**Want FOX News First in your inbox every day? Sign up here.**
• Desperate moment makes willing men of Rubio, Cruz
• The Edge: Trump, Rubio see biggest change
• Obama struggles to find kamikaze candidate for court
• Hillary humbles herself for Black Lives Matter
• ‘Boss, you’ll never believe why I was late’
DESPERATE MOMENT MAKES WILLING MEN OF RUBIO, CRUZ
Like two college students who had spent the whole semester draining kegs and playing hacky sack, Sens. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz have realized that their term papers are due Tuesday. And they’re worth 100 percent of the grade.
Twenty Red Bulls and a couple of all-nighters later, they’re running across campus with papers in hand. But will they make it?
After many months of calculated non-aggression, the two members of the traditional Republican Party still in the hunt against uber frontrunner Donald Trump realized that their time was up. The result was a two-man tag team on Trump in Thursday’s debate that never let up.
In past debates, other candidates have tried getting in a dig at Trump only to fold when Trump counterattacks, but Rubio fired back each time, getting the last word in. He not only mocked the real estate mogul but tripped him up multiple times.
A particular low point for Trump came when he excused not releasing his tax returns because he was constantly being audited. That would be like saying you would get the home inspection report to the family buying your house just as soon as the exorcists finished up.
The tax issue, as well as the Trump University bust and the use of foreign workers, will surely be with Trump until the last day of his campaign, whether that comes in the spring or fall.
Throughout the cycle, Trump has absorbed criticism like a ShamWow and then used it to snap his rivals right on their backsides. Rubio and Cruz did not allow that to happen Thursday night.
When Trump resorted back to his usual tactic of mockery, calling Rubio a “choke artist,” the Florida senator kept firing away. Unlike Jeb Bush who tried to follow Roberts Rules of Order, Rubio engaged Trump in the frontrunner’s own world of putdowns and brushoffs.
The killer line from Rubio was when he told Trump that if the celebrity developer hadn’t inherited $200 million he would be selling watches in Manhattan. Trump, of course, made possible a world in which presidential contenders belittle and insult their rivals and so has little to say about being the victim.
What was truly remarkable about this debate, however, was the détente between Rubio and Cruz. At a debate in his backyard of Houston, and ahead of what was supposed to be his strongest early state performance in next week’s “SEC” primary states, Cruz did not seek to tear down Rubio, but instead acted as an able prosecutor of Trump.
Their battle will be for delegates on Tuesday and for the chance to be the final fighter against Trump on March 15. But for now, their evident truce may have changed the trajectory of the race.
The response to all questions in this cycle about the Republican race has become some version of “¯\_(ツ)_/¯” or “nothing matters.” But we don’t really know if that’s true because no one has ever been really serious about taking on the non-traditional GOP frontrunner in the traditional way: Relentlessly attacking him at each of his weakest points.
Will this one matter or are we in the land of the permanent political “lolz” in which nothing changes anything? As they would say in Delbarton, we reckon we’re getting ready to find out.
[Do you have enough snap in your noodle? What about your preferred presidential candidate? The political panel weighs in on the “The Kelly File.”]
New anti-Trump ad slams him for Democratic views - In a new national ad, the Our Principles PAC slams Donald Trump for his views on universal healthcare and saying in the past he identifies more as a Democrat. The ad will air on Fox News and CNN through Super Tuesday.
[Watch Fox: Marco Rubio will be on “Special Report with Bret Baier” tonight at 6 p.m. ET]
Husker do - Trump antagonist Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., live tweeted Thursday’s GOP debate continuing his trolling of the Republican frontrunner.
THE EDGE: TRUMP, RUBIO SEE BIGGEST CHANGE
In this week’s edition of The Edge, Donald Trump once again dominated the heading into Thursday’s debate in Texas. Trump topped the list of candidates for mainstream media mentions followed by Sen. Ted Cruz. But Sen Marco Rubio also saw major change this week coming up close on Trump’s gains although still landing in third place among all candidates.
John Kasich and Ben Carson both had minimal mention and minimal change.
The team at New Analytics has built The Edge, a unique tool to measure which candidates are being talked about the most, and provided the first look to Fox News First.
Here are the average number of daily mentions in the national mainstream media before Thursday’s CNN debate with points gained or lost from the end of last week listed in brackets. See full results here.
Donald Trump 9,801 [+3,084]; Ted Cruz 5,658 [+1,515]; Marco Rubio 5,252 [+2,895]; John Kasich 1,275 [+397]; Ben Carson 686 [+98]
[GOP delegate count: Trump 82; Cruz 17; Rubio 16; Kasich 6; Carson 4 (1,237 needed to win)]
WITH YOUR SECOND CUP OF COFFEE…
History: “In a crucial step toward U.S. entry into World War I, President Woodrow Wilson learns of the so-called Zimmermann Telegram, a message from German Foreign Secretary Arthur Zimmermann to the German ambassador to Mexico proposing a Mexican-German alliance in the event of a war between the U.S. and Germany…In the telegram, intercepted and deciphered by British intelligence in late January, Zimmermann instructed his ambassador, in the event of a German war with the United States, to offer significant financial aid to Mexico if it agreed to enter the conflict as a German ally. Germany also promised to restore to Mexico the lost territories of Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. The State Department promptly sent a copy of the Zimmermann Telegram to President Wilson, who was shocked by the note’s content and the next day proposed to Congress that the U.S. should start arming its ships against possible German attacks.”
