Caitlin MacNeal

Caitlin MacNeal is a News Writer based in Washington, D.C. Before joining TPM, Caitlin interned and wrote for the Huffington Post, the Sunlight Foundation and Slate. She is a graduate of Georgetown University.

Articles by Caitlin

Thursday night's Donald Trump-free debate was the second lowest rated Republican presidential debate this election cycle, according to Nielsen ratings reported by CNN.

The primetime debate drew 12.5 million viewers between 9 and 11 p.m., more than the 11 million that tuned in to the Fox Business Network Republican debate earlier in January but falling far short of the network's blockbuster debate in August that drew 25 million viewers.

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Jerry Falwell Jr., the president of evangelical Liberty University, on Thursday evening explained why he chose to endorse Donald Trump over other Republican presidential candidates who spend more time talking about their faith.

He said on CNN that when Liberty University was struggling financially, the school brought in "professionals" — "not people who shared our faith" — to help turn around the university. He said the United States needs to use the same approach when electing a president.

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Tennessee Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey (R) on Thursday claimed that state Rep. Jeremy Durham (R), who recently stepped down from his leadership post for allegedly sexually harassing female staffers with persistent texts, had an affair with a fellow lawmaker who was forced to resign from office.

"Honestly we don’t want the press lynching anybody. But the press didn’t force somebody to send text messages after midnight asking for pictures. The press didn’t force somebody to have an affair with another state Rep. and force them to resign," Ramsey said when asked at a Tennessee Press Association event if the legislature had the necessary information to expel Durham, according to the Nashville Scene. "So on and on and on. I think the evidence is there for this to happen. It’s such a huge distraction."

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Updated at 3:20 p.m.

Following the revelations that Tennessee state Rep. Jeremy Durham (R) sent late-night text messages to female staffers, state House Speaker Beth Harwell (R) told interns not attend legislature receptions or events and not to give their cell phone numbers to members of the legislature.

Durham on Sunday resigned from his position as majority whip, but did not step down from his seat in the legislature. His resignation followed a report in The Tennessean revealing that he had sent numerous messages to women asking for photos and to meet up, but Durham has denied sexually harassing anyone.

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The Republican lieutenant governor of South Carolina, Henry McMaster, endorsed Donald Trump on Wednesday evening, as more elected officials seem open to a Trump nomination.

"He is a man of accomplishment and speaks the truth in words everyone can understand, instills confidence in the people about our country’s bright future, and reflects and believes in the strength and determination necessary for success," McMaster, the former state GOP chairman, said in a statement, according to The State.

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Sen. Bernie Sanders' (I-VT) campaign on Wednesday released a statement pushing back against Hillary Clinton's call for the senator to attend an unsanctioned February debate, arguing that the former secretary of state wants more debates now because Sanders has gained "momentum."

"From the beginning of this campaign Sen. Sanders has called for more debates. Secretary Clinton has not. Now she is asking to change the rules to schedule a debate next week that is not sanctioned by the DNC," Sanders Campaign Manager Jeff Weaver said in a statement.

"Why is that? The answer is obvious. The dynamics of the race have changed and Sen. Sanders has significant momentum," he added.

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Fox News host Bill O'Reilly on Wednesday night desperately tried to convince Donald Trump that he should attend the Thursday Fox News debate, but the Fox host's effort failed to change the Republican presidential candidate's mind.

Right off the bat, Trump reminded O'Reilly of his feud with Megyn Kelly, a Fox host and moderator in Thursday's debate.

"I have zero respect for Megyn Kelly," Trump said. "I don’t think she’s good at what she does, and I think she’s highly overrated. And frankly, she’s a moderator; I thought her question last time was ridiculous."

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With his Fox News channel in a spat with one New York City billionaire running for president, News Corp chief Rupert Murdoch on Wednesday seemed to urge another to jump in the race.

Murdoch tweeted that this was the "last chance" for former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to run for president:

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New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) said on Wednesday that he is happy that Donald Trump won't participate in the Thursday debate hosted by Fox News, but that the real estate mogul's boycott is ultimately a "mistake."

"I think it just makes people call into question his judgment," Christie said on Boston Herald Radio's "Morning Meeting." "I got knocked down from the main debate stage to the undercard debate by Fox Business News. I thought it was unfair, but I didn’t whine. I didn’t complain."

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