Welcome to The Lid, your afternoon dose of the 2016 ethos…Donald Trump made fun of Jeb Bush for trying to "look cool" by ditching his glasses for contacts. It sounds really immature until you factor in that Trump refrained from calling him "four eyes"...so let's give credit where credit is due.
'16 from 30,000:
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley could have stayed on the sidelines ahead of Saturday's GOP primary in the Palmetto State. But, given her not-so-veiled shots at Donald Trump during her GOP response to the State of the Union, it's not surprising she decided to throw her influence behind one of the real-estate mogul's rivals. And on Wednesday, we learned she decided on Marco Rubio. It's certainly good news for the Florida senator, who now has the backing of influential South Carolina Republicans like Sen. Tim Scott, Rep. Trey Gowdy and Haley. And it may be even worse news for Jeb Bush -- whose campaign is desperate for a spark.
Bush, who yesterday said Haley's endorsement is the most meaningful in the state, told reporters he was "disappointed" by not getting the governor's backing. The endorsement could have given the former Florida governor a boost when he needs it most. With Trump and Ted Cruz expected to finish first and second, respectively, Rubio and Bush are in a heated battle for third place - though a Monmouth poll released Wednesday showed Bush 9 points behind Rubio. Haley's handling of last year's Charleston church shooting and Confederate flag controversy has positioned her as one of the most admired politicians in the state. (A Winthrop University poll released in December of last year found Haley has an 81 percent approval rating among likely GOP primary voters.) Her support helps build on the narrative that Rubio (who is just two points behind Cruz in SC in the new Monmouth poll) is on the upswing after his disappointing New Hampshire finish. But, worth noting: Haley endorsed Mitt Romney ahead of the 2012 South Carolina primary and Newt Gingrich still easily won the state.
POPPING ON NBC POLITICS
- Two late-breaking breaking poll stories...Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump has fallen behind Ted Cruz nationally, a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll finds.
- AND per our new poll' -- American voters are divided whether the Senate should vote this year on President Obama's eventual nominee to succeed Antonin Scalia.
- Ted Cruz went all-in on Wednesday in his dash to take down Donald Trump, calling on the frontrunner to follow through on a lawsuit threat against him, NBC's Vaughn Hillyard reports.
- South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley endorsed Marco Rubio for president, NBC News has confirmed.
- Trump told supporters Wednesday that "waterboarding is fine" but "not nearly tough enough," NBC's Ali Vitali wrote.
- In today's Tales from the Trail: Halls comes to the rescue for Hillary Clinton (again).
- And from First Read this AM: Is Trump on the Verge of his Biggest Victory Yet?
FOR THE RECORD…
"Jeb Bush just got contact lenses and got rid of the glasses. He wants to look cool, but it's far too late. 1% in Nevada!"
Donald Trump tweet on Wednesday
Donald Trump, John Kasich, Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, and Ben Carson continue to campaign in South Carolina.
MSNBC and Telemundo will moderate a Democratic presidential town hall with Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders in Las Vegas at 9 p.m. ET.