Marco Rubio during his town hall at Barefoot Resort in North Myrtle Beach last night. (Reuters/Chris Keane)

THE BIG IDEA:

Donald Trump set this cycle’s brash tone about national defense, with his profane talk about bombing the Middle East and seizing its oil. On Wednesday in South Carolina, The Donald went even further saying he backs waterboarding and other forms of torture because “torture works” when questioning terrorists, my colleague Jenna Johnson reports.

Now, as Saturday’s GOP primary approaches in the Palmetto State, Trump's rivals are going out of their way to show that they are even more hawkish than the front-runner. This conservative state, known for its warrior ethos, has a large military presence and a huge population of veterans.

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At a rally last night outside Myrtle Beach, Marco Rubio declared: “We’re keeping Guantanamo – forever! It’s a good base." As the crowd cheered, a man yelled: "Waterboard Hillary!" The Florida senator did not rebuke him. Instead, he laughed it off. "The press is here,” he said, per Sean Sullivan. “I didn’t hear what they said. I know it wasn’t a bad word, that’s all that matters!"

His campaign also went on TV yesterday with a commercial called “Fear” that stars South Carolina Rep. Trey Gowdy. “No one is stronger for America’s security than Marco Rubio,” Gowdy, best known for leading the Benghazi inquest, says to camera.

Ted Cruz walks off stage after speaking on the USS Yorktown in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, yesterday. (Reuters/Joshua Roberts)

-- Rubio has been relentlessly attacking Ted Cruz as “weak on national security,” citing votes against defense reauthorization bills.

Trying to rebut such charges, Cruz gave a speech yesterday aboard the USS Yorktown, a World War II-era aircraft carrier that now functions as a museum. He called for growing the size of the military by 100,000 active-duty troops, appearing with Rick Perry and unveiling the endorsement of Marine Sgt. Dakota Meyer, a Scout Sniper and the recipient of the Medal of Honor.

“More tooth, less tail” was the mantra of the Texan’s speech, delivered near Charleston. He promised to “unleash the holy wrath” of the United States on its enemies.

Cruz once said there should be no boots on the ground to fight the Islamic State, but he’s changed his tune. He now says some should be sent if necessary but that the United States should rely on overwhelming air power to “carpet bomb” it into oblivion, Katie Zezima notes.

And, even with his hardened rhetoric, Cruz is still not as much of an interventionist as Rubio. The Texas senator is also trying to appeal to libertarians who supported Rand Paul before he dropped out, which is why he nodded to concerns about endless foreign entanglements during his speech on the Yorktown.

-- Jeb Bush, traveling around South Carolina with Lindsey Graham (one of the most hawkish members of the Senate), yesterday attacked Trump, Cruz and Rubio on national security. “I do believe we need to spend more, unlike Trump and Cruz,” the former governor said during a town hall. “By the way, Marco Rubio, who is a great guy, believes in increased defense spending. BUT he claims he has foreign policy experience because he goes to committee hearings, to talk and have smart people come advise him. I think you’d want to have someone who has actually been a commander-in-chief, in this case of the Florida National Guard.” The campaign also organized a telephone town hall for veterans in the state to hear from Bob Dole, a Bush surrogate.

Rubio defended himself against this line of attack, while taking shots at each of his rivals: “Building a hotel overseas is not foreign policy experience,” he said in Summerville. “Having lived abroad for a year is not foreign policy experience. Having invested money overseas is not foreign policy experience. Foreign policy experience is the work we have done over the last five years.”

-- John Kasich has also sounded more hawkish on the campaign trail after being criticized by rivals, including Bush, for supporting base closings as a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Campaigning in Michigan yesterday, he unveiled a list of 25 national security experts who support him. And he declared that he would give the Japanese a missile defense system and send arms to Ukraine to fight Vladimir Putin-backed separatists if elected. He also promised to eradicate ISIS.

