THE BIG IDEA:
— With the Iowa caucuses just one week from today, there is growing concern among elites in both parties about what it means for the state’s special status if Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz win but go on to lose the nomination.
If the Vermont senator wins, it could extend the Democratic primaries for months and bloody Hillary Clinton for the general election.
If the Texas senator wins, it would be the third race in a row that the most vocal of the socially-conservative contenders prevails. Just like 2008 caucus winner Mike Huckabee and 2012 winner Rick Santorum, Cruz has staked out positions on issues from abortion to gay marriage that would make it difficult to win a national election.
There are also perennial concerns about Iowa bungling its moment in the spotlight. Four years ago, Mitt Romney was named the winner on caucus night – only to have the call reversed weeks later.
“Iowa is already in trouble,” said one worried former state GOP official, who is not aligned with either of the leading candidates. “It’s definitely in danger. If anything goes wrong on caucus night, it’s just over.” He was one of a dozen Iowans I spoke with about this issue on Sunday.
— Donald Trump has regained an edge over Cruz in Iowa. A Fox News poll released yesterday shows the billionaire leading Cruz by 11 points among likely caucus-goers (34 percent to 23 percent), a 15-point swing in his favor since the start of this month. Cruz’s 14-point advantage among white evangelical Christians is now down to a 2-point edge, per Fox. A less reliable CBS/YouGov poll put Trump up 5 points in Iowa (39-34), with recent gains driven by evangelicals and tea partiers ditching Cruz. It’s the latest bad news for the Texan, as sustained assaults from all sides (on everything from ethanol to being born in Canada) take a toll on his image.
— Key establishment figures appear to be subtly tipping the scales toward Trump, partly because they worry about the consequences of a Cruz victory for the Hawkeye State’s legitimacy.
Chuck Grassley, the senior senator, spoke at Trump’s rally in Pella on Saturday. Standing behind a “Trump” podium, he echoed the frontrunner’s campaign slogan and spoke about “once again” making America great. “I want Mr. Trump to know that I appreciate his support for me and most importantly for Iowa being first in the nation, our all-important Iowa caucus,” Grassley told the crowd of about 500.
Then Republican Party of Iowa Chairman Jeff Kaufmann showed up at Trump’s rally on Sunday in Muscatine, saying he will support The Donald “one thousand percent, period” if he wins the caucuses.
Gov. Terry Branstad, who said last week he wants Cruz to lose and whose son is running the anti-Cruz campaign funded by the agriculture industry, even went deer hunting with Trump’s son, Donald Jr.
Aides to Grassley and Kaufmann sought to downplay the significance of their appearances, stressing that neither is endorsing the businessman. Kaufmann has introduced other candidates over the past year, and Grassley plans to appear with other candidates later this week.
— But their appearance sent an unmistakable message to rank-and-file Republicans that it is acceptable to support Trump, making it a pretty significant weekend for Trump’s efforts to make inroads with the establishment. Grassley last week, like Branstad, also made clear that he disagrees with Cruz on ethanol and wind.
“This is a double-edged sword,” explained a veteran GOP operative who is aligned with the Branstad wing of the party. “If the national frontrunner wins Iowa, are we really so special? On the flip side, if we nominate a totally unelectable anathema to our party, the DC powerbrokers will yank it away from us faster than you can say ‘Ted Cruz.’ Neither prospect is particularly attractive, but it’s where we are. The fact is, we are safer giving the nod to the national front-runner because if Trump wins here, he is the likeliest of nominees.”
Craig Robinson, editor of a popular blog called The Iowa Republican, said “discussions like these are overblown, but Iowa will be defined by whoever wins here.”
“If Cruz wins Iowa, I expect to hear the same tired argument that Iowa is just too conservative,” Robinson emailed between the AFC and NFC championship games. “If Trump wins, I’m not sure that one can argue that we’ve gone mad because it essentially will confirm the polling we see nationally and even in other early states. Frankly, if Trump is able to pull off a win in Iowa, it will disprove the past critics who claim that we are just too socially conservative.”
— Some reject Trump vs. Cruz as a false choice. Joni Ernst, for example, will join Marco Rubio at a rally in Des Moines today. It is not an official endorsement, but the first-term senator will offer valuable validation for her colleague, who has moved into a clear third-place. “Marco is not only a strong conservative and a good friend, but someone that I trust to secure our country,” Ernst said in a statement.
