Welcome to The Lid, your afternoon dose of the 2016 ethos… Some of the candidates relegated to tonight's undercard debate are trying to invite themselves to the event Donald Trump is holding after ditching the primetime show that everyone less popular than him desperately wanted to attend. This is pretty much how every Saturday night works in high school.
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'16 from 30,000:
If Donald Trump really skips the final GOP debate before Iowa -- which at this point seems likely -- then it may just be the latest in a series of shrewd moves the businessman has made in the lead up to the caucuses. There's a reason football teams don't like to throw the football with a lead late in the fourth quarter. You don't want to make a mistake and give your opponent a chance to make a play. And Trump is simply running down the clock by skipping tonight's debate. Sure, he will get knocked around plenty -- but probably not as much as he would if he showed up. And with the GOP race still tight in the middle of the pack (especially in New Hampshire), there is a good chance the extra speaking time without Trump will be spent by candidates bashing rivals on stage with them. (Cruz vs. Rubio is a good bet.) Plus, we've probably been talking about the real estate mogul more during the will-he-or-won't-he speculation. So do Iowans or New Hampshire voters care that Trump is skipping the final debate before the caucuses? Well, if they haven't been dissuaded by anything Trump has said or done yet, it's hard to see how this would.
POPPING ON NBC POLITICS
- It's poll day! Donald Trump has pulled ahead of Ted Cruz with a seven-point lead among likely Iowa GOP caucus-goers, while Hillary Clinton remains just three points in front of Bernie Sanders on the Democratic side, according to a trio of new NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist polls.
- NBC's Leigh Ann Caldwell reports on the strategy behind all those endorsements candidates are touting ahead of the caucuses.
- In today's Tails from the Trail: It's #Throwback Thursday for some Clinton supporters.
- Bernie Sanders camp is suspicious of Microsoft's influence in the caucuses, Alex Seitz-Wald reports.
- Bernie Sanders is in "very good health," according to a letter from his doctor.
- Gabby Giffords will campaign with Hillary Clinton this weekend, NBC's Monica Alba reports.
- Victoria DeFrancesco Soto opines on why she thinks Iowa should not hold as much political influence.
- And from First Read: THIS will be the deciding factor in Iowa.
FOR THE RECORD…
"We may be given a gift from the Lord in the presidential race."
Vice President Joe Biden talking about what he views as a weak GOP presidential field
Donald Trump holds a morning rally in New Hampshire, while every other candidate is in Iowa.
Bill Clinton appears with Hillary at an evening event in Davenport.