Cruz attends Scalia mass, as GOP candidates set focus on South Carolina

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Senator Ted Cruz (C) and former Vice President Dick Cheney (upper L) take their seats for the funeral Mass for Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington February 20, 2016. Photo By Doug Mills/Reuters

Senator Ted Cruz (C) and former Vice President Dick Cheney (upper L) take their seats for the funeral Mass for Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington February 20, 2016. Photo By Doug Mills/Reuters

COLUMBIA, S.C. — The Latest on the 2016 president election and two crucial contests Saturday: South Carolina’s Republican primary and Nevada’s Democratic caucuses (all times local):

John Kasich’s presidential campaign is already claiming a victory of sorts in South Carolina.

A top strategist, John Weaver, tells reporters that however the Republican candidate does in Saturday’s primary, Kasich’s showing will be enough to “drive somebody else out of the race.”

Weaver says he’s expecting two candidates to drop out over the next week – including Jeb Bush. Weaver says that “for all practical purposes, there’s no path forward” for the former Florida governor.

Kasich finished second in the New Hampshire primary, but the expectations are lower for his performance in South Carolina.

The Ohio governor hasn’t ignored South Carolina, but he has focused resources on states in the Midwest and Northeast that host contests in March.

10:45 a.m.

Ted Cruz has taken time away from campaigning in South Carolina to attend the funeral Mass in Washington for the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

The Republican presidential candidate plans to be back in South Carolina later Saturday to await the results. Voting ends at 7 p.m.

The Texas senator has a personal connection to the high court: In the late 1990s, he served as a law clerk for a year to then-Chief Justice William Rehnquist.

10:10 a.m.

Jeb Bush says he’s “excited where we stand” as he faces a critically important test in South Carolina’s Republican presidential primary.

Bush says he’s going to “work hard for the day” and await results after the polls close at 7 p.m. He says “it’s interesting that a lot of people claim they’re undecided this late.”

The former Florida governor entered the 2016 presidential race as an early favorite. But he may need a third-place finish – if not better – in South Carolina in order to remain a viable candidate.

Bush tells reporters outside a polling location in Greenville that “to be able to beat expectations would be helpful. I think we’ll do that.”

And his take on the prospects of a President Donald Trump? Bush says the billionaire businessman “can’t win, plain and simple.”

9:15 a.m.

Will there by a “Haley effect” in South Carolina’ Republican presidential primary?

Jason Sims – a teacher from Mount Pleasant – says he made a last-minute decision to vote for Marco Rubio, and that Gov. Nikki Haley’s endorsement was “a big deal.”

Sims say he was “kind of riding the fence” until Haley said she was backing the Florida senator.

Rubio is trying to rebound after a disappointing fifth-place finish in New Hampshire – and he’s hoping the popular governor’s endorsement will be a big boost.

Rubio wants to emerge as the go-to candidate for mainstream Republicans – and the chief alternative to Donald Trump and Ted Cruz in the race.

8:40 a.m.

There’s a lot of attention on Jeb Bush as South Carolina Republican vote in their presidential primary.

The former Florida governor entered the 2016 presidential race as an early favorite. But he may need a third-place finish – if not better – on Saturday in order to remain viable in the race.

Bush finished sixth in Iowa’s leadoff caucuses and fourth in New Hampshire.

He’s trying to break out as the establishment alternative to Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. But Bush has competition on that front, chiefly from Marco Rubio and John Kasich.

Without a strong showing in South Carolina, the Bush campaign may have a hard time competing in Nevada next week and then in the large number of states voting on March 1.

7:50 a.m.

It’s a significant Saturday in the 2016 presidential campaign as voters in the South and the West get their first say in the race.

Polls have opened in South Carolina for the Republican primary. Voting ends at 7 p.m.

A Donald Trump victory could foreshadow strong showings in Southern states that vote on March 1 – when he could pile up the delegates that determine the nominee. Ted Cruz hopes his get-out-the-vote operation and lots of volunteers can help overtake Trump in South Carolina.

Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush are fighting to establish themselves as credible alternatives.

On the Democratic side, Nevada’s caucuses don’t get underway until 2 p.m. Eastern time. Hillary Clinton’s team is expecting a tight race with Bernie Sanders in a state the Clinton team once saw as a chance to start pulling away from the Vermont senator.

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