Two Days to South Carolina: Trump v. The Pope, Gowdy v. Cruz

Cortney O'Brien
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Posted: Feb 18, 2016 3:05 PM
Two Days to South Carolina: Trump v. The Pope, Gowdy v. Cruz

With two days to the South Carolina Republican primary and six remaining Republican contenders, we still have plenty of fireworks going off in the 2016 race. On Wednesday night, competing town halls on MSNBC and CNN allowed viewers to hear from the candidates once more before they vote on Saturday.

Here’s just a glimpse into the status of each candidate’s campaign. Who’s topping the polls? Who’s targeting who? You may be surprised by some of today’s matchups.

Donald Trump: Trump’s newest foe on the campaign trail is not one of his Republican rivals, but the pope. During an in-flight interview, Pope Francis suggested that Trump’s immigration policy proved he was “not Christian.” Trump called the comment “disgraceful.” Before his feud with Francis, Trump fielded questions from “Morning Joe’s” Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski at a town hall event in Charleston, S.C.

Ted Cruz: Cruz continued to defend his campaign’s use of an ad that targeted Trump for praising Planned Parenthood. He said he “laughed out loud” when he learned the businessman had plans to sue him. The Texas senator is making progress again among evangelicals after gaining the support of 300 South Carolina pastors and faith leaders and he launched a new ad, entitled “Stop,” in which he pledged to end Washington cronyism.

Marco Rubio: South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley followed up her endorsement of Rubio by joining him on the campaign trail Wednesday. In a short speech to his supporters, she explained why she’s voting for him. Rubio, she said, will “have the backs” of our military and will end burdensome federal mandates like Obamacare. She also liked that the senator was “all about term limits” in D.C. Rubio joined his fellow competitors for a CNN town hall Wednesday night, where he shared a few personal stories about the adversity he faced growing up as a Cuban-American. Meanwhile, Rubio surrogate Rep. Trey Gowdy is demanding Cruz apologize for spreading lies about him.

Jeb Bush: More and more pundits are predicting South Carolina may be the end of the road for the former Florida governor. Bush admitted he was “disappointed” Nikki Haley chose to endorse Rubio over him. With a sky high approval rating in South Carolina, some consider her support crucial. Bush is not expected to finish strong in the Palmetto State and his early focus on Nevada did not pay off. He is polling at only one percent.

John Kasich: Kasich had a tense appearance on the “Late Show With Stephen Colbert” Wednesday night. The Ohio governor sparred with the late night host over the vacant Supreme Court seat. He also slammed the GOP debates as the “dumbest thing going” and repeated his pledge to run a positive campaign.

Ben Carson: At Wednesday’s CNN town hall, the retired neurosurgeon also offered his opinion on the open Supreme Court seat. He said he would “take the opportunity to nominate someone” should he be elected. He also defended his presidential chops after a voter asked how he can be commander in chief with so little foreign policy experience. It’s not just the political class who can lead, he said. "What we really need are people who know how to solve problems – not people who know how to talk."

Standings: The newest South Carolina PPP survey has Trump in front with 35 percent, Cruz and Rubio with 18 percent, Kasich with 10 percent and Bush and Carson with 7 percent. In Nevada, Trump is in front with 45 percent.

Democratic Primary

Hillary and Bernie are neck-and-neck in Nevada. Clinton, 48, Sanders, 47.