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Something strange happened during Thursday night's GOP presidential debate — it was actually civil and reserved.

There was no mention of body parts and/or mudslinging between Donald Trump and the other candidates — all of which punctuated the Republican presidential conversation just a week ago.

The first half of the debate was policy-driven, addressing immigration, trade and tariffs, Social Security and more.

One week after he formally dropped out of the race for the Republican presidential nomination, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson is endorsing New York businessman Donald Trump.

Carson said a major factor for the endorsement was the growing talk among many Republicans of working to deny Trump the majority of delegates he'd need to clinch the party's nomination, and instead hold a contested convention this summer.

President Obama said Thursday that the Republican Party is responsible for Donald Trump's rise, for "over a course of time, creating an environment where somebody like Donald Trump can thrive." Obama refuted the argument that Trump's surge is a reaction to his presidency.

"He's just doing more of what has been done for the last 7 1/2 years. And, in fact, in terms of his positions on a whole range of issues, they're not very different from any of the other candidates," Obama said in response to a question during a news conference with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

The remaining four Republican candidates debate once again tonight, this time in Miami. Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and John Kasich will be on the stage together for the last time before next Tuesday's big primary night, when voters in Ohio and Florida — Rubio and Kasich's home states — go to the polls. Tuesday is a make or break night for the two of them and tonight's debate is the last chance they have to change the dynamic in a race that has not been going their way.

Here are four things to watch — one for each candidate.

Once upon a time, the Democratic National Committee had a plan for just four debates among the party's candidates for president. The general feeling among activists was that too many debates risked overexposing the candidates, their differences and the divisions within the party.

There had been too many debates, they felt, in 2008. It was just bad politics.

Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton had another tense debate Wednesday night in Miami, less than a week before crucial primary contests on March 15.

The latest face-off between the two came as the Vermont senator was riding high from an unexpected victory Tuesday in Michigan. The two clashed over immigration reform, U.S.-Cuba relations and Wall Street policy, and debated their electoral strategy going forward.

Next Tuesday, voters from Florida, Ohio, Missouri, North Carolina and Illinois will cast their ballots.

Tonight the two Democratic candidates — Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders — meet in Miami for a debate.

Before Tuesday night, the debate was looking like an unimportant afterthought to a race that could have been all wrapped up. But not anymore, after Sanders' stunningly unexpected win in Michigan last night.

Here are three things to watch:

Bernie Sanders was the story of Tuesday night as he beat Hillary Clinton in Michigan's Democratic presidential primary. It wasn't a walloping — he won by less than 2 points — but still a big coup considering Clinton led in most polls by double digits before the race.

Michigan is Sanders' ninth state win, though Clinton still leads in delegates overall.

That means Sanders is only partway up a steep hill to the nomination.

Sen. Ted Cruz won the Idaho Republican presidential primary. Cruz pulled in about 45 percent of the GOP vote Tuesday followed by businessman Donald Trump in a distant second place with 28 percent.

Idaho State Treasurer Ron Crane served as Ted Cruz’s honorary state chairman. Crane said Cruz’s values aligned with Idaho’s GOP electorate.

“He connected with Idahoans,” Crane said. “I think his visit to Idaho this last weekend was strategic. His timing was perfect.”

Businesswoman Carly Fiorina, who ended her own presidential bid last month, has endorsed Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.

Appearing at a Cruz rally in Miami on Wednesday morning, Fiorina said she voted for Cruz in Virginia's recent primary, and praised his record in challenging Washington's status quo.

Calling Cruz a "real constitutional conservative," she said "he is a fearless fighter and reformer, and he didn't care much whether he got invited to the cocktail parties in Washington, D.C." Fiorina said.

Ending a Democratic filibuster lasting more than 36 hours, the Missouri Senate has given preliminary approval to a controversial bill that shields religious groups and individuals who have religious objections to same-sex weddings.

Bernie Sanders pulled off an upset in Michigan on Tuesday, beating Hillary Clinton in an important state where he had trailed in recent polls. Clinton handily took Mississippi, with more than 80 percent of the vote. On the Republican side, Donald Trump racked up three more victories, and Ted Cruz won in Idaho.

The latest day of primary voting was bad news for one leading candidate, good news for another and a setback for popular campaign narratives in both parties.

You may have heard that Hillary Clinton was about to extend her Super Tuesday dominance to Mississippi and Michigan, putting the campaign of Bernie Sanders on the ropes once and for all. The Clinton story seemed all the more plausible given her feisty show in her seventh debate with Sanders and the struggle he seemed to have in more populous states.

In 2012, Justin Trudeau, then a young member of the Canadian Parliament, stepped into a boxing ring at a charity event in Ottawa. His opponent, a heavily tattooed and much beefier senator named Patrick Brazeau, was favored to win by 3-to-1 odds.

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton currently lead the delegate counts for the presidential nomination. But because of the difference in how both parties award their delegates, Clinton's is the more commanding lead.


Michigan is an important test for Sanders

Tuesday's Democratic contest in Michigan, the biggest prize of the day, is key for Bernie Sanders to show he can turn things around. His campaign has argued that Clinton has ballooned her lead because of black voters in the South.

At Sunday night's Democratic debate in Flint, Mich., the candidates spent a considerable amount of time talking about that city's water crisis, as lead poisoning continues to affect Flint's majority black population. Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders also spent a lot of time talking about race and disparities endemic to the black community.

At one point toward the end of the debate, CNN's Don Lemon asked both candidates to talk about any "racial blind spots" they might have. Both seemed to give thoughtful answers, but one particular line from Sanders drew rebuke.

Tuesday afternoon is the deadline for candidates to file to appear on the May primary ballot in Oregon. It also marks a milestone for the state's newest major political party.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has a blunt warning for state lawmakers:

“Your bills are going to get vetoed if you don’t do your job and pass a budget.”

Idaho is one of four states with presidential primaries or caucuses Tuesday. Turnout could be high in the Republican primary if it’s like the others this season.

Former three-term mayor of New York City Michael Bloomberg said Monday he will not run for president, after months of speculation that he would jump in as in independent during a campaign in which it seems anything could happen.

Florida Senator Marco Rubio appealed to Idahoans to revive his presidential hopes during a one-day campaign swing through Idaho Falls and Boise Sunday. Idaho’s Republican presidential primary takes place Tuesday.

In their seventh debate, this time in Flint, Mich., Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders agreed on the root causes of that city's drinking water crisis. They both called for a massive federal intervention and investigation of the lead poisoning there and urged that the state's Republican governor, Rick Snyder, either resign or be recalled.

But the two Democratic candidates also clashed over the role of trade deals in the deterioration of Michigan's economy, the usefulness of the Export-Import Bank and the state of manufacturing in America generally.

Soon after its launch in 1986, the satirical magazine Spy picked Donald Trump as the brash embodiment of a crass age. Founded by Graydon Carter and Kurt Andersen, the magazine chronicled New York's obsessions with wealth and social status, zeroing in on Trump's questionable business dealings (of which there were many) and his outlandish personal traits (of which there were perhaps even more).

"I will not compromise away your religious liberty."

That was the vow Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz made to supporters in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho as he campaigned Saturday at the Kootenai County Fairgrounds.

On the surface, Saturday's election results appeared divided. After all, on the GOP side Ted Cruz and Donald Trump each won two contests, while among Democrats it was Bernie Sanders who won two of the night's contests as Hillary Clinton netted one victory.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is the winner of the annual Conservative Political Action Conference's presidential straw poll.

Cruz won 40 percent of the votes from the conservative gathering's 2,659 attendees who voted. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio took second place with 30 percent. GOP front-runner Donald Trump, who controversially canceled his appearance planned for Saturday morning, finished third with just 15 percent. Ohio Gov. John Kasich was fourth with 8 percent.

Pointing out America's inadequacies is a common tactic in U.S. presidential campaigns, but sometimes the jabs backfire. That happened this week to Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders when he took on Internet speeds in the U.S.

His observation Wednesday drew a flurry of annoyed responses on both sides of the Atlantic. Many Romanians rejected what they viewed as an implication their country — one of the poorest in the European Union — did not deserve having better internet than the United States.

And Claudia Ciobanu, a Romanian freelance journalist based in Poland, tweeted:

Republican Ben Carson confirmed during his speech at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference that he is ending his bid for the White House.

The famed neurosurgeon had implied he was dropping out on Wednesday after a disappointing Super Tuesday finish, and he skipped Thursday night's debate in his hometown of Detroit.

Not even the best political forecasters could have guessed that Donald Trump's hand and genitalia size would become 2016 presidential campaign topics. But they have, and it's thanks in large part to Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.

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