THE NEXT THREE WEEKS

1. It’s Tuesday, February 23, 2016.

2. President Obama wants to shut down the prison at Guantanámo Bay for those detained for suspected terrorism. He’s making proposals today, and, of course, Republicans in Congress will ignore them and condemn him for hating America.

The problem has always been that Guantanámo is a touchstone for those who really do hate America. It has been the best recruiting tool for al-Qaeda and ISIS since the George W. Bush administration got the idea soon after Sept. 11.

The President promised to shut it when he first took office. But conservatives, both Democrats and Republicans, have made it impossible to keep the promise.

Give the President credit for not giving up. But don’t expect Republicans to let this nation do the right thing anytime soon.

3. Republicans caucus in Nevada tonight, and then next Tuesday come votes and caucuses in 12 states. With so many races, it’s hard to say what exactly will happen. But you have to figure Trump will win a bunch, Cruz will take his home Texas and maybe some other state in the South, and Rubio has a shot at Virginia.

So I think the big day in the Republican race is March 15. And the big state is Florida.

It is a winner-take-all 99 delegate prize, one of the biggest in the Republican sweepstakes. It is one of those swing states that, thanks to our electoral system, get all the attention in the general election.

And it is the state that Marco Rubio represents in the U.S. Senate. When he decides to show up — he has a reputation for absenteeism that has been used against him in this campaign.

While Cruz is a strong favorite in his home state, Rubio is not. According to fivethirtyeight.com, Rubio is running second to Donald Trump in its analysis of polls taken in the state. Now, there doesn’t seem to have been one in about three weeks, but the fact that Rubio doesn’t have this locked is telling.

If Rubio can’t carry his home state in a Republican primary, it is going to make it that much harder to sell the idea that he can win the White House in all 50.

That’s what Trump is banking on. He is trying to get Cruz out of the way – as evidenced by all the “biggest liar” talk initiated by Trump in recent weeks – so he can take on Rubio one-on-one in Florida.

If Trump wins that, it’s over.

In some ways, it would be a blessing to know that the Republican skunk scent contest will be over before spring gets here. But if Donald Trump is the nominee apparent, the fact that he’s that much closer to the White House moves the terror level to red.

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