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The Lid: Why Cruz’s ‘Bromance’ With Trump Was Smart Politics

Welcome to The Lid, your afternoon dose of the 2016 ethos… Jeb Bush took a shot at Marco Rubio’s stature in an interview Wednesday, noting pointedly “I don’t have a height issue.” Although, by that standard, Republicans clearly should have nominated the tallest man in the GOP field. You’re welcome, President Pataki.

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‘16 from 30,000

We told you there would be a lotta polls! The latest GOP numbers out of Iowa are worth a deep dive, particularly since they’re from the highly respected Des Moines Register/Bloomberg poll. Ted Cruz narrowly leads the poll -- although he’s slipped about six points from early December -- and it’s telling to look at what Iowa GOP caucus-goers like and don’t like about the Texas senator. According to the pollsters, his most appealing traits are his adherence to the U.S. Constitution (94 percent positive) and his Christian values on gay marriage and abortion (78 percent positive). But his third most attractive trait has to do with a campaign strategy that he’s starting to shift. Three-quarters of Iowa voters give positive reviews for the fact that he has “generally avoided criticizing Donald Trump.” If you needed a piece of data to show why the bromance between the two men persisted as long as it did, there you have it. The big question to come is whether Cruz’s fresh counterattacks on Trump’s New York roots can hurt the real estate mogul without cutting a chunk out of Cruz’s own support, too.

POPPING ON NBC POLITICS

  • Donald Trump hit back at Nikki Haley after her GOP response to the State of the Union, saying the South Carolina governor is “very weak on illegal immigration” and “has no problem asking me for campaign contributions.”
  • Remember Donald Trump saying that he would spend $2 million a week on ads? Well, it didn’t last long, according to an ad-buying source.
  • Bill Clinton played the role of both boastful husband and nostalgic former president in his return trip to New Hampshire to campaign for Hillary Clinton Wednesday, NBC’s Kailani Koenig reports.
  • The Iowa Caucuses are less than three weeks away and some of the biggest donors in Republican politics are still sitting on the sidelines, NBC’s Leigh Ann Caldwell reports.
  • Why was Nancy Pelosi fiddling with her Apple Watch during the State of the Union? The answer may make you jump out of your chair, NBC’s Luke Russert reports.
  • Beard of no beard, Paul Ryan doesn’t like it when you’re late, NBC’s Frank Thorp V and Alex Moe report.
  • In today’s “Tales from the Trail,” our NBC News embeds introduce us to the “Trump In The Cold Club” and Jeb Bush’s advice to another little brother.
  • And from First Read: For Team Clinton, the pressure is on.

FOR THE RECORD…

“Would they kill a duck and put him in a pot and make ‘em a good duck gumbo?”

  • Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson, on his criteria for endorsing a presidential candidate.

TOMORROW’S SKED

Republican candidates hold their sixth debate in Charleston, SC. Seven candidates will be on stage for the primetime FOX Business debate, which starts at 9pm ET. Anu undercard debate will be held at 6pm ET.

Carly Fiorina and Mike Huckabee campaign in South Carolina ahead of the showdown. Bernie Sanders is also in the Palmetto State.

Hillary Clinton appears on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.