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Republican elites are accepting the idea of a Donald Trump nomination

Super Tuesday looms as the Republican Party stares down the potential nomination of outsider Donald Trump while the Democrats battle for South Carolina.

Bernie Sanders' economic plans aren't pie-in-the-sky, his allies insist

Bernie Sanders shakes hands with supporters in Kansas City, Mo., on Wednesday. (Jacquelyn Martin / Associated Press)
Bernie Sanders shakes hands with supporters in Kansas City, Mo., on Wednesday. (Jacquelyn Martin / Associated Press)

Bernie Sanders shot down criticism of his ambitious, liberal proposals on Tuesday night by saying skeptical economists  "were organized by the Clinton campaign."

So on Wednesday afternoon, the Vermont senator arranged for his own posse of economists to back up his plan, which includes free tuition at public colleges and healthcare for all provided by the federal government.

“There is nothing unrealistic about it," said Robert Reich, a public policy professor at UC Berkeley and a former U.S. labor secretary.

Sanders' supporters pointed to an analysis conducted by Gerald Friedman, an economics professor at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. Critics have rejected Friedman's report, saying it relies on unrealistic assumptions, such as 5.3% economic growth and 3.8% unemployment. 

Stephanie Kelton, who was the chief economist for Sanders on the U.S. Senate Budget Committee, said there's nothing unusual about assuming higher productivity from better-trained workers. The campaign, she said, has simply taken "conventional models and feed into them an ambitious public policy program.”

Bernie Sanders on socialism in 1981

Poll to Michael Bloomberg: Don't bother running

 (Edward Reed / AP)
(Edward Reed / AP)

A new poll offers a fairly clear message to Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire former mayor of New York who has flirted with an independent run for president: Maybe burn the money instead.

The Associated Press-GfK survey finds 7% of registered voters are inclined to support Bloomberg, and an additional 29% are open to thinking about it. More than 6 in 10 said they wouldn't consider him.

Bloomberg aides have floated the idea that he could run as a centrist candidate, particularly if the Democrats were to pick Sen. Bernie Sanders as their candidate. People close to him have told reporters he might be willing to spend up to $1 billion of his fortune on a presidential race — the sort of prospect that has political consultants salivating.

But the kind of centrism Bloomberg represents — liberal on social issues, conservative on government spending — has had limited appeal to voters. And Bloomberg's background as a billionaire New Yorker who made his money in the financial business makes a poor fit with the populist, anti-Wall Street anger visible in both the Sanders and Donald Trump campaigns.

The one hopeful sign the poll offered for Bloomberg is that he's not extremely well known outside of New York — 44% of those polled nationwide said they didn't know him well enough to have an opinion.

Those who do know him, though, don't like him much — 20% view him favorably, while 34% have an unfavorable view.

The poll, conducted Feb. 11-15, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points.

Republican elites edge toward the moment of reckoning with Donald Trump

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump arrives for a caucus night rally Tuesday in Las Vegas.  (Jae C. Hong / AP) None
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump arrives for a caucus night rally Tuesday in Las Vegas. (Jae C. Hong / AP)

Republican leaders who view Donald Trump as a pox on their party have finally settled on a strategy: Resist him as long as they can. Then figure out how to retreat gracefully.

Most mainstream Republicans still worry that Trump would make a bad president. And they hold deep concerns that his incendiary rhetoric and ideological smorgasbord of ideas could damage the party, both politically and philosophically, so profoundly that it might never recover.

But even as many party elites have fallen in line behind Florida Sen. Marco Rubio in recent days — believing him the best hope to defeat Trump — they no longer dismiss the billionaire celebrity or insist that it will all work out, as it usually does for the establishment in GOP primaries.

“A lot of longtime Republicans, probably a couple weeks ago, had to sit down and think, ‘You know, this could happen,’ ” said Trent Lott, the former Senate majority leader from Mississippi who is now a Washington lobbyist.

Melania Trump on Donald Trump: 'Sometimes he listens and sometimes he doesn't'

Melania Trump's support of her husband's proposal to build a wall to keep out immigrants is informed by her own emigration from Slovenia, she said in a rare interview, explaining that she doesn't want anyone violating the privilege of coming to the United States.

