Tight fight for second in South Carolina poll

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Buzz Cut:
• Tight fight for second on in South Carolina poll
• Cruz to Trump: ‘File the lawsuit’
• Nevada no longer looking like Hillary’s firewall
• The Judge’s Ruling: A tribute to friend, scholar Scalia
• Not so grateful moose

With only two days to go until South Carolina makes its decision, a new Fox News poll shows the fight for second place is the spot to watch. Republican frontrunner Donald Trump maintains his wide lead over the pack with 32 percent, while Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, comes in second at 19 percent and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., within striking distance at 15 percent. No other candidate reached double digits.

Cruz’s lead falls just outside the poll’s margin of error leaving Rubio in good position to pull off a second place finish in the first southern primary of the cycle. In the Florida senator’s favor: he tops the field as second choice for voters and ranks among the lowest of candidates who GOP primary voters say they would never support. Cruz does not fare as well, trailing only Trump and Jeb Bush in the “never support” column. Still, Cruz has built up a lead over Rubio, picking up 4 points since December’s South Carolina poll results, when the two were tied.

Time is running short but the poll shows there is still room for significant movement: 25 percent of these GOP likely voters say they could change their mind.

National scramble - A CBS News poll out today shows that Trump maintains a commanding lead on the field nationally with a 17-point advantage over second place finisher Ted Cruz. This follows Quinnipiac University’s national poll Wednesday that put Trump in the lead 10 points ahead of Marco Rubio. By contrast, Wednesday evening’s WSJ/NBC News poll found Trump trailing Cruz by two points with Rubio falling into third place…

Why? - WaPo’s Philip Bump explains why the WSJ/NBC News poll shows dramatically different results than other recent national polls: “The NBC/WSJ poll is the first national poll conducted entirely after the debate. Quinnipiac’s poll was in the field from Feb. 10 to 15 -- straddling the debate on Feb. 13. NBC and the Journal talked to voters from Feb. 14 to 16.”

Cruz to Trump: ‘File the lawsuit’ - The (Charleston, S.C.) Post and Courier: “Feuding in the Republican presidential primary kicked up a notch Wednesday when Sen. Ted Cruz responded to a cease-and-desist request from Donald Trump’s camp asking him to stop airing a TV ad with a blunt call of ‘file the lawsuit.’ Cruz told reporters the letter accused his campaign of misleading the public in a commercial that includes older footage of Trump saying he is ‘very pro-choice.’…Cruz said the letter threatened to sue him if the campaign doesn’t remove the ad. ‘I have to say, that, Mr. Trump, you have been threatening frivolous lawsuits for your entire adult life,’ Cruz said. ‘Even in the annals of frivolous lawsuits, this takes the cake. So, Donald, I would encourage you if you want to file a lawsuit challenging this ad, claiming it as defamation, file the lawsuit.’”

[In a new ad in South Carolina, Cruz slams Rubio on amnesty by comparing him to President Obama.]

Trump says he’d find out who ‘really knocked down the World Trade Center’ - RCP: “At a Wednesday morning campaign event in Bluffton, SC, Donald Trump takes his relitigation of the Bush administration’s record on 9/11 and Iraq to the next level, seeming to imply that we don’t currently know who ‘really’ committed the 9/11 attacks. Trump says if he is elected: ‘you will find out who really knocked down the World Trade Center.’  ‘It wasn’t the Iraqis,’ he explained. ‘You may find it’s the Saudis.’  ‘They have papers in there that are very secret,’ he also said, referencing the 28 still-classified pages of the 9/11 commission report. ‘But you will find out.’”

Rubio snags prized endorsement from S.C. governor - NYT: “Senator Marco Rubio of Florida on Wednesday won the coveted backing of South Carolina’s governor, Nikki R. Haley, bringing together two of the youngest Republican rising stars at a moment when their party is facing difficult questions about whether instead to look to its past or to political outsiders for leadership. Coming just three days before the South Carolina presidential primary, Ms. Haley’s endorsement could provide Mr. Rubio with a crucial lift on Saturday. But it may also help him beyond, by associating him with a widely admired leader who, as a woman and a minority figure, shatters traditional perceptions of a Republican politician.”

[Team Rubio is out with a new ad featuring Haley. The ad is set to air in South Carolina today.]

Jeb, Rubio tie for most spent on television ads - Tampa Bay Times: “Jeb Bush has spent nearly $81 million on TV ads, by far the leader in either nomination fight, according to new figures. And Marco Rubio is second with $50 million. In South Carolina, Bush and Rubio are even closer. All told, $262 million has been spent on ads, according to ad-spending tracker SMG Delta released Wednesday by NBC News.”

[GOP delegate count: Trump 17; Cruz 11; Rubio 10; Kasich 5; Bush 4; Carson 3 (1,237 needed to win)]

Science News brings us the story of one scientist’s journey to Pluto’s atmosphere: “Pluto’s shadow raced across the Pacific Ocean at more than 85,000 kilometers per hour. Planetary scientist Michael Person was on a 747 chasing the shadow, which formed as Pluto passed in front of a distant star. Until last summer, everything researchers knew about Pluto’s atmosphere came from stellar eclipses like this one. But for this June 2015 run, the analysis would get a reality check from the New Horizons spacecraft, which was speeding through the Kuiper belt toward the dwarf planet…The rendezvous with Pluto’s shadow required precision: The remote world would block the star for just a couple of minutes. And while the entire shadow is as wide as Pluto — 2,374 kilometers — SOFIA was aiming for a 50-kilometer-wide spot at the shadow’s center. At that spot, known as the ‘central flash,’ researchers can get the fullest sense of Pluto’s skies.”

