Marco Rubio speaks in Minden, Nevada, yesterday. (Reuters/Chris Keane)

THE BIG IDEA:

Marco Rubio’s path to the Republican nomination goes through the suburbs of places like Minneapolis and St. Paul.

Minnesota is one of 11 states that vote one week from today. This afternoon, the Florida senator will campaign there. Though it’s a caucus and not a primary, which benefits Ted Cruz, it could be the first contest Rubio wins.

Preparing for Super Tuesday, Rubio is focusing heavily on the vote-rich metropolitan areas around Denver, Atlanta, Nashville, Little Rock, Birmingham and Boston. Virginia also votes next week, and Rubio backers believe he can outperform Cruz and Trump in places like Fairfax, Arlington, Leesburg and Richmond.

Even if he loses the popular vote in these states to front-runner Donald Trump, Rubio might still emerge with a lot of delegates – and momentum – going into the higher-stakes, winner-take-all races that begin on March 15.

Internally, the campaign calls this “The Ankeny Strategy.” In the run up to the Iowa caucuses, rival campaigns mocked the Rubio operation for being so obsessed with Ankeny. They joked that it felt like Rubio was running to be mayor of the Des Moines suburb. His headquarters was there, and his state chairman represents the city in the state Senate. But it paid off: Rubio’s surprisingly strong third place finish in Iowa was possible because he ran up his margin in Polk County.

Something similar happened Saturday in South Carolina, where Rubio won the two most populous counties (those that include Columbia and Charleston) by appealing to suburban Republicans. Obviously he did not just campaign in the vote-rich suburbs, but he mined them for votes.

“There are Ankenys all over the country,” Rubio deputy campaign manager Rich Beeson said in an interview last night as he boarded a plane. “Name the state, and there’s an Ankeny in that state.”

Beeson believes Rubio is catching on with suburban voters because they find him “relatable.” They can identify with his modest background, his young children and the student loans he had to pay off.

Next week will offer the biggest test yet of whether “The Ankeny Strategy” can get Rubio the GOP nod. Unlike the early states, where the campaign could organize heavily, the race now turns increasingly on earned media. Rank-and-file Republican voters in Minnesota report that they’ve received few mailers and seen even fewer ads. There’s relatively little local media coverage of the race.

Sadly, there has been no good polling of Minnesota. A survey last month from the Star Tribune, conducted by Mason Dixon but with a small sample of only 236 registered Republican voters, suggested a toss-up: Rubio at 23 percent, Cruz at 21 percent and Trump at 18 percent.

Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who endorsed Rubio yesterday, was able to win twice in the blue state by appealing to the same kinds of voters who now seem poised to move in Rubio’s direction. "He is no doubt conservative but his message is also hopeful and positive in a way that would be well-received in the suburbs,” Pawlenty, who was a city councilman in the suburb of Eagan before joining the state legislature, told the 202.

Rubio has won the backing of several other elected officials of the Pawlenty mold in Minnesota, including Reps. John Kline (who represents the suburbs south of the Twin Cities) and Erik Paulsen (who represents those to the west.) “Rubio is the best choice to unite our party [and] win in November,” Paulsen said last night. Norm Coleman, who had supported Jeb Bush, threw his support to Rubio within an hour of the former Florida governor dropping out Saturday night.

John Hinderaker, an influential conservative blogger who backs Rubio, explained that Twin Cities suburbs like Edina and Eagan were once reliably red, but they’ve become much harder to win in the fall. (Richard Nixon was the last Republican to carry Minnesota in a general election.)

“Marco is the kind of candidate who could do well in these traditionally Republican areas that are now swing areas,” Hinderaker explained last night as he commuted home to the St. Paul suburb of Apple Valley from his day job as a lawyer downtown. “My wife and daughters love Rubio. They can’t stand Ted Cruz. There’s a lot of people like that. … I think Marco is conservative enough to appeal to hardcore Republicans, but he’s got a little bit of a broader appeal that will play well with suburban women.”

To be sure, the suburbs in the general election and in the Republican caucuses are very different places. For example, Dakota County (where Pawlenty hails from) will be a swing district in November but it will be quite conservative next week. So Rubio needs to sell "electability" without sacrificing his conservative bona fides. Rubio has shown that he is a gifted communicator who can thread that needle. Unlike Cruz or Trump, he has proven (by winning statewide in Florida) that he can communicate red messages in purple and blue places -- without scaring people.

