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Not so crowded: The main GOP debate on Thursday features six candidates, including Sen. Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz, seen here in a previous showdown. (AP Photo/John Locher)

The GOP debate: And then there were seven

- The Washington Times

The GOP presidential debate field is finally shrinking, down to seven on the main stage at the sixth Republican prime-time debate on Thursday, this one hosted by the Fox Business Network. The A-team for the bout: Donald Trump, Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Jeb Bush, plus Govs. Chris Christie and John Kasich -- who both have displayed surprising resilience in a volatile White House marketplace. The contenders met the qualifying popularity threshold in 17 national polls conducted through mid-December.

The countdown is underway for CPAC, which begins exactly seven weeks from Wednesday. (American Conservative Union)

Cheer up: The CPAC countdown now underway

- The Washington Times

It is a reassuring glow on the horizon: That would be CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Conference, now exactly seven weeks off and bustling with intense plans and a clear sense of mission. The ever-growing speakers roster includes Donald Trump, Sen. Ted Cruz, Reps. Jim Jordan and Marsha Blackburn, Carly Fiorina, Rick Santorum and John R. Bolton. Some 200 speakers typically appear at the three-day event, now scheduled for March 2-5, staged once again at the sparkling Gaylord National Resort on the banks of the Potomac River a few miles south of the nation's capital.

Former U.N. Ambassador John R. Bolton has endorsed 16 members of Congress running for re-election; his PAC will contribute $100,000 to them to maintain House and Senate majorities. (Associatd Press)

U.S. Muslim population projected to double

- The Washington Times

Based on a new demographic projection, Pew Research Center senior religion analyst Besheer Mohamed now estimates there are 3.3 million Muslims in the U.S. -- a number expected to reach over 8 million by 2050. "Recent political debates in the U.S. over Muslim immigration and related issues have prompted many to ask how many Muslims actually live in the United States.

Libertarian Gary Johnson is running for president for a second time and is ready to rumble. (Gary Johnson 2016/A LibertarianFuture.com)

The original outsider candidate: Gary Johnson next up to vie for vexed voters

- The Washington Times

The role of outsider candidate is a very popular one. Presidential hopefuls from both sides of the aisle now eagerly flaunt their status as can-do alternatives for voters weary of status quo politics. Now they have competition from Libertarian Gary Johnson, who's been honing his outsider craft since he ran for president in 2012, when he created a unique campaign culture and nabbed 1 percent of the vote. Denied a spot on the official debate podium that year, he staged his own version at the National Press Club with other third-party hopefuls, broadcast live on RT -- a Russian TV network.

Fox News host Megyn Kelly is the subject of a cover story in the February issue of Vanity Fair. (Image from Vanity Fair)

The unconstitutionality index: 3,408 new federal regulations, 87 laws

- The Washington Times

The nation continues to be a playground for government overreach. Behold the telling numbers, courtesy of Clyde Wayne Crews, vice president for policy for the ever-vigilant Competitive Enterprise Institute. While lawmakers struggle with cranky gridlock, federal agencies are only too happy to issue regulations at alarming rates.

Sen. Ted Cruz and Rep. Steve King take a moment during a recent pheasant hunt in Iowa. (Associated Press)

Ted Cruz offers a voter incentive: A custom shotgun

- The Washington Times

Some presidential campaigns raffle off lunch with the candidate, or maybe an autographed book. Others have a more gutsy outreach. Republican hopeful Sen. Ted Cruz is offering a custom shotgun as a premium for one lucky fan — an interesting choice now that President Obama has proclaimed gun control as one of the pillars of his agenda before he leaves office.

Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes has been named the most influential person in political news by Mediaite.com (Associated Press)

Roger Ailes, Matt Drudge, Rush Limbaugh among top 'most influential' people in political news media

- The Washington Times

Fox News has been the top rated cable news channel for the last 14 years, besting the competition throughout the day and in primetime - and now dominating the rest of the cable world, according to Nielsen Media numbers. Among 120 top cable networks, Fox New is ranked second only to ESPN. There's a reason for all of this, and most analysts cite the influence of Roger Ailes, the canny and powerful chief of the network, which will celebrate 20 years on the airways in 2016.

