Todd Harris called the photo "deceitful" in a gaggle with reporters where he distributed a printout of the page.

The Cruz campaign later changed the photo, but said it was obviously photoshopped and not an issue. They have fought back at the repeated accusations of dishonesty from the Rubio camp by saying the senator is "screaming liar" in the face of his record and spreading its own rumors.

On the Dem side of the aisle, Bernie is saying what I started saying after Hillary started backing the Gun safety issue with regard to manufacturers and gun sellers not being able to get sued for any reason at all, which is exactly what Bernie's platform is verbatim. The New York Times reports how Bernie Sanders Accuses Hillary Clinton of Copying His Message.
Senator Bernie Sanders at a news conference Monday at the International Association of Ironworkers, Local 7, in Boston.
Bernie Sanders, eager to bounce back from his loss Saturday in the Nevada caucuses, pointedly attacked Hillary Clinton on Monday, arguing that she was copying his message and that she might be improperly influenced by Wall Street donations to her candidacy.

Though the Vermont senator has repeatedly said he wants to avoid a negative campaign, Mr. Sanders delivered one of his most striking critiques of Mrs. Clinton yet, accusing her of mirroring his style and highlighting their differences on the campaign finance system and trade policies. The comments come as Mr. Sanders is fighting to prove he can remain viable in the race, which will mean broadening his support beyond the thousands of young people and working-class whites that pack his events.

“I have to say that I am delighted that Secretary Clinton, month after month after month, seems to be adopting more and more of the positions that we have advocated. That’s good,” Mr. Sanders said, adding that Mrs. Clinton was “beginning to use a lot of the language and phraseology that we have used.”

“I think people are responding to our message of a rigged economy where ordinary Americans work longer hours for lower wages… a corrupt campaign finance system… I think our message is resonating, and obviously the proof of that is that Hillary Clinton is more or less echoing much of what we are saying.”

“In fact, I think I saw a TV ad and thought it was me. But it turned out it was Secretary Clinton’s picture in the end,” Mr. Sanders said at a news conference at an ironworkers union office in Boston.

Mr. Sanders went on to imply that Mrs. Clinton’s stances on issues were not as genuine as his own.

“But the people of Massachusetts and the people of the United States need to know the difference between hastily adopted campaign rhetoric and the real record and long-held ideas of the candidates,” Mr. Sanders said.

Mr. Sanders has said that the Iowa caucuses, where Mrs. Clinton narrowly beat him, and the New Hampshire primary, where Mr. Sanders won by double digits, proves that his message of a rigged economy is resonating with voters. However, Mrs. Clinton’s victory in the Nevada caucuses on Saturday delivered a blow to Mr. Sanders’s momentum and raised questions about how much longer he can remain in the race.

The Democratic delegate count so far shows Mr. Sanders slipping significantly behind Mrs. Clinton.

Without directly accusing Mrs. Clinton of being influenced by Wall Street money, Mr. Sanders pointed out that Priorities USA Action, the “super PAC” that is supporting Mrs. Clinton’s presidential campaign, raised $25 million during the last reporting period from special interest groups, including $15 million from Wall Street.

“Now I know that every candidate who has ever received special interest money always says that the millions and millions of dollars they have received will never influence them. Never, never, never,” Mr. Sanders said. “Well, the American people need to ask a very simple question: If these contributions from Wall Street and other powerful special interests have no influence over the candidate, why are these special interests making huge campaign contributions?”

“Simple question. Now maybe they are dummies. And maybe they just think they throw millions of dollars and expect to get nothing. Maybe. I doubt that very much.”

In other world news today, FTSE 100 falters after Asian stocks surrender gains as oil resumes slide. European bourses open in negative territory after Asian stock markets lose ground, as oil prices fall amid concerns Iran will increase output.
A visitor sits and reads a newspaper near an illuminated rotating cube displaying share price information for the FTSE 100 index, as it stands in the atrium of the London Stock Exchange Group Plc's offices in Paternoster Square in London, U.K., on Thursday, March 26, 2015.
Bill Gates backs FBI in battle with Apple over San Bernardino killer's phone. US government is asking for a particular case, and Apple should comply, says Microsoft co-founder Gates. The Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates has waded into the row between Apple and the FBI, arguing that the government agency is right to demand co-operation from Silicon Valley when it comes to terrorism investigations.