It also bears mentioning that John Kasich is still fighting hard for this same turf, as he tries to stay viable for contests in Michigan and Ohio later in March. Today the Ohio governor is in two towns north of Atlanta: Kennesaw and Sandy Springs. Yesterday he campaigned in Fairfax and Richmond.

Rubio is also targeting the Richmond area. His super PAC, Conservative Solutions, is the only GOP entity that has booked time in Virginia so far, according to a source tracking the air war. Their buy begins today and runs through March 1. Buying in Richmond gets a pro-Rubio message into suburban Chesterfield, Henrico and Hanover. You might call those the Ankenys of the Commonwealth.

Welcome to The Daily 202, PowerPost's morning newsletter.
With contributions from Breanne Deppisch (@b_deppy) and Elise Viebeck (@eliseviebeck)

WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:

Kathleen Sebelius (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

-- A brand new Inspector General report (which came off embargo at midnight) contains cringe-worthy illustrations of utter incompetence at HHS ahead of the Obamacare rollout in 2013: “During the two years before the disastrous opening of HealthCare.gov, federal officials in charge of creating the online insurance marketplace received 18 written warnings that the mammoth project was mismanaged and off course but never considered postponing its launch,” Amy Goldstein reports. “The warnings included a series of 11 scathing reviews from an outside consultant — among them a top-10 list of risks drawn up in the spring of 2013 that cited inadequate planning for the website’s capacity and deviations from usual IT standards. A few months before, then-Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius had hired another consultant to review the project and recommend ways to improve its management, but its advice was never shared with the technical staff working on the website.”

A lack of leadership, the report says, “caused delays in decision-making, lack of clarity in project tasks and the inability of CMS to recognize the magnitude of problems as the project deteriorated.” (Read Amy’s story here. Read the 92-page IG report here.)

Terrible timing: Today’s Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Sebelius will endorse Hillary.

Demonstrators call for the closure of the Guantanamo Bay last month in front of the White House. (AFP/Mandel Ngan)

-- Obama will deliver a statement on Guantanamo at 10:30 a.m. in the Roosevelt Room. Today is the deadline for him to submit to Congress his plan for shuttering the prison camp, but it's not expected to break the partisan gridlock around the fate of the jail. (Karoun Demirjian)

Ted Cruz speaks to the media yesterday before a rally at the Durango Hills Community Center in Las Vegas. (Photo by Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post)

-- DRIVING THE DAY: Nevada is Trump’s to lose, but Cruz and Rubio hope to spring a surprise. Philip Rucker and David Weigel emphasize that the state’s caucuses are peculiar and unpredictable: “Trump has led every recent public poll by double digits. Enormous crowds pack his rallies. And his nationalist call to deport illegal immigrants and wall them off has resonated with Nevada’s working-class whites. Trump joked, ‘Maybe I don’t even have to go there and campaign.’ But a Trump win is no done deal. Unlike New Hampshire and South Carolina’s large primaries, voters in Nevada only have a four-hour window to caucus at select locations. And unlike Iowa, there is no time-honored tradition of caucusing here. Both Rubio and Cruz’s campaigns have carefully tailored strategies to exploit what they think is a weak ground game that makes Trump vulnerable. Rubio is playing up local roots with dozens of family members still in Nevada. And Cruz is seizing on a boiling land-use controversy.”

At an 8,000-person rally late last night, Trump focused his ire on Cruz as he warned supporters against complacency: “We have a big lead and we don't want to blow it." Rucker reports from the rambunctious event that protesters tried to cause disruptions at least three times. After the third round of protest, Trump said from his lectern, "I'd like to punch him in the face."

Watch the moment:

-- Cruz, trying to get his mojo back after losing a couple of news cycles (more on that below), sharpened his rhetoric about immigrants. He declared on Fox News that he would find and deport the more than 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States. "Yes, we should deport them," Cruz said on Fox News. When asked by host Bill O'Reilly if he would "look for them," Cruz said yes. "Of course you would. That's what ICE exists for," Cruz said. "We have law enforcement that looks for people who are violating the laws that apprehends them and deports them."

