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The Lid: Can John Kasich Take the Heat at GOP Debate?

Welcome to The Lid, your afternoon dose of the 2016 ethos…The 12th Republican presidential debate will air live tonight from Miami, Florida on CNN. Viewers are advised that it will be rated PG-13 for strong and suggestive language that may not be suitable for all audiences. At this point, let's just hope there is no violence or brief nudity.

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'16 from 30,000

Donald Trump will, as usual, take up much of the oxygen at tonight's debate, surely facing questions about the escalating incidents of violence at his rallies as well as his most recent comments about Islam. And the next phase of the clash between Trump and Marco Rubio is likely to be the marquee matchup of the night.

But we'll also be closely watching the man currently running in fourth place: John Kasich. Kasich has had a long road to tonight's 12th(!) Republican presidential debate. He's gone from being in danger of missing the main debate stage entirely to being one of the last four men standing. His generally sunny "why can't we all just get along?" pitch has kept him from coming under the sustained attacks that others have faced during the contests, but they've also meant that he hasn't been too much of a factor in past debates.

That could change tonight, though. With 66 delegates up for grabs in Kasich's home state of Ohio, Trump has started attacking Kasich as an "absentee governor" in the hopes of blunting his chances of victory there. And as our colleague Kailani Koenig reports, a pro-Rubio superPAC is up with an ad targeting Kasich in FLORIDA, where votes for Kasich would chip away at Rubio's last-ditch effort to salvage his campaign by banking the 99 delegates from his own home state. With just five days to go until the next big round of primaries - including Ohio's - how will Kasich respond if he's drawn into a fight with the GOP frontrunner?

POPPING ON NBC POLITICS

  • Benjy Sarlin previews four things to watch in tonight's debate.
  • You can follow our live blog of the debate here.
  • Breaking this afternoon: A man has been charged with assault after punching a protester at Donald Trump's Wednesday night rally in Fayetteville.
  • Ted Cruz won his first endorsement from a sitting member of the Senate, courtesy of colleague Mike Lee of Utah.
  • Ohio governor John Kasich is largely loved in Ohio. And it may be a problem for him, NBC's Leigh Ann Caldwell reports.
  • The trademark on those now-famous Trump Steaks? It was cancelled two years ago.
  • In today's Tales from the Trail: Why Marco Rubio now has another reason to dislike Ohio State football.
  • And from First Read: Where have all the popular candidates gone?

FOR THE RECORD…

"Go win this darn thing."

  • Ohio State University coach Urban Meyer in a video endorsing John Kasich.

TOMORROW'S SKED

Hillary Clinton will travel to California to attend the funeral of Nancy Reagan.

Bernie Sanders makes stops in North Carolina and Illinois.

Donald Trump is in Missouri and Illinois. John Kasich campaigns in Ohio. Ted Cruz is in Florida and Illinois and Marco Rubio is in the Sunshine State.