Gates also questioned Apple chief executive Tim Cook’s characterisation of the case as a demand for a “back door”, the Financial Times reported.

“This is a specific case where the government is asking for access to information. They are not asking for some general thing, they are asking for a particular case,” Gates said.

“It is no different than [the question of] should anybody ever have been able to tell the phone company to get information, should anybody be able to get at bank records. Let’s say the bank had tied a ribbon round the disk drive and said, ‘Don’t make me cut this ribbon because you’ll make me cut it many times’.”

With his intervention, Gates stands on the opposite side of the conflict to many of the prominent figures in Silicon Valley, including Google’s Sundar Pichai and WhatsApp’s Jan Koum, and the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

More recently, Mark Zuckerberg also expressed support for Apple, telling the Mobile World Congress conference in Barcelona that “we’re sympathetic with Apple. We believe in encryption; we think that that’s an important tool”.

“I don’t think requiring backdoors with encryption is either going to be an effective way to increase security or is really the right thing to do for just the direction that the world is going to,” Zuckerberg added.

Even Gate’s own Microsoft has issued support for Apple, of a sort. The Reform Government Surveillance industry lobby group, of which Microsoft is a member, released a statement on Thursday saying that “technology companies should not be required to build in backdoors to the technologies that keep their users’ information secure.” The statement was tweeted by Microsoft’s chief legal officer, Brad Smith, and then retweeted by Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella.

The FBI has demanded that Apple rewrite the software on the iPhone used by the San Bernardino shooter in order to make it possible for the agency to safely attempt to guess the passcode used to lock the phone, without accidentally triggering the destruction of data stored on the device. The agency is investigating the murderer for links to terrorist groups.

In a public letter released last week, Cook suggested that such modifications would amount to inserting a “back door” in iPhones, and would “undermine the very freedoms and liberty our government is meant to protect”.

Poll: Apple Should Help FBI Unlock Terrorism Suspect's iPhone. When it comes to the dispute over San Bernardino shooter Syed Rizwan Farook's iPhone, new findings show that public support is on the side of the Justice Department.

Data from the Pew Research Center show that the majority of Americans — 51 percent — think Apple should cooperate with a federal court order. Another 38 percent say Apple should not help; 11 percent say that they don't know.

But before we go any further, take note of an important technicality: Pew asked people whether Apple should unlock the iPhone, which is not actually what the court requested. Rather, the court asked Apple to help the FBI bypass an auto-erase function that would be triggered after 10 incorrect password attempts. Pew Senior Researcher Alec Tyson defended the poll's wording, telling NPR that "this reflects our best judgment about the clearest way to ask the question."

A customer tries out the Apple iPhone 6S on Sept. 25, 2015, in Chicago. As a legal dispute simmers, Apple CEO Tim Cook and FBI Director James Comey issue separate calls for more conversations about privacy and security in the smartphone era.

The Apple logo is illuminated in the entrance to the Fifth Avenue Apple store in New York City. The company has until Feb. 26 to respond to the Justice Department's motion and an earlier court order.

Among Americans who support Apple's decision, the greatest percentage — 43 percent — are between age 18 and 29. Among those age 65 and up, only 27 percent think Apple shouldn't comply with the order.

Fifty-six percent of Republicans and 55 percent of Democrats think that Apple should help unlock the iPhone. But there's a wider split among independents. The majority of independents who lean Democratic, 55 percent, support Apple's stance. But 58 percent of independents who lean Republican think the company should comply.

A plurality, 39 percent, said they had heard a lot about the court order, 36 percent said they had heard a little and 24 percent said they hadn't heard about it at all.

Of Americans polled who own an iPhone, 47 percent said Apple should help the government and 43 percent said they agree with the company's decision to disobey the order.

