First Read's Morning Clips: A Reshuffled Debate Stage

Image: A technician works on the podium for Mike Huckabee for tomorrow's Republican presidential candidate debate on stage in Boulder
A technician works on the podium for the Republican presidential candidate debate on stage in Boulder, Colorado.RICK WILKING / Reuters

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OFF TO THE RACES: Winnowing the field?

Chris Christie and Mike Huckabee will both miss the main debate stage.

A new CNN/ORC poll of Iowa has Trump at 25 percent, Carson at 23 percent, Rubio at 13 percent and Cruz at 11 percent.

BUSH: The Wall Street Journal notes Jeb Bush's stepped-up attacks on Marco Rubio.

A top Florida fundraiser for Bush, Brian Ballard, says he's defecting after the former governor's attacks on his fellow Floridian.

CARSON: The New York Times looks at Carson's appeal with some black voters -- but the challenges he would face in turning them out.

He's firing back at CNN, saying the network thinks "I'm a pathological liar."

And in an appearance on "New Day," he repeatedly said that the media was trying to create a "distraction" and insisted that he's not fabricating stories about his youth.

CLINTON: She told Jimmy Kimmel she sympathizes with Jeb Bush's frustration because "running for president is really hard."

FIORINA: Cook Political Report's Amy Walter looks at the Fiorina phenomenon, and why she's been sinking in the polls. "[B]eing smart isn’t a message. She’s running a campaign of competence and not one of aspiration."

KASICH: He took a break from campaigning yesterday to hit the driving range.

RUBIO: US News and World Report writes that he's got more big-name endorsements coming.

The Washington Post’s fact-checker pretty much absolves Rubio on the credit-card/charge-card story. (If you’re the Rubio camp, you’re doing back flips over this article.)

Washington watchdog groups are filing another complaint against his Conservative Solutions Project, the AP notes.

SANDERS: The LA Times: "National unions representing more than half of America’s 14.6 million unionized workers are already in Clinton’s corner, and many of the rest are heading in that direction. It is creating significant tension in some of the organizations and raising the question of whether the Sanders campaign is faltering or if union leadership has lost touch with its rank and file, large numbers of whom are turning out to support Sanders with unrivaled enthusiasm."

His campaign will launch Spanish-language ads in Nevada.

"I disagree with Hillary Clinton on virtually everything,” said Sanders during a meeting with the Boston Globe’s editorial board. “What is important is to look at is the record, the track record that Hillary Clinton has had for her long and distinguished career as a public figure.”

TRUMP: He tweeted "The Carson story is either a total fabrication or, if true, even worse-trying to hit mother over the head with a hammer or stabbing friend!"

OBAMA AGENDA: “Possibility”

The president said in a radio interview that there is a "possibility" that a bomb was responsible for the felling of a Russian passenger plane over Egypt.


*** Friday’s “News Nation with Tamron Hall” line-up: Frances Rivera steps in for Tamron. Frances speaks with Congressman Eric Swalwell about the latest with the Russian plane crash; both The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank and GOP Strategist Rich Galen about the latest political headlines; and DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz about MSNBC’s Democratic Candidate Forum in South Carolina.

*** Friday’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports” line-up: Senior advisor to the Sanders campaign Tad Devine will preview tonight’s Democratic Presidential Forum in South Carolina on MSNBC, the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza and Anne Gearan, and our team of reporters Chris Jansing, Alex Seitz-Wald, John Yang, Bill Neely,