So that Republican debate last night was … civil? Weird.

Per POLITICO, GOP insiders generally think Marco Rubio had the debate he needed, but it probably came too late to stop Trump.

Marco Rubio delivered a strong debate performance on Thursday night – but it probably won’t save him in Florida next week against Donald Trump.

That’s the verdict rendered by The POLITICO Caucus, a panel of activists, strategists and operatives in key states participating in the presidential primary process this month — including Florida, North Carolina and Ohio, which vote on March 15.

A majority of Republican insiders said Rubio won the debate. But another quarter gave the victory to a subdued Trump, who wasn’t under siege from his opponents as in the past two debates. […]

But even some insiders who said Rubio performed well also indicated that he did little to damage Trump, who is leading both public and private polling ahead of next Tuesday’s winner-take-all primary.

“While he had some strong points especially when talking about Cuba,” an Ohio Republican said, “it is not enough to deliver his home state on Tuesday.”

Without a win in Florida, Rubio’s done.

But back to that civility thing:

Stepping back from the angry rhetoric that had alarmed voters, Republican presidential rivals engaged in a surprisingly civil but tense debate Thursday night in their last face-off before a round of critical big state primaries next week.

The tone of the event was a significant departure from last week’s low-blow rhetorical brawl in Detroit where personal insults flowed freely. Donald Trump Thursday never uttered the words “Little Marco” or “Lyin’ Ted,” epithets he’s used previously to heap scorn on Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Fla, and Ted Cruz, R-Texas.

Trump emerged relatively unscathed — his rivals barely laid a hand on him and he kept his tendency toward brashness largely in check. Perhaps the toughest questioning he faced was from CNN’s Jake Tapper, who pressed him on violent incidents that have occurred at his rallies.

Confronted with his own quotes that he’d “like to punch” a protester in the face or “knock the crap” out of another, Trump said he hoped his tone did not contribute and suggested that his large rallies attract protesters who are looking for trouble.

“We have some protesters who are bad dudes, they are swinging they are really dangerous,” he said. “Big strong powerful guys doing damage to people.”

“Big strong powerful guys”? Hmmm. Wonder what he means by that. On to the Roundup!

1. Speaking of violent incidents that happen at Trump rallies:The old white guy who cold-cocked a young black protester at Trump’s event in Fayetteville two days ago was finally arrested.

A white Donald Trump rally attendee was charged with assault Thursday after he was caught on video hitting a black man being escorted by deputies from the venue, authorities said.

John Franklin McGraw, 78, of Linden, was charged with assault and disorderly conduct after the rally for the Republican presidential front-runner Wednesday in Fayetteville. He also was later charged with communicating threats after investigators reviewed a television interview McGraw gave after the rally.

A news release from the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office said said the assault victim was being escorted out of Crown Coliseum after disrupting the rally, and deputies had their eyes on the stairs when the assault happened.

“The deputies who did not see the assault continued up the steps with the victim, who was ultimately escorted from the Coliseum,” the news release said.

Yeah, they didn’t see it. Sure.

About those threats:

The video shows the man going on to say: “Yes, he deserved it. The next time we see him, we might have to kill him. We don’t know who he is. He might be with a terrorist organization.”

A few days earlier, a reporter from the right-wing, Trump-supporting outlet Breitbart said recently that Trump’s campaign manager assaulted her when she went to ask him a question after a rally. Here’s the Trump Camp’s response: Nuh-huh, she’s lying!

Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump accused a Breitbart reporter of fabricating her accusation that his campaign manager grabbed her hard enough to leave a bruise during a campaign event.

Trump told reporters after Thursday night’s GOP debate in Miami that nothing happened.

“Perhaps she made the story up. I think that’s what happened,” he said of Tuesday night’s alleged incident.

2. Hillary was in Durham, Bernie will be in Raleigh. Hillz was at an at-capacity high school in the Bull City yesterday, hoping to run up the margins in her expected victory here next week. (Though, as Michigan showed, the polls are only right until they’re not. That being said, if Bernie is going to outperform polls again next week, he’s more likely to do so in the open primaries of Ohio and Missouri—and, somewhat less likely, Illinois—than in the closed primaries of Florida and North Carolina.) And there, where (justifiably!) railing against the legislature’s lackluster education policy, she made a little oopsie. Per the N&O:

North Carolina once was known for its commitment to public education, she said.