Michigan Uber driver admits role in deadly shooting spree: police.  A man working as an Uber driver admitted to the fatal weekend shootings of six people in Kalamazoo, Michigan, a police detective testified on Monday in a case raising questions about how the car service vets its drivers.
Jason Dalton, 45, was denied bail as he made his first court appearance on 16 charges including six of murder that can bring life in prison.

Dalton told detectives "he took people's lives," Kalamazoo Public Safety Detective Cory Ghiringhelli testified in a county district court ahead of the suspect's arraignment.

Dalton appeared via a video link and was seen on a monitor at the Kalamazoo County court wearing glasses and dressed in an orange prison jumpsuit.

When asked if he had anything to say, Dalton, who appeared emotionless through the proceedings, said he preferred to "remain silent."

The judge denied bail and set March 3 for the next hearing.

After the hearing Kalamazoo County Prosecuting Attorney Jeffrey Getting told reporters Dalton had been cooperative with authorities but possible motives for the shootings were still unclear.

"No one understands why it happened, and that adds to the fear and the sorrow," Getting said.

Prosecutors alleged Dalton randomly shot multiple times at people during a five-hour period on Saturday at an apartment complex, a car dealership and a Cracker Barrel restaurant in Kalamazoo, about 150 miles (240 km) west of Detroit.

Police were investigating reports Dalton drove customers of the Uber car-hailing service the night of the rampage. Two people were wounded in the shootings, including a teenage girl who was initially thought to have died.

Initial checks with a key federal agency indicate Dalton was unknown to both law enforcement and counterterrorism agencies for having any known connection to extremist groups.

President Barack Obama said on Monday he had spoken to the mayor and top law enforcement in Kalamazoo about the shootings and pledged whatever federal support they need.

"Earlier this year, I took some steps that will make it harder for dangerous people like this individual to buy a gun. But clearly, we're going to need to do more if we're going to keep innocent Americans safe," Obama said in remarks before the National Governors Association at the White House.

Uber [UBER.UL] said on Monday it would not be changing the way it screened its drivers following the weekend shooting spree. It also said Dalton had received "very favorable" feedback from riders.

"There were no red flags, if you will, that we could anticipate something like this," said Uber's chief security officer, Joe Sullivan.

Uber drivers use their personal vehicles to ferry customers at prices generally below those of established taxi companies. Critics contend vetting is inadequate and the company never meets potential drivers in person.

"A background check is just that - a background check. It does not foresee the future," Ed Davis, of the Uber Safety Advisory Board, told a teleconference with reporters.

The Dalton family said in a statement: "There are no words which can express our shock and disbelief, and we are devastated and saddened for the victims and the families of the victims," Michigan State Police said the shooting began at about 5:30 p.m. (2230 GMT) on Saturday with a woman wounded outside an apartment building. At about 10 p.m., Richard Smith and his son Tyler were killed at the car dealership.

About 15 minutes later four women identified as Mary Lou Nye, 62, of Baroda, Michigan; and Dorothy Brown, 74; Barbara Hawthorne, 68; and Mary Jo Nye, 60, were fatally shot outside the restaurant. Reporting by Brendan O'Brien in Milwaukee, Mark Hosenball and Ayesha Rascoe in Washington, D.C. Curtis Skinner in San Francisco, Barbara Goldberg in New York, Mary Wisniewski in Chicago and Jon Herskovitz in Austin, Texas; Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Bill Trott and Tom Brown.

'My daughter is not dead': Mother of Abigail Kopf — youngest victim of Kalamazoo attack — says teen is fighting for her life
Abigail Kopf, left, poses with her family friend, Barbara Hawthorne, whom she referred to as "Grandma Barb." Hawthorne was killed during Saturday's rampage. 
As Abigail Kopf clings to life, her distraught parents are holding on to hope that their 14-year-old daughter critically wounded outside a Kalamazoo, Mich., restaurant will survive.

The girl’s identity emerged for the first time since a crazed gunman’s rolling rampage on Saturday. On Monday, Abigail’s parents, Gene and Vicki Kopf, tearfully spoke of their daughter’s love for theater, sharks and sports after a medical miracle.

“My daughter is not dead,” Abigail’s mother, Vicki Kopf, said. “She is alive and she is fighting for her life.”

