--MITT ROMNEY TO CALL TRUMP A ‘PHONY’ AND A ‘FRAUD’: “Donald Trump is a phony, a fraud,” Mitt Romney is expected to say later this morning in an address to the Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Utah. “His promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University. He's playing the American public for suckers: He gets a free ride to the White House and all we get is a lousy hat,” the former GOP presidential nominee will say of his party’s 2016 campaign front-runner, according to Romney’s prepared remarks obtained by ABC News. In an escalation of his attacks on Trump, Romney will also argue that the New York real estate developer will lose to "untrustworthy and dishonest" former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton if she is the Democratic nominee, ABC’s STEPHANIE EBBS reports. http://abcn.ws/1QtA1Ms
--TRUMP PRE-BUTS ROMNEY: Trump slammed Romney this morning in response to the former GOP presidential nominee’s speech later today, ABC’s VERONICA STRACQUALURSI reports. "Mitt Romney was a failed candidate; should have beaten Barack Obama easily," Trump told ABC’s GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS on “Good Morning America.” He added: "I brought millions of millions people into the Republican Party over the last very short period of time. It's the biggest story in politics, how many people are flocking into the Republican Party. They're leaving the Democrats. They're leaving the independents. And they're with me 100 percent.” http://abcn.ws/1LWHuON
--ANALYSIS -- ABC’s RICK KLEIN: In the epic that is the Republican race, Thursday is Mitt Romney’s day, the vanquished former champion’s best chance to influence a campaign that’s gone wildly and unrecognizably off-course. Donald Trump, of course, just reached his high-water mark in the state that elected Romney governor, and the state that elected Romney’s father votes next. They will mark Romney’s most heavy-handed attempt yet to influence the race; he’s set to call Trump a “phony, a fraud” who is “playing the American public for suckers.” Must analysis will be produced on whether Romney is a flawed messenger inside a Republican Party that’s still smarting from his 2012 loss – a loss, one might argue, that emboldened Trump to run for president. But there’s a role here for Romney that appears finally ready to embrace. Raising doubts about Trump as a “con man” – Marco Rubio’s stump line – now is about creating just enough chaos in the GOP to block Trump from getting a majority of convention delegates. Under that scenario, the rest of the field may be better off divided than unified; note that Romney is praising Rubio, Ted Cruz, and John Kasich Thursday. It’s not the first, second, or third option for a panicked GOP, but it might be the last option left. So enter, Mitt.
YESTERDAY ON THE TRAIL with ABC’s VERONICA STRACQUALURSI and PAOLA CHAVEZ
BEN CARSON SEES NO ‘POLITICAL PATH FORWARD’ FOR CAMPAIGN. Ben Carson said today he sees no path forward in his presidential campaign. The retired neurosurgeon has not officially suspended his campaign but he plans on making an announcement on Friday at the Conservative Political Action Conference. ABC’s KATHERINE FAULDERS has more on the full statement. http://abcn.ws/1T8xMAr
TRUMP RELEASES HEALTHCARE PLAN. Donald Trump finally laid out his healthcare reform plan Wednesday, explaining how he plans to repeal and replace Obamacare -- a campaign talking point of his for several months that’s been vague on specifics. The seven-point health care reform plan was released one day after winning seven GOP primaries, and a day ahead of the Republican debate in Detroit. The plan calls for repealing Obamacare, breaking down barriers that prevent the sale of health insurance across state lines and making individuals’ health insurance premium payments fully tax-deductible. More from ABC’s DAVID CAPLAN: http://abcn.ws/1RIYe0v
WHAT EACH PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE NEEDS TO DO NOW TO WIN THE NOMINATION. Now that the dust from Super Tuesday has settled, what happens next? The rest of the GOP field is still looking for a way to slow Donald Trump’s momentum and Bernie Sanders is fighting to keep with up Hillary Clinton. But there are still a handful of delegate rich states for the candidates to fight over. This weekend the battle for the Republican and Democratic presidential nominations moves to Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Nebraska and Kentucky, with even more states getting ready to hold primaries and caucuses later this month. ABC’s VERONICA STRACQUALURSI, PAOLA CHAVEZ, RYAN STRUYK, JEFF NAFT, MARY ALICE PARKS and LIZ KREUTZ have more on what each candidate needs to do now to clinch their party’s nomination. http://abcn.ws/1T8E4jw
A CONTESTED REPUBLICAN NATIONAL CONVENTION: HOW IT WOULD WORK. Talk of a potential contested convention began swirling among top GOP officials before primary season even began. And now, with Super Tuesday in the rear-view mirror and multiple GOP candidates still remaining in the race, a contested convention is looking increasingly likely. The Republican Party expects to have a presumptive nominee before the July convention, a GOP convention spokesman says, but some rules and procedures are already in place for the “what if” scenario. ABC’s RYAN STRUYK has more. http://abcn.ws/1oKmdCM
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
GOP VOTER TURNOUT REACHED ALL-TIME HIGHS IN SOME SUPER TUESDAY STATES. Across the 12 states that held primaries on Tuesday, one pattern seemed to emerge: With a few exceptions, voter turnout is up, sometimes way up, for Republican candidates, and down in the Democratic races, at least from 2008. Over 8 million voters turned out for the GOP Super Tuesday contests, while the Democratic turnout was approximately 5.5 million voters, ABC’s ALANA ABRAMSON reports. In 2008, the opposite was true. According to data compiled by ABC News, over 8 million voters turned out for the Democratic contests, and over 5 million for the GOP contests. http://abcn.ws/1VR0rbm
@CraigCaplan: 2012 Republican Presidential Nominee @mittromney speaks in Salt Lake City, Utah on state of 2016 race @cspan online http://www.c-span.org/video/?405959-1/mitt-romney-remarks-2016-presidential-race …
@DomenicoNPR: For Mitt Romney and Donald Trump, their relationship had all the permanence of a Las Vegas wedding. #TBT http://www.npr.org/sections/itsallpolitics/2015/08/27/435002877/-tbt-for-trump-and-romney-what-happened-in-vegas-stayed-in-vegas …
@joedesantis: Not sure what Romney thinks he is doing. Maybe just setting up a question for tonight's debate?
@sbg1: Read this if you think Trump voters are just uneducated angry white male conservatives http://www.politico.com/story/2016/03/5-myths-about-trump-supporters-220158 …
@blakehounshell: This morning, Trump again threatened to run as an independent. Is there ever a point when the GOP takes him up on the offer?