Saturday night's presidential debate comes at a key moment in the GOP race, as an unsettled field prepares for its sharpest winnowing yet. Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, have all established clear paths beyond New Hampshire, but for the three governors and Ben Carson there is room for one, or maybe none. A strong finish well ahead of the governors by Rubio would immediately boost calls for more consolidation in the GOP field and increase already escalating pressure on the Jeb Bush effort to avoid going negative on the Florida Senator. For Bush, Chris Christie, and John Kasich, they need not to just place as the top governor, but also in the mix with the top three. Expect to see their efforts to do just that play out on stage Saturday night.
Jeb Bush's campaign is increasing its pressure on Marco Rubio over his accomplishments with a new digital ad buy directing voters to a fake 404 error page, as his super PAC blasts Rubio on the same in a new ad.
The future of Iowa as the first-in-the-nation caucuses is up in the air after last week's caucuses drama. The Cruz campaign's effort to mislead Ben Carson supporters that he was dropping out, as well as questions about the finish on the Democratic side have reawakened old grumblings about the caucus state's preferred status. No changes will be made until at least the GOP and Democratic conventions, but party operatives in both sides, particularly from states long-jealous of the attention Iowa gets, are quietly floating a new effort to unseat the Hawkeye State.
Sanders supporters are banned from Tinder after campaigning on dating app. Bobby Jindal backs Rubio. And no reprieve expected for Carly Fiorina.
Here are your must-reads:
Republicans Ready for Eighth Debate
Pivotal moment 72 hours before polls close in New Hampshire [TIME]
Iowa Democratic Party Altered Precinct's Caucus Results During Chaotic Night
It wouldn't have changed the results, but increases scrutiny on the caucus process [The Guardian]
Bush Super PAC Hedges on Ad Strategy
Delays ads to see what happens in New Hampshire [Politico]
Donald Trump’s Campaign, Billed as Self-Funded, Risks Little of His Fortune
He may turn a profit on the enterprise [New York Times]
Ted Cruz’s Campaign Spread False Report in Iowa That Ben Carson Was Quitting Race
Carson compares it to Benghazi [New York Times]
"I'd be the worst vice president anybody could ever imagine. I'd be worse than Biden. Because I'm my own man." — Ohio Gov. John Kasich to CNN
"Half the year, minus a day. Taxes are big in Maine." — Barbara Bush on how often she stays in Kennebunkport, Maine
Bits and Bites
Rubio Doubles South Carolina TV Ad Buy [Washington Examiner]
Ted Cruz Left Canada When He Was 4. Calgary Seems Okay With That [Washington Post]