The Note: The Debate Before The Debate



--MARCO RUBIO AND DONALD TRUMP ARE IN A FIGHT OVER FINANCES: "I find it ironic that the only person running for president that's ever declared a bankruptcy -- four times in the last 25 years -- is attacking anyone on finances," Rubio said on the campaign trail in New Hampshire yesterday in response to questions Trump has been raising about the Florida senator's personal finances. ABC's INES DE LA CUETARA and MICHAEL FALCONE report Trump has never filed for personal bankruptcy, but his company Trump Entertainment Resorts-- which he owned 28 percent of -- filed for bankruptcy four times, most recently in 2014. Wednesday in New Hampshire Trump attacked Rubio on the issue.

--NEW FROM THE DEMOCRATS -- MARCO RUBIO IS HIDING SOMETHING. The Democratic National Committee released a new attack video against Marco Rubio today, ABC's PAOLA CHAVEZ notes. The 50-second ad titled 'Marco Rubio Is Hiding Something' focuses on attacking Rubio over his personal finances. The ad starts out with a clip from the last GOP debate when CNBC's Becky Quick asked Rubio to comment on "intermingling campaign money with personal money." The clip is followed up by a compilation of Rubio's answer and the media's reaction. The DNC wraps up the ad deeming 'Marco Rubio can't be trusted." WATCH:

--WHAT WE'RE READING: From the Washington Post's Michelle Ye Hee Lee: "Here's why Marco Rubio's corporate card saga isn't really a scandal"

--ANALYSIS -- ABC's RICK KLEIN: It's getting late early over in the Democratic race. Now that Bernie Sanders is officially a Democrat, he has a chance Friday to define what kind of Democrat he intends to be. A forum in South Carolina -- not a debate, since the presidential candidates won't be on stage at the same time -- could be the venue for Sanders to enunciate how directly he plans to confront Hillary Clinton over questions of honesty and trustworthiness. Critically, after seeming to take her email server off the table as a campaign issue at the first debate last month, does Sanders want to put it back on? Given the hot hand Clinton has played of late, it's hard to imagine her stumbling in her path to the nomination without another Democrat throwing obstacles in her way. That hasn't been Sanders' style, but neither has he been a Democratic candidate for president before.

THIS WEEK ON "THIS WEEK": Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and Democratic candidate for president, Sen. Bernie Sanders, come to "This Week," Sunday. Then, Sec. of Defense Ash Carter discusses the latest in the war against ISIS in Syria. Plus, Rep. Peter King examines the mystery over the Metrojet airliner crash. Then, the Powerhouse Roundtable debates the week in politics, with National Review editor Rich Lowry,ABC News contributor and Democratic strategist Donna Brazile, founder of and chairman of Purple Strategies, Alex Castellanos, and Maggie Haberman, presidential campaign correspondent for The New York Times. And historian Jon Meacham discusses "Destiny and Power," his new biography of President George H. W. Bush. See the whole political picture, Sunday on "This Week."



BEN CARSON LASHES OUT AT MEDIA OVER QUESTIONS ABOUT VIOLENT CHILDHOOD. Republican presidential contender Ben Carson is lashing out at the media, calling recent questions into his violent childhood past "a bunch of lies" and "pathetic." Carson has come under recent scrutiny after failed media attempts to verify the violent childhood incidents he has publicly recounted. He stands by those stories. "It is just garbage," Carson told CNN this morning. "We have too many things that are important to deal with." More from ABC's RYAN STRUYK:

WHAT WILL HILLARY CLINTON CALL BILL CLINTON IF SHE WINS? Hillary Clinton is taking on the Republicans -- and her now her husband -- boasting on ABC's "Jimmy Kimmel Live" that she would beat the two-term commander in chief if she went head-to-head with him in a presidential race, ABC's MATTHEW CLAIBORNE reports. "He would run again," Hillary Clinton said. "I don't want you to tell anybody that, but if he could he would." "So if I were going to run against him, would I win?" asked Clinton. "Yeah!" So if she wins the presidency, what would her husband be called? "First dude. First mate. First gentleman." Secretary Clinton joked. "It's a little more complicated with him because people still call former presidents 'Mr. President' so I have to really work on this."

NOTED: BILL CLINTON SUPER-FANS OF THE 1990S REUNITING FOR HILLARY. The Bill Clinton super-fans of the 1990's are about to reunite -- this time for Hillary Clinton. They're called the "Arkansas Travelers." While they have no official affiliation with the campaign, many in this group of hundreds, which first formed in 1991 during Bill Clinton's presidential race, have long-lasting, personal relationships with the Clintons going back for years, ABC's LIZ KREUTZ notes. Some are even childhood friends. Now more than 20 years later, the "Travelers" are once again hitting the campaign trail in support of Hillary Clinton. A group of 18 of them are traveled from Little Rock to New Hampshire yesterday to begin a 5-day swing where they plan to go door-to-door talking to voters about their old-friend.

HOW CARLY FIORINA WANTS TO RUN THE COUNTRY LIKE A BUSINESS. Make no mistake, Carly Fiorina is running for president of the United States. But, at times, it seems like she's pitching herself to voters to be CEO, ABC's JORDYN PHELPS notes. "The only way you go from secretary to CEO is you challenge the status quo, you produce results, and you build teams," Fiorina recently told a gathering in Oskaloosa, Iowa. "And that is what we need to do for the American people." The former Hewlett-Packard chief, who made a name for by climbing the corporate ladder rather than rubbing shoulders in the halls of power, talks about governing in terms more akin to a business plan than a policy agenda -- placing emphasis on producing measurable results and talking tough about holding bureaucracies accountable, promising a "top-to-bottom review of every single agency's budget."

BEN CARSON PROPOSES SEPARATE BATHROOMS FOR TRANSGENDER PEOPLE. In an interview Thursday with Fusion's Jorge Ramos, Ben Carson said there should be separate bathrooms for transgender people. "How about we have a transgender bathroom?" Carson told Ramos. "It's not fair for them to make everybody else uncomfortable." He added, "I think everybody has equal rights but I'm not sure anybody should have extra rights -- extra rights when it comes to redefining everything for everybody else and imposing your view on everybody else." According to ABC's ALANA ABRAMSON, the Human Rights Campaign immediately issued a statement condemning Carson's remarks and calling on the other candidates to do so as well.

WHAT JEB BUSH SAYS ABOUT GEORGE H. W. BUSH'S NEW BIOGRAPHY. Jon Meacham's new biography, "Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush," isn't out until next week, but it's already making waves. George H. W. Bush criticizes key members of his son George W. Bush's administration, including Vice President Dick Cheney and U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, according to a copy of the book obtained by ABC News. As his other son, Jeb Bush, was boarding a campaign bus Thursday after his last public campaign event of the day in New Hampshire, he said, "I love my dad, he's a great guy." The 2016 Republican presidential candidate also said he "think[s] the book's worth reading and I recommend it." ABC's CANDACE SMITH and VERONICA STRACQUALURSI have more.

CHRIS CHRISTIE COACHES TRUMP FOR UPCOMING 'SNL' APPEARANCE. They may be fighting for the same job, but New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was quick to offer his best advice to Donald Trump in preparation of his upcoming "Saturday Night Live" appearance. "Have fun," Christie said in an interview with ABC's JONATHAN KARL Thursday. "It's a really good group of folks, it's entertaining, and they make you comfortable." Trump last hosted the show in 2004 during the first season of "The Apprentice," ABC's ALEXANDER MALLIN notes. He hosts the comedy show this Saturday night.

JOHN KASICH DISMISSES DONALD TRUMP AND BEN CARSON POPULARITY AS TEMPORARY. Republican presidential candidate John Kasich said Thursday he thinks the popularity of fellow GOP candidates Donald Trump and Ben Carson is a temporary phenomenon and dismissed the recent rise of two other competitors, Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, and Ted Cruz, R-Texas, saying voters should choose someone with executive experience. "There is no substitute for executive experience. I mean there is no substitute for having to answer to a bottom line, to go through crisis," Kasich, who served for 18 years in Congress and is in his second term as Ohio's governor, told ABC's JONATHAN KARL in New Hampshire Thursday. Trump, a businessman, and Carson, a former neurosurgeon, have never held elected office, though Trump has helmed a real estate empire and Carson founded a nonprofit that provides scholarships, ABC's BEN GITTLESON writes.


DONALD TRUMP AND BEN CARSON AUTHORIZED FOR SECRET SERVICE PROTECTION. Republican presidential candidates Donald Trump and Ben Carson will soon be protected by the agency that protects President Obama. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson has authorized United States Secret Service protection for the two GOP candidates, according to a statement released Thursday by the Department of Homeland Security. ABC's JACK DATE reports Trump and Ben Carson first requested protection from the Secret Service in October.


@peterbakernyt: Jeb Bush cheered on Quayle on "Murphy Brown" -- then urged dad to replace him on '92 ticket, @jmeacham book reports. ...

@sbg1: 'If the conservative movement were a person it would soon qualify for Social Security' ...

@jmartNYT: Ben Carson could change the primary by adding black voters. But his campaign has no evident plan to id them/turn out ...

@GlennThrush: Bill Clinton coached @HillaryClinton to chill out during Benghazi hearings during prep sessions via @anniekarni ...

@markknoller: Show of hands. How many of you have finished reading the text of Trans Pacific Trade agreement. Me neither. Just 59 days left.