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• Romney’s timely Trump trolling
• Rubio, Cruz sharpen attacks on Trump
• Carson wonders whether his campaign ripped off donors
• Hillary knocks Bernie on guns in fight for black votes
• Hey, it’s hard to book a good housepainter
ROMNEY’S TIMELY TRUMP TROLLING
Donald Trump argues that Mitt Romney is in no position to be asking for the 2016 Republican frontrunner’s tax returns on the grounds that Romney lost the 2012 general election. Romney is also, Trump wrote, a “dope.”
But Romney is arguably the very best Republican to be asking Trump about his tax returns given how successfully Democrats exploited Romney’s filings to alienate potential voters. Democrats essentially called Romney a tax cheat for his low rates and the attack stuck. And it is a line, in some form or another, which Democrats will be sure to repeat against the billionaire Trump if he becomes the Republican nominee.
Romney began releasing his tax returns amid pressure from his rivals in early Republican primaries in 2012. But because Trump’s rivals have neglected to actually attack the frontrunner very much, Trump is only just now being pressed on this crucial general election issue.
Romney’s troll timing is perfect. Trump is either less than a week away from starting to put the Republican nomination in the bag or facing lengthening odds in his unlikely but so-far successful quest. He is also facing tonight what promises to be his most challenging debate yet.
Trump’s detractors to this point have mostly knocked Trump for insufficient conservativeness, or flip flopping, or being of poor character. But voters primarily interested in conservative orthodoxy and personal virtue are probably not part of Trump’s long-term coalition. Trump’s voters don’t seem to care about his politics. They just want a winner.
What few have hit the frontrunner on are his business failures and the unhappy chapters of his career. His business troubles and his finances have been a long-running part of Trump’s media feuds in the past but have oddly not been part of the political discussion. It is particularly odd given how much of a focus Romney’s relatively tame business record was four years ago.
Romney’s mischievous speculation is using Trump’s tactics against Trump. When the celebrity billionaire speculated about Sen. Ted Cruz’s nativity, Sen. Marco Rubio’s sweat glands, or Ben Carson’s gifts as a teenaged knife fighter, he was doing exactly what Romney is doing now.
Whether Trump can manage to lock up his party’s nomination – which could come as soon as March 15 – without divulging his tax returns will depend on the press and his competitors. Neither has shown themselves to have much snap in their noodles when it comes to taking on Trump so far, but the hour is late and the stakes are high.
Rubio, Cruz sharpen attacks on Trump - Fox News: “Speaking at a special forum in Houston hosted by Fox News’ Megyn Kelly, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz called on Republican voters Wednesday to unite around his campaign, saying that his was ‘the only campaign that can beat Donald [and] has beat Donald,’ a reference to his win in last month's Iowa caucuses…Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who has finished second in each of the last two nominating contests, acknowledged that Trump was ‘the frontrunner and I’m the underdog, but I’ve been an underdog my entire life.’ Rubio added that his campaign ‘would not allow the conservative movement to be defined by a nominee who isn't a conservative.’ Rubio also took a shot at Trump, though he did not mention that candidate's name, for his remarks on Muslims.”
Trump’s resort spurned American applicants for foreign workers - NYT: “Since 2010, nearly 300 United States residents have applied or been referred for jobs as waiters, waitresses, cooks and housekeepers [at Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Fla.]. But according to federal records, only 17 have been hired. In all but a handful of cases, Mar-a-Lago sought to fill the jobs with hundreds of foreign guest workers from Romania and other countries.”
White nationalists plump for Trump in robocalls - Daily Beast: “A xenophobic pro-Donald Trump robocall urges voters in Vermont and Minnesota not to vote for a ‘Cuban’ like Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz. The call comes from the American National PAC and is voiced by its founded William Daniel Johnson, the leader of the white nationalist American Freedom Party. ‘The white race is dying out in America and Europe because we are afraid to be called ‘racist,’ the call said. ‘I am afraid to be called racist. Donald Trump is not a racist, but Donald Trump is not afraid. Don’t vote for a Cuban. Vote for Donald Trump.’ Trump had previously disavowed the super PAC that released controversial robocalls on his behalf in Iowa.”
Why it’s still a race - RCP’s Lou Cannon explains why Trump isn’t the inevitable nominee writing that Trump’s unfavorable rating and loss of late-breaking voters means Trump still faces competition heading into Super Tuesday.
March 15: ‘Day of Reckoning’ - FiveThirtyEight: “March 15 is truly the GOP’s ‘day of reckoning,’ and Florida may be the most pivotal state on the entire calendar. If Trump defeats Rubio in his winner-take-all backyard, it would be game over. But if Rubio wins over enough of Jeb Bush’s old supporters to claim Florida’s 99-delegate jackpot, it could mark a long-awaited turning point in the race. At the very least, he could leverage such an outcome to try to prevent Trump from winning a majority of delegates by June.”
