In it, but not of it. TPM DC

A few weeks ago, Ted Cruz’s calculus for declining to attack Donald Trump seemed obvious: Trump was rallying exactly the core anti-immigration base Cruz had long cultivated, so by sticking out Trump’s inevitable fall, the Texas senator would be the obvious alternative for those followers.

But now that it looks like nothing will knock Teflon Trump out of the race anytime soon, Cruz is running the risk that Trump will ultimately usurp Cruz's brand, his base of support, and the rationale for his entire candidacy.

“Donald Trump has out-Ted Cruz-ed Ted Cruz,” Luis Alvarado, a GOP consultant, told TPM. “He’s probably kicking furniture in his living room.”

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Real estate mogul Donald Trump has made it through the first Republican presidential primary debate and, according to an NBC News poll, remains the undisputed frontrunner for the Republican nomination. Still, the fallout from his comments about Fox News host Megyn Kelly and dysfunction within the ranks of his campaign team could further complicate the direction of his campaign from here on out.

Just before the first Republican primary debate of the election cycle kicked off, New York Magazine reported that Trump's campaign was going through some particularly rough growing pains as the new and old guard duked it out over strategy. Those tensions came to a head over the weekend in what the Trump campaign said was the firing of a top adviser.

Here's a quick guide to those personalities who are running the day-to-day of Trump's campaign or exerting their influence on the candidate from the outside. Several Trump associates have already spectacularly flamed out as well.

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While abortion has already been ruling the headlines, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) was forced to dip into the thorny issue of whether abortions should be banned for victims of rape during the GOP's top-tier debate Thursday night.

When moderator Megyn Kelly suggested Rubio was in favor of rape exemptions in abortion bans, Rubio pushed back and argued he never supported such an exception.

"I have never said that, and I have never advocated that," Rubio said. "I have advocated that we pass a law that says all human life at every stage of development is worthy of protection."

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A panel of one of the nation's most notoriously conservative appeals courts in the country delivered a victory to voting rights activists. While the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down Texas’ voter ID law -- known as one of the strictest in the country -- on narrow grounds Wednesday, it also set the stage for further challenges to restrictive voting laws under a crippled Voting Rights Act, which celebrated its 50th anniversary Thursday.

Critics have claimed that the types of identification Texas law required voters to present - allowing gun permits but not student ID cards, for instance - have made it harder for Democratic-leaning minority, younger and lower income people to vote.

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While many eyes will be directed at the fireworks expected during Thursday's GOP debates, a more ominous storm is looming over Capitol Hill, where lawmakers are set to leave for their long August break, despite facing a number of high-stakes deadlines right around the corner. When lawmakers return, they will be under an intense time crunch to resolve battles over everything from Iran to Planned Parenthood funding to a possible government shutdown.

Adding to the chaos is a White House race where GOP contenders in the Senate will be looking to make a splash. Congress will come back the week after Labor Day -- which falls especially late this year -- and its tight window will be further interrupted by two Jewish holidays and Pope Francis' visit to the Capitol.

Here are the battles to watch out for:

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