“The statement is a marked shift for Cruz, who had long avoided the question of what he would do with the millions of people living in the country illegally,” Katie Zezima explains. “Just last month, Cruz said he opposes a special force to deport undocumented immigrants. The way to catch people, he said, is through things like the e-verify system and traditional law enforcement. ‘Are they gonna knock on every door in America? No,’ Cruz told CNN's Jake Tapper. ‘I don't intend to send jackboots to knock on you door and every door in America. That's now how we enforce the law for any crime.’”

Spike Lee (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP, File)

-- “WAKE UP SOUTH CAROLINA. This is your dude Spike Lee, and I know you know the system is rigged,” the famous director says in a 60-second radio ad for Bernie Sanders that will air on stations aimed at African Americans in the Palmetto State. “Bernie takes no money from corporations … which means he is not on the take … Bernie was at the March on Washington with Dr. King. He was arrested in Chicago for protesting segregation in public schools! … No flipping. No flopping.” Listen here.

-- Meanwhile, Sanders called Pope Francis "A SOCIALIST": "During an interview with the Rev. Thomas Rosica, who assists the Vatican press office, Sanders is asked whether he thought Francis is a socialist, and Sanders says yes, and Rosica asks him what he means. 'Well, what it means to be a socialist, in the sense of what the pope is talking about, what I’m talking about, is to say that we have got to do our best and live our lives in a way that alleviates human suffering, that does not accelerate the disparities of income and wealth." The interview will be broadcast later today, but Sarah Pulliam Bailey got a first look. Watch a 4-minute clip here:

GET SMART FAST:​​

Waves crash against a lighthouse wall in South Wales, United Kingdom. (EPA)
  1. A group of scientists estimates that seas levels are rising at the fastest rate in over 2,800 years. (Chris Mooney)
  2. An 18-year-old Ohio teen was arrested after pretending to be a state senator at a local high school. The teen gave the school his real identification and spoke to several groups of high school students before the Senate alerted local authorities. (Lindsey Bever)
  3. A top OPM official who oversaw the government databases that were breached in 2014 retired two days before her scheduled appearance at a House hearing. (Eric Yoder)
  4. The Afghan Army abandoned three of its bases in the Helmand province, surrendering two hard-fought districts in the north in order to bolster security against Taliban militants elsewhere. (Thomas Gibbons-Neff)
  5. Lawmakers cleared the way for the confirmation of Robert Califf to become the new FDA commissioner, despite objections from senators who criticized his coziness with the pharmaceutical industry. (Brady Dennis)
  6. A record-breaking 18,300 Americans applied for 14 open astronaut positions at NASA. (Rachel Feltman)
  7. Drone users who fail to register their machines with the federal government now face fines of up to $27,500 and jail time. Over 368,472 drones were registered with the FAA before last week’s Feb. 19 deadline, surpassing the number of airplanes on record. (The Hill)
  8. Apple, continuing its P.R. war against the FBI, called on the Justice Department to “form a commission of experts” to discuss the privacy and national security implications of its request before moving forward. (Mark Berman and Ellen Nakashima)
  9. The Uber driver who fatally shot six in Kalamazoo, Mich., made several “incriminating statements” following his arrest but has not directly confessed, police said. (Mark Guarino, Wesley Lowery and Mark Berman)
  10. A 6-year-old boy fatally shot his father after picking up a gun that was left out. (Sarah Kaplan)
  11. The British pound’s value plummeted to record lows after London’s mayor announced his decision to back a British exit from the E.U. (Griff Witte and Karla Adam)
  12. Camille Cosby was deposed in Massachusetts as part of a defamation lawsuit filed by seven women against her husband. It is believed to be the first testimony she has given since more than 50 women went public with allegations that Cosby sexually assaulted and, in several cases, drugged them. Although she sat for seven hours with eight lawyers, four for each side, she gave only 2 1/2 hours of testimony, according to the lead plaintiffs’ attorney. (Karen Heller)
Confined to a wheelchair, Sergio Molina is hugged by his mother Maria Lemus after a juvenile court hearing for Ethan Couch last Friday in Fort Worth. Molina was a victim of the fatal drunken-driving wreck in 2013 that killed four people for which Couch was convicted of causing. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Affluenza update, via Yanan Wang: Ethan Couch, the teen who killed four and paralyzed another in a reckless drunk driving incident, will finally stand trial in adult court. But even with the move, the most severe punishment Couch could face is 120 days in jail, plus 10 more years of probation – a punishment that victims’ families say is not nearly enough. ‘We had 180 years of life taken,’ said Eric Boyles, who wept as he recounted losing his wife and daughter in the crash. Maria Lemus, whose son was paralyzed and suffered critical brain damage from the incident, agreed. ‘People say we have to die to go to hell,’ she said. ‘To me, I’ve already been there.’” You probably already dislike Ethan and his mom. Reading this story will probably make you loathe them even more.

