The Note: Palmetto Pummel

VIDEO: Marco Rubio Nabs Key South Carolina
WATCH Marco Rubio Nabs Key South Carolina Endorsement


--CRUZ TO TRUMP -- BRING IT ON: Ted Cruz says he isn’t intimidated by Donald Trump's threats to sue him over a recent campaign ad that targets the real estate mogul. "I have to say to Mr. Trump, you have been threatening frivolous lawsuits for your entire adult life," said Cruz in a press conference yesterday. "Even in the annals of frivolous lawsuits, this takes the cake." On Tuesday, a lawyer for Trump sent the Cruz campaign a cease-and-desist letter saying that Cruz’s campaign ad "Supreme Trust” is “completely disingenuous” and “replete with outright lies, false, defamatory and destructive statements and downright fabrications.” Cruz, a lawyer who has tried cases before the Supreme Court, ticked through the merits of the case at the presser, attempting to debunk it and at the same time paint Trump as pro-choice. ABC’s JESSICA HOPPER has more:

--TRUMP CALLS LINDSEY GRAHAM A ‘NUT JOB’: Trump hurled a barrage of insults at former Republican presidential candidate Lindsey Graham in the senator’s home state of South Carolina yesterday. The GOP front-runner called the state’s senior senator “a disgrace” and a “nut job,” among other things -- apparently retribution for criticism Graham has been leveling against Trump. ABC’s PAOLA CHAVEZ and VERONICA STRACQUALURSI have more.

--SOUTH CAROLINA GOV. NIKKI HALEY ENDORSES RUBIO: Nikki Haley, the influential Republican governor of South Carolina, threw her support behind presidential candidate Marco Rubio Wednesday ahead of the state’s primary this weekend, ABC’s INES DE LA CUETARA reports. "I wanted somebody with fight. I wanted somebody with passion. I wanted somebody that had conviction to do the right thing, but I wanted somebody humble enough that remembers that you work for all the people,” she said yesterday in Chapin, South Carolina. Haley's endorsement offers a last-minute boost to the Florida senator in a state where he trails Donald Trump and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.

--ANALYSIS -- ABC’s RICK KLEIN: Ted Cruz isn’t making friends. That’s no headline – though that doesn’t take away from the epic press conference he held Wednesday to try to refocus scattered storylines that are threatening his campaign. Cruz laid out the case against his opponents like a prosecutor, even urging Donald Trump to file his lawsuit so Cruz could take his deposition personally. Cruz isn’t alone in arguing that Trump isn’t a true conservative. That may not ultimately matter, if South Carolina polls are to be believed. But Cruz, once again, is showing an inclination to meet Trump’s showmanship with his own brand of the same. If he and Trump wind up being among the finalists for the nomination, all their world’s a stage, and the Donald may have met a worthy match.


--WHAT WE’RE WATCHING -- CLINTON HUGS CHILD OF UNDOCUMENTED IMMIGRANTS IN NEW TV AD: As the fight for minority votes escalates, Hillary Clinton's campaign has released a new television ad in Nevada featuring a touching moment between the Democratic presidential candidate and the 10-year-old daughter of undocumented immigrants, ABC’s LIZ KREUTZ reports. In the 60-second spot, titled "Brave," the young girl tears up while telling Clinton that she is scared her parents will be deported. Clinton hugs the girl and pledges to help her family. "I'm going to do everything I can so you don't have to be scared," Clinton tells her. "But you're being very brave. And you have to be brave for them, too."


IN THE NOTE’S INBOX: PROGRESSIVE GROUPS PRESS MCCONELL ON SCOTUS VACANCY. The Progressive Change Campaign Committee, Civic Action, Demand Progress, Color of Change, Every Voice, and People for the American Way are joining forces to organizing an event this Friday in Sen. Mitch McConnell's home state of Kentucky. According to a representative for the six groups: “Louisville area voters will deliver over half a million petition signatures to his office demanding he allow the process to move forward on the upcoming Supreme Court nominee. This follows the PCCC's national SCOTUS media call on Wednesday with Sen Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Executive Director Anna Galland, and Color Of Change Executive Director Rashad Robinson -- vowing to increase home state grassroots pressure on Republican senators.”



