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First Read's Morning Clips: Recapping Last Night's Debate

Image: CNN Hosts Republican Presidential Primary Debate in Houston, Texas, USA
The podiums and stage are prepared for the CNN Republican Presidential Primary Debate at the University of Houston's Moores School of Music Opera House in Houston, Texas.LARRY W. SMITH / EPA

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OFF TO THE RACES: Recapping last night’s debate

Miss the debate? You can catch up by reading back over our live blog.

From Benjy Sarlin: "It took eight months and three electoral losses in a row, but the Republican presidential field finally woke up and realized Donald Trump was not going to defeat himself. Thursday's CNN-Telemundo debate was the first time Sens. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, who have savaged each other in the last several meetings, put aside their differences and focused 100 percent of their fire on Trump."

The New York Times: "In a series of acid exchanges, a newly pugnacious Mr. Rubio, long mocked for a robotic and restrained style, interrupted Mr. Trump, quizzed him, impersonated him, shouted over him and left him looking unsettled. It was an unfamiliar reversal of roles for the front-runner, who found himself so frequently the target of assaults from Mr. Rubio and Senator Ted Cruz that he complained they must have been a ploy for better television ratings."

And from the Washington Post: " Three weeks after being pummeled on a debate stage in New Hampshire, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida showed Thursday night that he had learned his lesson, launching repeated and aggressive attacks on front-runner Donald Trump in the hope of slowing the New York businessman’s march to the nomination."

The New Yorker's Ryan Lizza on the plight of anti-Trump Republicans: "If Trump succeeds in capturing the Republican nomination, the debate that is now playing out on the margins of the right will be front and center for every elected Republican. They may soon have to choose: Would they rather have as President an enemy they can oppose, or one for whom they are—in more ways than one—responsible?"

By the way, Lindsey Graham says his party has gone "bat**** crazy."

CLINTON: Former president Bill Clinton is trying to erase the bad memories of his performance in South Carolina in 2008.

The Washington Post digs deeper into why that Black Lives Matter protest at a private Clinton fundraiser matters.

RUBIO: The term he's using for Donald Trump this morning? "Con artist."

You can now "buy" a "Trump Watch" at the Marco Rubio campaign store.

He's out with a new ad featuring the endorsement of the governor of Arkansas, and his superPAC is blasting Trump with the real estate mogul's statement that "I love the poorly educated."

SANDERS: He says he'll get things done when Congress heeds his "political revolution."

TRUMP: He said he can't release his tax returns because he's in the process of being audited. (He also suggested he's being audited because he's a "strong Christian."

From the Huffington Post: "Multiple Republican campaign sources and operatives have confided that none of the remaining candidates for president have completed a major anti-Trump opposition research effort. There are several such efforts being run by outside conservative organizations. But those efforts are still gathering intel on the businessman after having started late in the primary season, these sources told The Huffington Post. And they worry that it may come too late."

Former Mexican presidents have a lot to say about Donald Trump and his "stupid wall."

He's tweeting this morning: "Lightweight Marco Rubio was working hard last night. The problem is, he is a choker, and once a choker, always a chocker! Mr. Meltdown."'s Amanda Sakuma breaks down why Trump was wrong to take a victory lap over his numbers with Nevada Latinos.

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