“None of us want to end up in a war again, but unfortunately we’re going to have to go take care of business,” the Ohio governor said at a town hall, according to The Detroit News. “At the end of the day, we’re going to have to destroy ISIS.”

Trump waves as he is whisked away from a rally at Beaufort High School last night. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

-- Reality check: Trump is almost certain to win South Carolina on Saturday. The real battle is for second place, and right now that seems like it still could go to Cruz or Rubio. A CNN/ORC poll put Trump at 38 percent, with Cruz at 22 and Rubio at 14. Jeb, who got 10 percent in the CNN poll, is battling for a strong double-digit finish that gives him a rationale to continue. If he eclipses Rubio, he will be able to credibly argue that donors and the establishment should stick with him. Most Republican primary voters in South Carolina dislike Trump, but they cannot agree on who is best to stop him. (Ben Terris has a good story about these middle-of-the-road Republicans in today’s paper.)

WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:

Tashfeen Malik and Syed Farook at O'Hare before their rampage in California. Federal investigators say they can’t access a county-owned work phone used by Farook because they don’t know his passcode. (U.S. Customs and Border Protection via AP)

-- Apple is vigorously appealing a federal judge's order that its engineers help the FBI unlock the iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino terrorists. In a message posted to Apple’s website, CEO Tim Cook writes: "Up to this point, we have done everything that is within our power to help … But now the U.S. government has asked us for something we simply do not have, and something we consider too dangerous to create. They have asked us to build a back door to the iPhone."

The order does not actually ask Apple to break the phone’s encryption but rather to disable the feature that wipes the data after incorrect password entry, Ellen Nakashima explains. "Industry officials say Apple cannot unilaterally dismantle or override the 10-tries-and-wipe feature. ... However, U.S. Magistrate Judge Sheri Pym said in her order, Apple can write software that can bypass the feature. Federal prosecutors stated in a memo accompanying the order that the software would affect only the seized phone."

President Obama speaks at a news conference after the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit in Rancho Mirage, California, yesterday. The summit was intended to improve commercial links and provide a united front during maritime disputes with a saber-rattling Beijing. (Reuters/Kevin Lamarque)

-- China is deploying batteries of surface-to-air missiles in the South China Sea, on an island that is also claimed by Taiwan and Vietnam: “The news broke just as Obama was wrapping up two days of talks with 10 leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, at the Sunnylands retreat in California. “

-- Trump phoned into Stephen Colbert's show. The Daily Beast: “Slyly asked by Colbert what he was wearing, Trump replied, ‘a very beautiful blue suit.’ He drew boos from the studio audience when he restated his claim that a Supreme Court replacement should be delayed until a new president is sworn into office next year. And, at Colbert’s urging, he gamely solicited support from South Carolinians in their native tongue. ‘Vote for me, y’all,’ Trump said.” Watch the clip here.

Charlie Rangel chats with Hillary Clinton after introducing her, as Bill de Blasio and Andrew Cuomo watch, in Manhattan yesterday. (Photo by Yana Paskova/For The Washington Post)

-- A fresh CNN/ORC poll shows Hillary and Bernie tied in NEVADA among likely Democratic caucus-goers, 48-47. The top concern is the economy, and Sanders' leads among those who pick it. But his support is strongest, like in Iowa and New Hampshire, among those who are considered less likely to show up. After getting outspent last week in the Silver State, the Clinton campaign is now outspending Sanders on TV in the final stretch before Saturday, NBC News reports.

-- A new Quinnipiac University poll NATIONALLY also shows the Democrats in a statistical dead heat. She gets 44 percent to his 42 percent. “Hillary continues to lead on electability: Clinton would have a good chance of winning in November, 83 percent of Democrats say, compared to 69 percent who say Sanders has a good chance.”

-- Trump’s national lead has actually grown recently, according to the new Quinnipiac poll: He gets 39 percent, his highest total so far, followed by Rubio with 19 and Cruz with 18.