— Get serious was an implicit theme in the Des Moines Register’s weekend endorsements of both Hillary Clinton and Rubio. Neither editorial could be described as ringing:
- Of Clinton: “She is not a perfect candidate … [but] a successful Sanders presidency would hinge on his ability to remake Washington in his own image. It’s almost inconceivable that such a transformation could take place … In the final analysis, Iowa Democrats will have to choose between the lofty idealism of Sanders and the down-to-earth pragmatism of Clinton.”
- Of Rubio: “We endorse him because he represents his party’s best hope. … The editorial board also values the executive experience, pragmatism and thoughtful policies of John Kasich, Chris Christie and Jeb Bush. Yet most Republicans aren’t interested in rewarding a long resume this year. They want new and different. Yes, we wish the first-term senator had greater experience. Yes, we wish he followed the lead of colleague Chuck Grassley and rarely missed a vote in the Senate. … Rubio has plenty to prove and many questions to answer if he is to unite the party’s factions.”
— Most Americans already do not like Iowa’s special role in picking the president. Half of registered voters in a national poll conducted through this weekend by the Morning Consult said they support reducing Iowa and New Hampshire’s influence in the nominating process. Only 16 percent oppose such changes. In the weighted online poll, with a sample of more than 2,000 voters, a majority supported three significant changes. Two-thirds back a nationwide primary, in which all states would hold their primaries and caucuses on the same day; 63 percent support rotating the first state among all the states; and 55 percent back a Regional Primary System, in which states in each census region would hold their primaries and caucuses on the same day. See the crosstabs – and read a full memo – from the nonpartisan Morning Consult here.
— Iowa boosters also say that their state should not get credit or blame for Cruz, Trump or Sanders – because each has tapped into something much bigger. A senior Iowa Republican argues that Trump and Cruz are a national problem, not an Iowa one: “Of course it is a concern, but no less a concern than what shape the Republican Party is in nationally if we nominate Cruz or Trump. Iowa is simply a window into the broader Republican Party, and national leaders and strategists who fail to acknowledge that reality are fooling themselves.”
To be sure, Iowa has rarely been determinative, and historically the state plays more of a winnowing role. Only three non-incumbent candidates have won the caucuses and went on to win the presidency since 1972—Jimmy Carter, George W. Bush and President Obama.
— Quadrennial complaints about Iowa are inevitable, but experts agree that any change is unlikely. University of Georgia political scientist Josh Putnam, who obsessively tracks the party calendars on his Frontloading HQ blog, outlined the difficulties of uprooting the four early states. “That is mostly because there would likely have to be agreement across the DNC and RNC not only to shift any of them away from the front of the queue, but on which state would replace them,” he emailed. “The first of those hurdles is difficult enough to clear. The second would be even tougher since the two parties have competing but different interests.”
Inevitably, though, other states will try to move up their contests again if Iowa is perceived as botching the caucuses. Florida, which scheduled an early primary in 2012, moved it back this year to avoid losing delegates as punishment. The main motivation was making sure that favorite son Jeb Bush – back when he was perceived as the likely front-runner – got all the Sunshine State’s delegates on March 15. Other states, like Michigan, could also try to move earlier to get more attention from the candidates.
Finally, don’t underestimate the power of the Clintons to make Iowa pay if it thumbs its nose at her. If she’s elected president, despite finishing third in 2008 and second in 2016, the state will probably not have a friend in the White House. One joke going around is that Hillary won’t just maneuver to have the state lose its first-in-the-nation status, but that she’d strip Iowa of statehood too.
— SANDERS PIVOTS: Bernie is attacking Hillary more directly, on policy and character. He told The Post’s John Wagner and Phil Rucker in a weekend interview that Clinton is running a “desperate” campaign because her supporters lack enthusiasm. “Our campaign is not going to simply sit back and accept all of these attacks,” Sanders said aboard a chartered jet. “We are going to win this thing.” In speeches at his rallies, he sprinkles in previews of “a Sanders administration.” He said he expects Clinton to “throw the kitchen sink” in the coming week. He questioned Clinton’s association with David Brock, the head of the pro-Clinton super PAC Correct the Record, whom Sanders called “a professional political hit man.” John and Phil report from Iowa that Sanders is demonstrating “he has both the stomach and the punch for a political brawl — even one against the Clintons and their defenders.”