THE SCALIA SUCCESSION FIGHT

Justice Scalia's seat is draped in black (AFP, via the Supreme Court of the United States)

-- The Supreme Court resumed its work yesterday without Justice Antonin Scalia — “our man for all seasons,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. called him — and then quickly discovered how difficult it might be to decide cases with what is now an ideologically balanced bench of eight. “With four consistent conservatives and four liberals, the factions appeared to take opposite views of a case that would loosen the rules for police to question and search suspects in high-crime neighborhoods, and drew the court into a discussion of Ferguson, Mo.,” Robert Barnes reports.

-- Joe Biden is the latest political figure forced to confront his past comments. C-SPAN footage from 1992 shows then-Senator Biden delivering a 90-minute speech on reforming the Supreme Court nomination process. “If any justices were to retire,” he said, “President George H.W. Bush should not name a nominee until after the November election.” And if he tried? “The Senate Judiciary Committee should consider not scheduling confirmation hearings on the nomination until after the political campaign season is over,” he said. (Mike DeBonis)

Here's how the VP responded:

-- The Post’s Fact Checker runs through contradictory quotes about judicial nominations from Obama, Jeff Sessions, Chuck Grassley, Mitch McConnell and Harry Reid over the years. “Certainly each situation is slightly different — and the rancor over nominations has only grown over time,” Glenn Kessler writes. “But there’s enough material here to show that both parties can be viewed as hypocritical, situational and prone to flip-flopping, depending on which party holds the presidency and/or the Senate.”

-- Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) said President Obama will not be able to replace Scalia via a recess appointment because Republicans will remain in what's known as pro-forma session through this year. “I’d say it’s safe to say we’re going to do whatever it takes to make sure the president doesn’t issue any recess appointments,” Cornyn said. (Kelsey Snell)

-- Vulnerable Illinois Republican Sen. Mark Kirk pens an op-ed in today’s Chicago Sun Times, arguing that Obama should nominate a successor. “I recognize the right of the president, be it Republican or Democrat, to place before the Senate a nominee for the Supreme Court and I fully expect and look forward to President Barack Obama advancing a nominee,” he writes. “[But] a partisan or extreme nominee would not be prudent nor would it provide a steady, scholarly hand to guide the constitutional ship of state … My sincerest hope is that Obama nominates someone who can bridge differences -- a nominee who finds common ground, and a nominee who does not speak or act in the extreme.”

-- Another moderate, Maine Sen. Susan Collins, also broke ranks: "For my part, it's clear that the president can send up a nominee -- regardless of where he is before he leaves office,” she told CNN.

-- Not that they matter anymore, but former Republican senators Richard Lugar and Olympia Snowe both told the New York Times that Republicans should take up the president’s nominee.

Want real-time updates via email on PowerPost's Scalia coverage? Sign up to follow the "Scotus Battle" at the bottom of Kelsey's story or on the PowerPost homepage.

Bill Clinton campaigned for his wife at Paul Quinn College in Dallas yesterday. (EPA/Larry W. Smith)

THE LATEST ON THE DEMOCRATIC RACE:

-- Clinton claimed the last remaining delegate in Nevada, putting her just ahead of Sanders in the national delegate count. (Anne Gearan)

-- A new West Virginia poll shows Sanders leading Clinton by nearly two-to-one margins, with 57 percent support compared to Clinton’s 29 percent. If these numbers hold true for the state’s primary, it will mark a dramatic shift from 2008, when Clinton bested Obama with a 70-point lead. (David Weigel)

-- The Clinton camp is again attacking Sanders as soft on gun control today. Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey will attack the Vermont senator for backing a bill that protects gun manufacturers and dealers from being held liable for gun crimes, as well as his vote to create what Clinton likes to call “the Charleston Loophole.” Former Rep. Gabby Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly will also campaign in South Carolina on Clinton’s behalf. They are scheduled to appear with the mothers of Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, Dontre Hamilton, and Jordan Davis. Each lost a son.