Got a TIP from the RIGHT or the LEFT? Email FoxNewsFirst@FOXNEWS.COM
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
Georgia GOP Primary: Trump 37 percent; Rubio 21.3 percent; Cruz 18.3 percent; Carson 8 percent; Kasich 7.7 percent
Texas GOP Primary: Cruz 34 percent; Trump 26.8 percent; Rubio 18.2 percent; Kasich 7 percent; Carson 5.4 percent
Virginia GOP Primary: Trump 34.5 percent; Rubio 24.5 percent; Cruz 16.5 percent; Kasich 7 percent; Carson 7 percent
National Dem nomination: Clinton 47.2 percent; Sanders 42.2 percent
South Carolina Dem Primary: Clinton 57.4 percent; Sanders 33.3 percent
General Election Clinton vs. Trump: Clinton +2.8 points
Generic Congressional Vote: Republicans +0.5
OBAMA STRUGGLES TO FIND KAMIKAZE CANDIDATE FOR COURT
Wanted: an applicant for a non-existent job. The hiring process will be humiliating, subject to broad national scrutiny and as the job description suggests, pointless. Who’s ready to sign up?
With the demurral of Republican Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, the chances of a new Supreme Court justice being confirmed this year went from slim to none. Sandoval, a moderate Republican with a pro-choice stance on abortion, was a genius pick for the White House. Even if the president only meant to highlight the obstinacy of Republicans and wasn’t going to actually pick Sandoval, it was a great squeeze play on the senate GOP.
But Sandoval apparently got the message that Senate Republicans are serious about not giving the president an election-year nomination that would tip the balance of the court away from its strict-constructionist moorings. Sandoval was certainly an able federal judge in Nevada, but despite their heinous nominating process Republicans are still betting they can do better next year with a new president.
So who wants the nod from the White House? If you are a Democrat who really is a top contender for the high court a failed nomination is the kiss of death. Whether F. Scott Fitzgerald was right about second acts in American life there certainly are no second acts for Supreme Court nominees.
The limits on the White House strategy for shaming the Senate into giving Obama a lame duck parting gift of a Supreme Court appointment are becoming obvious. Those who could break the log jam or prove wonderful bait for trolling will likely decline to get on the hook.
HILLARY HUMBLES HERSELF FOR BLACK LIVES MATTER
Time: “Hillary Clinton apologized on Thursday for remarks she made in a 1996 speech, in which she used the word superpredators to describe kids with “no conscience, no empathy” who committed crimes. A Black Lives Matter activist interrupted Clinton at a private event in South Carolina on Wednesday, asking the former Secretary of State to answer for the remarks and apologize to black people for mass incarceration. The activist, Ashley Williams, was escorted from the event after Clinton said she’d never been asked about the speech and would be happy to address it. ‘In that speech, I was talking about the impact violent crime and vicious drug cartels were having on communities across the country and the particular danger they posed to children and families,’ Clinton told the Washington Post on Thursday. ‘Looking back, I shouldn’t have used those words, and I wouldn’t use them today.’”
Hillary continues to face issues with young women - Bloomberg: “In 2016, unmarried women, minorities and millennials together will constitute a majority for the first time, according to the Women’s Voices Women Vote Action Fund in Washington. The presidential contests in Iowa and New Hampshire exposed age and gender rifts in the Democratic electorate. The young overwhelmingly supported Sanders in both, and Clinton lost women by 11 percentage points in New Hampshire. In last weekend’s Nevada caucuses, Clinton claimed her second overall victory, backed by a majority of women, though the age gap persisted.”
Smaller turnout expected for Dems in S.C. - The State: “S.C. Democrats expect voter turnout in their presidential primary Saturday to be about half the record achieved by Republicans a week earlier. Between 350,000 and 400,000 ballots will be cast, state Democratic Party chairman Jaime Harrison predicted Thursday. Harrison expects the turnout will be “in between” the voting levels in previous Democratic primaries in 2004 and 2008, contests that featured multiple candidates. If 400,000 votes are cast, that would mean about one out of every eight registered voters in the state goes to the polls.”
Bernie’s math mission - FiveThirtyEight explains the math on what Sen. Bernie Sanders needs to do in order to stay viable for the nomination after Super Tuesday, but add projections have him far behind where he needs to be.
[Democratic delegate count: Clinton 505; Sanders 71 (2,382 needed to win)]
‘BOSS, YOU’LL NEVER BELIEVE WHY I WAS LATE’
WGRZ: “A white pony outfitted as a unicorn for a children's birthday party lead CHP officers on a not so merry chase Wednesday night, as it darted in and out of traffic for several hours on busy Avenue 12 in Madera. CHP PIO officer Joshua McConnell said the pony had first darted away from a child about 2:30 that afternoon and was recaptured shortly thereafter. … A nearby resident with another horse on her property helped officers approach and finally capture the frisky pony. Some motorists were surprised and hesitant to report the pony with the pink halter and the horn in the roadway as a unicorn, but others were quite sure they had actually seen one.”
AND NOW A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“What possibly would work against Trump? I think…you want to do a distraction. I think you kind of go after him on the tax returns. I think [Mitt] Romney is on to something.” – Charles Krauthammer on “Special Report with Bret Baier”
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.