1. In Bloomberg, Justin Sink writes about the political tension between Cruz and Trump as Iowa nears
The long and awkward truce between anti-establishment favorites Donald Trump and Ted Cruz blew apart at the Republican debate Thursday, as the two men battling for first place in the Iowa caucuses tore into each other over Cruz’s eligibility to be president.
Trump has raised the “birther” issue in recent days over Cruz’s birth in Canada to an American mother -- acknowledging he’s done so as Cruz has strengthened in the polls -- and Cruz accused him of political expediency.
2. In Politico, Noah Weiland talks about Cruz’s performance at the GOP debate
Halfway through Thursday's slugfest it appeared Rubio would be mostly shunned by his opponents, but he used an almost two-minute segment to air a litany of Cruz's flip-flops on immigration, which Cruz parried.
The final count had Cruz speaking the most for the third straight debate, finishing at 18 minutes and three seconds. Trump came in second with 17 minutes and 8 seconds. Rubio spoke for just over 14 minutes. The ever-muted Ben Carson finished last, speaking for just eight minutes and 25 seconds.
3. In CNN, Manu Raju reports about Rubio’s immigration negotiator.
Marco Rubio made a risky decision three years ago during high-profile immigration talks: He hired as his chief negotiator a corporate attorney who represented clients with a direct stake in the legislation.
The move surprised some on Capitol Hill, given the potential of a conflict-of-interest over hiring Florida lawyer Enrique Gonzalez, a friend of Rubio's for roughly two decades.
4. In Reuters, John Whitesides and Alana Wise write about Trump’s GOP debate performance.
With only a few weeks before Iowa's first-in-the-nation nominating contest on Feb. 1, more than 75 supporters showed up for a Trump debate watch party at the barbecue spot. They listened intently as the front-runner squared off against six Republican challengers, verbally urging him on at times.
Shouts of "You tell 'em, Donald!" and "Amen!" greeted Trump's best punch lines, although the crowd freely applauded several other candidates as long as they were directing insults at Obama, Clinton or Clinton's chief Democratic rival, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
5. In CNN, Jeremy Diamond reports the GOP debate winners and losers.
Donald Trump and Ted Cruz had their first fist-fight of the 2016 campaign during Thursday night's Republican debate. And they both won.
But they weren't the only victors in a night that revealed the top seven GOP presidential contenders' strengths and weaknesses just over two weeks before voters cast the first ballots in the Iowa caucuses.