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Donald Trump questions Ted Cruz's presidential fitness - because of his birthplace

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Welcome to Trail Guide, your host through the wilds of the 2016 presidential campaign. It's Wednesday, Jan. 6, and here's what we're talking about:

  • Donald Trump has found someone else's birthplace to grumble about: Ted Cruz's
  • Here's your guide to the dark arts of campaign ads
  • Republicans are already blaming President Obama and Hillary Clinton for North Korea's claim of a successful nuclear test
  • Clinton says North Korea is trying to "blackmail" the world
  • Want to raise money for a campaign? Give away a gun, like Cruz did
  • The three Democratic candidates are all in Las Vegas tonight for a dinner hosted by Harry Reid

Clinton vs. O'Malley vs. Sanders at Democratic dinner

Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton and Martin O'Malley at a Democratic presidential debate in November. (Charlie Neibergall / Associated Press)

Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton and Martin O'Malley at a Democratic presidential debate in November.(Charlie Neibergall / Associated Press)

Hillary Clinton pledged to prevent Republicans from rolling back progressive policies in Washington. Martin O’Malley came out firing against Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. And Bernie Sanders called for a political revolution to “end oligarchy in this country.”

The divergent approaches were on display in Las Vegas, where the candidates tried to distinguish themselves during a dinner forum hosted by Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.).

It was a rowdy night. The room was packed with Clinton and Sanders supporters, who set up on opposite sides of the room and tried to drown out one another with cheering, air horns and vuvuzelas. (The shrill honking from the Sanders camp was so loud and insistent, even their chosen candidate tried to get them to tone it down during his speech.)

Clinton, the former secretary of State and first lady, sought the home-field advantage in her speech, expressing support for Nevada Democrats in local political battles. And even though she reserved most of her ammunition for Republicans, she had some not-so-subtle criticism for her primary opponents, even though she didn’t mention them by name.

“I’m the only candidate here tonight who has pledged to raise middle-class incomes and not middle-class taxes,” Clinton said.

She also portrayed herself as an experienced candidate with the ability to get things done in the White House, “not just on a few issues.” There were scattered boos from Sanders supporters, who have praised their candidate’s laser-like focus on economic disparities.

O’Malley is considered a long shot for the nomination but insisted “I intend to win” near the beginning of his speech. He touted his executive experience as Baltimore mayor and Maryland governor.

He also blasted Republicans like Sen. Ted Cruz for opposing gun control measures, saying more firearms won’t make the country safer. 

“The answer to cancer isn’t more cancer,” O’Malley said.

Sanders, a U.S. senator from Vermont, pledged to overturn a "rigged economy" and a "corrupt political system."

“We’re going to create an economy that works for working families,” he said. “Not for billionaires.”

Although Sanders is outgunned financially by Clinton and trailing in national polls, he’s emphasized the enthusiasm of his supporters. Without that enthusiasm, he said, a low-turnout election could lead to a Republican victory.

“What we need in this campaign is energy,” Sanders said. “We need youth. We need working people.”

O'Malley to Trump

When you launch your registry of Americans who oppose your fascist ideas, you can start with me.

Martin O'Malley

Democratic candidates cross paths in Las Vegas

All three Democratic presidential candidates -- Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Martin O'Malley -- have cut their own paths through early voting states while competing for their party's nomination. But on Wednesday night they were all in the same place, a dinner forum hosted by Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) in Las Vegas.

The cavernous conference room at the MGM Grand was filled with Clinton supporters with glow sticks and Sanders advocates with vuvuzelas. (A similarly sized O'Malley section was nowhere to be found.)

The Democratic caucuses in Nevada are scheduled for Feb. 20, the first in the West. David Cobbett, 49, said he's going to work as a precinct captain for Sanders, the independent senator from Vermont. 

“I believe Bernie Sanders speaks for the people," he said. "I don’t believe Hillary speaks for the people all the time.”

Wes Mizuno, a retired electrical engineer, said he was supporting Clinton, a former secretary of State, because of her foreign policy experience. And he said Clinton had a better shot of winning the general election in November.

“I want the Democrats to win," said Mizuno, 67. "And I don’t think Bernie can win.”

Watch tonight's event with Clinton, Sanders and O'Malley

Live from Las Vegas

Times reporter Chris Megerian is with the Democrats in Las Vegas tonight. 

Here are some of the moments he has captured so far:

Trump threatens to yank $1 billion from Scotland golf resorts if he's banned from Britain

 (Scott Eisen / Getty Images)

(Scott Eisen / Getty Images)

Donald Trump threatened Wednesday to cancel more than $1 billion in spending on his Scotland golf resorts if he is barred from traveling to Britain.

More than 560,000 people have petitioned the British government to deny Trump entry into Britain because of what they view as his hate speech against Muslims. Parliament plans to debate the petition on Jan. 18.

Trump’s business office released a statement saying any travel ban would force the New York real estate mogul to scratch plans to invest about $731 million in his Aberdeenshire golf resort on Scotland’s northeast coast and $293 million in his Turnberry golf project on Scotland’s west coast.