-- Another national poll, from USA Today and Suffolk University, gave likely voters the choice of four options to describe how they feel about the leading candidates: enthusiastic, satisfied, dissatisfied or scared. “For Trump, 38 percent of likely voters would be scared if the real-estate mogul won the GOP nomination — including not only 62 percent of Democrats but also 17 percent of Republicans. And for Clinton, 33 percent would be scared — including 60 percent of Republicans and also 8 percent of Democrats. The poll makes clear the headwinds ahead for Trump and Clinton, if they prevail in the primaries.”

-- Breanne Deppisch and Elise Viebeck contributed to this report.

GET SMART FAST:​​

  1. In a highly unusual pact, Saudi Arabian and Russian oil ministers agreed to freeze — but not cut — crude oil output. Though their proxies are still fighting one another in Syria, the two nations sought common ground on the shifting sands of the oil market, where a glut of crude has been driving down prices. (Steven Mufson)
  2. The State Department called on Russia to “put up or shut up" in Syria. A ceasefire is set to take effect Friday, but Vladimir Putin continues to launch brutal airstrikes against hospitals and schools. This casts doubt on the viability of an international cessation of hostilities. (CNN)
  3. Meanwhile, a Turkish envoy argued that U.S. support for Syrian Kurds is a “big strategic mistake.” The Turks continued bombardment of Kurdish forces in northwestern Syria has also complicated last week’s truce. (Karen DeYoung)
  4. Nearing its two-year anniversary, the war in Ukraine continues with a sharp uptick in violence between government troops and Russian-backed separatists. (Thomas Gibbons-Neff)
  5. The VA is making changes that will make it easier to fire senior executives. (Joe Davidson)
  6. South Dakota is moving to restrict the rights of transgender students. A bill, which requires public school students to use the bathroom, shower and locker room that correspond to their biological sex, passed the legislature and is expected to be signed into law by Republican Gov. Dennis Daugaard. (Sandhya Somashekhar)
  7. As the Zika virus spreads through Latin America, women are taking to the internet to plead with westerners to send abortion pills. The overwhelmingly Catholic countries have criminalized access to contraception. (Michael E. Miller)
  8. The World Health Organizatiion says $56 million is needed to fight Zika. Their action plan covers surveillance, response and research, and will provide women with contraception and prenatal care. (USA Today)
  9. The CDC deployed a team of specialists to investigate “suicide clusters” in Palo Alto, Calif. (Yanan Wang)
  10. Flint’s water was already among the priciest in the nation. Families were paying twice the state average in their water bills each month for the poison coming through the tap. (Christopher Ingraham)
  11. A Houston man said U.S. Marshals arrested him at his home for failing to pay a $1,500 federal student loan, which he took out in 1987. (Danielle Douglas-Gabriel)
  12. A New York man stole $26,000 from two women he met on Tinder after telling each that he needed money to “fund his sister’s cancer treatment.” (New York Times)

POWER PLAYERS IN THE NEWS:

  1. Cliven Bundy will stay in jail after a court ruled that the Nevada rancher was both a danger to the community and a flight risk. Bundy, the father of Oregon protestors Ammon and Ryan Bundy, was arrested in Portland last week for his armed standoff with police two years ago. (Leah Sottile)
  2. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell earned $34.1 million in 2014, according to ESPN. That was the year in which he was heavily criticized for mishandling a domestic violence scandal. (Cindy Boren)
  3. Mark Cuban said he’d like to see Michael Bloomberg run for president. The billionaire owner of the Dallas Mavericks said the former New York City mayor would “change the tone” of the race. (Buzzfeed)
  4. Boxing star Manny Pacquiao, who is also a politician in his native Philippines, has apologized after saying gay people are "worse than animals." (Cindy Boren)
  5. Larry Kudlow announced on CNBC that he will NOT run for Senate against Richard Blumenthal in Connecticut.
  6. The Latino Victory Fund endorsed Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D) in the California Senate primary over Kamala Harris.

