The Note: Hands Across America

VIDEO: Marco Rubio Reacts to GOP
WATCH Presidential Candidate Marco Rubio Reacts to GOP Debate


--‘ONE OF THE MOST VULGAR SPECTACLES IN AMERICAN POLITICS’: Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio on “Good Morning America” defended some of the personal attacks he's made on the campaign trail and in last night's debate against Donald Trump, but also said he regrets the change in rhetoric of the election. "Look, I regret the way the campaign has become, absolutely, because Donald Trump for the last year has made it one of the most vulgar spectacles in American politics history," Rubio said Friday morning, ABC’s VERONICA STRACQUALURSI notes. "He has offended personally every single person running for president, he’s offended journalists, he’s offended the disabled, he’s offended women. I would love for all that to stop. I’d rather talk about the issues." Rubio argued: "He needs to get a taste of his own medicine. Nothing I have ever said comes anything close to what Donald Trump says regularly on a daily and routine basis."

--ROMNEY VOWS TO DO WHAT’S WITHIN ‘POLITICAL BOUNDS’ TO STOP TRUMP: After delivering a fierce condemnation of Donald Trump yesterday, former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney on Friday morning said “there’s no question I'm going to do everything within the normal political bounds to can to make sure we don't nominate Donald Trump.” In an interview on NBC's "Today Show," the former Massachusetts governor continued his criticism of Trump as a viable presidential nominee, arguing that the GOP frontrunner is unfit to be president and his attacks during last night's Republican debate were a "new low in presidential politics," ABC’s VERONICA STRACQUALURSI writes. "You can't have anyone whose policies are so far from the views of my party become our nominee," Romney said. "And someone who has demonstrated over time he doesn't have the temperament or the personal qualities to be a great president."

--AND SHOT DOWN THE IDEA THAT HE WOULD BE THE CANDIDATE to save the Republican party if it came down to a contested convention. “There are no circumstances I can foresee where that would possibly happen," Romney said, adding, "No reasonable scenario I can imagine.”

--ANALYSIS -- ABC’s RICK KLEIN: “It took 11 Republican debates for Donald Trump to go there. But in a way, it’s where he’s always been. With his rivals growing desperate to throw him off stride, and his candidacy revealing a deep and possibly irreparable schism inside the Republican Party, Trump responded to a Marco Rubio critique by going...big. “He said if my hands are small, something else must be small,” Trump said at Thursday night’s debate. “I guarantee you there is no problem. I guarantee you.” No one can guarantee that the very many lines of attack on Trump -- some of which gained new currency at the debate -- won’t work in changing the trajectory of this race. Rather astonishingly, he defended his past flip-flops, and even added and acknowledged a new one at the debate. Trump was confronted with a litany of attacks, any one of which could gain traction in this intense period of scrutiny. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz raised particular concerns about Trump University, the defunct seminar program that’s now the subject of a lawsuit.


THIS WEEK ON ‘THIS WEEK’: George Stephanopoulos anchors an action packed hour with the latest 2016 analysis from the powerhouse roundtable featuring ABC News political analyst Matthew Dowd, Democratic strategist and CNN political commentator Van Jones, ABC News contributor and Republican strategist Ana Navarro, and ABC News’ Cokie Roberts.



5 MOMENTS THAT MATTERED IN THE REPUBLICAN DEBATE. It is perhaps no surprise that amid a campaign that has become all about Donald Trump, Thursday night’s Republican debate was also all about the real estate mogul. The frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination took incoming fire from his rivals and dished out attacks. He was forced, by Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and the Fox News moderators to defend his record, most notably the controversy over Trump University. In his responses, Trump dismissed Rubio as “little Marco” and Cruz and “lying Ted.” Ohio Gov. John Kasich, meanwhile, tried to stay above the fray. ABC’s RICK KLEIN, SHUSHANNAH WALSHE, MICHAEL FALCONE and RYAN STRUYK have more on the five moments that mattered.


ROMNEY SLAMS DONALD TRUMP’S ‘ABSURD 3RD GRADE THEATRICS.’ "Donald Trump is a phony, a fraud,” Mitt Romney said Thursday 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.” And that was the tip of the iceberg in a scathing speech the former GOP presidential nominee gave about his party’s 2016 campaign front-runner, ABC’s VERONICA STRACQUALURSI and STEPHANIE EBBS report.