-- Sanders surrogate Cornel West said Hillary only pays “lip service” to helping African Americans. “Sister Hillary Clinton is the Milli Vanilli of American politics,” he said on CNN. “She lip-syncs, she gives lip service. But when it comes to policy, who supported the crime bill? Who supported, not just the deregulating of banks, but also pulled the rug from under welfare?” (Watch the interview here.)

-- Ohio Democratic operative Aaron Pickrell joined the Clinton campaign as a senior adviser. Pickrell played a key role in helping Obama twice carry the Buckeye State. (The Columbus Dispatch)

-- Bernie called for abolishing the CIA in 1974, Politico reports.

-- Emails released over the weekend indicate that Hillary and her chief of staff were involved in selecting the State Department’s Inspector General. They signed off on a candidate in March 2010. (Wall Street Journal)

Rubio at the Capitol on Feb. 10. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

MORE ON THE REPUBLICAN RACE:

-- Big picture, the GOP establishment really began to significantly coalesce around Rubio yesterday. With Jeb Bush out, a number of his former backers in Congress signed on with Rubio, from Bob Dole to Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah). South Florida representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Mario Diaz-Balart and Carlos Curbelo jointly announced their support. Indiana’s Dan Coats, Arizona’s Jeff Flake and North Carolina’s Thom Tillis came out for Rubio too, as did Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson.

-- Some Bush backers are holding off. South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, who has often said Rubio is not ready to be president, urged Republican candidates to unite in order to bring down Trump, suggesting that he could support a potential “Rubio-Kasich” ticket. Jeb backer Tom Ridge, the former Pennsylvania governor and DHS Secretary, signed on with Kasich.

Maine Sen. Susan Collins told Kelsey Snell that she’s “very sad” Bush ended his campaign. “At this point I don't have any intention of endorsing someone else,” she said during votes last night. “I'm just going to watch the process unfold and make my decision later on.” Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran also told Kelsey he’s “still thinking it through.”

-- “Personally, I think it's down to a two-person race,” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said on Morning Joe, referring to Rubio and Trump. “I thought Cruz had the best of his ability mapping out, but not winning in South Carolina, that's difficult for him.”

-- Karl Rove privately briefed the nation’s GOP governors in D.C. last Friday on the down-ballot dangers of having Trump at the top of the ticket. “This divisiveness needs to stop,” Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant, who invoked the GOP losses after Richard Nixon’s resignation in 1974, told the Boston Globe afterward. “We’ve got to be very careful who our nominee’s going to be.” Three other notable quotes from Republicans at the National Governors Association meeting, via Jim O’Sullivan:

  • Tennessee’s Bill Haslam: “I wouldn’t be surprised to see several governors come out this week” for someone.
  • Wyoming’s Matt Mead: “The concern for the party is, we want to make sure we get a candidate that can win, so when we hear there’s a cap on Trump’s or anyone else’s approval, we have the right to be thinking about the general election.”
  • Massachusetts’ Charlie Baker acknowledged “a lot of nervousness”: “I would describe the governors on both sides as having a certain fascination with what’s going on.”

-- Trump attacked the family who owns the Chicago Cubs after it emerged that matriarch Marlene Ricketts donated millions to an anti-Trump PAC. “They’d better be careful,” he tweeted. “They have a lot to hide!” (Matea Gold)

THERE’S A BEAR IN THE WOODS—America’s military superiority continues to be challenged to a greater degree now than at any time since the end of the Cold War.

Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin in Moscow on Jan. 26. (EPA/Mikhail Klimentyev/Sputnik/Pool)

-- The RUSSIANS are going to fly more spy planes over U.S. soil, and the Pentagon won’t stop them. From Dan Lamothe: “Russia filed a request Monday to fly a spy plane carrying advanced digital cameras over the United States. … It would be complicated for the United States to block Russia’s request. Both countries are required to do so as members of the Treaty on Open Skies, which was first approved in 1992 and went into effect in 2002.”