Here's how the Supreme Court signifies the death of a justice:

THE SCOTUS SUCCESSION FIGHT:

-- A handful of key Republicans expressed a willingness to hold hearings on a potential nominee to succeed Antonin Scalia, raising the possibility that the president's pick will get considered:

  • While Mitch McConnell’s office said the chamber’s Republicans are united in opposing any new Obama appointee, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley told Iowa reporters on a conference call that he will "wait until the nominee is made before I would make any decision” on whether to hold hearings. “In other words, take it a step at a time.”
  • Another Republican on the Judiciary Committee, North Carolina's Thom Tillis, told a local radio station that Republicans risk falling "into the trap of being obstructionist": "I think we fall into the trap if we just simply say, ‘Sight unseen,'" the Senate won’t consider the nominee, Tillis said.

-- Speaker Paul Ryan got on board with McConnell's strategy of blocking whoever Obama nominates. "The Supreme Court is not an extension of the White House. … Congress as an equal branch also has every right not to confirm someone," he told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "We are knee deep into a presidential election and I think the precedent for not filling a Supreme Court vacancy in such a time is justified."

-- President Obama, meanwhile, forcefully rejected Republican calls that he cede his Supreme Court nomination to a successor. He cast the standoff as further evidence of Washington dysfunction, saying the process will test whether Congress can “rise above its recent history of partisan rancor to complete a fundamental constitutional task.” (David Nakamura and Juliet Eilperin)

-- Bob McDonnell might be one of the biggest losers as a result of Saclia's death. Scalia was considered among the most receptive justices to the former Virginia governor's argument that his conviction on corruption charges improperly relied on the kind of favors that are commonplace in America’s political scene, Politico's Josh Gerstein notes. "McDonnell was perhaps weeks away from being required to report to prison when the Supreme Court stepped in, granting him a stay that remains in effect today. There's a chance the Supreme Court could put McDonnell's case over to the fall for reargument if the justices split evenly … ‘It might be a year now instead of a few months before the court gets to this substantively,’ lawyer Hampton Dellinger said.”

-- Fusion profiles Sri Srinivasan, who could be the first Asian American justice: “His career seems like a bipartisan dream. After graduating from Stanford—where he got a B.A. and a joint law and business degree—Srinivasan clerked for moderate Republican appeals court judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III and Supreme Court judge Sandra Day O’Connor. Then he did stints in private practice at the well-respected D.C. firm O’Melveny Myers and at the office of the Solicitor General—the chief lawyer of the federal government—during the Bush and Obama administrations.”

-- Justice Scalia’s body will lie in repose at the Supreme Court on Friday. A private ceremony will take place on Friday at 9:30 a.m., and the public will be allowed in to pay their respects from 10:30 a.m. until 8 p.m. His funeral is Saturday. (Mark Berman)

-- The Texas judge who pronounced Scalia dead without an autopsy defended her decision, as conspiracy theories became more prevalent online. She stressed that Scalia’s family did not want an autopsy. (Mark Berman)

— ZIGNAL LABS VISUAL: The future of the judiciary looms larger than any other single issue in the presidential race on social and traditional media since Scalia's passing on Saturday. In all, since news of Scalia's death was announced, there have been 225,000 mentions of the late justice or the court vacancy that also mention one of the presidential candidates -- about 5.5 percent of the total presidential coverage. Here’s a chart with the top five, from our analytics partners:

On the Republican side, the issue looms largest for the sitting senators. But since Scalia's death, the court has been the most frequently mentioned issue for all eight of the remaining candidates, according to Zignal. Here is a breakdown of the percentage of each candidate's media mentions that have also mentioned Scalia or the Supreme Court over the last 72 hours: Cruz, 12.4%; Rubio, 7%; Kasich, 5.2%; Carson, 4.4%; Bush, 3.9%; and Trump, 3.4%. On the Democratic side, Scalia has accounted for 5.3% of mentions about Clinton and 3.5% of mentioins about Sanders.