She remarked on her daughter’s strength, believing Abigail’s ability to squeeze her hand and wiggle her toes from a hospital bed is a sign of her path to recovery.

“We know she has a long road ahead,” her father, Gene Kopf, said, sitting beside his wife.

The red-haired teen was gunned down along with four women — including her grandmother — struck by a barrage of gunfire outside the Cracker Barrel following a night on the town with victim Barbara Hawthorne’s friends.

“Abigail had been with her beautiful, free-spirited Grandma Barb,” explained Gene Kopf, although Hawthorne and Abigail were not blood relatives. “They went to the Miller Auditorium along with Barbs’ friends to watch a performance. They returned to the Cracker Barrel to pick up their cars when tragedy struck.”

The bullets, allegedly fired by 45-year-old Uber driver Jason Dalton, battered a set of two cars in the restaurant’s parking lot killing Hawthorne, Mary Jo Nye, 60, her sister-in-law, Mary Lou Nye, 62, and Dorothy Brown, 74.
“Abigail is strong,” the girl’s mother added. “She was a vibrant, beautiful lady that did not deserve this, and neither did her grandmother or those other victims.”

Kopf dabbed tears from her eyes as the Bronson Methodist Hospital medical director explained the grim prospects of her survival.

“Due to both the nature of her injuries and efforts to sustain her life, our team discussed the possibility that she could become brain dead,” said Dr. Aaron Lane-Davies.

She was initially declared deceased, information that was passed along to law enforcement and then members of the media during the shooting aftermath, when her heart stopped, but Abigail miraculously squeezed her mother’s hand before doctors could contact Gift of Life Michigan to start the organ donation process.
The parents of Abigail Kopf, Gene and Vicki Kopf, say their daughter is "fighting" for her life after being shot in Kalamazoo. 
“She’s actually squeezing hands more and she is actually trying to squeeze on the other side, which is both arms,” Kopf said at a press conference. “She’s moving her toes.”

Lane-Davies said Abigail remains on a ventilator and has undergone surgery at the hospital.

Abigail’s father also shared a message for Jason Dalton’s family, a wife and their two children, who have not publicly spoke since Saturday night’s mass attack that killed six people and wounded two others.
Police tape off the parking lot outside the Cracker Barrel restaurant, where a shooting shot five people, four of whom died on Saturday night. 
“Our thoughts are with the Dalton family who also are suffering at this time,” Gene Kopf added. “We want his family to know we don’t hold anything against the family members.”

Dalton appeared for an arraignment in the Kalamazoo County court and was denied bond for six charges of murder and two counts of attempted murder.

A second survivor of Saturday’s attack, Tiana Carruthers, was struck by gunfire while shielding two children from the shooter at the Meadows Townhomes.

Senator Claire McCaskill:
I very recently learned that I have breast cancer.

I very recently learned that I have breast cancer. It was detected through a regular mammogram. It’s a little scary, but my prognosis is good and I expect a full recovery. I will be in St Louis for the next 3 weeks receiving treatment. 

During this time my staff will continue to assist Missourians and I will be posting on my Senate website (McCaskill.senate.gov) how I would have voted on any matters that come before the Senate during my absence—which I’ll also enter into the Congressional record. 

Additionally, I’ll be submitting questions in writing for any missed Senate hearings.

Thank you for the honor of serving you in the Senate.

Outbreak of Severe Thunderstorms and Tornadoes Expected in the South Tuesday and Wednesday. An outbreak of severe thunderstorms and tornadoes is expected in the South Tuesday into Wednesday.

The instigator for this potential outbreak is an intensifying area of low pressure that will move from the Deep South to the Great Lakes. In addition, a very strong jet stream disturbance will continue to move through the South.

The TOR:CON (Tornado Conditions Index) for Tuesday and Tuesday night is 6 out of 10 for parts of southern Louisiana, southern Mississippi, southern Alabama and the western Florida panhandle, according to Dr. Greg Forbes of The Weather Channel. This means there is a 60 percent chance of a tornado within 50 miles of any location in the specified areas. TOR:CON values as high as 5 out of 10 are posted for Wednesday in eastern North Carolina and southeast Virginia.