Sanders notes that Clinton is repeating the same lines of attack against him that she used in 2008. “If you look at the arguments they’re raising against me — I don’t have enough experience in foreign policy, I’m a pie-in-the-sky kind of guy and promising things that are unrealistic — if you check it out, that’s very much what they said about Barack Obama,” he said in the interview.
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
— Cleaning up the snow in D.C. could take days: “Virtually all school systems and colleges in the region said they would be closed Monday. The federal government and state and county governments also said they would be closed Monday. Authorities urged drivers to stay off the roads and pedestrians to stay out of the streets. They said that digging out from a storm that lasted almost 36 hours and delivered more than two feet of snow in some areas will hobble movement well into the workweek.” Dulles and Reagan airports will resume limited flights on Monday but the U.S. House canceled its session for the week. See a list of major closures for the day.
Here’s how Snowzilla ranks among the top storms in our region:
And read more about the mega-storm that was:
- Some parts of the D.C. area got as much as 35 inches of snow. (Ashley Halsey III, Patricia Sullivan and Michael Laris)
- Metro trains will run from 7 a.m. to midnight today with limited service on the Red, Orange and Green lines, and it won’t cost you anything. The Orange Line will run between Ballston and Eastern Market; the Red Line will run between Medical Center and Union Station; and the Green Line will run between Fort Totten and Anacostia. Trains will run every 20 to 25 minutes. (Paul Duggan)
- “It was the biggest snowstorm ever in Baltimore, Allentown, Pa., and Harrisburg, Pa., according to the National Weather Service,” with 18 deaths linked to the storm (Renae Merle and Christian Davenport)
- Today’s weather forecast in Washington: “Definitely be on the lookout for icy patches,” the Capital Weather Gang warns. “Melted slush from Sunday afternoon froze solid overnight with temperatures in the single digits and teens early this morning. But aided by abundant sunshine, temperatures mount a steady comeback, reaching the mid-to-upper 30s this afternoon. Light winds.”
- A longtime Capitol police officer, Vernon J. Alston, died after suffering a heart attack while shoveling snow. (Peter Hermann)
- The storm produced historic coastal flooding along parts of the East Coast, surpassing Hurricane Sandy in Cape May, N.J. New records were set in Lewes, Del. and parts of the shoreline were washed out to sea with 75 mph winds in Dewey Beach, Del. (Capital Weather Gang)
— In an interview with Politico, President Obama “couldn’t hide his obvious affection for Clinton,” saying she understands the complex demands of the presidency. “Bernie came in with the luxury of being a complete long shot and just letting loose,” Obama told Glenn Thrush. “I think Hillary came in with the both privilege – and burden – of being perceived as the frontrunner… You’re always looking at the bright, shiny object that people haven’t seen before – that’s a disadvantage to her.” Obama also waxed nostalgic on his career-making triumph in the 2008 Iowa caucus, “the most satisfying political period in my career,” and said Clinton is facing “unfair scrutiny.” When Obama was asked if Sanders’s underdog campaign reminds him of his own, Obama dismissed the idea, saying “I don’t think that’s true.”
— Rick Perry endorsed Cruz. The former Texas governor will campaign with the senator this week in Iowa, per Politico’s Katie Glueck.
GET SMART FAST:
- The Broncos will play the Panthers in Super Bowl 50. Carolina beat the Arizona Cardinals 49-15 in the NFC Championship; Denver won 20-18 in a much more exciting AFC championship.
- Almost 50,000 South Carolina residents tried to buy guns in December, the most in history. (Post and Courier)
- The percentage of public schools offering Advanced Placement courses has dropped, as small and rural districts withdraw from the program. (Jay Matthews)
- A former high-ranking Chicago police official who also led the police units in Philadelphia and Washington was hired by Rahm Emanuel as a senior adviser to help with civil rights reforms. (AP)
- Twitter’s CEO announced a major shake-up, ousting five top executives. (Hayley Tsukayama)
- An Texas eighth-grader was suspended after carrying an asthma-stricken classmate to the nurse’s office, which defied his teacher’s orders to wait for the nurse to come to the classroom. (Peter Holley)
- The U.S. may increase its financial aid to Laos to help it remove unexploded bombs left behind from the Vietnam war, John Kerry announced during a visit to the country. (Carol Morello)
- Portugal elected a center-right president, balancing a center-left government swept into power by October’s parliamentary elections. (AP)
- The Defense Department will take over responsibility from the OPM for storing sensitive information on millions of federal employees, and a new agency called the National Background Investigations Bureau will conduct all federal background checks. (Eric Yoder)
- The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will no longer pay for aircraft to help whooping cranes migrate each year from Wisconsin to Florida. (AP)
- Dennis Hastert’s lawyers asked a judge to delay his Feb. 29 sentencing for violating federal banking laws because of the former speaker’s ongoing health issues, which they say have prevented him from preparing. (Matt Zapotosky)
- Eight museum workers in Egypt face legal discipline for “gross negligence” after they scratched and damaged King Tut’s mask while trying to repair it. Tut’s beard was accidentally knocked off. (AP)
SUNDAY SHOW HIGHLIGHTS:
- Chris Christie, on CNN, attacked Rubio for joking that winter storm Jonas is the “best thing to happen to the republic” in awhile since the federal government was closed, preventing President Obama from signing executive orders.