“He opened conversation that nobody did,” Trump, the wife of Republican front-runner Donald Trump, told MSNBC, echoing her husband's own defense of his controversial proposals to take on illegal immigration. “He wants to protect America, to protect people of America so that we have a country and keep the country safe.”

Trump, 45, started her career as a model and studied design and architecture. When she met Trump, she said, she fell in love with his mind and his energy.

“I’m my own person; he’s his own person,” she said. “I don’t want to change him; he doesn’t want to change me.”

She said she is advising him in his campaign. On the trail, she said, he calls a few times a day to ask her opinion or talk over an issue. But, she admitted, they don’t always see eye-to-eye.

“Do I agree all the time with him? No, I don’t,” she said. “... I tell him my opinions, I tell him what I think -- sometimes he listens and sometimes he doesn’t.”

That is the stupidest editorial that I have ever seen. That I'm called out for not beating up the front-runner of the GOP — it's ridiculous.

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, on a Washington Post editorial criticizing him for not reproving Donald Trump.

Donald Trump's win in Nevada secures his lead in the GOP field

 (Associated Press)
(Associated Press)

Donald Trump romped to a third straight election victory Tuesday night, winning the Nevada caucuses and solidifying his position atop the Republican field as the presidential race now expands into a nationwide test.

Sen. Marco Rubio narrowly edged out Sen. Ted Cruz for second place. With all precincts reporting, Rubio led Cruz by just under 2,000 votes.

Marco Rubio's plan to gradually build momentum is running out of time

 (Josh Edelson / AFP/Getty Images)
(Josh Edelson / AFP/Getty Images)

With a sudden outpouring of money and endorsements flowing to Marco Rubio, Republican leaders have launched a full-scale scramble to unify the party around the charismatic young senator as the GOP's only hope for stopping Donald Trump's march to become their presidential nominee.

The only problem with the plan: Rubio has yet to win a single state.

And no one seems certain when, or where, he will.

Donald Trump: I might tone it down, but likely not

 (Associated Press)
(Associated Press)

Donald Trump might tone down his abrasive approach if he wins the Republican nomination, he said hours after winning the Nevada caucuses, but for now he believes it works well for him. 

Trump, the GOP front-runner, explained on NBC's "Today" that he believes that his caustic campaigning style helped eliminate several competitors, so he’s not going to stop just yet.

"We had a total of 17 people and now we're down to six," Trump said on “Today.” "I may very well change it, but right now it seems to be working pretty well." (Five candidates remain in the race for the GOP nomination.)

Trump also planted the seeds to go after second-place finisher Marco Rubio, following what has become a familiar pattern: Compliment the rival, take note of cordiality between the two thus far, then conclude that attacks are inevitable.

“So far he’s been very nice and I think I’ve been very nice to him,” he said of Rubio, though he cautioned that he sees Rubio as "inexperienced" and "young."

“Probably it will happen, but if it didn’t happen that would be a wonderful thing,” he added of potentially attacking Rubio.

And then he went after a familiar target: Ted Cruz, reiterating his accusation that Cruz is a blatant liar and shouldn't be eligible to even run for president because he was born in Canada.

“I’ve never dealt with anyone who lies like he does,” Trump said.

Republican Party's disruption laid bare in Trump's Nevada victory

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump  speaks Tuesday night with his sons Donald Trump Jr., left, and Eric Trump at a Las Vegas celebration of his victory in the Nevada caucuses. (Ethan Miller / Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks Tuesday night with his sons Donald Trump Jr., left, and Eric Trump at a Las Vegas celebration of his victory in the Nevada caucuses. (Ethan Miller / Getty Images)

It was a raw version of Donald Trump on display in Nevada this week, and it showed more clearly than ever how the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination is turning his party asunder.

The New York developer gloated at his Nevada victory Tuesday night when he walked on stage to thundering chants of his name at a Las Vegas casino across the street from the gold-glass hotel tower that he owns on the Strip.

“It’s going to be an amazing two months,” he told the crowd, boasting of his prospects in upcoming contests in Texas, Tennessee, Georgia, Arkansas, Florida and Ohio. “We might not even need the two months, folks, to be honest.”

Trump might be right.

By the numbers

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