The official DOD line: Navy Capt. Jeff Davis said that the treaty, which was ratified by the Senate, helps prevent any misinterpretation of military action that could lead to armed conflict. “We have to remember that while we have pretty good intelligence on a lot of the world, a lot of other countries don’t necessarily have that great of intelligence on us,” Davis said. “So, in the interest of transparency and [avoiding] miscalculation on their part, sometimes it’s worthwhile to allow them to have a look at what you’re doing or what you’re not doing.”

The brass is nervous: “Marine Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart, the military’s top intelligence officer, said during a House Armed Services Committee last year that he’s ‘very concerned’ about how Russia was using the Open Skies treaty to observe the United States, but declined to elaborate in an open, unclassified hearing.”

An unarmed Iranian drone flew directly over a U.S. aircraft carrier operating in international waters in the Gulf last month. State TV in Tehran aired this image as part of a package on naval drills carried out by the Iranian military. (Reuters)

-- Meanwhile, another report warns that the era of U.S. aircraft carriers having “unchallenged primacy may be coming to a close.” From Thomas Gibbons-Neff: “While many militaries could never hope to match the U.S. carrier fleet in size and strength, countries such as China, Iran and Russia have spent recent years adjusting their forces and fielding equipment designed to counter one of the United States’ greatest military strengths. A report published Monday by the Center for a New American Security, a D.C.-based think tank that focuses on national security, claims that the Navy’s carrier operations are at an inflection point. Faced with growing threats abroad, the United States can either ‘operate its carriers at ever-increasing ranges … or assume high levels of risk in both blood and treasure.’”

“The report focuses on CHINA’S burgeoning military posture in the Pacific and on a term that is starting to appear with increasing urgency in defense circles: anti-access/area denial, or A2/AD. The term A2/AD refers to a concept that has long existed in warfare: denying the enemy the ability to move around the battlefield. Currently A2/AD strategy is much the same as it was when moats were dug around castles, except that today’s moats are an integrated system of surface-to-air missiles, anti-ship cruise missiles, submarines, surface ships and aircraft — all designed to push enemy forces as far away as possible from strategically important areas.” Read the full report (“Red Alert”) here.

WAPO HIGHLIGHTS:

-- “It’s hard enough to be a Republican in deep-blue D.C. Try being a Trump voter,” by Marc Fisher: “In the District of Columbia, where it’s hard to be a Republican, it’s even harder to be one supporting [Trump]. But a few brave Trump supporters are willing to stand up for their candidate … Roberta Miller says that for most of the 38 years she worked for the EPA, ‘I was in the closet about being Republican. I only told close friends.’ Marya Pickering spent most of her working life at the Defense Department, a field which she learned to ‘place a high premium on past performance. Mr. Trump has a clear record of business success,’ … Lori Saxon says Trump supporters are rare birds in the District because so many Democrats and Republicans depend on government spending. ‘People here want somebody entrenched in the system so they can continue to stay home and claim they’re telecommuting, like so many people here do.’ Trump, she figures, would deliver a powerful jolt to a sodden system.”

-- “Why Trump’s glitzy style is attracting evangelical voters,” by Sarah Posner: “Cruz was supposed to be a messianic figure to save Christian America from its downward secularist spiral … But Trump, whose Bible seems more prop than principle, understands impulses of evangelical voters. That impulse, which enabled him to beat Cruz in South Carolina, is Trumpism in a nutshell -- the magical thinking of how Americans get rich, whether it’s by surviving a reality television show, winning the lottery or being blessed by God. For many evangelicals, magical thinking has found its expression through the prosperity gospel, much to the consternation of Christians who consider it a heresy and a fraud. A uniquely American contribution to the evolution of Christianity in the modern age, the prosperity gospel teaches that God wants believers to be rich … Trump is arguably the candidate most resembling a televangelist. If you’re poor or if you’re sick, that’s a sign of a lack of faith. Or in Trump’s parlance, a loser.”

-- “Abortion foes’ strategy faces a key test at the Supreme Court,” by Sandhya Somashekhar: “When the Supreme Court meets next week to hear its first abortion-related case in nearly a decade, the justices will consider the most significant challenge to an argument that has become central to the antiabortion cause: that abortion hurts not just a fetus but also its mother. That idea wasn’t always at the heart of the movement, which for years highlighted [primarily] the plight of the unborn child. But as the social and legal landscape has changed, the focus on women has taken center stage … Frederica Mathewes-Green said she long doubted that the American public would be swayed only by arguments focused on the suffering of the fetus. ‘It took a long time [for the movement] to realize nobody is listening; that they already knew that,’ she said. ‘They want to know, how is the woman going to get past that?’ Regardless of how the court rules, antiabortion activists say the woman-centered emphasis isn’t going away.”

SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:

— ZIGNAL VISUAL

-- Cruz fired his communications director, Rick Tyler, after he circulated an inaccurate video that purported to show Rubio dissing the Bible. “It was a dramatic attempt to end accusations that the candidate who speaks before the slogan ‘TrusTed’ is a cyclone of dirty tricks,” David Weigel and Katie Zezima report. “By quickly demanding Tyler’s resignation — a move so sudden that Tyler got word on a TV set where he’d intended to defend Cruz -- a candidate who has followed a single narrative and strategy since Day One was trying to get it back.”

Though Tyler apologized, the story helped rivals fan the flames of the larger narrative: that Cruz has used deceit and dirty tricks to get ahead. On a flight from Reno to Las Vegas, Rubio said Tyler is the “fall guy” for Cruz’s campaign. “I think both the Trump and the Rubio campaigns have seized on the narrative that if they say ‘liar’ enough, enough people are going to believe it, and I think that has manifested itself into some people questioning, albeit incorrectly, the real moral character of Senator Cruz and of this campaign,” said Louie Hunter, Cruz’s Georgia co-chair. “If people are starting to question Senator Cruz’s character, it’s because if you call people a liar enough, people start to say, ‘Gosh, there might be something.’ ”

-- Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) announced she will take a leave of absence from the Senate to undergo treatment for breast cancer, from which she expects to “make a full recovery.”

Read her full statement:

A trio of strong women who have battled breast cancer offered support:

Hillary had a really classy response too:

Hillary stopped by the "Scandal" set:

Demi Lovato, who performed for Hillary in Iowa, threw shade at Taylor Swift after she gave $250,000 to fellow pop star Kesha, who is struggling to get out of a record contract with a producer who she says sexually assaulted her.

(Us Weekly has more of the backstory.)

Kevin Spacey joined Instagram to promote House of Cards, season 4:

Sanders went after Clinton's paid speeches:

Trump drew a huge crowd in Las Vegas:

Trump blasted Cruz for "dirty tricks":

Scenes from Nevada:

This Rubio supporter got attention in Vegas:

Jason Chaffetz celebrated his 25th anniversary:

Patrick Leahy posted this view from his Vermont farm:

Scott Walker took a trip to the White House:

Sean Duffy posted this shot of his daughter, Margarita, for National Margarita Day:

Cory Booker appeared on The Daily Show:

GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:

--New York Times, “Univision Aims to Make Hispanic Voting Bloc Even More Formidable,” by Nick Corasaniti: “About 11 million Hispanics voted in the 2012 presidential election, fewer than half of eligible voters. Activists in both political parties have been trying to increase that number. And now, so is Univision. The company is making an ambitious nationwide effort aimed at registering about three million new Latino voters this year, roughly the same number who have come of voting age since 2012. The initiative entails an aggressive schedule of advertisements on all of Univision’s 126 local television and radio stations. Station managers will exhort their audiences in old-fashioned editorials, [through] comprehensive online voter guides, and the media company will host grass-roots events like town-hall-style forums and telephone banks. This summer, Univision will hold voter drives near the Copa América soccer tournament, and run public-service announcements expected to reach millions. ‘The rule,’ said [Univision] anchor Jorge Ramos, ‘is that no one can make it to the White House without the Hispanic vote.’”

--The State fronts a McClatchy article, “Can Democrats’ love for Bill Clinton carry over to his wife?,” by Anita Kumar and Lesley Clark: “Debbie Lodge, a retired librarian from Summerville, voted twice for Bill Clinton. ‘He was a breath of fresh air,’ she said. ‘And an excellent president.’ Democrats still love Bill 15 years after he left office – some of them more than they love Hillary. What’s unclear is whether he’s convincing voters to back his wife for the Democratic nomination. After largely sitting out the start of his wife’s second presidential campaign, Bill now is constantly on the road, headlining a flurry of fundraisers for her. He is particularly popular in South Carolina, and other southern states with large populations of blacks and moderate whites. But a majority of Americans, including 73 percent of Democrats, say Bill Clinton is not a factor in their opinion of Hillary Clinton … This year, Debbie Lodge isn’t voting for the former president’s wife. Instead, she says, she ‘strongly supports Sanders.’”

