South Carolina GOP Power Index

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• South Carolina GOP Power Index
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Donald Trump has led every reliable public poll of voters in the South Carolina Republican Primary for the past 200 days. To say that he is the frontrunner in the Palmetto State is an understatement.

Like New Hampshire, where Trump scored a resounding victory last week, the many Trump supporters who are not Republicans are welcomed into the GOP primary. Trump has held many events in South Carolina and even recruited one of the leaders of the state’s political establishment, Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster, to the Trump train.

While South Carolina is slightly more challenging for Trump given its higher concentration of Christians and very conservative voters than New Hampshire, he should be set for a big win on Saturday. Trump out performed his pre-election polling average in the Granite State so no one should take Trump’s 20-point lead in the Real Clear Politics average lightly.

But the South Carolina frontrunner did not shine in Saturday’s debate. His lines about blaming then-President George W. Bush for 9/11, praise for Planned Parenthood and continued support for eminent domain are losers in the ultra-conservative “first-in-the-South” primary. With the 43rd president on the campaign trail in South Carolina this week, Trump’s claims will fall under even heavier scrutiny.

Let us assume, however, that Trump’s support has a fairly hard floor under it, likely above 25 percent of the vote.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, is harder to box in in South Carolina. He has invested prodigious sums and time in the state, and has a message tailor made for evangelical Christians and staunch conservatives who populate the Upstate region.

Could Cruz do better than expected? You bet. But Trump is so far ahead that it’s hard to imagine Cruz could close the gap completely.

The real action in South Carolina is at the bottom of the pile. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., is back on the good foot after a New Hampshire set back. Rubio gave what was likely his best debate performance so far. While some described New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s attack on Rubio at last week’s debate as a “murder-suicide” it turns out they were only half right.

The big question is whether former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s struggling, but expensive, effort will reach its end in the first Southern contest. Polls would seem to indicate that Rubio went into the debate with some advantage over Bush, but who knows how Bush’s older brother’s arrival could change the trajectory.

If Bush the younger manages to somehow get past Rubio, it would be a massive boon to Trump and Cruz who would be able to pull away into a two-man race for the crucial for the 14-state “SEC Primary” on March 1.

As for Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Ben Carson, they should make sure to try to the shrimp and grits at Halls Chophouse in Charleston and anything at all at Scott’s Bar-B-Que up in Hemingway.

South Carolina GOP Primary Power Index -
1) Donald Trump; 2) Ted Cruz; 3) Marco Rubio; 4) Jeb Bush; 5) Ben Carson; 6) John Kasich

What would you say? - Give us your take on the 2016 Power Index. We will share the best and brightest with the whole class. Send your thoughts to FOXNEWSFIRST@FOXNEWS.COM

Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier: “With just five days left until the South Carolina GOP primary, five of the six remaining Republican presidential candidates will be on the campaign trail hoping to court voters. What’s different today is that George W. Bush will return to the campaign trial for the first time since he left the presidency. Bush will join his brother, Jeb, at a campaign rally that is expected to draw perhaps thousands at the North Charleston Coliseum and Performing Arts Center at 6 p.m. How often George W. Bush will join Jeb Bush for the remaining five days until the primary is unclear. The Bush campaign has not released any information on additional appearances for George W. Bush.”

“Now that George Bush is campaigning for Jeb(!), is he fair game for questions about World Trade Center, Iraq War and eco collapse? Careful!” – Donald Trump on Twitter

[Watch Fox: Former Vice President Dick Cheney will appear on “Special Report with Bret Baier” at 6 p.m. ET to discuss the Bush administration’s record on terror. Then at 10 p.m. ET George W. Bush and Jeb will appear together on "Hannity."]

Heavy rotation - The Trump-knockers at Our Principles PAC have a new ad out highlighting Trump blaming Bush for 9/11.

Pro-Cruz PAC new strategy in Palmetto State - Daily Beast: “The cluster of well-funded super PACs boosting Cruz’s candidacy is trying out a new tactic in the Palmetto State, indicating the extent to which super PACs are encroaching on traditional campaign turf…Said super PAC, called Keep the Promise… [has] taken on typical campaign operations: gathering voter data, targeting likely Cruz supporters, and knocking on thousands of doors to get out the vote. The super PAC has had upwards of 250 people canvassing the state, targeting the homes of persuadable Republican voters. Thus far, they estimate they’ve knocked on more than 93,000 doors…Thanks to their largesse, Keep the Promise has been able to pay a mobile army of door-knockers and voter-persuaders.”

