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Marco Rubio loosens up before debate, jokes about his 'yacht'

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Welcome to Trail Guide, your daily tour along the road to the White House. It's Wednesday, Aug. 5, and this is what we're watching:

Bernie Sanders headed to L.A.

On the stump, candidates lighthearted a day before debate

A day before Republican candidates will introduce themselves to the nation in the first presidential debate of the 2016 campaign, the White House hopefuls displayed a looser side as they courted voters in Cleveland on Wednesday.

Sen. Marco Rubio, who drew a few hundred people to a boisterous restaurant rally, interspersed his typical stump speech about his family and the nation's future with a string of one-liners.

“I came in early today trying to convince LeBron James to come back to Miami,” he said, and the crowd groaned and booed. “Don't worry, it didn't work. It didn't work!”

As Rubio discussed paying for his children's college tuition, someone in the crowd yelled out that he ought to sell his yacht, a reference to a New York Times story that said the Florida senator had a luxury speedboat.

“Any boat where you have to go to the bathroom off the side of the boat is not a yacht,” he said to cheers.

Former Hewlett-Packard chief Carly Fiorina, who will not appear in the prime-time Thursday debate because she did not make the top 10 in an aggregate of recent polls, spoke of her love of cooking and her favorite music.

Fiorina said she enjoys cooking Italian fare, but her husband, Frank, “reminds me frequently I can't do meatballs like his mom. It's an Italian husband thing,” she said on a Sirius XM satellite radio show that was being taped during the Republican National Committee meeting taking place in Cleveland.

Asked about her favorite music, Fiorina said she loved to dance.

“I have to admit, if it's windows-open, blasting driving music, anything Aretha Franklin. Anything,” Fiorina said, ticking off a list of Franklin's hits.

Ben Carson, a retired neurosurgeon, called into the same show and spoke about how his retirement plans had gone awry. He purchased an organ with plans to practice several hours each day, and moved to a home on the 17th hole of a golf course.

“But this political stuff got in the way,” Carson said. “I've played exactly two games in two years.”

We'll be hearing more about this tomorrow night

Head of pro-Rand Paul 'super PAC' indicted on 2012 campaign violation charges

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The Times' Tim Phelps has the details on the federal charges against former aides to Ron Paul.

The indictment stemming from former Rep. Ron Paul's 2012 GOP presidential campaign is "a further blow" to the younger Paul's fundraising efforts, Phelps writes. Two of the men charged are behind a "super PAC" backing Sen. Rand Paul's bid for the White House.

"As the 2016 campaign heats up, the indictment serves as a reminder to political operatives that the FBI is watching."

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Former Sen. Ron Paul reacts to indictment of his 2012 presidential campaign aides

Four primary debate moments the GOP would like to forget

The hype around Thursday night's first Republican presidential candidate debate in Cleveland has a lot to do with Donald Trump and the once-unlikely chance that he'd snag a spot on stage.

But it's not just Trump.

The Republican Party's recent history with primary debates is also playing into the political world's anticipation. Memories of the 2012 cycle's 20 primary debates — and their most awkward moments — are still fresh. Those events made for good television, fascinating politics and much cringe-worthy social media fodder.

They didn't, however, do much to strengthen the Republican Party's standing in the general election.

What are the moments the party is trying not to repeat? Here's a refresher on some of the most uncomfortable and politically problematic moments from the 2012 primary debates:

"The answer is self-deportation" This was Mitt Romney's response to a question about how to get immigrants living in the U.S. illegally back to their home countries. In previous debates, Romney had been attacked as soft on illegal immigration. But this answer was swiftly mocked by both the right and the left. Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus would later describe the comment as “horrific.” Romney fared poorly with Latino voters.

View the video here.

Booing the question from the gay soldier. In September 2011, Fox News and Google teamed up for a debate in Orlando, Fla., that incorporated questions via video from the public. One was from Capt. Stephen Hill, a gay soldier who spent 23 years in the Army. Hill asked former Sen. Rick Santorum about whether he would allow the repeal of “don't ask, don't tell” to stand. More than one audience member booed loudly. President Obama later zeroed in on the moment, accusing Republicans of not standing up for service members. For a party trying to appear inclusive, it was not a big-tent moment.

