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Sarah Palin endorses Donald Trump in Republican primary

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Welcome to Trail Guide, your host through the wilds of the 2016 presidential campaign. It's Tuesday, Jan. 19, and here's what we're talking about:

  • Sarah Palin is backing Donald Trump's candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination
  • Gov. Terry Branstad says that Iowans voting for Ted Cruz would be making a mistake
  • The attacks between Republican front-runners Trump and Cruz are growing nastier
  • Ben Carson temporarily suspends campaign after volunteer dies in a car accident
  • Cruz accuses Trump of party-hopping, and not the fun kind
  • At the Democratic debate in South Carolina, courting the support of black voters was at the forefront for Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Martin O'Malley

Volunteer to Ben Carson's campaign killed in Iowa car accident

A volunteer on Ben Carson's Republican presidential campaign died Tuesday from injuries sustained in a car accident while traveling through Iowa. 

Braden Joplin, 25, died after a van he was traveling in crashed in icy conditions near Atlantic, about 80 miles west of Des Moines. Three passengers in the van were treated and released from a hospital. 


Carson, a retired neurosurgeon, temporarily suspended his campaign and traveled from South Carolina to an Omaha hospital so he could be with staffers and Joplin's family.

In recent weeks, Carson's campaign has struggled internally as his campaign manager and communications director resigned. With less than two weeks until the Iowa caucuses, Carson is polling in fourth place among Republicans at about 9% in the Hawkeye State, based on an average of several state surveys. 

UPDATED - 6:22 p.m. This post was updated with a statement from Carson's campaign

Sarah Palin tosses support to Donald Trump

 (Andrew Burton / Getty Images)

(Andrew Burton / Getty Images)

Sarah Palin, a popular figure among evangelicals and tea party followers, endorsed Donald Trump for president Tuesday, giving the New York billionaire a key source of support as chief rival Ted Cruz tries to undercut his standing among conservatives.

Palin joined Trump at a rally in Ames, Iowa, where she hailed his stand against illegal immigration and his vow to take a tough approach to U.S. adversaries on the world stage.

“Are you ready for a commander in chief who will let our warriors do their job and go kick ISIS’s ass?” Palin asked Trump’s supporters at Iowa State University.

The former governor of Alaska can be a polarizing figure. But her strong following among evangelicals and other conservatives makes her a valuable ally at a time when Cruz, a Texas senator, is casting Trump as liberal on abortion, same-sex marriage and other issues.

Like Trump, Palin is a former reality TV star who often attracts the type of free media exposure that Trump’s opponents can only crave. Trump’s rally in Ames drew live coverage on national cable news channels for his stump speech; he waited until the end to introduce Palin.

When Trump proposed a temporary ban on Muslims entering the United States last month, Palin came to his defense, saying he was “committed to clobbering the bad guys, and putting the good guys first.”

“Trump's temporary ban proposal is in the context of doing all we can to force the Feds to acknowledge their lack of strategy to deal with terrorism,” she wrote on Facebook.

Most recently, Palin has been promoting her new book, “Sweet Freedom,” a collection of meditations on the Bible.

Sarah Palin talking up Trump

Why John Kasich no longer supports Chris Christie

Hiltzik: Why Bernie Sanders' health plan is more hope than change

 (Andrew Harnik / Associated Press)

(Andrew Harnik / Associated Press)

Otto von Bismarck's famous definition of politics as "the art of the possible" gives us a good assessment of the single-payer health proposal unveiled by Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders on Sunday: impossible.

That's not to say that the "Medicare for All" plan offered by Sen. Sanders (I-Vt.) is worthless. Quite the contrary. 

Powerful Nevada union will not endorse in Democratic primary

Culinary Union members protest outside of the Trump International Hotel in October. (John Locher / Associated Press)

Culinary Union members protest outside of the Trump International Hotel in October. (John Locher / Associated Press)

Nevada's largest labor organization, the powerful Culinary Union, will not offer an endorsement before the state's Democratic caucuses next month, a reversal from 2008, when a bitter fight emerged over its backing.

Local 226, which boasts 55,000 members who serve cocktails in casinos and prepare food for the roughly 50 million tourists who come to the state each year, said in a statement late Monday it will instead focus on helping elect a candidate in the November general election. 

Eight years ago, in a closely fought Democratic primary, the union backed then-Sen. Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton. But the endorsement flowered into a hostile dispute, with former President Bill Clinton accusing the union of strong-arming its members — a majority of whom are Latino — into backing Obama.

