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Here’s How Far Off Trump Clinching the Nomination Really Is

Republican presidential candidates, Trump, Rubio, Cruz and Kasich debate in Detroit. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

March brings college basketball madness, buds of spring and the Ides, that big day in Roman history. But will the month also yield the next Republican presidential nominee?  

It’s been the case for half the non-incumbent GOP standard bearers since Ronald Reagan, and Donald Trump’s lock on things this year seemed to be getting even tighter after the month began with big state wins on Super Tuesday.  

Trump and Christie: A Brash Buddy Movie

Christie and Trump visit during a break in the FEB. 6 Republican presidential debate in Manchester, N.H. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images file photo)

Whether the presidential race just got a lot more entertaining or frightening is the question.  

In true “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” fashion, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie endorsed New York billionaire Donald Trump in the race to be the Republican nominee, and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio must be sweating more than is his wont.  

Obama to GOP: Constitution 'Clear' on Scalia Replacement

President Barack Obama speaks during a press conference following a meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations at the Sunnylands estate in California. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

President Barack Obama on Tuesday pressed Senate Republicans to hold hearings and vote on his eventual Supreme Court nominee, saying the Constitution requires it.  

Obama offered few clues about the kind of individual he is seeking to replace the late Antonin Scalia, the 79-year-old conservative justice who was found dead Saturday. He did, however, say no candidate’s stance on any single issue would sway his decision and vowed to nominate a “very qualified” individual. He replied "no" — with a wide smile — when asked by a reporter if his calls for the Senate to conduct a confirmation process means he will send seek out a moderate nominee. Obama’s comments came during a news conference in California at an economic conference with Asian leaders.  

Saudi, UAE Forces Likely Too 'Stretched' to Fight Islamic State

Members of Iraqi pro-government forces ride atop their vehicle on the outskirts of Ramadi on Wednesday after they took back the area from ISIL forces. (Photo by MOADH AL-DULAIMI/AFP/Getty Images)

Key U.S. allies in the Middle East could be stretched too thin militarily to provide the ground combat troops the Obama administration, Republican lawmakers and experts agree are needed to defeat the Islamic State.  

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates this week both signaled a willingness to send elite commandos to Iraq and Syria. But an Obama administration official on Friday said those forces likely would only assist American troops with providing training and advice to local forces there.  

For Cruz and Rubio, No One Else Was on Debate Stage

It was clear from Tuesday's debate that Cruz and Rubio see each other as the real competition. (Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio only had blows for one another at Tuesday’s GOP presidential debate, with Rubio suggesting Cruz may have disclosed classified intelligence on the debate stage, and Cruz calling Rubio a liberal on immigration.  

In other words, each of the Cuban-American first-term senators made clear that he sees the other as his real competition.  

Defense Hawks Fine With Boost in War Account

McCain talks to reporters on Capitol Hill. (Photo By Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)

Top Senate defense hawks are satisfied with the increased Pentagon spending in the new budget deal, and several Democrats doubt that section will mean trouble for the sweeping package.  

The spending plan, which many senators on Tuesday said they are still reviewing, would boost discretionary spending caps by $50 billion in fiscal 2016 and $30 billion in 2017, with those hikes divided evenly between defense and domestic spending. But it also proposes something Democrats and the Obama administration for months have opposed: About $16 billion more than the $58 billion the White House had requested in 2016 for a Pentagon war account.  

Obama, Ryan Must Find Common Ground Soon

Ryan will seek the House speakership. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)

There could be little President Barack Obama can do to find common ground with Paul D. Ryan, given their deep ideological differences and House conservatives’ inevitable demands for the speaker-in-waiting.  

With Ryan's announcement that he will seek the speakership, all eyes now turn to the Wisconsin Republican's ability to manage his fractious caucus and find just enough common ground with a president many conservatives revile. Ryan will have little time to settle in because of some fast-approaching fiscal deadlines. Congressional leaders must find a way in coming weeks to avoid a potentially catastrophic debt default, then see if they can strike a long-term budget deal.  

Inviting Fight With China, Rubio Says Disputed Islands Belong to Japan

Rubio has been outlining his policy views in early primary and caucus states. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Sen. Marco Rubio said bluntly Friday the disputed Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea belong to Japan.  

The Chinese government "has unilaterally declared an 'air defense identification zone' over international waters and the Senkaku Islands, which are the territory of our ally Japan. In the South China Sea, Beijing has dispatched ships and planes, moved oil rigs and even constructed artificial islands in an attempt to strengthen its position militarily," the Republican presidential hopeful said during a broader speech in South Carolina about U.S.-China relations.