- Jeb said he is looking forward to having George W. on the campaign trail, noting he remains popular among Republicans. Bush also said he doesn’t think Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder should resign over the Flint water crisis. (Janell Ross)
- Hillary said on “Meet the Press” her understanding is that Michael Bloomberg will run for president only if she is not the Democratic nominee. She said the question is moot because she is going to win. (NBC News)
- Sanders, also on “Meet,” said he would welcome the challenge of running against both Trump and Bloomberg because each is a plutocratic billionaire. And he dismissed Blackstone CEO’s Steve Schwarzman’s theory that his candidacy is negatively affecting the stock markets. (Janell Ross)
- Trump said on “Face the Nation” that he hopes Bloomberg runs, saying he would “love to compete” against him, noting they disagree on guns and abortion rights. (CBS News)
- Cruz, on ABC’s “This Week,” dismissed the idea that top Republicans seem to be supporting Trump more than him by arguing they are actually abandoning Rubio. (Janell Ross)
- Rubio, on Fox News Sunday, said his campaign canceling advertising is not a sign of cash struggles, but aimed at exploiting cheaper rates. (Fox News)
- The Boston Globe endorsed Hillary in the New Hampshire primary. (Editorial)
- Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) campaigned for Clinton in Iowa. (Abby Phillip)
- The Sanders campaign announced its list of surrogates who will come to the Hawkeye State for the final days. The list is light on elected officials, with the exceptions of Reps. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) and Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.). It includes Chuy Garcia, whom Sanders endorsed in his unsuccessful Democratic primary challenge against Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Ben and Jerry and Killer Mike are on it. (John Wagner)
- It turns out Cruz actually does have health insurance, despite insisting otherwise. A spokeswoman explained Cruz was confused after talking with his broker, and the family is currently covered by an HMO. Come March 1, it will switch to a Humana PPO. (Katie Zezima)
- Cruz launched an attack ad against Trump over eminent domain, charging that he took an elderly woman’s home to make room for a limo garage. (Watch)
- Former Ben Carson campaign manager Barry Bennett is now quietly advising Trump’s top aides. (Robert Costa)
- Fox’s New Hampshire poll put Trump up 31-14 over Cruz.
- Trump’s campaign manager and lead spokeswoman have stopped flying around with the candidate to stay in Iowa for the next week, focused on get-out-the-vote-operations. (NYT)
— The latest in our “Deciders” series looks at how Rubio has not softened his stance on Cuba –> “Rubio’s Cold War,” by Mary Jordan: “Driven by a political philosophy shaped by his Cuban roots, he is now holding an even more important Obama nomination hostage: the U.S. ambassador to Mexico. At a time when most Americans support a landmark shift in U.S. policy on Cuba, Rubio has positioned himself as that move’s biggest foe. He champions a Cold War approach that many think is outdated and that runs counter to his image as the youthful leader of a new generation. ‘I said, ‘Marco, how can you hit Hillary Clinton for being the candidate of yesterday when you are supporting policies that date to the 1960s?’ said Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), who sits on the Foreign Relations Committee with Rubio. But his intense focus on Cuba explains a lot about who Rubio is — and how, as a potential commander in chief, he sees the United States’ role in the world.”
— “Trial to start in lawsuit over North Carolina’s voter-ID law,” by Sari Horwitz: “Last year, because of a new state voting law, Rosanell Eaton said she and her daughter had to make 10 trips to the Division of Motor Vehicles, drive more than 200 miles and spend more than 20 hours to obtain one of the required forms of voter identification because the name on her identifying document, her driver’s license, did not exactly match that on her voter registration. The photo-ID rules — part of one of the strictest voting laws in the country — will go on trial in a federal courthouse Monday in the first battle over the ballot this presidential year. The ID requirements, set to be used in the March presidential primary, were included in a bill passed by North Carolina’s legislature that also reduced the number of days of early voting, prohibited people from registering and voting on the same day, stopped ballots cast in the wrong precinct from being counted, and ended the practice of preregistering teenagers before they turned 18.”