At the time, the union's endorsement proved to have little impact as Clinton went on to win the popular vote in the state's caucuses by about 5 percentage points over Obama. However, Obama prevailed with the most nominating delegates from the state. 

The Culinary Union's influence remains strong because of its ability to organize voters, and Democratic candidates seeking the nomination this year have met with leaders of the union, courting its endorsement. 

As the Democratic primary heads west  the Nevada caucuses are third for Democrats, after Iowa and New Hampshire  the support of Latino voters, whose vote is highly influential, will be critical for both Clinton and rival Bernie Sanders. 

Polls have shown that the support of minority voters is an uphill climb for Sanders. A recent national survey from NBC News/Wall Street Journal found Clinton leading Sanders 69% to 27% with nonwhite voters. 

If I don't win I just wasted one hell of a lot of time.

Donald Trump at an event in Altoona, Iowa, on Tuesday. Trump is battling with Texas Sen. Ted Cruz to win the state, which kicks off the 2016 election Feb. 1.

Iowa's governor makes the implicit explicit

Last week, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad caused a stir by lending credence to the shaky assertion that Ted Cruz was ineligible to serve as president because of his Canadian provenance.

Branstad's comments were seen as a subtle way of undermining Cruz, who is battling Donald Trump for first place in Iowa's upcoming caucuses. (Most legal experts say Cruz meets the constitutional eligibility test because his  mother was a U.S. citizen, which automatically confers the same status to her son.)

On Tuesday, Branstad made his feelings clear for the world to see:

Branstad has made no public endorsement in the Feb. 1 caucuses, but several of his former aides have signed on with New Jersey Gov. Christie.

Asked about Branstad's comments, Cruz said it was a sign of panic among establishment Republicans.

"It's not surprising and we're going to see even more of that," he told reporters at a New Hampshire campaign stop, "because every day what we're seeing on the ground is the grassroots are making their decision. They're coming together, conservatives are uniting behind our campaign and we will see, like 'The Empire Strikes Back,' the establishment will strike back."

1:55 p.m.: Updated to add comment from Cruz

The Latino vote: Young, growing and better educated than ever

Rosalia Garcia de Flores, center, listens at a news conference in Pacoima launching a campaign to register Latino voters in mixed-status families. (Katie Falkenberg / Los Angeles Times)

Rosalia Garcia de Flores, center, listens at a news conference in Pacoima launching a campaign to register Latino voters in mixed-status families.(Katie Falkenberg / Los Angeles Times)

The Latino electorate is bigger and better educated than ever before, according to a new report by Pew Research Center.

It's also young. Adults age 18-35 make up nearly half of the record 27.3 million Latinos eligible to vote in this year's presidential election, the report found.

But although the number of Latinos eligible to vote is surging -- 40% higher than it was just eight years ago -- and education levels are rising, the percentage likely to actually cast ballots in November continues to lag behind other major racial and ethnic groups, the report found.

Cruz says Trump is no Ronald Reagan. Rated: True

Richard Nixon, left, and Ronald Reagan, (Dirck Halstead / The LIFE Images Collection/Getty)

Richard Nixon, left, and Ronald Reagan,(Dirck Halstead / The LIFE Images Collection/Getty)

Apart from his sainted status in the Republican pantheon, Ronald Reagan has become something else: a go-to for candidates accused of switching parties out of political expedience.

Donald Trump, a Democratic-leaning-political-hybrid-turned GOP-presidential-hopeful, is just the latest to invoke the former president when challenged about his relatively recent campaign conversion.

As their rivalry intensifies, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz has begun questioning Trump's Republican cred and that comparison to Reagan.

"I'm pretty sure Ronald Reagan didn't write checks and support Democratic politicians like [New York Gov.] Andrew Cuomo and [ex-New York Rep.] Anthony Weiner and Hillary Clinton," Cruz said Monday at a campaign stop in New Hampshire.

Reagan, a New Deal Democrat in the day, did, indeed, switch political parties. But his changeover was gradual and took place over the course of an extended evolution. Even as he maintained his Democratic registration, he backed Republican Dwight Eisenhower for president in 1952 and 1956, and Richard M. Nixon in the 1960 election.

"Under the tousled, boyish haircut is still old Karl Marx," Reagan said in reference to Nixon's opponent, John F. Kennedy, in a letter offering counsel to the GOP nominee.

