The Note: The Fight for Florida

VIDEO: GOP Candidates Seem To Attack Trump Less In Recent
WATCH GOP Candidates Take Part in Tamest Debate Yet


--5 MOMENTS THAT MATTERED AT THE GOP DEBATE: At one of the most complicated and contentious moments in the race for the Republican presidential nomination following a series of 11 rough-and-tumble debates, Thursday night’s face-off in Florida seemed suddenly to be an oasis of calm. And none of the candidates took it down a notch as much as GOP front-runner Donald Trump, whose outing was downright subdued compared to most of his past debate performances, on the cusp of crucial primaries in Florida and Ohio. “So far I cannot believe how civil it's been up here,” Trump observed at one point during the forum, hosted by CNN, the Salem Media Group and the Washington Times, which took place at the University of Miami in Coral Gables. Here are 5 moments that mattered at the final debate before voters head to the polls in five states next Tuesday, courtesy of ABC’s RYAN STRUYK, SHUSHANNAH WALSHE, ALANA ABRAMSON and JENNY HANSLER:

--BEST LINES OF THE DEBATE: The final four GOP candidates went head to head in Coral Gables, Florida, Sen. Marco Rubio's home court. ABC’s PAOLA CHAVEZ rounds up the best lines: THE DEBATE IN A MINUTE, courtesy of ABC’s TOM THORNTON and VERONICA STRACQUALURSI:

--ANALYSIS -- RICK KLEIN: “At what might be the final presidential primary debate of a rambunctious cycle, the front-runner decided to focus on the presidential part. The tamest debate by far on the Republican side gave Donald Trump a chance to show he can be on his best behavior. It also came at an inconvenient time for a Republican Party filled with voices who believe the party is in danger of a meltdown. Trump didn’t moderate his stances – he stood by his claim that “Islam hates America,” and took on Sen. Ted Cruz when it looked like the debate might turn to a one-on-one – and he surely didn’t overwhelm the crowd with substantive policy. But not once did Trump reference “Little Marco” or “Lying Ted,” to say nothing of his hand size. Even as Trump stumbled through policy questions with a typical lack of details, his rivals passed on most opportunities to pounce. Trump was left marveling at the civility on stage, just days before voting in a swath of critical states could effectively seal the nomination for him.

--CARSON TO DONALD TRUMP TODAY: ABC’s KATHERINE FAULDERS reports that former Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson will endorse Trump this morning at Trump's news conference at the Mar-A-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida. Trump said as much at last night’s debate:

--RUBIO BRACING FOR ‘TOUGH FIGHT’ WITH TRUMP IN FLORIDA: Sen. Marco Rubio said today he is expecting a "tough fight" with GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump in his home state of Florida. "Voting for John Kasich or Ted Cruz in Florida is a vote for Donald Trump," he said on "Good Morning America," adding that he was the only candidate who could defeat Donald Trump there. He added that almost two in the three Republicans do not want Trump to be the nominee, despite his delegate lead, ABC’s RYAN STRUYK and BRAD MIELKE note.  Rubio added that he thought he had a strong debate Thursday night, which focused on policy positions and diverged from typical brash insults seen in previous debates. "I felt good about the night we had," he said. "I think it’s an opportunity to get people who are supporting other candidates to give you a second look."



BREITBART REPORTER SPEAKS OUT AFTER ALLEGED TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER ASSAULT. The Breitbart reporter who alleges she was assaulted by Donald Trump's campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, at a press conference Tuesday night, told ABC News that the Trump campaign's denial of her story has been "hurtful." "Honestly it's been really hurtful, because obviously no one wants to be touched and violated like that," Michelle Fields told ABC News' Tom Llamas Thursday ABC’S JORDYN PHELPS and MICHAEL DELMORO report, If given the chance to talk directly to the Republican frontrunner, Fields said she'd like him to imagine that he were her father.

NOTED: TRUMP SUGGESTS SHE ‘MADE THE STORY UP’: In the spin room after last night’s GOP presidential debate in Florida, Donald Trump denied Fields’ allegations, according to ABC’s JESSICA HOPPER. “I wasn't involved in it, but the Secret Service were surrounding everybody,” Trump told reporters Thursday night. “They said nothing happened. Everybody said nothing happened. Perhaps she made the story up.” Trump continued, “Nothing happened in my opinion when we left. Now, I didn't see anything. Now all of a sudden we heard about it later on. Now, the Secret Service said nothing happened."

TRUMP DOUBLES DOWN ON ‘ISLAM HATES US’ COMMENTS. Donald Trump appeared to double down during the Republican debate Thursday on his earlier comments that “Islam hates us.” “Did you mean all 1.6 billion Muslims?” Tapper asked. “I mean a lot of them,” Trump replied. “I will stick with exactly what I said to Anderson Cooper,” he said, referring to his remarks made to the CNN host Wednesday. ABC’s RYAN STRUYK has more.

TRUMP RALLY VIDEOS SHOW PROTESTER GETTING PUNCHED. Multiple videos have surfaced of a protester getting punched in the face as he leaves a Donald Trump rally in North Carolina, highlighting how protesters and occasional violence pop up at the candidate’s events. The Wednesday night incident, captured on camera, shows a protester leaving the GOP front-runner’s rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina. As the protester leaves, he is punched in the face by a rally attendee. ABC’S ALANA ABRAMSON reports, after he is punched, he is subsequently wrestled to the ground by law enforcement officers.

HOW TRUMP HANDLES PROTESTERS AND WHAT HE THINKS OF THEM. It seems that nearly every campaign rally that Donald Trump holds is interrupted by a protester -- or a handful of them -- and sometimes more than once. The Republican presidential frontrunner’s interactions with protesters are unlike anything typically seen from politicians, with the candidate firing up the crowd, calling them "troublemakers" and yelling his trademark “Get them out of here!” In a number of cases, Trump has appeared to praise supporters for attacking protesters and even said that he wanted to punch one of them in the face himself during a rally in Las Vegas last month. ABC’s VERONICA STRACQUALURSI has more.

THE WHITE NATIONALISTS WHO SUPPORT TRUMP. Shiya Nwanguma, a junior at the University of Louisville, decided to attend a Donald Trump rally last week, though a supporter she is not. She had gone there instead to protest, as have so many like her. "I have a right to protest against things that I'm in opposition to,” the black Kentucky student, 21, told ABC News. “I'm just protesting against the message that is spread through his campaign.” She had seen some of his rallies before and knew how raucous the interactions between protesters and Trump supporters could become. “I didn't expect anybody to break the law and assault me,” Nwanguma said of the alleged March 1 attack in Louisville. “I thought people would behave lawfully.” ABC’s CANDACE SMITH has more.



WHY ALL EYES ARE ON THE FLORIDA PRIMARY. All eyes are on Florida’s primary next Tuesday. The winner takes all of the Sunshine State's 99 delegates and the outcome could possibly spell the end for certain GOP candidates. Tuesday is Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s last attempt to salvage his faltering campaign and it could also be the Republican Party's last chance to stop front-runner Donald Trump from securing the necessary number of delegates to take the nomination. ABC’s MEGHAN KENEALLY has more.



@stuartpstevens: This was actually written as praise for a presidential candidate:"Trump proved he can be constrained for two hours."

@TheFix: Donald Trump's baffling explanation for violence at his campaign rallies 

@JillDLawrence: I agree with @JoeKleinTime about Kasich, esp. after #GOPDebate last night: "What a fresh voice we have squandered." 

@pbump: When people literally only care about how old Marco Rubio is, we can stop with the debates. 

@matthewjdowd: In the readings today says "one does not live by bread alone". Important we feed our hearts and souls with kindness and openness to all.