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First Read's Morning Clips: The End of GOP Debate Season?

A roundup of the most important political news stories of the day.
A worker walks across the stage as CNN prepares for the Republican Presidential Debate March 10, 2016 in Miami, Florida. / AFP PHOTO / RHONA WISERHONA WISE/AFP/Getty ImagesRHONA WISE / AFP - Getty Images

OFF TO THE RACES: Looks like the GOP debate season is over

The scheduled GOP debate in Salt Lake City is off after Trump said he wouldn't attend.

The Washington Post: "With the increasingly loud talk of a contested Republican convention, the obscure process of picking who actually gets to be a delegate is about to get underway in states across the country — with an urgency that has not been felt in decades. These are the 2,472 people who will be filling Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena in July, many wearing silly hats and waving placards. Normally little more than props in a week-long infomercial, delegates could instead be the power brokers who determine the nominee at the GOP convention this time around."

The AP: "With at least three more states in his win column, Trump is now the only candidate with a path to clinching the Republican nomination before the party's convention in July. But he still must do better in upcoming contests to get the necessary 1,237 delegates, leaving some opponents with a sliver of hope he can still be stopped."

And the Wall Street Journal: "While some old-guard Republicans mounted resistance on Wednesday by lining up behind the remaining Trump rivals, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, others were coming to grips with having the New York businessman at the top of the ticket." "Leading liberals and progressive groups are turning their gaze away from the Democratic primary and toward efforts to unite the left against Donald Trump, framing him as a dangerous and unprecedented candidate who poses an existential threat to the progressive movement and the nation," POLITICO notes.

The New York Times notes that Cruz and Kasich - who have barely attacked each other all cycle -- are suddenly now in a face-off.

From the Washington Post editorial board: "To defend our democracy against Trump, the GOP must aim for a brokered convention."

CRUZ: Nikki Haley, who first endorsed Rubio, says she's now supporting Cruz.

POLITICO reports that he opted not to head back to the Senate for a day to try to unite his colleagues there.

KASICH: Ted Cruz backer Glenn Beck is not happy with John Kasich for staying in the race.

TRUMP: Florida Gov. Rick Scott says the GOP should unite behind Trump.

He warned there could be riots if he doesn't win the nomination.

The New York Times looks at what he gets right - and wrong - about China.

OBAMA AGENDA: Doubling down

GOP leaders are doubling down on their pledge to block Merrick Garland's nomination to the Supreme Court.

From the New York Times: "In selecting Judge Garland, 63, a well-known figure in Washington legal circles who has drawn praise from members of both parties, Mr. Obama dared Republican senators to ignore public pressure and make good on their promise to block consideration of any nominee until after the next president is chosen."

Who is Merrick Garland? In-depth profiles here and here.


*** Thursday’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports” line-up: NBC’s Andrea Mitchell anchors from New York City with the latest on the SCOTUS fight. Former Attorney General Eric Holder joins the show in his first live interview since leaving the Department of Justice. Senator Amy Klobuchar will also join to discuss the SCOTUS showdown on the Hill. Presidential historian Douglas Brinkley will also be on to discuss his new book on FDR, “Rightful Heritage.”