Reagan formally changed his party registration in 1962. "I didn't leave the Democratic Party," he said in a line he often repeated. "The party left me."

Unlike Trump, Reagan was an ardent campaigner for conservative candidates and causes before ever running for office. He spent years honing a speech—which became The Speech, in political lore—that enunciated his support for Barry Goldwater and the conservative principles underlying his failed 1964 bid.

The nationally broadcast address helped launch Reagan's political career, starting with his 1966 election as California governor.

Trump, by contrast, is a comparatively new convert to the Republican Party. As recently as 2011, according to the Washington Post, he contributed more money to Democrats than Republicans. The newspaper and television archives are filled with Trump quotes praising Democrats like Hillary Clinton (and expressing such heretical views as support for legalized abortion, government-run healthcare and higher taxes on the wealthy.)

Ex-Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has also hammered Trump for his past positions. After Trump signed a loyalty oath last fall pledging to support the ultimate GOP nominee, Bush responded on Twitter with his own handwritten note: 

Cruz accuses Trump of arriving late to the immigration conversation

Republican presidential candidates Ted Cruz, left, and Donald Trump meet onstage during a rally outside the Capitol last spring in Washington. (Carolyn Kaster / Associated Press)

Republican presidential candidates Ted Cruz, left, and Donald Trump meet onstage during a rally outside the Capitol last spring in Washington. (Carolyn Kaster / Associated Press)

Ted Cruz is warning voters that if they're considering Donald Trump, they should ask where he was during the immigration fight over the last few years.

“You have reason to doubt the credibility of the promises of a political candidate who discovered the issue after he announces for president," Cruz said of Trump during a campaign event Monday in New Hampshire.

Cruz, the Texas senator, said voters should be concerned because Trump remaining quiet during a crucial debate over immigration policy in 2013. The debate culminated in immigration reform legislation that year that Cruz opposed. It ultimately failed in the House.

During last week's debate in South Carolina, Trump and Cruz attacked each other openly — Trump on Cruz’s eligibility for the presidency because of his Canadian birth and Cruz on Trump’s “New York values.”

On Sunday, Trump called his rival “a nasty guy.”

“Nobody likes him, nobody in Congress likes him, nobody likes him anywhere once they get to know him,” Trump said in an interview with ABC.

In New Hampshire a day later, Cruz attacked Trump’s tweeting habits and reliance on polls to prove his worth. He questioned the businessman’s loyalty to Republican values, too. Trump supported President Obama’s stimulus package in 2009, calling him a “strong guy who knows what he wants," Cruz noted.

Donald Trump returns to Iowa, targets Ted Cruz's 'rough temperament'

 (Scott Olson / Getty Images)

(Scott Olson / Getty Images)

Donald Trump opened an Iowa campaign swing Tuesday with a swipe at archrival Ted Cruz, saying the Texas senator has “a rough temperament.”

“You can’t call people liars on the Senate floor when they’re your leader,” Trump said, referring to Cruz’s July attack on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. “It’s not a good thing to do if you want to sort of curry favor and get the positive votes later on down.”

Trump’s comments at the John Wayne Birthplace Museum outside Des Moines came as the rivalry between Cruz and the New York billionaire is dominating the run-up to the Feb. 1 Iowa caucuses.

Cruz, an unpopular figure among Senate colleagues, has prided himself on challenging Washington’s Republican establishment. He also has stepped up efforts in recent days to cast Trump as out of step with conservatives on abortion, same-sex marriage and other social issues. His spokesman had no comment on Trump’s remarks about Cruz's temperament.

Trump said Tuesday that his own temperament was “great.” He described himself as the “most militaristic” of the Republican presidential contenders, but noted his early opposition to the Iraq War, which he saw as a threat to stability in the Middle East.

Speaking to reporters after landing the endorsement of Aissa Wayne, a daughter of the cowboy movie legend, Trump said major unnamed Republican leaders had quietly begun to rally behind his campaign, which many of them had failed to take seriously for months.

“They are contacting us left and right about joining the campaign, and these are serious establishment types,” Trump said.

Trump plans to announce what his campaign has billed as a major endorsement later Tuesday, but he declined to comment on new reports that it would be Sarah Palin, the former Alaska governor.

“I’m a big fan of Sarah Palin,” he said. “But I’m not saying who it is.”

