Welcome to Trail Guide, your host through the wilds of the 2016 presidential campaign. It's Monday, Feb. 15, and here's what we're talking about:

George W. Bush breaks political silence, stumps for brother Jeb Bush

Former President George W. Bush, breaking with his practice of avoiding politics since leaving the White House, stumped Monday for his brother Jeb Bush, arguing that he is the steady hand the nation needs to guide it at this time of economic and global uncertainty.

“The presidency is a serious job that requires sound judgment and good ideas, and there’s no doubt in my mind that Jeb Bush has the experience and the character to be a great president,” Bush told more than 3,000 people in a convention center.

Bush, wearing a large Jeb campaign sticker and flanked by his wife, Laura, Sen. Lindsey Graham and Jeb Bush, described his brother as a man of deep faith with gubernatorial experience and the willingness to admit what he doesn’t know.

“I’ve seen in my brother a quiet conviction and a core conscience that cannot be shaken and my hope is that the people of South Carolina will see this as well,” he said with his trademark Texas twang. “This is a serious election for a serious job, so please welcome a serious and thoughtful candidate, a good man, a man I am proud to call my big little brother Jeb Bush.”

Bush’s foray onto the campaign trail was his first since he left the White House in January 2013, when he was deeply unpopular. He and his wife retreated to Dallas, where the nation’s 43rd president has spent his days helping wounded warriors and taking up oil painting.

“Let me assure you, I know the signature is worth more than the paint,” Bush told more than 3,000 people in a convention center here.

Bush displayed the folksy charm he is known for -- and his brother is not -- recalling campaigning in South Carolina and making self-deprecating jokes about himself. He noted he wrote two books since leaving office, surprising those who thought he couldn’t read.

“I’ve been misunderestimated most of my life,” Bush said, repeating a Bush-ism from a 2000 speech.

One vote at a time: Marco Rubio on the road

Scenes from a Trump rally

Clinton calls drug executive the 'worst bad date'

 (Ethan Miller / Getty Images)
(Ethan Miller / Getty Images)

Martin Shkreli, the controversial pharmaceutical executive, would be "the worst bad date you can imagine," Hillary Clinton said Monday, drawing laughter from a crowd at the University of Nevada-Reno.

"That really obnoxious guy," Clinton said, referring to Shkreli, "what he has done -- to buy up a company with a necessary drug actually to treat AIDS patients and then to increase his costs by like 5,000% overnight -- is outrageous, and we're going to stop that."

In August, Turing Pharmaceuticals, which Shkreli headed, bought the rights to a medication called Daraprim that is used to treat parasites in patients, particularly those with AIDS. The company increased the price from roughly $13.50 to $750.

Shkreli resigned as the company's chief executive in December after federal officials charged him in an unrelated securities fraud case.

Clinton made the remarks during a women's health event at the university during which she repeated many of the chief elements of her stump speech, plus an added pitch for President Obama's right to nominate a Supreme Court justice of his choosing.

"The Supreme Court is being thrown right into political arena," she said. "Why is that important? Because the president, under our Constitution, has a right to nominate a new justice. The Senate Republicans led by Mitch McConnell have said, 'Don’t even think about it.’ I believe strongly the president has right to nominate, and the Senate has the duty to decide."

"We’re going to continue to push," she said, noting that the cases before the court include issues related to abortion and workers' rights.

"So it matters that we have a Supreme Court that can function," she said. "And I believe that we’ve got to do everything we can to stand up to Republicans in the Senate to make this a voting issue in this election if they refuse to do it."

Donald Trump threatens to sue Ted Cruz over Canadian birth and White House eligibility

Donald Trump threatened Monday to sue Republican White House rival Ted Cruz over whether the Texas senator's birth in Canada disqualifies him from the presidency.

"Ted Cruz is a totally unstable individual," Trump said in a written statement. "He is the single biggest liar I’ve ever come across, in politics or otherwise, and I have seen some of the best of them."

Trump cited various Cruz statements challenging the New York developer's conservative credentials on abortion, guns and healthcare.

"If Ted is going to continue to lie with such desperation, I have no choice but to fight back," Trump said. "One of the ways I can fight back is to bring a lawsuit against him relative to the fact that he was born in Canada and therefore cannot be president. If he doesn’t take down his false ads and retract his lies, I will do so immediately."

Asked for comment in an email, Cruz spokesman Rick Tyler responded simply: "Trumped up charge."

Cruz was born in Alberta to an American mother. Constitutional scholars are divided on whether such circumstances meet the requirement that a president be a natural born citizen.

Trump has urged Cruz to seek a court ruling to clarify the matter, saying that Democrats would otherwise do so if Cruz wins the GOP presidential nomination in an effort to disqualify him.

More people are watching Republican debates again

 (Spencer Platt / Getty Images)
(Spencer Platt / Getty Images)

Saturday night's alright for fighting if you're a Republican running for the 2016 presidential nomination.

The party's ninth primary debate on CBS pulled an average of 13.51 million viewers — the highest-rated candidate showdown since Oct. 28 when 14 million watched CNBC's event, according to Nielsen data.

