--ANALYSIS -- ABC's RICK KLEIN: Donald Trump is so much of the story right now that when he doesn't show up at a candidate forum, there's almost no story at all. Monday night's pre-debate show in New Hampshire struggled to find a rhythm, as if the fact that a certain candidate's name never got mentioned robbed the participants of their focal point. As the top 10 candidates get their debate invites from Fox on Tuesday, with 3 percent support looking like the bar to clear, it's worth calculating that the frontrunner has enough support to earn seven or eight podium spots. Yes, that's Mr. Trump, who now doesn't need to exaggerate to claim that he's leading essentially every poll, national and state. It may be time to change assumptions about Trump, whose numbers aren't peaking as many GOP leaders had assumed or hoped. Expecting Trump to implode seems like less of a sure bet -- which means his rivals may actually need him on some stages for a while.
IN THE NOTE'S INBOX
PRO-TED CRUZ SUPER PAC LAUNCHES. Keep The Promise I, a super PAC supporting Sen. Ted Cruz, officially launches today, according to ABC's JESSICA HOPPER. In a press release, the group says that it is planning a seven-figure media effort that will involve radio, digital and television buys nationwide and in early primary and caucus states. Filings released last week showed hedge fund manager Robert Mercer had contributed $11 million dollars to the super PAC. Kellyanne Conway, a pollster and senior strategist for Newt Gingrich's 2012 presidential run, will serve as president of Keep The Promise I. Today, the group released two videos. One called "Show me" touts Cruz's stance against Obamacare, President Obama's immigration executive order and the Iran deal: https://youtu.be/ZCkjJ0ooscg The second touts Cruz's stance against Common Core educational standards: https://youtu.be/GdIpVpDpiqw
ABOUT LAST NIGHT
IF GOP PRIMARY WAS MARCH MADNESS, HERE'S WHAT IT WOULD LOOK LIKE. The Republican presidential field is crowded enough to give us a Sweet Sixteen -- plus one. So what if the GOP presidential primary was March Madness? What would the brackets look like? On the latest "Capital Games" podcast, ABC's RICK KLEIN and ESPN's ANDY KATZ seed the field with some of the best minds in politics and college basketball: Greg Shaheen, the former organizer of the men's college basketball championship tournament; Jonathan Martin of The New York Times; and Harry Enten, senior political writer for FiveThirtyEight.com. http://abcn.ws/1DlWJ54 LISTEN: http://espn.go.com/espnradio/play?id=13371373
MEET THE MAN BEHIND THE DRAFT BIDEN EFFORT. Will Pierce is never far from Vice President Joe Biden. The 27-year-old executive director of Draft Biden 2016, a super PAC dedicated to luring the vice president into the presidential race, is greeted by Biden's friendly face on a life-sized cutout every morning. After working for Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign in 2008 and volunteering for Obama's that same year, Pierce held a number of jobs in Congressional and gubernatorial campaigns, mostly doing field organizing, ABC's LOUISE SIMPSON and SUMMER FIELDS. In a recent interview with ABC News, Pierce said he is convinced his efforts to recruit Biden are working. http://abcn.ws/1E4F9xd
NOTED: WHITE HOUSE PRAISES BIDEN BUT WON'T PICK SIDES. The White House isn't ready to pick sides in a hypothetical primary battle between Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden. But Press Secretary Josh Earnest made clear on Monday that the president believes Biden is up for the job should he decide to run. "I won't get into rating the qualifications of any candidates or possible candidates," Earnest told ABC's LINSEY DAVIS, "but I think the president has indicated that one of the reasons he chose Joe Biden to be his running-mate and to be the vice president of the United States is that he thinks he would be a good president, there's no doubt about that." "But I would also point out that the president has spoken warmly of others who've served in his administration, including Secretary Clinton," Earnest continued diplomatically, ABC's JORDYN PHELPS reports.
HILLARY CLINTON RELEASES VIDEO SUPPORTING PLANNED PARENTHOOD. Hillary Clinton released a two-minute video staunchly defending Planned Parenthood and calling on others to join her in fighting back against Republican attempts to defund the organization. In the video, which her campaign tweeted out yesterday, Clinton calls out Jeb Bush, Scott Walker and Rick Perry by name -- and says the calls to defund Planned Parenthood are a "full on assault on women's health," ABC's LIZ KREUTZ notes. "When they attack women's health, they attack America's health. And it's wrong. And we're not going to let them get away with it," Clinton says. "I'm proud to stand with Planned Parenthood," she continues, "I'll never stop fighting to protect the ability and right of every woman in this country to make her own health decisions. I hope you will join me." http://bit.ly/1M7tCFH
@jonkarl: .@LindseyGrahamSC & @GovernorPerry hit @realDonaldTrump hardest but failed to make the Top 10 http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/republican-presidential-debate-whos-whos/story?id=32717700 ... (h/t @chrisdonovan)
@nationaljournal: Democrats in the Senate are still very fond of Joe Biden. But that doesn't mean they want him to run for president http://buff.ly/1IJDC5c
@bcoyne: Happy Birthday Mr. President! As the clock struck midnight, @BarackObama's profile had animated birthday balloons!
@mateagold: Charles Koch on the 2016 race, climate change and whether he has too much power http://wpo.st/wxUT0