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The Lid: Dueling Endorsements in Iowa

Welcome to The Lid, your afternoon dose of the 2016 ethos… Rapper B.o.B recorded a diss track targeting astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson after the two argued on Twitter about whether or not the Earth is flat, a feud which is amazingly less weird than 90 percent of what's going on in the 2016 race at this point.

'16 from 30,000: We knew going into the Republican primary that the evangelical lane would be crowded. But we did not really expect Donald Trump to be among the candidates occupying that space. Even before Tuesday's endorsement from Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr., he was competing for the evangelical vote, and now there's no question he's squarely in the mix. It's a blow for Cruz because it helps Trump defend against the Texas senator's closing argument before the caucuses -- that Trump's views are more aligned with New York liberals than with Iowa Christians.

And when it comes to the endorsement game, an interesting dynamic is playing out between the top two candidates. Cruz has secured endorsements from Bob Vander Plaats, one of the state's most influential evangelical leaders, and high-profile Iowa Rep. Steve King. Trump's biggest endorsements, Sarah Palin, sheriff Joe Arpaio and Falwell, are from out of state (though he does have some notable Iowa endorsements as well.) King, who did not endorse in 2012, and Vander Plaats, who endorsed Santorum four years ago, are perennially courted by GOP candidates hoping to win the caucuses. But if the candidate backed by both heavies falls short on Monday, will they lose some of their kingmaker status in the opening contest of the presidential race?

POPPING ON NBC POLITICS

Right to Rise, the Bush-backing superPAC, is going after Marco Rubio for the controversy over his use of a Florida Republican Party credit card, NBC's Alex Jaffe reports.

And the total amount spent on Iowa campaign ads is… more than $40 million.

Jerry Falwell Jr. is endorsing Donald Trump.

But a group of anti-abortion female activists is urging Iowans to select "anyone but Donald Trump."

Ted Cruz warned Iowa pastors that Donald Trump could be "unstoppable" and become the Republican Party's nominee if he wins the Iowa caucuses, one of us wrote.

Oh, and Trump said Cruz "looks like a jerk" during an appearance on "Morning Joe" Tuesday.

Benjy Sarlin reports that anti-Trump Republicans are still trying to hash out their strategy.

George Pataki is backing Marco Rubio.

And from First Read this AM: Six days until Iowa, Trump is in clear command of GOP race.

FOR THE RECORD…

"At least some people like Obama. Nobody likes Ted."

  • Donald Trump, on Ted Cruz, during an interview on MSNBC's Morning Joe

TOMORROW'S SKED

Hillary Clinton holds a morning event in Adel, Iowa, and then fundraises in Philadelphia with Bon Jovi; Bill Clinton holds an evening event in Mason City.

Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Chris Christie, John Kasich, Carly Fiorina, Rick Santorum, Martin O'Malley and Bernie Sanders all campaign in Iowa.

Donald Trump holds an evening rally in Gilbert, SC.