“We watched your Republican governor and legislature slowly erode the base of public education in this state,” she said.

“Public education remains the foundation of our democracy.”

In her criticism, she said Republicans “slashsed teacher salaries,” which is not true. The legislature increased all teacher salaries two years ago, and last year funded the second year of a two-year plan to raise pay for early career teachers.

What she should have said is that the state’s per-pupil funding has declined since 2010 and its teachers are among the lowest-paid in the country, so poorly paid that recruiting and retaining teachers in this state has become something of a problem.

And Bernie will be at the Raleigh Memorial Auditorium today in downtown Raleigh.

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders will bring his Democratic presidential campaign to downtown Raleigh on Friday morning with a rally at Raleigh Memorial Auditorium.

Sanders will discuss college affordability, immigration reform and the economy at the rally, according to a statement from his campaign.

The program will begin at noon in the auditorium at the Duke Energy Performing Arts Center at 2 E. South Street. Doors will open at 10 a.m.

This event is free and open to the public, but RSVPs are strongly encouraged. Admission is first come, first served.

3. Activists press their case for a police accountability board in Raleigh.

Dozens of residents turned out for the City of Raleigh’s Human Relations Commission meeting Thursday, to ask commission members to look into a community oversight board that would investigate citizen complaints against police officers.

Many of the residents, clad in black T-shirts and holding signs calling for justice, are members of a coalition of community leaders and groups, as well as nonprofits, known as the Police Accountability Community Taskforce (PACT). They hope the commission will make a recommendation to the City Council to look into authorizing a board composed of appointed citizens, with subpoena, investigative and disciplinary power, to review citizens’ complaints.

The presentation comes days after the officer-involved killing of southeast Raleigh resident Akiel Denkins.

4. Court rules abortion-hating license plates are A-OK.

A federal appeals court has reversed its earlier ruling and says North Carolina can offer a “Choose Life” license plate for abortion opponents without offering a plate with an opposing message.

Last June, the U.S. Supreme Court sent the “Choose Life” case back to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals with instructions to reconsider it in light of a ruling in a Texas case.

In a 2-1 ruling Thursday, the appeals court reversed its earlier ruling that said it was unconstitutional for the state to issue “Choose Life” plates and reject an abortion rights plate.

“We now conclude that specialty license plates issued under North Carolina’s program amount to government speech and that North Carolina is therefore free to reject license plate designs that convey messages with which it disagrees,” Chief Judge William Traxler wrote.

The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina criticized the ruling.

“It’s very disappointing that North Carolina can now deny drivers on one side of this contentious issue an equal ability to express their views,” ACLU executive director Sarah Preston said in a news release. “Regardless of the court’s ruling, the General Assembly should finally do the right thing and allow citizens on both sides of this controversial issue to purchase specialty license plates supporting their views.”

The case stems from a 2011 state law that allowed the production of a “Choose Life” license plate but refused to offer alternatives with messages supported by abortion-rights advocates.

Has anyone else noticed a correlation between people with Choose Life plates and people who do the speed limit in the left lane? Just me?

5. Duke falls, UNC rolls.

First up, the Blue Devils:

All Mike Krzyzewski could do after Duke’s 84-79 overtime loss was shake his head.

His Blue Devils had played “beautiful” basketball, to use one of his favorite descriptors, for 25 minutes, building a 16-point lead. And then it all started to unravel as the Blue Devils stopped hitting shots. […] It’s the first time Duke has blown such a lead since losing 65-64 in overtime to Pittsburgh in Madison Square Garden on Dec. 20, 2007.

And happier times in Chapel Hill:

In victory, top-seeded UNC advanced to play against Notre Dame, the tournament’s fifth seed, on Friday at 7 p.m. in the ACC tournament semifinals. UNC endured an 80-76 loss at Notre Dame on Feb. 6 in the team’s only meeting.

After that game, UNC coach Roy Williams questioned his team’s toughness and poise. Those things weren’t lacking on Thursday.

That’s all for this week, folks. See you on the other side.