Let him die? Yeah! Earlier that month, a similar audience member interjection was unhelpful. At the CNN/Tea Party Express debate, Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) was asked what he would say to a 30-year-old man in a coma with no insurance. Paul, a libertarian, had said people should be free to make their own decisions about whether they want to pay for their healthcare. “Congressman, are you saying that society should just let him die?” asked CNN's Wolf Blitzer. “Yeah!” an audience member shouted.

“Oops.” You've seen it dozens of times. Texas Gov. Rick Perry blanking on the third government agency he wanted to eliminate made it into the annals of all-time debate doozies. To be sure, it was worst for Perry, but it didn't help the party look ready for prime-time either.

Hillary Clinton won't be watching the debate, but her staff wants you to tune in

Hillary Rodham Clinton has no plans to tune in to the GOP presidential debate Thursday night, when 10 Republicans will be focusing a barrage of attacks on her -- but her campaign is eager for other Americans to watch.

Clinton campaign aides are bringing a surprising amount of attention to an event that a candidate in her position would typically want to downplay. On Wednesday afternoon, Clinton's pollster, Joel Benenson, held a rare conference call for reporters to talk about the event. On Thursday, the media are being invited to her campaign headquarters in Brooklyn with the Clinton team as it watches and responds to the GOP discussion.

The focus reflects the view inside the campaign that the pending slugfest -- in which Donald Trump will take center stage -- is only going to weaken the GOP brand. Much as Trump's rants on immigration and other matters have been treated by Democrats as a gift from heaven, Benenson, interestingly, urged reporters not to be too distracted by whatever theatrics emerge from the billionaire.

Trump's “positions on issues are no more outrageous than any of the Republicans who are going to be out on the stage,” he said. “He may have a different persona, but they all have an identical agenda.”

Clinton, for her part, will be on the road in California and unable to watch the debate, a campaign official said during the call.

Rand Paul allies indicted on conspiracy charges

Trump wants to have a 'civil' Republican debate

 (Frederic J. Brown/Getty Images)

(Frederic J. Brown/Getty Images)

Donald Trump, the provocative billionaire businessman and Republican presidential front-runner, says he hopes for a "very civil" debate with other GOP candidates on Thursday night in Cleveland.

“Certainly I don't want to attack. If I'm attacked I have to, you know, do something back, but I'd like it to be very civil,” he said on ABC's “Good Morning America” Wednesday. “I don't want to attack anybody, you know, maybe I'll be attacked and maybe not. I'd rather just discuss the issues.”

Trump has made such promises before. And he's not exactly kept them.

After reassuring party leaders he'd be nice to his fellow Republicans, Trump has gone on sharp-tongued tirades against his opponents. He called Sen. Lindsey Graham an idiot and pranked him on national television. He mocked Rick Perry's glasses. He's attacked Sen. John McCain and Jeb Bush -- not to mention what he's said about Mexican immigrants.

But his comments during his announcement speech about Mexican immigrants, saying some are "rapists" and drug-runners, have drawn strong rebuke from Democrats and immigrant rights groups alike. His rhetoric led Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus to call and ask the real-estate tycoon to "tone it down," as the party looks to make inroads with Latino voters -- a key voting bloc -- in the 2016 election.

"I don't think it matters if I'm nice or not, because I really believe this is going to be an election that's based on competence,” Trump explained in early July.

But lately, he's been singing a different tune.

During a separate interview Tuesday night, Trump insisted on Fox News he wants the debate to be "right down the middle."

"I want to talk about policy," he insisted.

In recent weeks, campaign strategists have pondered how to debate Trump.

One adviser to a candidate who will be on stage with Trump Thursday night said that responding to Trump criticism is critical.

“You square your shoulders and respond with purpose," the adviser, who was granted anonymity to speak candidly, told The Times. "You don't get down into the mud, but you certainly don't project weakness. He's a bully, and bullies feed upon weakness. You've got to respond in kind but try and maintain presidential good form.”

Still, in several interviews with strategists, many admitted they don't know what to expect.

"Trump's already shown himself to be very unpredictable," said another adviser to a 2016 candidate, "So I think it's impossible to predict what he'll do or say on Thursday night."

Gov. Jerry Brown submits a question on Facebook for the GOP debate

On the eve of the first GOP presidential debate, Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday challenged the Republican candidates to lay out how they would address global warming that he said is ravaging California.

“Longer fire seasons, extreme weather and severe droughts aren't on the horizon, they're all here — and here to stay. This is the new normal. The climate is changing,” Brown wrote to the candidates. “Given the challenge and the stakes, my question for you is simple: What are you going to do about it? What is your plan to deal with the threat of climate change?”

Brown, who recently launched an effort to slash California's greenhouse gases 40% by 2030, also submitted the query to Fox News, which is hosting Thursday's debate in Cleveland. The cable network is soliciting questions from voters on Facebook.

The GOP field is varied in its approach to climate change. Some, such as former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, acknowledge that human activity is contributing to climate change but warn against adopting policies that would harm the economy. Others such as Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker question whether the globe is warming.

Poll finds Sanders and Clinton neck-and-neck in New Hampshire

 (Caitlin Faw / Associated Press)

(Caitlin Faw / Associated Press)

Sen. Bernie Sanders' steady rise has him in a statistical tie with front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton in New Hampshire, according to the latest WMUR Granite State poll.

The survey found Clinton leading Sanders 42% to 36%, within the margin of error of plus or minus 5.9%. Vice President Joe Biden, said to be considering a run, came in with 5%.

The poll finds Sanders' surge in the state hasn't ebbed. Clinton and Sanders were in a statistical tie in June as well, but the margin has narrowed by two percentage points.

Sanders led the field as the "most likable" and "most progressive" candidate. But Clinton was viewed as having the "right experience" for the presidency, more likely to win the general election and best to handle several issues, including the economy, fighting terrorism, healthcare policy and immigration.

The survey of likely Democratic primary voters was taken July 22-30. Take a look at the full results below.

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We don't want to make it the Donald Trump show, but it is.
Fox News anchor Chris Wallace, one of three moderators for Thursday's first Republican primary debate

Who is the target of the most 'super PAC' spending?

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More than $7 million has already been spent by 'super PACs' and other outside groups to directly support or oppose a candidate.

Almost $1.5 million has gone to oppose Democratic candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton, while more than $2 million has been spent to support Republican candidate Chris Christie. His Republican rival Rick Perry trails close behind, with $1.6 million spent in support of his candidacy.

Check out how much money has been spent on each candidate.

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Jeb Bush tries the rapid rewind on his comment about women's healthcare

Jeb Bush and Hillary Rodham Clinton sparred over women's healthcare Tuesday in an impressive demonstration of the rapid-fire pace of modern campaigns.

In a matter of about three hours, a candidate made a comment, was attacked for the comment, defended the comment, and saw the comment tweeted, repeated and mocked in a GIF.

It actually took less than two hours for the candidate in question, Bush, to say he misspoke -- an admission some campaigns might not have gotten to for days in the pre-Twitter universe.

But on Tuesday, the Bush camp's motto seemed to be to move fast and move on. Or so they hope.

Here's the timeline of Bush's rapid rewind:

Reporters watching Bush's live interview at the Southern Baptist Convention on Tuesday afternoon caught the comment and immediately clued into the potential damage.

Less than an hour later, Clinton pounced on the comment, using her Twitter account to retweet a reporter's quote.

Bush's campaign was already working on a statement seeking to clarify the remark.

"The point I was making was that we must address the hard-to-fathom $500-million in federal funding that goes to Planned Parenthood -- an organization that was callously participating in the unthinkable practice of selling fetal organs," read the statement sent to reporters at 5:45 p.m., about an hour and 20 minutes after the comment was made.

About 15 minutes later, Bush's campaign sent a revised statement, adding two key words: "I misspoke."

Then they took to Twitter.

But Democrats probably won't be letting this go soon.

Read more

By the numbers

How does Clinton or Trump get to 270 electoral votes? Play with our map.

Third debate scorecard: Here's who's winning each round

All things Clinton | All things Trump

Who's endorsing who? Find out which celebrities support each candidate.

Find out which Republicans support Donald Trump

Get free news and analysis in your inbox daily from our political team.

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