HOT ON THE LEFT

Pope Francis is the Antichrist, says N.H. state rep. From Talking Points Memo: "A New Hampshire state representative who once said Trump is the only politician she believes in came to the Republican candidate’s defense during his tiff with Pope Francis, calling the Pope 'the anti-Christ.' In response to her own Facebook post of three snippets of scripture from the Geneva Bible, Rep. Susan DeLemus (R) wrote: 'The Pope is the anti-Christ. Do your research.' In another response, DeLemus said 'I’m not sure who the Pope truly has in his heart.'"

 

HOT ON THE RIGHT

Ethics panel extends probe of Florida Democrat Alan Grayson. From USA Today: "The House Ethics Committee said it needs more time to look into the conduct of Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.), a Senate candidate who has come under fire for managing a hedge fund while a member of Congress. The bipartisan panel issued a statement Monday saying it would spend up to another six weeks looking into the matter. ... Grayson [is] a liberal firebrand representing the Orlando area." He's also running for Senate.

DAYBOOK:

On the campaign trail: Donald Trump is in Sparks and Las Vegas. Ted Cruz is in South Fernley, Minden, Carson City and Las Vegas. Marco Rubio is in Las Vegas, Minneapolis, Minn. and Grand Rapids, Mich. John Kasich is in Atlanta, Kennesaw and Sandy Springs, Ga.

Hillary Clinton is in Columbia, S.C. Bernie Sanders is in Norfolk, Va.

At the White House: President Obama attends a DSCC fundraiser at the Jefferson Hotel.

On Capitol Hill: The Senate meets at 10 a.m. and resumes consideration of Robert Califf to be FDA commissioner. The House meets at 2 p.m., with five suspension votes scheduled for 6:30 p.m.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: 

National Review’s Jonah Goldberg on Trump: “His fans remind me of the naïve fools in Independence Day who welcome the aliens with cheers and handmade signs on rooftops, incapable of fathoming that they will be greeted with a death ray.”

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

-- Dreary skies, drizzle, and a 100 percent chance you’ll need that umbrella today! The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Constant cloudiness and colder weather are punctuated by periods of light to sometimes moderate rain. The dreary scene should be quite the fixture as high temperatures only manage to get to the low to middle 40s and essentially hold there through the day."

-- The Capitals beat the Arizona Coyotes, 3-2.

-- Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe will sign a package of gun bills into law this week. The measures, crafted in a surprising compromise with Republicans, expand the rights of concealed-carry handgun permit holders in exchange for tighter restrictions on gun ownership and voluntary background checks at gun shows. (Laura Vozzella)

-- Republican Gov. Larry Hogan remains highly popular, despite serving more than a year in heavily Democratic Maryland: A new poll shows 63 percent of Marylanders approve of the job he is doing, compared to just 44 percent who approve of the Democrat-led House and Senate. (Josh Hicks)

-- Three Woodbridge men were arrested after allegedly attacking their Uber driver. (Faiz Siddiqui)

-- Thirteen bald eagles were found dead near a farm in Eastern Maryland, prompting speculation that the birds may have been poisoned. (Dana Hedgpeth and Julie Zauzmer)

-- Posto, once an anchor of the 14th Street dining scene, has closed its doors, unable to compete with the newer and better restaurants in that stretch. (Becky Krystal)

VIDEOS OF THE DAY:

The Simpsons imagined a world where all the 2016 candidates get along:

This clip imagined Trump as a Game of Thrones character, and it's going viral:

John Kasich came under fire for this comment about women who "left their kitchens" to campaign for him:

He later apologized on CNN:

Dick Van Dyke endorsed Bernie:

Seth Meyers picked apart Trump's South Carolina win:

Trump once called Rob Lowe the most beautiful guy he'd ever seen. Lowe responded on Conan:

Ivanka Trump recorded a video on how to caucus in Nevada:

To mark its 36th anniversary, Ted Cruz tweeted out the final minute of the 1980 "Miracle on Ice":