— “In Iowa, Trump tries out some old-fashioned campaigning,” by Jenna Johnston and Robert Costa: “Rather than jetting out of town after holding events, as has become his pattern, Trump schmoozed with some of the state’s Republican leaders, spent Saturday night at a Dutch-style hotel in a small town, ate at a restaurant with a prime-rib buffet, took photos with locals and went to church Sunday morning. With the Feb. 1 caucuses quickly approaching, Trump made seven major appearances in seven days in the state last week, spending two nights and trying out retail politics. The overnights gave the billionaire real estate developer a closer look at life in Iowa, beyond what he sees out the windows of his private plane and motorcade. He marveled at how Iowa has good steak and how the television airwaves are packed with so many attack ads.”
Trump went to church at First Presbyterian in Muscatine: The pastor, Pam Saturnia, urged those in attendance to welcome, rather than shun, “Syrian refugees and Mexican migrants.” “Instead of feeling rage at Jesus that we have to share him, we are called to do just that,” she said. “Share Jesus with the ones who need him.” From Costa: “The Bible reading of 1 Corinthians 12 appeared to pique the real-estate mogul’s interest and his head turned toward the lectern as a woman from the congregation spoke about humility.” At a press conference after, Trump said the sermon did not change his views on immigration. And he wondered aloud about whether the Bible reading was meant for him. “I have more humility than people think,” he said.
— Here are 10 other good Post stories about the presidential race that published since Friday’s 202:
- “How Cruz’s best friend drew him into Jamaican politics and business.” (Rosalind S. Helderman and Tom Hamburger, from Kingston)
- “Inside the government’s racial bias case against Trump’s company, and how he fought it” (Michael Kranish and Robert O’Harrow Jr. in New York)
- “Two Democratic candidates and their striking differences in one Iowa town” (Phil Rucker in Clinton, Iowa)
- “Clinton allies try to discredit Sanders on women’s issues. Will it stick?” (Abby Phillip and John Wagner)
- “Clinton needs an Iowa victory to blunt the momentum of Sanders.” (Dan Balz)
- “Second choice of O’Malley voters is the ‘million-dollar question’ in Iowa caucuses.” (John Wagner)
- “What is the dreaded ‘establishment,’ anyway? It depends on who’s talking.” (David Weigel)
- “How the Iowa caucuses work” (Weigel)
- “John Kasich — remember him? — is on the rise in New Hampshire.” (Ed O’Keefe)
- “Mired in third, Rubio prepares for a long, drawn-out Republican race.” (Sean Sullivan)
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ, curated by Elise Viebeck:
— ZIGNAL VISUAL: Donald Trump really is a candidate of the Internet. Sure, Sanders had his “side eye” meme (27 million views and counting), but only Trump is the subject of countless Twitter polls (e.g. Who would you rather vote for? RT for Trump, FAV for Avocado) and viral videos. Throughout this presidential primary season, this original social-media content was centered on Trump like no other candidate. For example, a 4-minute anti-Trump song (called “Trumpified”) is the top Trending Trump story over the last five days, with more than 140,000 shares on Twitter. It has been played on Soundcloud more than 15 million times. The second-most popular Trump item in that five-day span (and by far the most widely circulated over the weekend) was a snippet of video in which Trump says he could stand in the middle of 5th Ave. and shoot somebody and not lose votes. The Trump social media coverage cuts both ways: A YouTube post from an anti-Trump super PAC received thousands of Twitter mentions this weekend, and more than 200,000 views so far. (Watch.)
Meanwhile, four of the most-shared stories about Clinton over the past week are negative:
This photo of Demi Lovato with Clinton in Iowa:(#4) is the only one of the five links that is positive:
Cruz, meanwhile, is consistently able to drive his own message, with his own campaign site routinely at the top of the most circulated Cruz-related items, mixed in with a little mainstream media coverage:
Our analytics partners at Zignal Labs note the types of content circulated on social media reflects the candidates’ differing appeals. Whether it is cause or effect, the unconventional nature and unlikely success of the Trump campaign is reflected in the kinds of content we see about him on social media. Social media doesn’t devour magazine profiles or newspaper stories when it comes to Trump. Instead, it’s Soundcloud, Vine and YouTube.