“Westminster would create a dangerous precedent and send a terrible message to the world that the United Kingdom opposes free speech and has no interest in attracting inward investment,” said the statement by George A. Sorial, executive vice president and counsel to the Trump Organization.

“This would also alienate the many millions of United States citizens who wholeheartedly support Mr. Trump and have made him the front-runner by far in the 2016 presidential election.”

The petition’s author, Suzanne Kelly, was an outspoken opponent of Trump’s construction of the Aberdeenshire golf course on a stretch of picturesque and environmentally sensitive sand dunes. His clash with local residents who fought the project was the subject of a 2011 documentary, “You’ve Been Trumped,” which Trump tried unsuccessfully to block the BBC from broadcasting.

Trump’s call to ban Muslims from entering the United States until the government figures out “what the hell is going on” with radical Islamic terrorism has damaged his businesses abroad. Builders of a Trump golf resort in Dubai have removed his name from the project, and developers of a Trump Towers high-rise project in Istanbul are exploring legal options to sever ties with him.

British Prime Minister David Cameron has called Trump’s comments on Muslims “divisive, unhelpful and quite simply wrong.”

Iowa voters on Hillary Clinton: She's gotten 'a lot fuzzier'

 (Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)

(Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)

Hillary Clinton is one of American politics' larger-than-life figures, having shared the White House when her husband was president and traveled the world as secretary of State.

But on the campaign trail, Clinton has tried to present herself in a more human scale as she mounts her second presidential run. Her effort appears to be bearing fruit, with Iowans saying she came across as simultaneously more confident and congenial than during her 2008 campaign.

“She’s not the fuzziest person in the world,” said Lois Boone of Sioux City. “But she’s a lot fuzzier than she was then.”

About that Donald Trump claim that Ted Cruz carried a 'double passport'

Hillary Clinton's wish list includes an alternative to the NRA

Hillary Clinton receives big cheers from supporters when she pledges to seek stronger gun control laws if elected president.

And she has an unconventional idea for reducing the influence of the National Rifle Assn. in Washington, where new restrictions have repeatedly failed to pass in Congress.

“Why don’t responsible gun owners form an alternative, rival organization?" Clinton said during an event here Wednesday. "And stand up for gun safety and gun sanity."

It's an idea she also floated in Iowa, where she spent the previous two days campaigning.  

Her comment came a day after President Obama announced new executive actions on guns. Clinton has praised Obama's move and said more can be done “consistent with the 2nd Amendment.”

Clinton says North Korea tries to 'blackmail' the world

Hillary Clinton criticized North Korea on Wednesday after the country's leaders claimed it had tested a hydrogen bomb.

"If verified, this is a provocative and dangerous act, and North Korea must have no doubt that we will take whatever steps are necessary to defend ourselves and our treaty allies, South Korea and Japan," Clinton said in a statement issued while she was campaigning in Nevada.

"North Korea's goal is to blackmail the world into easing the pressure on its rogue regime. We can't give in to or in any way encourage this kind of bullying."

The world should consider additional sanctions on North Korea, the former secretary of State said. The United Nations Security Council has said it's considering new steps. 

The White House has cast doubt on whether North Korea has pulled off the type of test that it claimed.  

The Times' Julie Makinen, who is based in Beijing, has been writing about North Korea's claims and the international community's possible responses.   

How to raise money on the campaign trail? Give away a gun

Some presidential campaigns dangle free basketball tickets, dinners with the candidate or swag to raise money. But if you really want to show your conservative bona fides – and your anger with President Obama – you campaign with a gun.

That’s what Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is giving away this month, to one lucky supporter.

“I'm giving away an exclusive, engraved shotgun to protest Barack Obama's latest anti-gun executive orders,” he said in an email to supporters Tuesday night, hours after Obama announced his executive actions (not technically orders, a legal mechanism) to increase enforcement of gun laws.

The engraving is the Cruz campaign logo, a C with flames, on the stock of a Remington 11-87 12-gauge shotgun:

 (Ted Cruz campaign)

(Ted Cruz campaign)

No donation is required, but supporters are still encouraged to donate after signing up.

Cruz is not the only candidate to use guns to convey a blunt message. Republican Johnny Tacherra, trying to unseat Democratic Rep. Jim Costa of Fresno, held a "2nd Amendment" barbecue last month, offering guns to supporters willing to shell out $2,700.

Guns, of course, have a long history in politics. Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat, drew wide attention in 2010 when he won his Senate seat with the help of an advertisement showing him taking “dead aim” at a bill designed to lower greenhouse emissions.

Britain reconsiders a petition to ban Trump

The front pages of British national newspapers on Dec. 9 showed the reaction to comments by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. (Ben Pruchnie / Getty Images)

The front pages of British national newspapers on Dec. 9 showed the reaction to comments by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. (Ben Pruchnie / Getty Images)

Donald Trump might have a strong following in the U.S., but he appears to be decidedly less popular in Britain, where Parliament has agreed to discuss the signatures of more than half a million people who wish to ban the GOP front-runner from entering the country.

Trump’s proposal to shut down all Muslim travel into the U.S. following the Dec. 2 terrorist attack in San Bernardino elicited outrage in Britain, home to nearly 3 million Muslims.

