“He has spent a career in business, 50 years, sticking it to the little guy.”
— Sen. Marco Rubio, quoted by the Washington Post, continuing his assault on Donald Trump by calling him a “con man.”
New York Times: “Efforts to unite warring candidates behind one failed spectacularly: An overture from Senator Marco Rubio to Mr. Christie angered and insulted the governor. An unsubtle appeal from Mitt Romney to John Kasich, about the party’s need to consolidate behind one rival to Mr. Trump, fell on deaf ears. At least two campaigns have drafted plans to overtake Mr. Trump in a brokered convention, and the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, has laid out a plan that would have lawmakers break with Mr. Trump explicitly in a general election.”
“Despite all the forces arrayed against Mr. Trump, the interviews show, the party has been gripped by a nearly incapacitating leadership vacuum and a paralytic sense of indecision and despair, as he has won smashing victories in South Carolina and Nevada.”
“The Democratic presidential contest has moved to South Carolina, where voters began casting their ballots Saturday in a primary that serves as two starkly different milestones for Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders,” the Washington Post reports.
“Clinton is looking to her expected victory here to prove her strong support among African American voters — and to cement her status as the presumptive front-runner heading toward Super Tuesday three days later, when six of 11 Democratic contests will take place in Southern states with large populations of black voters.”
Politico: Clinton flips the script in South Carolina
New York Times: “In the span of a few hours across Texas, Mr. Rubio suggested that Mr. Trump had urinated in his trousers and used illegal immigrants to tap out his unceasing Twitter messages. Mr. Trump countered by suggesting that Mr. Rubio’s excessive perspiration had no place in the White House and brandishing a water bottle to mock the senator’s chronic thirst.”
“Waving the bottle across a stage at a Texas rally, pouring half its contents onto the floor and then taking giant gulps from it, Mr. Trump ridiculed his younger rival with exaggerated facial gestures.”
Washington Post: “During one of the most hectic and consequential days of the campaign, Rubio dramatically escalated his verbal assault of the real estate mogul, branding him a “con artist” attempting to hijack the party, and the senator from Florida attracted a wave of endorsements. Trump responded with name-calling of his own and by touting the support of Christie, who dropped out of the presidential race after a poor showing in New Hampshire.”
Politico: “A handful of Republican big-money groups on Friday launched hard-hitting ad campaigns targeting Donald Trump that echoed Marco Rubio’s Thursday night debate smack-down of the GOP presidential front-runner.”
“The group behind what’s expected to be the most expensive and sustained assault ― a super PAC dedicated to Rubio called Conservative Solutions PAC ― has raised about $20 million in the past week alone, sources tell POLITICO. They say the cash will power a full-frontal assault on Trump in the delegate-rich states that vote in March, starting with Tuesday’s 14 Super Tuesday contests.”
Former New Jersey Gov. Christie Todd Whitman (R) said she’s planning to vote for Hillary Clinton if Donald Trump gets the nomination, the Newark Star Ledger reports.
“She’s keeping her options open, in case we find out something new and horrible about Hillary. But that’s her plan now.”
Said Whitman: “You’ll see a lot of Republicans do that. We don’t want to. But I know I won’t vote for Trump.”
Warrants have been issued for the arrest of former Michigan state Reps. Todd Courser (R) and Cindy Gamrat (R) “for felony charges of misconduct in office related to their failed attempts to cover up an extramarital affair that rocked the Capitol last summer,” the Detroit News reports.
“If convicted on all counts, Courer would face a maximum of 30 years in prison. If found guilty, Gamrat could be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison.”
A new NBC News/Survey Monkey poll finds Donald Trump continues to lead the GOP field nationally with 39%, followed by Marco Rubio at 21%, Ted Cruz at 19%, Ben Carson at 8% and John Kasich at 8%.
In the Democratic race, Hillary Clinton leads Bernie Sanders, 52% to 41%.
Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) endorsed Donald Trump for president, the Bangor Daily News reports.
Said LePage: “I was Donald Trump before Donald Trump became popular, so I think I should support him since we’re one of the same cloth.”
Rich Lowry: “The anti-Trump onslaught is coming. Perhaps within weeks. Just not necessarily from Republicans. Almost as soon as Donald Trump is the presumptive GOP nominee — which may be as early as March 15 — Democrats will surely start to churn out their negative ads. They will attack Trump’s credentials as a tribune of the little guy… they will use decades-worth of controversial statements to portray him as racist and sexist.
“This will all be in the tradition of the early Democratic ad campaigns that successfully knee-capped Republican nominees in 1996 and 2012 (Bob Dole and Mitt Romney, respectively). A Democratic campaign to disqualify Trump would seek to make his unfavorable rating (already 60 percent with the general public) not merely alarming, but completely radioactive.”
“Conservative donors have engaged a major GOP consulting firm in Florida to research the feasibility of mounting a late, independent run for president amid growing fears that Donald Trump could win the Republican nomination,” Politico reports.
Gov. Chris Christie endorsed Donald Trump, “a major turn in a wild race and one that gives the New York businessman a major boost as he heads into the pivotal Super Tuesday contests,” the New York Times reports.
“Mr. Christie was a candidate himself until he came in sixth place in New Hampshire’s primary. Seeing his political career facing an abrupt conclusion at the end of a second term as governor following his faded presidential campaign, he was said to be deeply angry with Sen. Marco Rubio… He blames Mr. Rubio’s super PAC for halting his momentum in New Hampshire in December with a string of slash-and-burn ads.”
Ryan Lizza: “The historic nature of a Trump victory can hardly be overstated. He could very well stand at a lectern in Cleveland at the Republican National Convention, in July, accepting the nomination of a party whose top elected officials—governors, congressmen, and senators—have either refused to support him or actively opposed his nomination. Yes, there are some cracks. This week, two House members endorsed Trump, and other elected officials will surely jump aboard, especially those representing Trump strongholds.”
“But Trump represents such a radical break with the Republican consensus on important issues that a significant segment of the Party will never back him.”