–Everything you missed from Snowzilla:
Spotted in downtown Washington (not really):
The most famous video from the blizzard, starring Tian Tian:
Sledders took advantage of the fresh snow on Capitol Hill:
At 3 a.m., crews were working to clear snow from the East Front:
The storm was even visible from space, where astronaut Scott Kelly took these photos:
A staffer for Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) took this photo on Capitol Hill:
Here’s another evening shot from Rock Creek Park:
Bo and Sunny Obama enjoyed the opportunity to play:
This wannabe panda challenged Tian Tian to a snow battle:
It was a big weekend for pandas on social media. Here’s Bao Bao:
And one of the National Zoo’s red pandas:
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) took time to shovel her sidewalk:
Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) went skiing with her dad:
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) needed “coffee and ibuprofen” after doing this:
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) took a walk with husband Charlie:
Rep. Ryan Costello (R-Pa.) got shoveling assistance from his son:
Greta Van Susteren’s dogs enjoyed frolicking:
And The Post’s video team recorded a 360-degree view of a huge snowball fight in Meridian Hill Park:
–Everything you missed that wasn’t Snowzilla:
Mitt Romney called on candidates to release their tax returns before the Iowa caucuses:
Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) had a string of questions for Trump on Twitter, including about marital infidelity:
Read all six of Sasse’s questions here.
After Trump taunted Jeb for using his mother in a new campaign video, Bush tweeted this:
Clinton generated some Trump-style lines in West Des Moines:
Michael Moore welcomed the idea of Bloomberg taking a shot at the White House:
In D.C., signs for Trump’s new hotel on Pennsylvania Ave. were defaced with the words “sexist” and “bigot”:
National Review editor Rich Lowry thanked followers for supporting the magazine’s anti-Trump issue:
Vice President Biden and wife Jill visited Istanbul’s Blue Mosque:
Trump spokeswoman Katrina Pierson asked back in 2012 whether there are any “pure breeds” left in politics, but this tweet went viral over the weekend and was widely ridiculed:
Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) met with David Daleiden, the activist behind the undercover Planned Parenthood videos:
Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and family rooted for the Patriots:
Jamie Lee Curtis snapped a selfie with reporters in Des Moines:
This fellow has been trolling Trump on the campaign trail in Iowa (read his story here):
Trump said Megyn Kelly should not moderate Thursday’s GOP debate on Fox News:
And insulted Glenn Beck as he headlined a rally for Cruz in Iowa:
When the Patriots lost last night, a lot of the team’s detractors retweeted this Trump message from September:
Former Obama adviser Dan Pfeiffer spotted Trump pinatas for sale in San Francisco’s Mission district:
GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:
— Wall Street Journal, “Behind Trump’s attack strategy,” by Monica Langley: “Trump made his decision to start skewering Cruz as his private jet was approaching (Nashua) earlier this month. ‘Ted is hanging around the top too long,’ the Republican presidential front-runner announced on the plane, according to his campaign manager. ‘Time to take him down.’ … Mr. Trump, not his staff or consultants, personally drives them, and they are both calculated and improvised to adapt to news and polls, with little research or extensive prep work. … In a repeated pattern, Mr. Trump has fired personal attacks at rivals when they emerge as a challenge. While his attacks and policy pronouncements often appear to be off-the-cuff, hours spent interviewing Mr. Trump and watching him behind the scenes show how he plots them, most often alone in his jet as he flies to early primary states. … Ten minutes before landing, he grabbed paper, scrawling five points—15 words—on what to say before his next adoring crowd. ‘I’m strategic, but trying to do the right thing and only saying what I have a very strong opinion on before going into battle,’ he said on the plane. ‘Interestingly, people say that’s what everybody’s thinking but nobody wants to say it.'”
— Politico, “Bernie and Israel: It’s complicated,” by Michael Crowley: “If Sanders defeats Clinton to win the Democratic nomination, he’ll be the first Jewish presidential nominee of a major political party. But when it comes to his views on Israel, some Jewish Democrats are scratching their heads in confusion. … Over his career Sanders has cast some votes and made critical statements about Israel that unnerve some in the pro-Israel community. That’s all the more puzzling, some say, given his own heritage as the son of a Jewish immigrant father from Poland whose family was wiped out by the Nazis — and someone who spent time working on an Israeli kibbutz. … In 1991, Sanders voted to withhold $82.5 million in U.S. aid for Israel unless it stopped settlement activity in the West Bank and Gaza Strip … A decade later, he was the only Jewish member of Congress not to back a House resolution condemning the Palestinians and expressing solidarity with Israel after two Palestinian suicide attacks killed dozens.”