James Monroe (Image sourced from the White House)

Multitaskers: The senators who would be president

- The Washington Times

Let us ponder history: To date, a mere 16 senators have gone on to serve as president of the United States, beginning with James Monroe, who served four years in the Senate starting in 1790 and was elected president 23 years later. Only three -- Warren G. Harding, John F. Kennedy and Barack Obama -- moved directly from the Senate to the White House, according to Senate records. Consider that, just since 1972, a total of 50 sitting or former senators from 31 states have run for president a collective 62 times, with Mr. Obama the sole victor, according to a University of Minnesota analysis.

In this Dec. 15, 2015, file photo, Donald Trump, left, watches as Ted Cruz speaks during the CNN Republican presidential debate at the Venetian Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher) ** FILE **

Michael Savage: Trump makes the point in 'half a sentence'

- The Washington Times

Many ponder Donald Trump's persistent voter appeal. Longtime political observer Roger Stone recently suggested the candidate is an "alpha male" who would establish an "alpha male presidency," which appeals to many Americans, Mr. Stone says. Others cite the billionaire's blunt style.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Institute for Legal Reform has named the top most "ridiculous" lawsuits of the year and showcased them online. (Image from U.S. Chamber of Commerce)

The case of the monkey selfies tops 'Most Ridiculous Lawsuits of 2015'

- The Washington Times

There was the armed bank robber who filed a $6.3 million claim over injuries he sustained while fleeing the scene, and the inmate who sued a football team over a playoff loss. And don't forget the diner claiming injury over a "flying dinner roll." None of these legal actions made the Top Ten Most Ridiculous Lawsuits of 2015, a judgment call made by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Institute for Legal Reform.

A screenplay suggesting Ronald Reagan had dementia in office has made it to an influential Hollywood insiders' list as a potential feature movie project. (Associated Press)

Hollywood eyes an attack on Ronald Reagan ... Again

- The Washington Times

He was once one of their own, a matinee star who later became America's 40th president. Hollywood has not always been kind to Ronald Reagan, his life or his legacy; made-for-TV movies and feature productions often sidestepped his authentic accomplishments for cheap shots and melodrama, or cast in the leading role such liberal-leaning talent as Michael Douglas or James Brolin -- husband to Barbra Streisand.

Hillary Clinton at a campaign stop this week; the Democratic frontrunner continues to dominate the polls, say the 'Hillary Meter.' (Associated Press)

A coronation or a debate? The new 'Hillary Meter' says she's still the one

- The Washington Times

Not so long ago, there was talk that the "coronation" of Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton was not a given. She had competition. There was scandal talk of Benghazi and those pesky private emails to consider. The positive press narrative has returned her to the throne, however. As the third Democratic presidential debate looms on Saturday night in New Hampshire, Mrs. Clinton dominates the diminished field: 80 percent of all voters think she'll win the nomination; that includes 87 percent of giddy Democrats and 79 percent of disgruntled Republicans. So says the latest Rasmussen Reports "Hillary Meter" survey of likely voters released Thursday.

Sen. Ted Cruz embarks on a 12-city "Take Off With Ted" tour immediately after the Republican presidential debate Tuesday night. (Cruz for President)

Next stop for Ted Cruz: Super Tuesday

- The Washington Times

Debate, what debate? It's just another stop on a very long campaign trail. When the Republican showdown is over in Las Vegas, the candidates scatter, eager for the next voter meet-and-greet. Donald Trump immediately bolts for Arizona. Ben Carson heads for three cities across Nevada, then nine more in Iowa by week's end. Sen. Marco Rubio rockets off to Iowa and then New Hampshire on Wednesday, then races back to Iowa once again Thursday. Sen. Ted Cruz appears to have the most ambitious schedule among his immediate rivals, however. In 48 hours, he is embarking on a "Take Off With Ted" tour, flying into a dozen cities for a dozen rallies in one week's time -- including St. Paul, Minnesota; Birmingham, Alabama; Knoxville, Tennessee; Little Rock, Arkansas; and Tulsa, Oklahoma.