The audience topped the 13.18 million viewers who watched the Feb. 6 debate on ABC, which was also a raucous affair. But political commentators were comparing the lack of civility in Saturday's contentious meeting of the six remaining GOP candidates in Greenville, S.C., to a steel-cage wrestling match.

At one point, CBS News moderator John Dickerson chastised the battling candidates by saying, "Hold on gentlemen, I'm going to turn this car around."

Hillary Clinton wins endorsements from black clergy in Flint, Mich.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks to voters at a town hall meeting in Denmark, S.C., a day after her debate with rival candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders. Clinton is counting on strong support from African American voters in South Carolina. (Spencer Platt / Getty Images)
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks to voters at a town hall meeting in Denmark, S.C., a day after her debate with rival candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders. Clinton is counting on strong support from African American voters in South Carolina. (Spencer Platt / Getty Images)

Hillary Clinton picked up more endorsements from prominent African American leaders over the weekend, including three leading ministers in Flint, Mich.

Clinton, who was endorsed last week by the members of the Congressional Black Caucus, has been counting on strong support from black voters to put her on top in the next rounds of Democratic primaries.

She has made a point of her advocacy for the residents of Flint, where lead contamination of the city’s water may have caused permanent health damage to residents, especially children.

Clinton visited Flint two days before the New Hampshire primary, a trip that local residents hailed. The three ministers who endorsed her, the Rev. Hubert Miller, the Rev. Al Harris and Bishop Rogers L. Jones Sr. all pointed to the visit, noting she was the only candidate, Republican or Democrat, to do so.

"Secretary Clinton has certainly aided us in bringing added political attention to our plight in the city of Flint, causing other politicians to move legislation on this subject, and vowing to do everything within her power to assist Flint in recovering from this sinful social experiment we call the Flint Water Crisis,” Miller said in a statement released by Clinton’s campaign.

During her visit, Clinton called the situation in Flint “immoral” and criticized Congress for not making the issue a national priority.

Her campaign announced that they will encourage Clinton campaign volunteers in the city to distribute water instead of asking for votes.

Evangelical divisions mirror splits in GOP

 (Steve Helber / AP)
(Steve Helber / AP)

When Southern Baptists named Russell Moore to a top leadership post, conservative evangelicals winced.

Moore supports immigration reform, advocates improved race relations and counseled tolerance after the Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage.

To some, he is the Pope Francis of the evangelical South, and they don’t mean it as a compliment.

To others, he is a long-overdue voice nudging conservative Christians away from us-versus-them rhetoric, and reshaping evangelicals’ long-standing alliance with the Republican Party.

Much like the GOP itself, the evangelical movement is going through an identity crisis.

Both sides gird for political battle over Supreme Court

 (Pablo Martinez Monsivais / Associated Press)
(Pablo Martinez Monsivais / Associated Press)

As President Obama moves to replace late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, the vow by Senate Republicans to block any nominee is providing him with a powerful incentive to focus on more liberal candidates.

Often, particularly when facing a Senate controlled by the other party, a president will seek a nominee who has bipartisan appeal. But if Republicans hold to their position of refusing to confirm anyone before the election, that sort of cross-party appeal has less utility.

With abortion, climate change, gun control, religious liberty and union rights all among the issues that have crowded onto the court's docket of late, the stakes are high. Both sides have begun laying the groundwork for an all-out political battle.

In Nevada, rag-tag enthusiasm from Sanders volunteers

 (Melanie Mason/Los Angeles Times)
(Melanie Mason/Los Angeles Times)

Alex Nunez wasted no time Sunday morning when the first person he spoke with told him, with a clipped “No,” that he was not a backer of Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

Months ago, when Nunez first began traveling from Silicon Valley to Reno as a Sanders volunteer, he would stick around when he got a “No,” hoping to sway more voters to Sanders' side. But there's no time for that now — not with the Nevada caucuses less than a week away.

Without skipping a beat, Nunez politely bade the man farewell and moved on.

Sanders' supporters in Nevada are clearly energized by his ascendant campaign, boosted by the razor-thin loss to Hillary Clinton in Iowa and a double-digit victory in New Hampshire. Their challenge now is to harness that enthusiasm into organization.

The effort can be a little rag-tag, they admit.

GOP brawl in South Carolina may have repercussions in the general election

Marco Rubio campaigns in Easley, S.C., on Sunday. Rubio acknowledged that the demeanor of the South Carolina GOP campaign might be a gift to Hillary Clinton were she to become the Democratic nominee. (Paul Sancya / Associated Press)
Marco Rubio campaigns in Easley, S.C., on Sunday. Rubio acknowledged that the demeanor of the South Carolina GOP campaign might be a gift to Hillary Clinton were she to become the Democratic nominee. (Paul Sancya / Associated Press)

As they fight for prominence in a South Carolina primary that has lived up to its riotous tradition, Republicans are framing their own candidacies and their party in ways that may hurt them in November.

The months-long rightward lurch of the 2016 candidates has grown even more pronounced in South Carolina; in Saturday night's televised debate and in remarks Sunday, both Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and former President George W. Bush were found wanting.

Candidates promoted opposition to gay rights and to abortion under any circumstances and support for unfettered access to guns, all issues that please the Republican base but run counter to the views of a general election audience.

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