Some in the GOP establishment continue to predict Donald Trump will quit the race before anyone votes, if his poll numbers take a dip.
But Trump's team not only scoffs at such talk, it is taking steps to prove he intends to be a factor deep into the nominating calendar.
Robert Costa of The Washington Post reports that Trump is looking to hire a seasoned strategist with eyes on the string of Southern primaries in early March that people are calling the SEC primaries, referring to college football's Southeastern Conference.
"I recently sat down with Corey Lewandowski, Trump's campaign manager, and I said 'How do you see the map?' And he said the March 1 SEC primaries, the Deep South, is where Trump could really catapult towards the nomination," said Costa.
"Lewandowski said his biggest hire is going to be a regional political director for the South, then hire more people in Georgia, and come out of South Carolina with some momentum -- that's how Trump sees it. He may not win Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. Hopes to, but if he doesn't, he wants that March 1 primary, those SEC states, to be places where they could maybe get victories."
2. Could Rubio fund-raisers draw Bush supporters?
Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida is looking to cash in on his positive debate reviews.
Jonathan Martin of The New York Times reports that Rubio in the week ahead has fund-raising events slated in Florida and the New York area. The guest lists will draw scrutiny, Martin says, because of any Bush supporters who might be showing some interest in the other candidate who calls Florida his home base.
"He's going to be raising money twice this week in Florida and twice in New York," said Martin.
"Obviously in Florida, lots of overlap with Jeb Bush, who of course was the governor there. And in places like New York, a lot of people there were leaning toward Bush because of their ties to the family. Who comes to those events? Keep your eyes peeled."
3. Debate complaints -- but some of the 'asks' are iffy
Most of the Republican campaigns had a list of complaints
after the GOP debate on CNBC last week. And some of them -- like the need for more time to answer questions -- are already being incorporated into the next debate.
But as the campaigns stage a gripe session Sunday night
near Washington, some of the demands have, shall we say, more merit than others.
Jackie Kucinich of The Daily Beast says having a giant debate with all 14 candidates is one nonstarter.
"People familiar with this process tell me there are some hard realities that they're going to have to confront," she said. "For example, the undercards are pushing to have all 14 people on stage. I'm told that's not going to happen. Ben Carson's camp has been pushing for longer opening statements. Also told that's not going to happen.
"So while they are getting a little bit of leverage, the sort of pie-in-the-sky 'big asks' are probably not going to happen."
4. Paul Ryan will have some early tests
Paul Ryan begins his first full week as House speaker with a luxury of sorts -- his predecessor, on the way out, pushed through a budget agreement that buys Ryan some time.
But it won't be too long of a honeymoon.
The Atlantic's Molly Ball notes there are some thorny issues that will soon test Ryan's sway with the same group of conservatives that constantly challenged John Boehner.
"They've got to actually pass the funding bills, to flesh out this budget deal, they've got to pass a highway bill," said Ball. "So pretty soon we're going see whether Paul Ryan gets any sort of honeymoon from the House conservatives, and whether he actually stands a chance of managing the chaos over there any better than his predecessor did."
5. The establishment fights back: Targeting Ryan foes
Ryan was elected with overwhelming but not unanimous Republican support on the House floor: Nine restless conservatives refused to vote for their Wisconsin colleague.
It's the latest example of long-simmering tensions within the GOP -- and the establishment is taking note.
Forces within the establishment are taking a look at the districts those nine represent, and looking to see if at least a few could be surprised with GOP primary challenges.
There is no realistic hope of targeting all nine, but watch the filing deadlines to see if the establishment can find strong challengers to at least three or four of the rebels.