In addition, NOAA's Storm Prediction Center (SPC) has issued a moderate risk for parts of the Gulf Coast Tuesday and says that a couple of strong tornadoes (EF2 or higher rating) are possible. A moderate risk is the second highest of five categories on SPC's severe thunderstorm forecasts.

The threat of tornadoes will continue well after dark Tuesday evening and overnight

If you live in or are traveling through the South Tuesday, Tuesday night or Wednesday, be prepared for the possibility of severe storms capable of producing tornadoes. Be sure you have a way to get the latest watch and warning information.

Below is a breakdown of our latest severe weather outlook.

Severe Weather Forecast

  • Threat Areas: Outbreak of severe thunderstorms and tornadoes expected from parts of southeastern Texas into Louisiana, central/southern Mississippi and southwest Alabama.
  • Main Threats: Tornadoes, damaging wind gusts and large hail are all possible hazards. Heavy rain could lead to some flash flooding. A couple of strong tornadoes are possible.
  • Cities: Houston | Jackson, Mississippi | New Orleans

Tuesday's Thunderstorm Forecast
Red shaded areas have the greatest chance of seeing severe storms.
Hourly City Forecast
Tuesday Night

  • Threat Areas: Severe storms will continue during the evening and overnight hours from southeastern Louisiana and much of Mississippi into Alabama, Georgia and the Florida panhandle.
  • Main Threats: Tornadoes, damaging wind gusts and large hail are all possible hazards. Heavy rain could lead to some flash flooding.
  • Cities: Columbus, Georgia | Mobile, Alabama | Montgomery, Alabama | Pensacola, Florida

Tuesday Night's Thunderstorm Forecast

  • Threat Areas: A line of severe thunderstorms will continue surging east ahead of the advancing cold front across the Deep South from parts of Florida and Georgia to the Carolinas and eastern Virginia.
  • Main Threats: Damaging thunderstorm winds would be the biggest threat, however, tornadoes are also a possibility, if instability is high enough, both within the squall line and in any individual thunderstorms ahead of the line.
  • Cities: Jacksonville, Florida | Raleigh, North Carolina | Richmond, Virginia | Savannah, Georgia

Wednesday's Thunderstorm Forecast
In addition to the chance for severe thunderstorms, heavy rain is expected from eastern Texas into the Ohio Valley through Wednesday and some flooding is possible as well. Widespread rainfall up to two inches may also spread up the East coast into the Northeast, with locally higher amounts possible.

The National Weather Service has issued flood watches from central Alabama to northern Georgia and western Virginia.
Current Radar with Watches and Warnings
The 2016 Severe Season So Far
Severe thunderstorm activity, including tornadoes, has been off to a quicker start in 2016 than what we had seen over the prior two years. 

The month of February has already witnessed two tornado outbreaks across the Gulf Coast states, bringing the preliminary tornado count for the year to at least 74. This is actually near or slightly below the 2005-15 average about just over 80 tornadoes through mid-February.
DETAILS from our damage survey of the February 15 EF-3 Tornado in Century, FL:

Florida has seen more than its fair share of tornadoes thus far in 2016. This includes a relatively rare EF3 tornado that ripped through the Florida panhandle on Feb. 15. That was the first EF3 or stronger tornado to hit the area since April 19, 1988, according to the Severe Weather Institute at the University of Alabama-Huntsville.

There have also been multiple other damaging tornadoes to the south and east across the Florida peninsula since January.

The ongoing El Niño may be an factor in the onslaught of severe weather across the Sunshine State. The National Weather Service has said that El Niño creates favorable conditions for winter tornadoes in Florida.

El Niño has been gradually weakening, but it is difficult to speculate how this may influence the spring severe weather season with much certainty.

Michael Hayden is on the show now. He says to Blame Intel Agencies, Not White House, For Getting Iraq Wrong.
Gen. Michael Hayden, the former head of the National Security Agency and the CIA, testifies before Congress last August. In an interview with NPR, Hayden says the intelligence agencies, not the White House, were responsible for getting it wrong when they concluded that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction prior to the U.S. invasion in 2003.
The former head of the National Security Agency, Gen. Michael Hayden, says U.S. intelligence agencies got it wrong when they concluded Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, and they should take the blame for that, rather than the White House.