Rand Paul: I want to 'audit the Ted'

How do you ease a sharp-edged, direct attack accusing an opponent of cozying up to Wall Street? Rand Paul went with two noseless cartoon characters with robotic voices. 

The characters’ digitally automated voices go after rival Ted Cruz, saying it's time to "audit the Ted" -- a play on Paul's repeated calls to audit the Fed(eral Reserve) -- and attack Cruz for accepting too much campaign money from financial giants such as Goldman Sachs.

“I hear Wall Street money — millions — even $1 million from the Goldman Sachs,” the female cartoon says. (The video is worth it for the slightly off syntax alone.)

“Does the Goldman Sachs want to audit the Fed?” the male cartoon asks.

“I don’t think so; they are the Fed,” she responds, claiming, robot-voiced, that the big banks and the government are too close.

Cruz reportedly failed to disclose about $1 million in assets from Goldman Sachs that supported his run for his Senate seat. His wife works at Goldman Sachs and is on leave during the campaign.

Republicans yank debate from NBC

 (Robyn Beck / AFP/Getty Images)

(Robyn Beck / AFP/Getty Images)

The Republican National Committee has made good on its promise to cut NBC out of its presidential primary debate schedule.

RNC Chairman Reince Priebus issued a statement late Monday announcing the cancellation of a partnership with NBC, which was set to carry a primary debate from Houston on Feb. 26. The event will now be staged one night earlier by CNN.

The committee was intent on punishing NBC over what it perceived as harsh treatment from the panel of CNBC moderators at the Oct. 28 Republican presidential debate shown on the cable network.

Democratic debate would've been second-most-watched -- in 2008

The fourth Democratic primary debate broadcast Sunday on NBC was watched by 10.2 million viewers, according to Nielsen data.

The figure ranks second among the four Democratic debates held so far and is up substantially from the 8.03 million who watched ABC's telecast of the Dec. 19 meeting of the three contenders for the 2016 Democratic nomination, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley.

The debate, moderated by "NBC Nightly News" anchor Lester Holt and NBC News chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell, was also seen by an additional 1.2 million viewers across Internet streaming platforms including NBCNews.com and the news division's YouTube channel.

The ratings likely got a boost from the Sunday night time slot. 

Decker: The Clinton-Sanders divide spills into California

 (Andrew Burton / Getty Images)

(Andrew Burton / Getty Images)

En route to Hillary Clinton's expected coronation as the Democratic presidential nominee, her party has been caught in an ideological clash pitting the former secretary of State's loyalists against the factions backing Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

The feud is blazing not only nationally but in blue California, where it is one of several schisms among Democrats.

British lawmakers call Donald Trump a racist and a buffoon

 (Ben Pruchnie / Getty Images)

(Ben Pruchnie / Getty Images)

British lawmakers on Monday debated whether Donald Trump should be banned from Britain, after an online petition calling for him to be denied entry for making controversial anti-Muslim comments amassed more than 570,000 votes.

“His words are not comical. His words are not funny. His words are poisonous,” said the Labor Party’s Tulip Siddiq. “They risk inflaming tension between vulnerable communities.”

The unusual and, at times, passionate debate was held in response to the Republican presidential candidate’s statement that all Muslims should be temporarily barred from entering the U.S. in the wake of the shooting in San Bernardino last month that left 14 dead.

In a state still stinging from racial attack, Democrats reach out to black voters

 (Mic Smith / Associated Press)

(Mic Smith / Associated Press)

Debating less than a block from where nine black parishioners were gunned down in a savage, racially motivated attack, Democratic presidential hopefuls on Sunday zeroed in like never before on a critical pool of support: black voters.

Race and the social ills faced by blacks — in particular black men — was more central to the debate than at any previous gathering among front-runner Hillary Clinton and her rivals for the party's nomination, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley.

The three Democrats proposed ways to limit gun violence, laid out their views on how to repair relationships between police and the communities they serve, and spoke passionately of trying to create economic opportunities for disenfranchised young black men.

"There needs to be a concerted effort to address the systemic racism in our criminal justice system,” Clinton declared in the debate hosted by the Congressional Black Caucus Institute.

By the numbers

How does Clinton or Trump get to 270 electoral votes? Play with our map.

Third debate scorecard: Here's who's winning each round

All things Clinton | All things Trump

Who's endorsing who? Find out which celebrities support each candidate.

Find out which Republicans support Donald Trump

Get free news and analysis in your inbox daily from our political team.

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