TRUMP CALLS MITT ROMNEY ‘IRRELEVANT’ ‘CHOKE ARTIST.’ Donald Trump unleashed a tirade against Mitt Romney at his campaign rally Thursday afternoon in Portland, Maine, saying the former presidential candidate held back from running this time around because of him. “So when Mitt started raising his head a few months ago, I was very strong," Trump said. "I said, Mitt Romney should not run. He's a choke artist.” Last year, Romney told supporters he would not run because it was “best to give other leaders in the Party the opportunity.” “But I'll tell you the real reason he chickened out, it wasn't Jeb,” Trump argued Thursday. “It was me. I know this from people close to him.” Trump also suggested that Romney may still have a desire to run. “I think he probably still has a desire maybe at the convention to get some kind after thing. Hillary Clinton will destroy him in the election,” Trump said. ABC’s PAOLA CHAVEZ and VERONICA STRACQUALURSI have more.

ANALYSIS: MITT ROMNEY CALLS ON GOP TO BURN ITSELF  -- TO SAVE IT FROM DONALD TRUMP. The election that has seen everything just added a new thing: The last Republican nominee warning the GOP to deny the nomination from the overwhelming front-runner at any cost -- even if the cost is the party itself. Mitt Romney leveled a vicious and detailed attack against Donald Trump’s economic plans, foreign-policy ideas, business history, and even his personal life. It puts Romney in the middle of a late but potentially potent anti-Trump attack that represents the only way the party can realistically keep him from becoming the nominee. His prescription, though, is even more stunning, ABC’s RICK KLEIN writes.

MEET THE GROUPS TRYING TO STOP TRUMP. There are several groups behind the “Stop Trump” or #NeverTrump effort. Currently, the different forces are not coordinated, but here’s a look at all those forces at work, and the connections they do have. This doesn’t include candidate efforts, instead just third-party forces, ABC’s SHUSHANNAH WALSHE reports.

INSIDE THE CONTROVERSY SURROUNDING TRUMP UNIVERSITY. Trump University is the latest business venture connected to Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump to come under scrutiny. In one of three active lawsuits against Trump, a state attorney general is accusing the real estate mogul’s now-defunct school of "engaging in specific fraudulent, deceptive and illegal acts.” Trump University is being used by the Republican front-runner’s opponents in attack ads and in pointed speeches calling for voters to turn the race in another direction. Trump has been refuting the claims made against him and his business partners. ABC’s MEGHAN KENEALLY has more on the venture.

KASICH VOWS TO CAMPAIGN UNTIL CONVENTION IF HE WINS OHIO. Republican presidential candidate John Kasich yesterday pledged that if he finishes in first place in Ohio’s primary in two weeks, he will continue to campaign until the Republican National Convention in July. "If I win Ohio, he’s not going to be the nominee,” Kasich, the governor of Ohio, told reporters, referring to fellow candidate Donald Trump. “I mean … we’re going to go to the convention, I’m going to be the nominee.” Kasich has said before that if he does not win the March 15 Ohio primary, he would drop out of the race for the Republican nomination for president, ABC’s BEN GITTLESON notes.



CHRISTIE DENIES BEING ‘HELD HOSTAGE’ ON SUPER TUESDAY. Former GOP presidential candidate and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie Thursday addressed his going viral on social media during Donald Trump’s victory speech after his Super Tuesday primary victories. “No, I wasn’t being held hostage; no, I wasn’t sitting up there saying, ‘Oh, my God,’" Christie said during a news conference in Trenton, New Jersey. ABC’s PAOLA CHAVEZ and VERONICA STRACQUALURSI have more:



@petridishes: here is the #gopdebate, affectionately trimmed …

@ByronYork: Debate fallout: Confusion follows Trump flip-flop on key immigration issue. 

@reidepstein: Last night, it took Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner seven tries to say he'd back Donald Trump as the GOP nominee …

@POLITICOMag: Trump would need 70% of white men to vote for him in the general election--more than any Republican candidate ever. 

@matthewjdowd: So Rubio and Cruz who have been basically saying Trump is unqualified to be President both said they would back him if nominee. Typical.