THE DEMOCRATIC RACE:

-- Hillary is likely to win South Carolina. The latest CNN poll has her up by 18 points, 56 to 38. She was up 58-36 in October.

-- This lead endrues because the demographics in the Palmetto State strongly favor Clinton, Neely Tucker and John Wagner explain in a richly-reported story this morning: "In the 2008 South Carolina primary, with Barack Obama facing Clinton, about 60 percent of black voters were over 45. In the 2012 election, black turnout among those ages 18 to 29 was 53 percent. It was 66 percent among blacks 30 to 44 and more than 70 percent among blacks 45 and older. 'It’s according to age groups,' said Mattie Thomas, 66, a retired fast-food worker who lives in Lake City, about 25 miles south of Florence. She’s a Sanders supporter but concedes that most of her peers love the Clintons from Bill’s two terms in the Oval Office. 'They have a perception of the Clintons, and you’re not going to change their minds,' she said."

"Another problem for Sanders: There are roughly 100,000 more African American women than men of voting age, and that demographic, particularly the older set, tends to skew heavily toward Clinton. 'The key demographic is African American women,' said ­Jaime Harrison, chair of the South Carolina Democratic Party. “Clinton has to maintain her support. Sanders has to do the ‘Carolina two-step’ ” — increasing his name recognition and then convincing voters he can deliver." 

-- Killer Mike, a rapper and top Sanders surrogate, ignited controversy at an Atlanta rally for saying that a uterus alone doesn’t qualify someone to be president. The rapper defended himself on Twitter, saying he was “supportive of woman politicians besides Clinton.” (John Wagner)

-- The Clinton campaign claimed a spike in small donor contributions and said more than half her February haul came from online. (Tom Hamburger)

-- The number two Democrat in the Georgia state Senate defected from Clinton to Sanders, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution

-- In These Times posted a video that it says shows Sanders getting arrested during a 1963 civil rights demonstration in Chicago.

In this Sept. 25, 2008, file photo, Henry Paulson and Neel Kashkari enter the Capitol for emergency meetings. Kashkari was then heading the Treasury's Office of Financial Stability. (AP Photo/Lauren Victoria Burke)

-- Neel Kashkari, the new president of the Minneapolis branch of the Federal Reserve, complained yesterday that the big banks are still “too big to fail.” He urged policy makers to give “serious consideration” to breaking them up “into smaller, less connected, less important entities.” He also argued that Dodd-Frank “did not go far enough.” This is remarkable because Kashkari is an alumnus of Goldman Sachs, oversaw the TARP program under Hank Paulson and was the Republican nominee for governor of California in 2014.

In a speech at the Brookings Institution, Kashkari explained: “The financial sector has lobbied hard to preserve its current structure and thrown up endless objections to fundamental change. And in the immediate aftermath of the crisis, when the Dodd-Frank Act was passed, the economic outlook was perhaps too uncertain to take truly bold action. But the economy is stronger now, and the time has come to move past parochial interests.” (Read the Wall Street Journal coverage of his speech here. Read the full text here.) 

Among Sanders’ biggest problems are his lack of a Clintonian killer instinct and his seeming inability to think quickly on his feet. Last week, when Clinton defended her coziness with and cash from Wall Street during the Democratic debate, she said that the money Obama took from the financial services industry had no impact on him, citing the Dodd-Frank law as proof. Sanders could have pointed out, but failed to, that Dodd-Frank was incredibly watered down by industry lobbyists and did not go nearly as far as it might have, especially considering the size of the Democratic majorities in the Senate and House back in 2010. The fact that someone like Kashkari is saying Dodd-Frank “did not go far enough” gives the Vermont senator a good peg to launch a fresh salvo against the front-runner.

