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The Lid: The Two GOP Candidates Who Can Unite the Party

Welcome to The Lid, your afternoon dose of the 2016 ethos… If you’re like us, Saturday night can’t come soon enough. The showdown could have HUGE implications on the polls and who has a shot in 2016. That’s right, folks, the 12th ranked Oklahoma Sooners will be taking on the No. 4 ranked Baylor Bears in a must-see Big 12 matchup.

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’16 AT 30 THOUSAND

A new super-sample of the last three NBC News/Wall Street Journal polls composed of 999 GOP primary voters gives us the best look yet into where each of the 2016 Republicans is strongest and weakest. We’ve segmented GOP voters into four categories: Values voters, Tea Party backers, Libertarians and Moderate/Chamber of Commerce Republicans. Ben Carson and Marco Rubio are the only two candidates who a majority of voters in each of the four categories say they could see themselves supporting. And they hold the two top spots among Values Voters, which make up commanding 47 percent of the sample. As our sister publication First Read pointed out, the numbers tell us that -- among a highly divided GOP electorate -- Carson and Rubio, as of now, have the best shot at uniting the party.

POPPING ON NBC POLITICS

  • Ben Carson dismissed the "gratuitous attack" leveled against him when Donald Trump likened him to a child molester, saying Friday that he hopes candidates can "stop getting into the mud and doing things that really don't matter."
  • Both parties are talking to electorates that look very little like each other - or like the general election voters who won't go to the polls until next November, one of us writes.
  • Hillary Clinton's campaign is touting its "strong support" from the Latino community in a memo obtained exclusively by NBC News, Monica Alba reports.
  • NBC’s Leigh Ann Caldwell looks at Bernie Sanders shifting tone since the first GOP debate.
  • First Read examines whether Trump’s comments about Carson could come back to hurt him.

CAMPAIGN QUICK READS

SANDERS: MSNBC’s Alex Seitz-Wald reports on Bernie Sanders surprising management style.

CRUZ: Cruz responded to Rubio’s assertion that their positions on immigration were not dissimilar with this: “That’s like Obama saying my position is the same as his on Obamacare. That’s like the Ayatollah Khamenei saying my position is the same as his on the Iranian nuclear deal. It is laughingly, blazingly, on its face false.”

TRUMP: New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said he would openly defy Trump’s efforts to deport undocumented immigrants.

FOR THE RECORD…

“I'm hopeful maybe his advisers will help him to understand the word 'pathological.'”

-- Ben Carson’s response to Trump’s attacks on his “pathological temper.”

TOMORROW’S SKED

The second Democratic presidential debate takes place in Des Moines, Iowa at 9 p.m. ET on Saturday.

Rick Santorum, Bobby Jindal, Rand Paul, Chris Christie, John Kasich and Carly Fiorina address the Florida Republican Party’s “Sunshine Summit” on Saturday.

Donald Trump holds a campaign rally in Beaumont, Texas.

Jeb Bush is on “Meet The Press” this Sunday.