The Note: The Debate, In Case You Missed It

February 26, 2016, 7:23 AM


--5 MOMENTS THAT MATTERED: At the final Republican presidential debate before Super Tuesday, the knives were drawn and the three candidates with the best chance of capturing their party’s nomination -- Donald Trump, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz -- were out for blood. In particular, Trump and Rubio, two candidates who pulled their punches in other outings, slashed each other tonight in exchange after exchange. Cruz took some swipes at the GOP front-runner too. Meanwhile, the other two candidates on stage -- John Kasich and Ben Carson -- seemed like supporting actors in the larger drama. ABC’S RYAN STRUYK, ALANA ABRAMSON, RICK KLEIN and SHUSHANNAH WALSHE review five moments that mattered last night:

--BEST LINES OF THE DEBATE: ABC’s PAOLA CHAVEZ rounds up the best lines of the night. THE DEBATE IN A MINUTE courtesy of ABC’s TOM THORNTON and ALI DUKAKIS:

--TRUMP -- THE ‘WALL JUST GOT 10 FEET TALLER’: Trump defended his proposal for a new wall on the southern border of the United States, blasting the former Mexican president for rebutting the idea that Mexico would pay for the wall. "The wall just got 10 feet taller, believe me," Trump said last night. "It just got 10 feet taller." When asked whether he would be willing to start a trade war with Mexico over building the war, Trump said he would, ABC’s RYAN STRUYK reports.

--ANALYSIS -- ABC’S RICK KLEIN: A candidate at tonight’s Republican debate in Houston was called a fraudulent, lying huckster who bankrupts companies, hires undocumented immigrants, makes clothes in Mexico and China, hides his tax returns and would be “selling watches in Manhattan” if he hadn’t inherited a fortune. And Donald Trump? He chastised a former politician for using the F word on television. (Trump only called one rival a “choke artist” and another a “basket case.”) A frustrated Republican establishment finally saw its leading candidates take on Trump, boldly and directly. The charge was led by an energized Sen. Marco Rubio, and seconded at times by an against-the-ropes Sen. Ted Cruz, who together represent the GOP’s most realistic options around Trump. Rubio prosecuted the most effective case against Trump, in part, by flipping the script on him around a memorable episode from New Hampshire.


THIS WEEK ON ‘THIS WEEK’: Two days before Super Tuesday, George Stephanopoulos anchors an action packed hour featuring the latest 2016 analysis from the Powerhouse Roundtable with Democratic strategist and ABC News contributor Donna Brazile, radio host Hugh Hewitt, editor and publisher of The Nation Katrina vanden Heuvel, and Fox News anchor Greta Van Susteren.


DEBATE BONUS ROUND -- THE BIBLICAL ORIGINS BEHIND BEN CARSON'S ‘FRUIT SALAD.’ How would a President Ben Carson choose the next Supreme Court justice? “As president, I will go through and I will look at what a person's life has been,” Carson said at Thursday night’s presidential debate. “That will tell you a lot more than an interview will tell you. The fruit salad of their life is what I will look at.” In the spin room after the debate, which was held at the University of Houston, Carson explained to ABC’s JOSH HASKELL what he meant. “There’s a verse in the Bible that says, ‘by their fruit, you will know them,’” Carson said. “So, obviously, you know, how they live their lives, what it produces, that’s the fruit salad of their life.” And on a fact-checking note, a version of that line does, indeed, appear in the Bible’s Book of Matthew.



CLINTON PUSHES BACK ON POTENTIAL BRIAN SANDOVAL SUPREME COURT NOMINATION. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said Thursday she hopes President Obama “chooses a true progressive” to fill the Supreme Court vacancy, a day after reports surfaced that the president is considering Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, a Republican, for the position. “I love Nevada, especially after last weekend, I really love Nevada,” Clinton said at a campaign event in Kingstree, South Carolina, referring to her recent win the state’s caucus. “And I know the governor has done some good things.” ABC’S LIZ KREUTZ and BRAD MIELKE have more.

TRUMP LEADS MARCO RUBIO BY 16 POINTS IN NEW FLORIDA POLL. With 19 days to go before the Florida Republican primary, GOP front-runner Donald Trump has opened up a 16-point lead over Sen. Marco Rubio. The Quinnipiac poll result is a red flag for the Rubio campaign. The junior senator from Florida has failed to win any of the early nominating contests and faces an absolute must-win situation in Florida, where he has a home-field advantage. A Trump victory in the swing state – as well as its 99 delegates – would be a major win and potentially seal his path to the nomination. ABC’S RYAN STRUYK has more.

WHY TRUMP ISN’T WINNING OVER LATE-DECIDING VOTERS. There's no doubt Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has shown dominance in early states so far -- especially in Nevada, where he won almost every demographic group according to entrance polls. But there is one potential Trump weak spot that has emerged from entrance and exit polling data: his struggle to win late-deciding voters. ABC’S RYAN STRUYK reports a whopping five in six Trump supporters in Nevada said they made up their minds more than a week before voting started. Only 17 percent of his backers made up their minds in the final week – compared to a third of Ted Cruz’s supporters and half of Marco Rubio’s supporters who decided in that time frame.

SANDERS ‘BLOWN AWAY’ AMID STORIES FROM EMOTIONAL FLINT RESIDENTS. Presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders moderated an emotionally charged town hall-style discussion at a church here this afternoon during his first visit to the Midwest town that has been ravaged by lead-poisoned water. Hillary Clinton traveled to Flint, Michigan, earlier this month, while the Vermont senator first met privately with families from the city a few weeks ago in nearby Detroit before an event. Visibly and admittedly shaken by that meeting, he has mentioned the city and its struggle at almost every one of his events since. He asked residents Wednesday specifically about the status and safety of the water, their extraordinarily high water bills and the health care response and support from local officials. ABC’s MARYALICE PARKS has more.

CLINTON, BERNIE SANDERS’ LAST MINUTE-DASH FOR BLACK VOTERS IN SOUTH CAROLINA. In Iowa and New Hampshire, voters who wanted a glimpse of presidential candidates Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders could head to their local diner or town hall. Now, you’re a lot more likely to find them at church. In the days leading up to the South Carolina primary, campaigns have increasingly sought out voters on their home turf, ABC’s BRAD MIELKE notes. And in the first 2016 race featuring a majority African-American electorate, the race is on in the state’s churches, barbershops and beauty salons.

OUTRAGEOUS COMMENTS TRUMP MADE ABOUT WOMEN REVEALED IN OLD RADIO INTERVIEWS. Donald Trump has come under fire during his presidential campaign for his comments about women, and now newly released tapes of old radio interviews will likely reignite the firestorm. The real estate magnate has appeared as a guest on Howard Stern's radio talk show repeatedly over the past two decades, and while the show is known for delving into private topics, the degree to which Trump spoke about women intimately will likely shock some. ABC’s MEGHAN KENEALLY has more.



FORMER MEXICAN PRESIDENT TO TRUMP: ‘I’M NOT GOING TO PAY FOR THAT F------- WALL.’ Not so fast, Mr. Trump. Former Mexican president Vicente Fox had strong -– albeit naughty -– words for Donald Trump’s controversial plan to force the Mexican government into paying for a border wall. “I am not going to pay for that f****** wall,” he told Fusion's Jorge Ramos. “He should pay for it. He’s got the money.” The GOP front-runner has repeatedly promised to make Mexico pay for a wall along the southern border if elected to the nation’s highest office. ABC’s LUCIEN BRUGGEMAN has more.



@Reince: Tonight we saw another spirited debate between the most diverse & well-qualified group of presidential candidates in history #GOPDebate

@matthewjdowd: Here is the overwhelming verdict from most pundits after every debate but one: Trump was a disaster, Rubio won. So why is Trump winning?

@maggieNYT: Trump stoking anti-IRS sentiment with the GOP base by claiming to Chris Cuomo he's targeted for audits for his Christian faith

@stuartpstevens: Clarification: Trump says it's being audited. We don't know if true. And audited returns can be released.

@betsy_klein: Cruz on Trump criticism: "I was glad to welcome Marco to the debate for the first time but that should've happened earlier." #GOPdebate

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