Sanders seized on Kashkari’s announcement last night but has not (yet) make the explicit Clinton connection: "If a bank is too big to fail, it is too big to exist,” he said. “When it comes to Wall Street reform that must be our bottom line. The risk of another bailout is too great, and the economic and political power of a handful of huge financial institutions is simply too large.”

MORE ON THE REPUBLICAN RACE:

-- Cruz’s tax plan would cost the federal government $8.6 trillion in lost revenue over a decade, according to data released by the nonpartisan Urban/Brookings Tax Policy Center. (Kelsey Snell)

-- Reps. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.) and Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) endorsed Cruz. Both are leaders in the House Freedom Caucus.

-- The Post's Fact Checkers slam Rubio's latest ad this morning for claiming that more people are out of work than ever before. "Rubio should be ashamed to be wandering in Trump’s statistical fantasyland," Glenn Kessler writes.

-- Rubio snagged Texas oil investor L.E. Simmons, a former finance chairman for Mitt Romney. (Sean Sullivan)

WAPO HIGHLIGHTS:

-- “For Cruz, the 2013 shutdown was a defining moment,” by David A. Fahrenthold and Katie Zezima: “Many (Republicans) suspect that he knew his plan would fail but went ahead with it anyway, expecting that he would personally benefit from the exposure. Grover Norquist, the influential anti-tax activist, likened Cruz’s strategy to a plotline in the satirical animated show 'South Park,' in which a group of gnomes comes up with a brilliant plan to become rich. 'Step 1 is: Steal all the underwear in South Park. Step 2 is:Mumumumbumbumbum,' Nor­quist said, making a nonsense sound. 'And Step 3 is: Make a million dollars. And this [plan] reminded me of that episode.'"

Notably, Cruz NEVER talks about the shutdown on the campaign trail. And his campaign, even today, blames fellow Republicans in the Senate for causing it by not backing him up. "When he was campaigning in Iowa, a man who introduced him uttered the S-word that Cruz now avoids. ‘When Ted Cruz shut down the government,’ said Michael Berry, a Cruz ally … The crowd roared.”

-- “Spring could bring a fresh surge of refugees. But Europe isn’t ready for them,” by Griff Witte and Anthony Faiola: “After an unparalleled tide of asylum seekers washed onto European shores last summer, leaders vowed to use the calm of winter to bring order to the chaotic process. But now the situation is even worse … Continental unity lies in tatters, and even nations that have been the most welcoming toward refugees are desperately close to their breaking point. Once asylum seekers have landed in Europe, the continent still has no coherent system for managing the flows. A quota system that was intended to evenly distribute 160,000 refugees across the continent has similarly foundered: Countries in eastern and central Europe have boycotted the program. Hungary has called for the construction of razor-wire fences along Greece’s northern borders. With countries improvising their own responses to the mass migration, the most basic tenet of Europe’s post-Cold War identity — that national leaders should act collaboratively to reach continent-wide solutions to common problems — is being called into question as never before.”

-- “For paid speeches, Bush drew less — and demanded less — than Clinton,” by Rosalind S. Helderman: “When John Ellis ‘Jeb’ Bush delivered a speech at UNC in January 2014, he arrived at the local airport alone, met by a driver holding a sign that read ‘John B.’ The former Florida governor participated in a conference call with university officials to discuss how to best craft his remarks, for which he earned $42,500, for the business school audience … Emails from UNC present a striking contrast between planning for the Bush lecture and the meticulous organization that went into a similar 2013 lecture at UCLA by Hillary Clinton. Her speech fee — $300,000 — was seven times what Bush received in North Carolina. Representatives planned her appearance down to the smallest details, including a request for a spread of hummus and crudite backstage … The emails show that Bush’s speech drew 400 people to the free lecture. UCLA sold tickets to [Hillary’s] event, which raised $100,000 and sparked a shoving match among students waiting in line."

SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:

Two classic Trump moments (check out some video footage of the diner visit here):

The Donald continued to troll Fox hosts he does not like by unleashing his supporters on them:

In his stump speech, Jeb now compares Trump to Michael Moore. The filmmaker thinks it is hilarious:

Bernie Sanders was joined at a South Carolina rally by two African Americans with ties to high-profile police brutality cases: the daughter of Eric Garner, who was killed in a NYPD police officer's chokehold, and the lawyer for Walter Scott, the unarmed black motorist who was shot and killed by a South Carolina cop. (John Wagner)

Jeb signed a restaurant worker's shirt:

And he posted the photo of a gun inscribed for him:

The gun went viral:

Trump posted this bizarre Instagram reel:

Mario Lopez "interviewed" Rubio in South Carolina:

Behold: CNN and MSNBC are both doing live countdowns to their town halls:

Republican strategist Patrick Ruffini, of Echelon Insights, got lots of attention online last night for a storm of 19 tweets about Trump in which he compared the GOP front-runner to a "cancer" and said the establishment needs to come to terms with what it will take to stop him. Here are the highlights:

GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:

-- Associated Press, “Sanders’ brother shares political odyssey,” by Jill Lawless: “These are exciting times for Larry Sanders, a stalwart Green Party campaigner in Oxford, England. He’s just been appointed to a new job as his party’s national spokesman on health. And he’s helping out his little brother Bernie with a small electoral campaign on the other side of the Atlantic. Sanders, who ran for a seat in Britain’s Parliament last year (he came fifth of seven candidates), says he has only recently started to believe that underdog Bernie can ‘go all the way to the White House.’ [Growing up,] Larry discussed political ideas with his younger brother, and was surprised when Bernie announced his first political campaign, a run for high school student president. ‘He didn’t do very well — he finished third out of three,’ Sanders said. ‘But he was the only one who had a serious platform. The others talked more about prom stuff, but he ... said the school should raise money for scholarships for Korean orphans.’"

-- The Daily Beast, “Vermont’s Black Leaders: We Were ‘Invisible’ to Bernie Sanders,” by David Freedlander: “Back in 2006, a Vermont civil rights organization hosted a Candidate Night. The audience of African-American activists and other Vermonters of color should have been a friendly one for socialist congressman Bernie Sanders. Instead, remembers Curtiss Reed, Jr., the group’s executive director, Sanders ‘was just really dismissive of anything that had to do with race and racism, saying that they didn’t have anything to do with the issues of income inequality … as if talking about income inequality would somehow make issues of race go away.’ As the Democratic primary heats up, Sanders has made a major point of reaching out to minority voters … But, in a sense, these are catch-up moves. And many activists and leaders of civil rights organization say that Sanders has turned a blind eye to their concerns. His approach to Reed and his organization ‘one of benign neglect,’ said an activist.” 

-- New York Times, “Trump Is a Conundrum for Political Comedy,” by James Poniewozik: “Election parodies traditionally exaggerate candidates. But Mr. Trump exaggerates himself. He’s the frilled lizard of politics, inflating his self-presentation to appear ever larger … Satire exposes candidates’ contradictions and absurdities. But Mr. Trump blows past those, while his supporters cheer. The more opinionated cable shows, in the mold of Jon Stewart’s ‘Daily Show,’ like to point out politicians’ dog whistles, but Mr. Trump uses an air horn. On ‘The Nightly Show’ in January, Larry Wilmore noted that, years after Mr. Trump’s charge that Barack Obama was not born in the United States was debunked, many of Mr. Trump’s followers didn’t care; 20 percent of Americans still believed it. ‘I don’t have a joke for this,’ he said. ‘I just want that [expletive] to sink in.’ … With Mr. Trump and his movement, a comic can often only point and wince.”