“The U.K. has banned entry to many individuals for hate speech,” the petition reads. “The same principles should apply to everyone who wishes to enter the U.K.”

That includes billionaire businessman Trump.

“If the United Kingdom is to continue applying the ‘unacceptable behavior’ criteria to those who wish to enter its borders,” the petition continues, “it must be fairly applied to the rich as well as poor, and the weak as well as powerful.”

Parliament previously said it would not consider a ban on Trump, but the number of signatures forced its members to weigh the petition. 

A counter-petition against the ban garnered about 40,000 signatures. The committee will also consider this list.

The debate will take place in a secondary chamber of Parliament. Members of Parliament will not vote.

A Trump associate said that a ban would “alienate” the millions of U.S. citizens whom he said support Trump.

“Westminster would create a dangerous precedent and send a terrible message to the world that the United Kingdom opposes free speech,” George Sorial, executive vice president of the Trump Organization, told Fox News.

A ban would also jeopardize the firm's plans to do business in Britain, he warned.

Rubio, Fiorina blame Obama and Clinton for North Korea's nuclear test

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio at an NRA convention in Indianapolis. (John Gress / Getty Images)

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio at an NRA convention in Indianapolis. (John Gress / Getty Images)

After North Korean leader Kim Jong Un claimed his country successfully tested a hydrogen bomb, Republican presidential candidates immediately directed blame at President Obama and Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton, his former secretary of State. 

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio accused Obama of failing to protect Americans.

"If this test is confirmed, it will be just the latest example of the failed Obama-Clinton foreign policy," Rubio said. "Our enemies around the world are taking advantage of Obama's weakness.”

The White House and State Department were still pursuing confirmation on whether North Korea did indeed test a hydrogen bomb.

On Monday, Rubio attacked Republicans and Democrats for not taking a strong-enough stance against rogue leaders such as Kim or Syria's Bashar Assad.

He also talked about what he deemed a lack of action by Obama in confronting North Korea.

"I have been warning throughout this campaign that North Korea is run by a lunatic who has been expanding his nuclear arsenal while President Obama stood idly by," he said in a speech on national security.

Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina joined in blaming Clinton for North Korea’s tests. She said Clinton’s foreign policy failed to stop the continued militarization of the country, and that it reflects backward thinking.

She pointed to deteriorating diplomatic relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia as a recent example.

“Of course North Korea would conduct a nuclear test after watching Iran willfully violate an agreement they just made without consequence of any kind from this administration,” Fiorina said on Facebook.

Darkness descends: An advertising guide to the 2016 GOP race

Happy new year! Welcome to the Apocalypse!

After the briefest cessation for the holidays, the Republican presidential hopefuls are back at it, clawing one another's throats and releasing a batch of TV ads that leave no doubt all that peace-on-Earth, good-will-toward-man stuff is so December.

Terrorists scowl, missiles fly, bombs burst, sirens wail: frightening stuff and utterly predictable.

“Harnessing fear is a powerful means of moving voters,” notes Kathleen Hall Jamieson, one of the country’s leading experts on political advertising. It would be stunning, she said, if candidates didn’t tap into the country’s post-Paris and San Bernardino jitters.

“Looked at in isolation, you might call it doom and gloom,” said Jamieson, who directs the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania. “But if you take it in the context of the last two months, it’s a realistic way of suggesting, ‘I’m going to deal with these problems.’ ”

The 30-second spots also reflect, like snapshots in miniature, the personalities and prerogatives driving the quickening GOP contest.

Those swarming immigrants that Trump promises to thwart with an impenetrable U.S.-Mexico border wall were actually filmed in Morocco, as the truth-sniffing hounds at PolitiFact first reported. 

The give-no-quarter Trump campaign blithely brushed the fact-checkers aside, saying Morocco was purposely used as an example of lawlessness. (What next? Gambling in Casablanca?)

In his new spot, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a charismatic first-term senator and the youngest candidate in the White House field, projects weightiness and seeks to distance himself from a certain president who shares an awkwardly similar background.

"I approve this message,” Rubio says, all earnestness and pinched brow, “because America needs a real commander-in-chief and a president that will keep us safe."

In New Hampshire, it’s everyone in the pool against New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who has been rising in polls and threatens to seize the establishment-favorite mantle from Rubio and erstwhile front-runner Jeb Bush, Florida's ex-governor.  

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and his backers elevate an increasingly heated feud with Rubio in a spot that goes directly to the gravitas question, albeit lifting from a deliberately humorous spot that Rubio put out ahead of one of last year’s GOP debates.  

All of that darkness and calamity could end up backfiring on the candidates, Jamieson suggested, if voters grow convinced the problems raised are insoluble.

“There’s a large body of academic research about fear, and one of the things it says conclusively is that if you’re going to activate fear and enhance anxiety, you have to simultaneously tell the audience what you can do to reduce their fears," she said. 

Failing that, she said, voters may simply decide to stay home. Perhaps those prescriptive ads are coming; there are 25 shopping days until Iowa voters cast the first 2016 ballots.  

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.

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
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