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Real Clear Politics Averages
National GOP nomination:
Trump 33 percent; Cruz 22 percent; Rubio 17.7 percent; Kasich 8; Carson 6 percent; Bush 4.7 percent
South Carolina GOP Primary: Trump 34.5 percent; Cruz 17.3 percent; Rubio 16.8 percent; Bush 10 percent; Kasich 9.7; Carson 6.2 percent
National Dem nomination: Clinton 49.3 percent; Sanders 36.5 percent
South Carolina Dem Primary: Clinton 58 percent; Sanders 36.8 percent
General Election: Clinton vs. Trump: Clinton +2.6 points
Generic Congressional Vote: Democrats +1

A new Quinnipiac University poll shows that Hillary Clinton’s electability argument has taken another hit. The general election matchups show Clinton losing to every GOP candidate except Donald Trump, while her opponent socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., beats them all handily. This comes ahead of what looks to be an increasingly close contest in Nevada this weekend, where Clinton was hoping to bring Sanders’ early state momentum to an end with support from the state’s minority voters. Despite Clinton’s early ground game in the Battle Born State, younger, first-time voters are gravitating to Sanders, and could give him the push he needs to narrow Clinton’s lead, or even beat her. The Clinton team has already begun to downplay expectations for Nevada and next week’s Democratic South Carolina primary as they brace for a longer battle than originally expected.

[Sanders is out with a pair of new ads in Nevada on how to caucus and urging them to caucus for him.]

But she’s good for the party’s purse - AP: “Hillary Clinton isn’t yet the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee, but she’s already good for its bottom line. The Democratic National Committee began the presidential election year almost $1 million in the hole - a bad situation that would have been even worse without the millions of dollars in fundraising that Clinton's campaign sent its way. That kind of assistance makes Clinton unique in the 2016 presidential field. No one else, Republican or Democrat, is raising money for his or her party at this early stage, including her Democratic rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders.”

Hillary donors worry over Bernie attacks - The Hill: “Key Democratic players are worried that Hillary Clinton’s super-PAC ally David Brock could be hurting her image and hampering her chances of winning the presidency.  In interviews over the past month, Clinton donors, fundraisers and operatives have told The Hill that the concerns about Brock’s comments, particularly some of his attacks on Bernie Sanders, stretch all the way to the top of Clinton’s political machinery. A leading figure in the Democracy Alliance, the liberal equivalent of the conservative Koch brothers’ donor network, said donors he associates with would like to put Brock ‘back in the can.’”

[Watch Fox: A new Fox News poll on the Democratic race in South Carolina as well as a national poll of both Democrat and Republican fields will be released tonight on “Special Report with Bret Baier” at 6 p.m. ET]

Hillary’s emails detail Afghan national’s ties to CIA - Fox News: “One of the classified email chains discovered on Hillary Clinton’s personal unsecured server discussed an Afghan national’s ties to the CIA and a report that he was on the agency’s payroll, a U.S. government official with knowledge of the document told Fox News. The discussion of a foreign national working with the U.S. government raises security implications – an executive order signed by President Obama said such unauthorized disclosures are ‘presumed to cause damage to the national security.’ The U.S. government official said the Clinton email exchange, which referred to a New York Times report, was among 29 classified emails recently provided to congressional committees with specific clearances to review them. In that batch were 22 ‘top secret’ exchanges deemed too damaging to national security to release.”

[Democratic delegate count - Clinton 394; Sanders 44 (2,382 needed to win)]

The Judge’s Ruling: A tribute to friend, scholar Scalia - Fox News’ Senior Judicial Analyst Andrew Napolitano pays tribute to his friend and fellow legal scholar Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. Noting that Scalia was a strict interpreter of the Constitution and a champion of judicial restraint, Napolitano describes an exchange he had with Scalia that encapsulates the justice’s view of the Supreme Court: “I once asked him if he felt he belonged to the Court. His reply was short and blunt. He told me he belonged to the Roman Catholic Church, he belonged to his family, and he belonged to the Constitution. The Court, he said, was just one creature intended to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution. The Constitution is the Court’s creator. No creature can be greater than its creator. He liked the Court. He loved the Constitution.” Read here.

Senate Republicans will stick with McConnell - WashEx’s David Drucker reports that Republicans will stick with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on his early decision not to appoint a successor to Justice Antonin Scalia until after the election this November: “Republican operatives familiar with McConnell’s thinking and closely aligned with GOP senators said they expect the blockade to hold. The stakes of letting the now-evenly divided nine-member high court swing liberal with the confirmation of what would be Obama’s third nominee, and the political repercussions for doing so, are enough to keep most Republicans on board with McConnell’s plan.”

UPI: “A British Columbia man who saw a moose get its back leg caught in a fence freed the animal and was kicked and chased around his yard by the ungrateful beast. Marc Schoene was in his West Kelona yard with his wife when the large moose calf tried to jump a fence and ended up with one of its back legs caught in the wires. Schoene, who posted video of the incident to YouTube, used wire cutters to free the moose, thinking it would leave the yard, but the confused and ungrateful moose kicked him in the back and shoulder before chasing him around the yard. Schoene was not seriously injured and the moose eventuality left by jumping over a few neighboring fences to reach an open area.”

“We were talking about the polls. How disparate they are. But the one thing they agree on is that if you take Trump against the field, the field wins.” — 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.