[Cruz camp hits Trump in a new ad over his stance on Planned Parenthood.]

As the country celebrates George Washington’s birthday today, the Atlantic looks at how Washington came to be a man set above the rest, almost a demigod, to Americans starting in his lifetime and continuing today: “For much of his life, he explicitly cultivated quiet distance as a strategy to reinforce his stature in the community, whether as a leader among the colonial Virginia gentry, the commander-in-chief of the Continental Army, or president of the United States. Protocol and order were paramount for him, and Washington’s central objective in that protocol was to insulate himself, particularly once he was president. His correspondence and papers, though voluminous, reveal little about Washington’s character save for his regular frustration with Congress…Washington resisted any urge he may have had to display emotion, with rare exceptions.”

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Real Clear Politics Averages
National GOP nomination: Trump 29.5 percent; Cruz 21 percent; Rubio 17.8 percent; Carson 7.8 percent
South Carolina GOP Primary: Trump 37 percent; Cruz 17 percent; Rubio 14.3 percent; Kasich 10.5 percent; Bush 10 percent; Carson 4.5 percent
National Dem nomination: Clinton 49.3 percent; Sanders 36 percent
South Carolina Dem Primary: Clinton 62.7 percent; Sanders 31.3 percent
General Election: Clinton vs. Trump: Clinton +4.7 points
Generic Congressional Vote: Republicans +0.5

WSJ: “While praising the … service [of Justice Antonin Scalia, who died Saturday] to the nation, President Obama said he plans to ‘fulfill my constitutional responsibilities to nominate a successor in due time.’ But Republicans in the GOP-controlled Senate quickly signaled that Mr. Obama would encounter deep resistance if he tries to replace Mr. Scalia, an icon of conservative Republicans…Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) immediately indicated that Mr. Scalia’s death would spark a messy political brawl, saying the Senate shouldn’t confirm a new justice until the next—potentially Republican—president is in the White House… ‘The American people‎ should have a voice in the selection of their next supreme court justice,’ Mr. McConnell said in a statement Saturday. ‘Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new President.’”

Leaving behind a legacy - A WashEx editorial describes how Scalia’s death is not only a loss for the bench, but also a warning for conservatives this election cycle: “His death is not only a blow to the republic, but also a reminder of how deathly serious the 2016 election really is…If Republicans choose an unelectable nominee, Hillary Clinton will likely appoint two or even three justices. This would create a left-wing court that will, as Scalia would have hated, shape cultural norms for another generation. Republican primary voters should have this fact at the front of their minds when they make their choice.”

WaPo: “Hillary Clinton stepped up a criticism of her Democratic presidential opponent, Bernie Sanders, on Sunday night, telling supporters at a rally in the Las Vegas suburbs that the senator from Vermont would replace their insurance plans with something more expensive. ‘We both share the goal of universal health-care coverage, but he wants to start all over again,’ Clinton said. ‘And he wants to have a new system that would be quite challenging because you would have to give up the insurance you have now, and it would cost a lot of money. The goal is a good goal -- I absolutely agree with that -- but the last thing our country needs now is to be thrown into another contentious debate about health care.’”

Hillary, Bernie both court black churchgoers in Nevada - WSJ: “The two Democratic candidates for president crossed paths on the campaign trail Sunday, making back-to-back appearances at a historically black church in west Las Vegas…The two candidates spoke to parishioners at the Victory Missionary Baptist Church on Sunday, both offering brief remarks to a crowd of more than 500 people.”

[In a new campaign video, Clinton touts the support of ministers in Flint, Mich. for her visit to the troubled city.]

Pro-GOP group hits Hillary with Hispanics - A new ad from pro-GOP group American Crossroads pairs Hillary Clinton with Donald Trump for their stances on illegal immigration. The $42,000 digital ad is set to air in Nevada today through Saturday.

Guardian: “Wanted: one hairdresser. Must be willing to withstand temperatures that can drop as low as -50°C (-58F) and be able to rectify years of DIY trims and amateur styling. After two years of making do without a hairdresser, the isolated northern Canadian town of Norman Wells in the Northwest Territories – population 800 – is going public with their plight in the hope of attracting a coiffeur. ‘It’s been a long struggle for us,’ said Nicky Richards, the economic development officer leading the recruitment effort for this town that sits near the southern edge of the Arctic Circle…Many residents have had to turn to family members to cut their hair or attempt to do it themselves… [Richard said] ‘I’m not a hairdresser by any set of means, but I do have a set of clippers and that’s what I use.’”

Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News. Want FOX News First in your inbox every day? Sign up here.