In it, but not of it. TPM DC

Marco Rubio didn't win Monday night in Iowa.

And no, a third place finish cannot be spun hard enough into a victory.

But for the Republican establishment, Rubio's solid third place in Iowa, clearly in the top tier with Ted Cruz and Donald Trump gives the party a way forward that doesn't pose the general election risks of the bombastic billionaire or the the uberconservative Texas senator.

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The Democratic Iowa caucus was locked in a virtual tie for most of Monday evening, with both sides trying to spin a victory in the first voting of the nominating process.

While the final outcome was still too close to call, Hillary Clinton delivered a speech to supporters at about 10:30 CT, congratulating her "esteemed friends and opponents" -- including former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, who dropped out earlier in the evening -- while avoiding mentioning the neck-and-neck state of the caucus.

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Ted Cruz, the first-term Texas senator who has made his rabble-rousing Senate tenure the centerpiece of his anti-establishment campaign, has won the Iowa caucuses and taken Donald Trump down in a major way.

"Tonight is a victory for the grassroots,” Cruz said in his victory speech in Iowa. "Tonight is a victory for millions of Americans who have shouldered the burden of seven years of Washington deals run amok. Tonight is a victory for every American who has watched in dismay as career politicians in Washington in both parties refuse to listen and too often failed to keep their commitments to the people."

Heading into Iowa Monday, TPM Poll Tracker showed Trump with a commanding lead over Cruz with 29.6 percent to 23.5 percent of the vote. As caucus results in Iowa came in, however, Trump underperformed and only managed to win about 24 percent of the vote, with more than 98 percent of precincts reporting.

Cruz was able to effectively knock down frontrunner Trump by capturing the appetite for an outsider and mobilizing an extensive ground game operation that included housing for out-of-state volunteers in the days and weeks leading up to the first-in-the-nation contest and an ambitious and meticulous county-by-county travel schedule.

"From day one, this campaign has been a movement," Cruz said. "Whatever Washington says. They cannot keep the people down."

Trump ran a fly in and fly out campaign that was marked by big old rallies in a state that prides itself on pressing the flesh of presidential candidates. Throughout the campaign in Iowa, Trump's campaign stayed quiet on its turnout game, which turned out to fall short of Cruz's operation.

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It’s a cliche at this point to say a primary election will all come down to turnout. But in Monday’s Iowa caucus, turnout is expected to play a big role not just in terms of who wins but in how early in the evening the major news outlets will be able to project the winners. Those staying up to see who won the first electoral contest of the cycle could be in for a long night if 2012 -- when Mitt Romney's tight victory was declared in the early morning hours (only to be reversed days later) -- repeats itself.

A big turnout could have an opposite effect on the two parties. For Democrats, it means a closer race to watch between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. For Republicans, a big turnout signals Donald Trump is primed to pull away from the rest of the field.

“If Sanders' folks don't turn out, it's clear Clinton wins," said Timothy Hagle, a political scientist professor of University of Iowa. “If Trump's folks don't turn out, it's not clear who wins."

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It was not a good week for Hillary Clinton.

The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza declared Clinton had the "worst week in Washington" after the campaign experienced "collapsing poll numbers on the eve of actual votes" in Iowa and New Hampshire.

"Bill Clinton Questioning Hillary Clinton's Super Tuesday Plan," Politico wrote Thursday in a detailed report on how the former president has been in "almost daily" contact with campaign manager Robby Mook over whether Hillary Clinton is really as prepped and ready as she needs to be to fend off a primary challenge from Sanders.

Polls in Iowa, increasingly show Sanders closing the gap with Clinton, putting into serious question whether the former secretary of state can escape the curse of her 2008 caucus meltdown even as her campaign has hustled to build an extensive grassroots operation from rural Dickinson County to Polk County, home of Des Moines.

With just one week to go until Iowa, even observers on the ground are admitting that Sanders's ground game looks like it has finally caught up to Clinton's.

"She learned her lesson and she said she was not going to be outworked this time, but again, Sanders has more enthusiasm. That might be what we see on caucus night," said Timothy Hagle, an expert on the caucus process in Iowa and a professor of political science at the University of Iowa. "Every time there is a dump of emails, it hurts her."

In New Hampshire, a CNN poll Tuesday showed Sanders with a staggering 27-point lead.

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It was not unexpected that the Supreme Court took up a case Tuesday challenging the Obama administration's executive actions on immigration. But it was somewhat of a surprise that in doing so, the court asked to be briefed on whether the memo outlining the administration's policy “violates the Take Care Clause of the Constitution” -- a question which was not addressed directly in lower court decisions and not among those the U.S. government included in its petition.

Its inclusion by the Supreme Court raises the stakes on the suit by opening up the possibility that the court is interested in hearing arguments that the executive action has violated not just administrative protocol or even statutory law, but the Constitution. A ruling by the court on that basis could redefine the parameters of executive power just as Obama is maximizing his use of unilateral action to bypass Congress in the waning days of his presidency.

“It would certainly be quite a surprising and dramatic result to say people can sue the government to say you're not enforcing the law the way we’d like. That would be a very dramatic change,” Andrew Pincus, a Supreme Court advocate supportive of the administration's position, told TPM.

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This month, Republicans in Congress achieved what they declared to be a major victory: they sent an Obamacare repeal to the president’s desk as test-run for next year, when they say there will be a Republican president in office to sign it.

But there’s just one problem with that plan. The details have been scant as to what the GOP presidential candidates -- who have uniformly railed against the Affordable Care Act -- intend to enact in its place.

After five years of promises to deliver an Obamacare replacement plan -- more than 20 such promises by one count --the GOP Congress still hasn't produced. And the same mix of political perils and policy paralysis that has hamstrung the Republicans on the Hill has left the party's presidential contenders with paltry real health care proposals that are short on details and long on vague assurances. The party that has spent years avoiding grappling with the economic, political, and policy complexities of health care reform seems no closer now that it was when Obamacare first became law.

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The answer to the question of whether Ted Cruz is eligible to be president of the United States lies deep in the recesses of English political history, according to a constitutional law expert who has researched the issue.

Mary Brigid McManamon, a law professor at Widener University’s Delaware Law School, makes the case that Ted Cruz is not eligible to be president because “natural born citizen” applies only to those born within U.S. territories. She wrote a Washington Post op-ed this week arguing as such, and previously wrote a 2014 legal paper on the topic.

What is certain is that the Constitution's definition of “natural born citizen” has not been tested and remains open to interpretation. As Michael Ramsey, a former clerk of Justice Antonin Scalia, put it in a 2013 essay otherwise defending Cruz’s eligibility: “[I]t's a mystery to me why any one thinks it's an easy question.”

TPM talked with McManamon by phone Wednesday to ask her a few more questions about her theory, which she said rested on English common law stretching all the way back to 1350.

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