NEW NATIONAL POLL NUMBERS SHOW DIFFERENT RESULTS FOR TRUMP, CRUZ. Republican presidential candidates Donald Trump and Ted Cruz are about neck and neck atop the GOP presidential field, according to a new NBC/WSJ national poll released yesterday. But two other surveys, including a CBS News national poll released this morning and a Quinnipiac University poll still show Trump in the lead. Here are the standings, according to CBS: Trump 35, Cruz 18, Rubio 12, Kasich 11, Carson 6, Bush 4. This is now the second poll in a row to show Kasich at 11 percent – nearly double his previous highest support nationally. Yesterday’s, NBC/WSJ survey, was the first national poll without Trump leading since late December and the first time he is not numerically ahead since Nov. 9. It’s also Trump’s lowest support in a national poll since late November, ABC’s RYAN STRUYK notes. Marco Rubio took 17 percent support, John Kasich with 11 percent, Ben Carson with 10 percent and Jeb Bush with 4 percent.

TRUMP SAYS APPLE SHOULD HACK SAN BERNARDINO ATTACKER PHONE. Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump bashed the tech company Apple Wednesday for refusing to help investigators access the iPhone of a San Bernardino attacker. “I agree 100 percent with the courts,” he said on "Fox and Friends" yesterday morning. “In that case, we should open it up.” ABC’s RYAN STRUYK reports, Apple received a court order on Tuesday to assist the FBI in breaking encryption codes on the iPhone belonging to Syed Rizwan Farook, one of the attackers in the San Bernardino attack in California.

NOTED: TRUMP SAYS HE WILL NAME NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISERS NEXT WEEK. Trump says he’s getting ready to reveal the team who will advise him on national security and foreign affairs, ABC’s JOHN SANTUCCI notes. “I’m going to be announcing a team in about a week that is a really good team,” Trump said during a taped town hall with MSNBC. “A team that was recommended…to me. And a team that I’ve seen both -– and read about both in papers and seen on your show,” referring to hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski. It was last summer during an interview with NBC News’ Chuck Todd, that Trump was asked where he gets his national security advice from. “Well, I watch the shows. I mean, I really see a lot of great — you know, when you watch your show, and all of the other shows, and you have the generals, and you have certain people,” Trump said at the time.

JEB BUSH DEFENDS GUN TWEET AMID SOCIAL MEDIA BACKLASH. Jeb Bush is facing backlash after showing off his gun on social media during a campaign stop in Columbia, South Carolina. The former Florida governor posted a photo of his engraved firearm on Twitter Tuesday and captioned it “America.” ABC’S CANDACE SMITH, VERONICA STRACQUALURSI and PAOLA CHAVEZ report Bush said he was “honored” to have been gifted a gun by gunmaker FN America, which has a manufacturing plant in Columbia.


2016 SPEED READ -- A CONTESTED REPUBLICAN NATIONAL CONVENTION: HOW IT WOULD WORK. Talk of a potential contested convention began swirling among top GOP officials before primary season began. And now, with six major GOP candidates still remaining in the race and no clear consensus forming among establishment contenders, the longshot chance remains a possibility. 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 on what you need to know about how a contested convention could work.



THE QUOTABLE DONALD TRUMP: HIS DAY OF TAUNTS IN SOUTH CAROLINA. As the Donald campaigned in the Palmetto State yesterday, he brought out his elementary school playground playbook. In his first campaign stop of the day, Trump called South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham a “nut job” and a “disgrace,” among other Trumpisms. ABC’s VERONICA STRACQUALURSI and PAOLA CHAVEZ have more.



@TheBrodyFile: Exclusive: @TheBrodyFile Asks @realDonaldTrump : "How can evangelicals trust you?” … #cbnnews

@TheBradMielke: NEW: The State, one of South Carolina's biggest papers, endorses @JohnKasich three days before the #SCPrimary

@ABCLiz: Robby Mook's Nevada prediction to @CeciliaVegaABC: "We’re gonna pull it out, but it’s gonna be very, very close.” …

@aebrandenburger: Bush hires Ohio political veteran as national adviser  via @Reuters

@ryanstruyk: So national polls in the last 24 hours have either Trump +20, Trump +17 or Cruz +2. Got it.