By Henry C. Jackson | 02/29/2016 05:40 PM EDT

THE CLOCK: The next contests are TOMORROW. And they are big ones. Super Tuesday unfolds across a dozen states (and American Samoa!).

DUKING IT OUT: POLITICO’s Nolan D. McCaskill reports DONALD TRUMP’s Republican enemies are frantically pointing to his reluctance to disavow the Ku Klux Klan as just the latest evidence that the billionaire businessman isn’t fit to be president.

But Trump, undeterred, predicted today he will do “phenomenally with the African-Americans” and will stun his rivals on Super Tuesday.

The condemnations came from all corners of the GOP, with some of the strongest words springing from MITT ROMNEY, who has launched a more focused campaign to take down the Republican front-runner.

Romney, the 2012 Republican nominee who last week speculated that Trump’s tax returns may contain a “bombshell,” called Trump’s response “disqualifying,” as well as “disgusting.” “His coddling of repugnant bigotry is not in the character of America,” he tweeted.

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The latest furor was set off when Trump appeared on CNN on Sunday and, over repeated questions from Jake Tapper, refused to disavow support from the Ku Klux Klan and the group’s former grand wizard, David Duke. Earlier today, Trump blamed a faulty earpiece for his lack of a more stern disavowal of Duke:

Happy Monday. Did you have a restful weekend? Well, sorry to hear that – some consolation – 2016 Blast. Henry C. Jackson (@henrycjjackson ) is here to guide you through today’s campaign news. Send your tips, complaints and hottest hot takes to: [email protected].

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TRAIL MIX: In today’s campaign news, HILLARY CLINTON is already moving on to the GOP. BERNIE SANDERS really wants to light a fire in Minnesota. DONALD TRUMP clarifies, MARCO RUBIO implies, JOHN KASICH is resigned. TED CRUZ has an expert in dark arts and Democrats savor the prospect of scooping up moderates.


NO LONGER BERNING: USA Today reports that, even before voters cast their Super Tuesday ballots, HILLARY CLINTON has shifted her focus from BERNIE SANDERS to the GOP. A sign of confidence in Brooklyn? “Fresh off a resounding victory in the South Carolina primary, the former secretary of state is lambasting the Republican primary field on everything from health care to ‘hateful rhetoric’ and gun control as she prepares for a series of Tuesday contests expected to help tighten her grip on the Democratic presidential nomination.”

DOGGETT SUPPORTER: Texas Tribune reports Lloyd Doggett, one of the more liberal members of the Texas congressional delegation, will back HILLARY CLINTON – and was expected to appear with Bill Clinton today.

OH, WHAT WOULD HE KNOW? POLITICO’s Glenn Thrush has a fascinating interview for his Off Message podcast with David Plouffe, the political strategist and architect of President Barack Obama’s two presidential wins. Among other things, he argues HILLARY CLINTON should avoid micromanaging, says she’s got a 98 percent chance of nabbing the Democratic nomination and says facing DONALD TRUMP could deliver a victory by “an unheard of margin, nationally, of 6 to 10 points.”


STILL BERNING: POLITICO’s Gabriel Debenedetti reports BERNIE SANDERS’ campaign is desperate to show signs of life on Super Tuesday. “Their best-case Super Tuesday scenario looks like this: Of the 11 states holding Democratic contests, Sanders wins Colorado, Minnesota, Massachusetts, and Oklahoma – four states where he’s invested in television advertising. Then he blows out Clinton in Vermont, and keeps it close in Virginia.”

WINTERING IN MINNESOTA: The Pioneer-Press reports BERNIE SANDERS traveled to Minnesota for the third time in four days on Monday morning, highlighting how important the state is for his Super Tuesday hopes. “My request to you is this: Let us make history tomorrow,” Sanders said in Minneapolis this morning. “Tomorrow is important and key. … We can win, no question, right here in Minnesota, if we have the turnout.”

GRAYSON BERNS: POLITICO’s Eliza Collins reports BERNIE SANDERS picked up the endorsement of archly liberal Florida Rep. Alan Grayson. “Last summer, my 16-year-old daughter asked me whether I felt the Bern. ‘Did you leave the stove on again?’ I asked her,” he wrote in a post on his blog. “Now, after listening to We, the People, I feel the Bern.”

EVERYTHING OK? USA Today travels to Oklahoma City, where it finds “one of the reddest states in the nation and a leader in hydraulic fracturing, or ‘fracking,’ to be fertile ground for BERNIE SANDERS ."


PIECING IT TOGETHER: POLITICO’s Nick Gass reports DONALD TRUMP blamed his inability to condemn the Ku Klux Klan and David Duke during a Sunday show interview on – yes – a bad ear piece.

IMMIGRATION BOMBSHELL? BuzzFeed reports that The New York Times is sitting on a recording of DONALD TRUMP opining on immigration that could, if released, have a dramatic affect on the GOP race. “Trump visited the paper’s Manhattan headquarters on Tuesday, Jan. 5, part of a round of editorial boar
d meetings. … The meetings, conducted partly on the record and partly off the record in a 13th floor conference room, give candidates a chance to make their pitch for the paper’s endorsement.”

BAD SHOT: POLITICO’s Hadas Gold reports a TIME photographer was roughed up at a DONALD TRUMP rally. “According to videos taken of the incident by other reporters, [Chris] Morris appeared to be trying to take pictures of protesters being led out of the rally.”

CONSPIRACY THEORY: The New York Times explores one of the curiosities of DONALD TRUMP’s presidential campaign – even as he’s risen in polls, he’s continued to embrace far-outside-the-mainstream conspiracy theories – including debunked theories on autism, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s death and even the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. “Trump, unlike most presidential candidates, does not shrink from addressing, and in some ways legitimizing, the wildest of hypotheticals.”

SAY IT AIN’T SO, JOE: POLITICO’s Nick Gass reports “Morning Joe” host Joe Scarborough called DONALD TRUMP’s inability to repudiate the Ku Klux Klan and David Duke “disqualifying.” Meanwhile, Mother Jones, which has mocked what it views as generally genial coverage of DONALD TRUMP by the “Morning Joe” crew, highlights host Joe Scarborough’s decision to excoriate Trump for failing to denounce David Duke and the KKK during an interview on Sunday.


Off Message Podcast: Recently dismissed Ted Cruz Spokesman Rick Tyler candidly tells Glenn Thrush that his former boss has just a narrow path to the GOP nomination and "maybe" an outside chance to consolidate conservatives. Tyler worries that a Trump nomination might force pro-Israel GOP billionaires like Sheldon Adelson and Paul Singer to sit out entirely in a matchup against Hillary Clinton. Listen to the full interview and get every episode by subscribing to the podcast on iTunes or Soundcloud


TRUMPING TRUMP: Time looks at MARCO RUBIO’s Super Tuesday runup – which, post debate, has been about eviscerating DONALD TRUMP, often by resorting to his bullying tactics. “Days before Super Tuesday, when 12 states and one territory cast their votes, the Florida senator has turned his campaign into a riposte to Trump’s dominance in the Republican field. But unlike the half-dozen candidates who have followed similar routes, Rubio is aiming to beat Trump at his own game.”

CAMPAIGN, 2016: Mashable reports MARCO RUBIO’s array of broadsides included a comment about the size of DONALD TRUMP’s hands that implied … other things. This is campaign 2016, folks:

THANKS, I GUESS?: In The Atlantic writer Peter Beinart argues that liberals should do what they can to get MARCO RUBIO the GOP presidential nomination over DONALD TRUMP. “Marco Rubio would be a terrible president. … But as important as these issues are, there’s a more fundamental difference between the two candidates. Rubio respects the Constitution, and in particular, the Bill of Rights. Trump does not.”

FEELING THE (CO)BURN: POLITICO’s Nick Gass reports former Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn endorsed MARCO RUBIO ahead of Oklahoma’s Super Tuesday primary. He also had some, uh, acute words for DONALD TRUMP . His “campaign is a fabrication. He is perpetuating a fraud on the American people. His empty promises, bullying and bloviating rhetoric will only deepen the frustration and disillusionment that gave rise to his campaign.”


ROE vs. WAY: POLITICO’s Shane Goldmacher profiles TED CRUZ campaign manager Jeff Roe, whose rough-and-tumble methods have led to sharp criticism of the Texas senator’s campaign. “Cruz has carefully built his brand on trustworthiness – he stands almost daily in front of signs that read ‘TrusTED’ – but in selecting his campaign manager, Cruz tapped a take-no-prisoners operative well practiced in political dark arts.”

ALL IN: TED CRUZ was the leading spender on advertising ahead of Super Tuesday, NBC reports. “On the Republican side, Ted Cruz and his super PAC allies are outspending pro-Rubio efforts on the air in Super Tuesday states by almost a factor of 2-1, which includes about $6.2 million in mostly southern states.”

LONG GAME? Bloomberg explains why TED CRUZ may not be dropping out of the presidential race any time soon – no matter how Tuesday shakes out. “Dropping out would violate the logic of Cruz’s whole political career. And anyone acquainted with his character and ambition should probably assume, as I do, that he won’t. Although his odds of winning the nomination are long, Cruz is bound to do what’s best for Cruz.”


NOT SO SUPER: Cleveland Plain Dealer has JOHN KASICH virtually conceding Super Tuesday to DONALD TRUMP and publically lowering expectations for one of his key states, Michigan. “I think Trump’s probably going to win probably all of them. … But you keep holding your own and we have our campaign plan. … Our campaign plan was ultimately to, you know, hold our own in some of these places, and we will, I expect.”

‘BAMA BACKER: reports Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley used a brief press conference on Monday to reiterate his support for JOHN KASICH – and to rip DON
The state votes on Tuesday. “John Kasich is really the only grownup in the room. He is the only one who has a true plan for this country," Bentley said.


IN MODERATION: POLITICO’s Kyle Cheney reports Democrats are making plans to scoop up moderates put off by the GOP’s rightward turn. “Democrats are drawing blueprints for stealing GOP moderates from a rightward-driving Republican Party, saying the heist is key to scoring a White House win in November.”


SUPER TUESDAY – more on all the states voting here:


56. That’s the percentage of the Texas vote TED CRUZ received during his Senate race in 2012. He’s unlikely to top that during the state’s primary on Tuesday, but he’ll need a strong performance.

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