Carson wonders whether his campaign ripped off donors - The Atlantic: “For months, reporters and political operatives…have been pointing out that Ben Carson’s campaign bears many of the hallmarks of a political scam operation. Now Carson seems to agree. On CNN on Tuesday, Carson discussed his year-end staff shake-up: ‘We had people who didn't really seem to understand finances,’ a laughing Carson [said] adding, ‘or maybe they did—maybe they were doing it on purpose.’ It’s a remarkable statement—especially because he’s so blithe about it… First, many of the companies being paid millions and millions of dollars are run by top campaign officials or their friends and relations, meaning those people are making a mint. Second, many of the contributions are coming from small-dollar donors. If that money is being given by well-meaning grassroots conservatives for a campaign that’s designed not to win but to produce revenue for venders, isn’t it just a grift?”
[GOP delegate count: Trump 82; Cruz 17; Rubio 16; Kasich 6; Carson 4 (1,237 needed to win)]
Ed Note: Wednesday’s Fox First incorrectly listed Cruz’s delegate count. His number today is actually unchanged since the final tabulation of the Nevada Caucus results.
WITH YOUR SECOND CUP OF COFFEE
In a coral reef near Tahiti one photographer set out to capture as many species as he could in a single photograph. Smithsonian has the story: “What if you sifted through every last little organism that lives or passes through a single cubic foot of space in a day? On a coral reef? In a forest? How many species would you find? This was the question that [photographer Michael] Liittschwager wanted to answer—and photograph. He came up with the idea of a biocube; his proposed standard for sampling biodiversity. A 12-inch cube that he would set in one place and observe long enough to catalog everything within it. He started on Mo’ore’a [an island off Tahiti], but has since brought his biocube method to many locations around the world.”
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Real Clear Politics Averages
National GOP nomination: Trump 33.2 percent; Cruz 20.3 percent; Rubio 16.7 percent; Kasich 9.3; Carson 7.5 percent
National Dem nomination: Clinton 47.2 percent; Sanders 42.2 percent
South Carolina Dem Primary: Clinton 57.4; Sanders 33.3 percent
General Election Clinton vs. Trump: Clinton +2.8 points
Generic Congressional Vote: Republicans +0.5
HILLARY KNOCKS BERNIE ON GUNS IN FIGHT FOR BLACK VOTES
USA Today: “Hillary Clinton’s gun-control offensive against Bernie Sanders in South Carolina will provide the template she follows in upcoming state contests with sizable African-American electorates. Two days in a row this week, Clinton campaigned with mothers who’ve lost children to gun violence, including Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin. Her campaign also cut a new web video and held a conference call highlighting Sen. Bernie Sanders’ record on guns, including his support of the so-called Charleston loophole, which allowed Dylann Roof to acquire a firearm before completing a background check.”
Colorado caucus good for Bernie, superdelegates to Hillary - Denver Post: “The stakes in Colorado are significant for both campaigns, offering Sanders an opportunity to showcase the energy behind his campaign and giving Clinton a chance to demonstrate that her sizable organization can deliver votes…The caucus system mostly favors Sanders, as it gives an outsized voice to the most motivated party activists, who will gather at 7 p.m. for 3,010 precinct meetings that start the delegate-selection process…In the end, at the state and congressional district conventions in April, Colorado will award 66 delegates — in addition to the 12 superdelegates, most of whom are committed to Clinton.”
[Democratic delegate count: Clinton 505; Sanders 71 (2,382 needed to win)]
Super Tuesday money race - Bernie Sanders is banking big on Colorado spending $1.2 million in the state alone, but overall his competitor Hillary Clinton outspends him across all 11 states voting next Tuesday at $4.1 million compared to Sanders $3.3 million, according to NBC News.
THE JUDGE’S RULING: APPLE VS. DOJ
Fox News’ Senior Judicial Analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano argues that the Department of Justice has no authority to force Apple to give them the ability to unlock the iPhone of the San Bernardino terrorists, and says DOJ already has the information they’re seeking: “The DOJ knows where this data on this killer’s cellphone can be found, but if it subpoenas the NSA, and the NSA complies with that subpoena, and all this becomes public, that will put the lie to the government’s incredible denials that it spies upon all of us all the time. Surely it was spying on the San Bernardino killers.” Read here.
Today, the American Enterprise Institute, Brookings Institute, and Center for American Progress are hosting an event on the changing demographics of voters in elections and what that means heading into November. The event is at AEI today starting at 10 a.m. ET and going through the afternoon. See here for details.
HEY, IT’S HARD TO BOOK A GOOD HOUSEPAINTER
Sky News: “A couple from Peterborough [England] have been revealed as the winners of a lottery jackpot of more than $45 million. Cambridgeshire pair Gerry Cannings, 63, and wife Lisa, 48, matched their numbers in the draw held on 13 February but delayed the collection of their winnings for a week…Mrs Cannings, a school teacher, explained why the couple took a week to come forward to claim the prize. She said: ‘I know it sounds mad but we had a guy in to paint the whole house. We’d been planning it for ages and had packed everything into boxes. We just thought it would be easier to wait, although it did mean that Gerry had to carry round the winning ticket in his wallet all week. It was very nerve-wracking.’”
Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News. Want FOX News First in your inbox every day? Sign up here.
Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as digital politics editor based in Washington, D.C. Additionally, he authors the daily "Fox News First" political news note and hosts "Power Play," a feature video series, on FoxNews.com. Stirewalt makes frequent appearances on the network, including "The Kelly File," "Special Report with Bret Baier," and "Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace." He also provides expert political analysis for Fox News coverage of state, congressional and presidential elections.