HOT ON THE LEFT

Carson: Only 'schizophrenic' Muslims can embrace democracy. From the Huffington Post: "Ben Carson accused Muslims who both adhere to Islamic law and embrace American values of being 'schizophrenic.' In an interview Monday with Breitbart News' Stephen K. Bannon, Carson was asked whether he believes Muslims who are 'Sharia adherent' can also participate in a Democratic society governed by the rule of law. 'Only if they're schizophrenic,' Carson said. 'I don't see how they can do it otherwise, because they have two different philosophies boring at you [that contradict each other].'"

 

HOT ON THE RIGHT

Freedom Caucus leader backs Cruz. From National Review: "Raul Labrador, Idaho representative and a leader of the House Freedom Caucus, is endorsing Cruz. Labrador had previously thrown his weight behind Rand Paul, serving as his Western States Chairman. ... Labrador is the latest in a string of Freedom Caucus members to back Cruz."

DAYBOOK:

On the campaign trail: Hillary is in Chicago.

At 8 p.m., MSNBC hosts a town hall with Trump and CNN hosts a town hall with Cruz, Rubio and Carson. Here's the rest of the day's rundown in South Carolina:

  • Rubio: Mt. Pleasant, Aiken, Chapin
  • Cruz: Seneca, Spartanburg
  • Bush: Beaufort, Summerville, Myrtle Beach
  • Carson: Columbia
  • Kasich: Bluffton
  • Trump: Walterboro, Sumter

At the White House: President Obama meets with Secretary of State John Kerry. Vice President Biden is in New Orleans, Memphis and St. Paul.

On Capitol Hill: The Senate and House are out on recess.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: 

In a 2004 appearance on the Howard Stern show, BuzzFeed unearthed a clip of Trump complaining that dating in New York City was dangerous because of all the STD's: “I’ve been so lucky in terms of that whole world. It is a dangerous world out there — it’s scary, like Vietnam. Sort of like the Vietnam era. It is my personal Vietnam. I feel like a great and very brave solider." (On the trail, Cruz says parents would be "dismayed" if their children repeated some of the profane things Trump says.)

NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:

-- Warmer weather is on its way! The Capital Weather Gang reports: “Some glimpses of sun are possible today amid partly to mostly cloudy skies. Morning temperatures in the 30s aren’t especially cold. But the clouds, and a 10 mph breeze from the northwest, likely limit afternoon highs to the low-to-mid 40s.”

-- The Caps beat the Los Angeles Kings 3-1. (Isabelle Khurshudyan)

-- The Redskins are negotiating with quarterback Kirk Cousins about staying on next season. (Mike Jones and Liz Clarke)

-- Clinton and Trump hold the lead in Virginia ahead of its March 1 primary, according to a new poll from Christopher Newport University, though both have lost ground over the last few months. (Rachel Weiner)

-- The Virginia House passed a bill that would prohibit the government from punishing people and businesses who discriminate against same-sex couples, transgender individuals and those who have intercourse outside marriage. Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) said he would veto the measure. (Jenna Portnoy)

-- The D.C. fire department will hire a private ambulance company to augment its fleet, which has failed to meet the city’s needs. (Peter Hermann)

-- Fairfax County Executive Edward Long proposed a tax increase for homeowners – equal to about 4 cents per $100 of assessed value -- to cover a projected budget gap of about $93 million. (Antonio Olivo)

VIDEOS OF THE DAY:

Hillary has begun barking like a dog as part of her stump speech. (She says she wishes a dog could follow the Republican candidates around and bark every time they lie. Then she mimics a barking dog.) Watch:

Trump made fun of her for it:

Clinton also did her best impression of Al Sharpton, as he watched:

Stephen Colbert offered a touching tribute to Scalia's sense of humor:

Seth Meyers broke down the debate over Scalia's replacement:

Trump flirted with the conspiracy theory that Scalia was murdered during an interview with Michael Savage:

Ted Cruz attacked Trump over abortion (here's Trump's response):

Cruz's super PAC went after Rubio (here's how the Rubio camp responded, in part):

These teens made it their goal to get a selfie with every candidate:

Does Obama think Trump will become president? In a word, no: