Last Sunday, Donald Trump declined to disavow David Duke, a white supremacist and former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan who asked his supporters to back Trump for president. The next day, Trump blamed his response on a bad earpiece garbling the question. It wasn't until Thursday morning that he finally came around to condemning Duke. By then, the media and Trump's GOP rivals had spent five days attacking Trump over the issue and hand-wringing about the state of the Republican Party. "So is this how the party of Abraham Lincoln dies?" asked Joe Scarborough, the conservative co-host of MSNBC's Morning Joe.

But the fact that it took Trump days to condemn a white supremacist didn't faze many Republican voters at the Conservative Political Action Conference, the annual conservative gathering just outside of Washington, DC.

"Ridiculous," said Sharon Begosh, 54, of Maryland, when asked about the furor over Trump's response to the David Duke question last week. She's pretty sure Trump didn't hear the question correctly. "There's not a racist bone in his body," she said.

Begosh, who is supporting Cruz, said the Duke controversy is an example of people playing the "race card" when they have nothing else on their political opponents.

"The Ku Klux Klan won't rise again," said Grace Hagerty, 83, of Virginia, who voted for Trump on Super Tuesday.

While pundits have pointed to Trump's KKK dodge as evidence that the Republican front-runner is riling up racist elements in the party, CPAC attendees saw it differently. One of the most common responses to questions about the Duke issue was that politicians simply are not responsible for who their supporters are or what they believe.

"I don't think you can control who your supporters are," said Nestor Riano, 53, of Minnesota.

Brian Bledsoe, 35, of Texas echoed that sentiment. "Can't blame the candidate about who's supporting him," he said.


Former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney slammed Donald Trump on Thursday as "a phony" and "a fraud," urging fellow Republicans to disavow the real estate magnate's bid for the White House.

"His promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University," Romney said at the University of Utah. "He's playing the American public for suckers. He gets a free ride to the White House and all we get is a lousy hat."

Romney went on to make the case against Trump's increasingly likely nomination, arguing that it would hurt the Republican Party and ultimately mean a loss to Hillary Clinton in the general election. Romney's speech represents a larger effort by Republican leaders to put an end to Trump's momentum.

The blistering remarks, which took aim at Trump's economic promises, foreign policy plans, and character, come just two days after Trump's overwhelming Super Tuesday victories in the Republican primaries.

"Dishonesty is Donald Trump's hallmark," Romney told the crowd.

Responding to excerpts of the speech that were released early, Trump hit back at the former Massachusetts governor with the following tweets, including a reminder that Romney embraced Trump's support back when Romney was running for president:

In his speech, Romney referred to these tweets as an example of Trump's lack of "suitability" to be president. He somehow neglected to mention any of this when he accepted Trump's endorsement back in 2012.

Brian Cahn/ZUMA

After briefly taking the lead in the Republican primary race in the fall, Ben Carson's campaign is basically over. He is currently in last place in the GOP primary. On Wednesday, the neurosurgeon sent a statement to supporters informing them that he sees no "path forward" to the nomination and that he will not attend Thursday night's GOP debate.

So he's dropping out, right? That is actually unclear. As the Washington Post put it:

Carson, however, will not formally suspend his campaign. Instead, the Republicans said, he has decided to make a speech about his political future on Friday at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Maryland, just outside of Washington.

Carson is scheduled to speak at CPAC on Friday afternoon.

Here's Carson's full message to his supporters:

As one of my most dedicated supporters, I wanted you to hear this directly from me.

I have decided not to attend the Fox News GOP Presidential Debate tomorrow night in Detroit.

Even though I will not be in my hometown of Detroit on Thursday, I remain deeply committed to my home nation, America.

I do not see a political path forward in light of last evening's Super Tuesday primary results.

However, this grassroots movement on behalf of "We the People" will continue.

Along with millions of patriots who have supported my campaign for President, I remain committed to saving America for future generations. We must not depart from our goals to restore what God and our Founders intended for this exceptional nation.

I appreciate the support, financial and otherwise, from all corners of America.

Gratefully, my campaign decisions are not constrained by finances; rather by what is in the best interest of the American people.

I will discuss more about the future of this movement during my speech on Friday at CPAC in Washington, D.C.

Thank you for everything.


Ben Carson

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously voted Tuesday to raise the legal age to buy cigarettes and e-cigarettes to 21. The city joins more than 120 others, including New York City and Boston, that have enacted similar legislation.

Supervisor Scott Weiner, who cosponsored the legislation, argues that restricting access to cigarettes helps reduce the likelihood of getting hooked in the first place. A 2015 report from the Institute of Medicine, for example, found that 90 percent of daily smokers started before 19.

But Tom Briant, executive director of the National Association of Tobacco Outlets (that's right, NATO), notes that California law not only stipulates that the smoking age is 18, but specifies that state law preempts local legislation: "No city, county, or city and county shall adopt any ordinance or regulation inconsistent with this section," it reads. A measure to raise the smoking age 21 across the state stalled in the state assembly last year.

Two other California cities that passed similar legislation have veered in different directions: Healdsburg, in Sonoma County, suspended enforcement of the raised age limit after threats of litigation from NATO. Meanwhile, Santa Clara continues to enforce its age limit of 21.

Wiener is unfazed by potential challenges, reports KQED: "Our city has a history of taking on major industries in the name of public health, in the name of consumers, and winning. And we will do so here."

Donald Trump supporters were seen attacking and shoving a young black woman out of a Super Tuesday rally in Louisville, Kentucky, last night. The incident, which was recorded and posted on social media by a local television reporter, is the latest in a string of events for the Republican front-runner that have turned violent. Several men are seen shoving the woman until she stumbles, as others cheer.

The video comes a day after a Time photographer was seen being manhandled and thrown to the ground by a member of Trump's security team. In December, a Black Lives Matter demonstrator was dragged out of a Trump rally as people were screaming violent exhortations such as "light the motherfucker on fire" and "kick his ass."

The real estate magnate has largely dismissed the violence, at one point suggesting one black activist "should have been roughed up"—comments that do not appear to have affected his support in the Republican primaries.

With votes still being counted, Hillary Clinton is projected to win Democratic primaries in six states and is leading in several more. Clinton addressed her cheering supporters from the Ice Palace Film Studios in Miami, thanking her volunteers, organizers, and small-dollar donors while touching on issues such as equal pay for women, student loans, inclusiveness and religious diversity, and reinvigorating the middle class. She leveled her attacks less on her Democratic opponent, Bernie Sanders, than on the GOP front-runner, Donald Trump. She riffed off several of Trump's favorite phrases: "We know we've got work to do. But that work is not to make America great again," she said, to raucous applause. "America never stopped being great. We need to make America whole again." Watch her victory speech here:

After approvingly retweeting a quote from Benito Mussolini this weekend, Donald Trump on Monday invoked the words of another famous political leader in support of his campaign: Mahatma Gandhi. Trump, the GOP front-runner who has promised to build a wall to keep Mexican people out of the United States, floated the idea of a national registry for Muslim Americans, and suggested killing the families of terrorists, would seem to share little in common with the legendary anti-war activist who led India's independence movement against British rule. Then again, both Trump and Gandhi made some pretty outlandish claims about black people.

Trump's usage of this quote is not only strange because of the implied comparison; it's also a misquote. Gandhi never said that. Rather, socialist leader Nicholas Klein did

This post has been updated to reflect that Trump misquoted Mahatma Gandhi.

At a campaign rally on Friday morning, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida took out his phone and read from Donald Trump's Twitter account, hoping to mock the GOP front-runner. Things did not go according to plan. 

Rubio made fun of Trump's spelling of the word "choker"—except that Trump's tweet, as Rubio read it, spelled the word correctly. "He spelled choker C-H-O-K-E-R," Rubio said. "Chocker."

Trump did misspell the word in an earlier tweet, which he deleted.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie announced on Friday that he is endorsing Donald Trump for president.

"I am proud to be here to endorse Donald Trump for president of the United States," Christie said in a joint press conference with Trump by his side. 

"I will lend my support between now and November in every way that I can for Donald, to help make his campaign an even better campaign than it's already been and then to help him do whatever he needs to do to help make the country everything that we want it to be for our children and grandchildren."

Christie dropped out of the presidential race on February 10, after a sixth-place finish in the New Hampshire Republican primary. He told reporters he finalized his decision to endorse the real estate magnate Thursday morning. Among other reasons for backing Trump, Christie said he'd have the best chance to win the general election. "The one person Hillary Clinton does not want to see on that stage come next September is Donald Trump," he said.

"He's been my friend for many years," Trump said of Christie. "He's been a spectacular governor."

This is a breaking news post. We will update as more news becomes available.

While Republican presidential candidates continued scream-debating in Houston last night, Sen. Lindsey Graham took a shot at his former challengers with a series of insults that capture the insanity that is the remaining GOP presidential field.

The South Carolina senator, who was speaking at the Washington Press Club Foundation Dinner, nailed it with the following jabs:

At one point, Graham donned Donald Trump's trademark "Make America Great Again" cap and sarcastically endorsed the real estate magnate.

We'd say we miss you, Lindsey, but this is the party Republicans built.