"It was our intelligence estimates" that were incorrect, Hayden says in an interview with NPR's Robert Siegel. "We were wrong. It was a clean swing and a miss. It was our fault."

Hayden, a retired Air Force general, ran the the National Security Agency in the run-up to the Iraq War in 2003. He later served as deputy director of National Intelligence and then as director of the CIA.

His 10-year tenure in these top intelligence positions was no ordinary decade. In addition to the Iraq War, there was the Sept. 11 attacks, the expansion of NSA data collection and the investigations into claims of torture by CIA interrogators.

Hayden writes about this period in a new memoir, Playing to the Edge.

Interview Highlights
You dispute the commonly held belief that Vice President Dick Cheney and other administration officials sold the idea Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. It wasn't the White House, you write.

No, not at all — it was us. It was our intelligence estimate. I raised my right hand when [CIA Director George Tenet] asked who supports the key judgments of this national intelligence estimate.

I actually spoke to Leon Panetta much later. He was coming to take my job at CIA and I said, "Leon, I've looked at a lot of the things you've written while you've been out of government. You said that we buckled under pressure with regard to the Iraqi [national intelligence estimate], the weapons of mass destruction." And I said, "Leon, that was us. We were wrong. It was a clean swing and a miss. It was our fault."

After 9/11, President Bush authorized the NSA to intercept and collect communications, what we now call metadata. Does government have business storing these records?

What we had was a mass of American phone calls. Phone bills, actually, records of calls. These are put — for want of a better word — into a lock box and they are not accessed until we have a reasonable, articulable suspicion that we've got a dirty phone number, one associated with terrorism.

All we did then was simply — and I'm kind of speaking in cartoon form here — we get to yell through the transom and say, "Hey! Any of you numbers in here ever talked to this to now-known-to-be-dirty-number in Yemen?" And if a number in the Bronx got up, timidly raises its hand, so to speak, and says, "Well, yeah, I talked to him every Thursday," we then get to say, "Well, who the hell do you talk to?" And Robert, that's the limit of that program. That's all it did...

And it was accessible by about two dozen people at NSA whose access to the database had keystroke monitoring on it. Now, look, any power in the government can be abused. But what you've just described is an equally powerful argument against arming policemen. That can be abused too, Robert. We actually need to give the government some power.

If NSA contractor Edward Snowden had access to so much data, doesn't his own behavior perversely prove the risks of storing so much information?

It's a powerful argument. That's exactly right. That the mere possession — not the abuse — because no one has shown any evidence of abuse of the metadata program. And when there has been abuse of other aspects of NSA activity, they have been identified, self-reported and punished within the agency.

Snowden had no access to metadata. Snowden had no access to operational traffic. Snowden had no access to the actual intercepts that NSA was collecting. Snowden was on the administrative side of the program. That's why so many of the things journalists have put out using the data he stole have been inaccurate — because they are a misreading of briefings and slides that existed on the administrative side of NSA and not the operational side.

What did you tell Leon Panetta, your successor as CIA director, to say about waterboarding?

I simply said: "Do not use the word 'torture' and 'CIA' in the same sentence ever again. You can object to some of the enhanced interrogation techniques. You can, in your heart of hearts, believe they meet some legal definition of torture. But Leon, you're taking over a workforce that did these things in good faith. They did these things with the assurance of the attorney general that they indeed were not torture. Do not accuse them of felonies."

Look, I get it. Honest men differ. A lot of good people describe these things as torture. The definitive legal judgment under which the agency was operating and you know sooner or later, Robert, someone has gotta call balls and strikes and that's the way it is.

Should one take a very legalistic view of torture rather than say what you did was wrong?

That's a totally honorable position. I get that. What I don't get is someone who says, "By the way, it didn't work anyway."

I would say we got information from the people against whom we used enhanced interrogation techniques. We moved them for a zone that was pretty much represented by defiance, to a zone where they were more compliant, more willing to talk about the things we believed we needed to know to keep the country safe.

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