— Des Moines Register, “The lone Iowa town in a political dead heat,” by Mike Kilen: “Wyoming is the only place in Iowa with more than 500 people that was dead even between the two major political parties as of early December, when The Register grouped each voter’s address: 152 registered Democrats and 152 registered Republicans. The equal split surprises most folks who live here, even as the upcoming caucuses draw out heated political discussions. Democrats thought the town was all Republican because they talk the loudest, and vice versa … Crossing the roads of this friendly, politically divided town in Jones County provides a glimpse of what’s in the hearts and minds of Iowans … They are fearful for their safety, worried about the economy and generally undecided which candidate or side can fix it, which mirrors many Iowans, according to polls and voter registrations. In Wyoming, 377 people are registered as ‘no party’ — more than the 304 Republicans and Democrats combined.”
HOT ON THE LEFT
A man who said he carries a gun because he fears mass shootings accidentally shot a person inside a movie theater. From the Seattle Times: “Dane Gallion, 29, told officers he took the gun to Regal Cinemas 14 at the Landing on Thursday night because he was ‘concerned about recent mass shootings in public places,’ according to a police account in a probable-cause statement released Saturday. That same anxiety prompted him to keep the gun unholstered in his waistband, the statement says. The shooting victim, a woman who was wounded in the shoulder, was in stable condition Saturday, according to a nursing supervisor at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.”
HOT ON THE RIGHT
Report: Criminal prosecutions of immigration offenses dropped 36 percent over the past five years. From the Washington Examiner: “Justice Department statistics show that criminal prosecutions for crimes such as unlawful re-entry by an illegal in November totaled 4,861, down 13.2 percent over the previous month. Over the past year, that number is down 22.3 percent. According to the Center for Immigration Studies, which analyzed the data, that is a five year decline of criminal prosecutions of 36 percent.”
–What’s happening today on the campaign trail:
- Clinton, Sanders and O’Malley will appear in a CNN town hall at Drake University in Des Moines at 9 p.m. Eastern.
- Trump holds a rally at 7 p.m. Eastern in Farmington, N.H.
- Clinton, before the town hall, campaigns in Waukee, Knoxville and Oskaloosa.
- Sanders’ bus tour stops in Iowa Falls, Ames, Newton and Grinnell.
- Cruz, back in Iowa, campaigns in Maquoketa, Manchester and Independence.
- Rubio will be joined by joined by Joni Ernst in Des Moines before he heads to Ankeny.
- Christie holds a town hall in Hooksett, N.H. at 6 p.m.
- Carson stops in Ankeny, Des Moines and Indianola.
- Kasich holds a town hall in Newmarket, N.H.
- Huckabee travels to Hiawatha and Des Moines.
- O’Malley heads to Pella and Indianola before heading to Des Moines for the town hall.
- Fiorina holds a meet and greeat in Osceola and a town hall in Council Bluffs.
- Santorum is in Iowa, making stops in Iowa City, Washington, Davenport, Burlington, Ottumwa and Oskaloosa.
–On the Hill: Because of the snowstorm, the House and Senate will not meet today. The Senate vote originally scheduled for Tuesday afternoon has been moved to Wednesday evening. The House canceled all votes for the week.
–At the White House:
- Obama will travel to Walter Reed medical center to visit with wounded soldiers.
- Biden will fly from Miami to Wilmington, Delaware.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
“They say … I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn’t lose any voters,” Trump said in Iowa. “It’s like incredible.”
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
Virginia public schools are being shortchanged $800 million annually because the state’s formula for determining how much money the schools needs is flawed. (Moriah Balingit)
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Tina Fey returned to SNL as a crazy Sarah Palin endorsing Trump:
In unearthed video footage, a teenage Ted Cruz said he aspires to be rich and powerful:
The Internet wanted to know: what was that song playing in the background of Speaker Ryan’s (R-Wis.) live snowcam? It was this:
Finally, as we all prepare for the return of “Game of Thrones” in April, here’s a pro-Bernie mashup GIF to see you through: