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Buzz Cut:
• The Donald undone?
• Jeb takes on ‘Mount Washington’
• Kasich’s late bid a debate Hail Mary?
• Dems drub their own
• Epic, Brah!

Apologize? Drop out of the race? Hardly. Donald Trump’s answers to a deluge of criticism from Republican rivals and the national party over his attack on Sen. John McCain’s standing as a war hero and the Arizona Senator’s record on veterans: “They’re very upset that I’m leading the polls,” and by the way, “the news media are also distorting my words.”  In the latest round of barbs, Trump doubled down on his criticism of McCain’s record in a USAT OpEd, and balked at competitors scorn saying, “I do not need to be lectured by any of them.”

[He knows best - NYT: “[His] improvised fit of pique…exposed the biggest vulnerability of Mr. Trump’s campaign for president: It is built entirely around the instincts and grievances of its unpredictable candidate  — and does not rely on a conventional political operation that protects presidential hopefuls from themselves.”]

The past 48 hours have seen a number of reports that Trump’s comments have passed a tipping point. Others have surfaced questioning the billionaire’s service deferments during the Vietnam war.  But the fact remains he continues to draw oxygen from a crowded GOP field, particularly the likes of Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Carly Fiorina. With the first debate just 17 days away and another candidate about to join the group that oxygen is becoming precious, especially for those on the debate stage bubble.

So far, name recognition and strong poll numbers have enabled Trump to throw his verbal grenades and to an extent channel them into issues that find some resonance in the party.  Whether he can do the same with his latest blast, or if he has dropped this one too close to his feet remains to be seen. The rapid Republican backlash may point to the beginning of the end of a Trump pageantry. The Donald’s response clearly shows he thinks he has by no means reached his undoing.

[Asked on MSNBC’s Morning Joe if Trump owes him an apology, McCain responded: “No, I don’t think so. But I think he may owe an apology to the families of those who have sacrificed in conflict and those who have undergone the prison experience in serving their country.”]

But that wasn’t the worst of it - Wash Ex’s Byron York says that bashing McCain wasn’t Trump’s worst mistake in Iowa this weekend. He writes, “Instead, Trump’s casual and disengaged characterization of religious faith may have made a far worse impression on the mostly evangelical conservatives who came to hear Trump and other Republican hopefuls speak.”

In a variation on theme he used as Florida’s governor to rein in spending, Jeb Bush outlines his presidential priorities in a speech today from the state’s capitol. From excerpts: “We used to call this city ‘Mount Tallahassee’ because it was so remote from the people, so caught up in the settled ways of a comfortable establishment….Should I win this election, you will not find me deferring to the settled ways of ‘Mount Washington,’ either. The overspending, the overreaching, the arrogance, and the sheer incompetence in that city – these problems have been with us so long that they are sometimes accepted as facts of life.  But a president should never accept them, and I will not.  We need a president willing to challenge the whole culture in our nation’s capital –and I mean to do it!”

Jeb’s nickname ‘Veto Corleone’ - In a new web video out today, the campaign highlights Bush’s veto power as Governor of Florida. Florida State Senate President Andy Gardiner says that if your project didn’t meet Bush’s fiscal standards the project didn’t go through. Hence he got the nickname “Veto Corleone” because no member was safe from Bush’s veto regardless of party.

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