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Bernie Sanders is up in a new Iowa poll

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Welcome to Trail Guide, your host through the wilds of the 2016 presidential campaign. It's Tuesday, Jan. 12, and here's what we're talking about:

  • Bernie Sanders is up in a new Iowa poll as the Feb.1 caucuses approach
  • Jeb Bush's super PAC is spending a lot of money on advertising, but it's not helping boost his poll numbers
  • Joe Biden says Sanders has credibility when it comes to talking about income inequality
  • The Republican debate lineup for this week is set, and Rand Paul and Carly Fiorina did not make the cut
  • Paul has said he will not participate in the undercard debate; instead he'll make his pitch to voters in Iowa and New Hampshire

In tight race with Ted Cruz, Donald Trump calls Iowa 'too close for comfort'

 (Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)

(Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)

CEDAR FALLS, IOWA — Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump lamented Tuesday that he was no longer the dominant front-runner here in Iowa, which holds the first nominating contest in the nation in less than three weeks.

Trump listed poll results that showed him dominating in the nation overall and in individual states. But then he turned to Iowa polls showing him in a tight race with Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. One conducted by Quinnipiac University showed Trump leading by only 2 percentage points.

“A little too close for comfort, folks,” Trump told hundreds gathered in a college gymnasium here on a night when temperatures dipped below zero. “This is the only place I’m doing, let’s even say even. I’m not exactly thrilled.”

“So come on, Iowa, will you get with it please? I’m a little upset.”

Trump focused on a critical question — whether the people he has attracted who have never caucused before will actually show up to do so on the night of Feb. 1. Before Trump spoke, two of his supporters addressed the attendees to patiently explain the caucus process, which is markedly more involved than simply casting a ballot.

Trump said he was confident that he would win the state because the polls didn’t account for all the new caucus-goers his campaign is going to turn out.

He also reiterated his recent suggestion that Cruz, who was born in Canada, does not meet the constitutional requirement that the president be a “natural born citizen.”

“That’s a big problem,” Trump said. “That’s a real problem.”

Legal scholars have said Cruz satisfies the requirement since his mother was an American citizen at the time of his birth.

We’re getting into that period before the caucuses that I call the ‘let’s-get-real period.'

Hillary Clinton at a rally in Ames, Iowa, on Tuesday. Recent polls have shown Bernie Sanders, her chief rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, doing well in Iowa, where Clinton still holds an overall advantage.

Snapshot: Ted Cruz rally in New Hampshire

Jeb Bush's super PAC doling out large sums, but it's not correlating to support in polls

 (Ethan Miller / Getty Images)

(Ethan Miller / Getty Images)

Jeb Bush, whose stature as an establishment candidate for the Republican presidential nomination has not resonated with voters, is benefiting more than his rivals when it comes to advertising from outside groups.

Right to Rise, a super PAC supporting the former Florida governor, has spent $50.7 million, while Bush’s campaign has spent $2.1 million to date, according to an analysis of ad tracking data by NBC News and SMG Delta.

By contrast, a super PAC backing Florida Sen. Marco Rubio has spent $9.6 million on advertising, while his campaign has spent $10.6 million, according to the analysis.

The heavy spending by Bush’s super PAC has done little to help the early front-runner in his bid to follow his brother and father into the White House.

In debates and on the campaign trail, Bush has stumbled and has been the target of intense personal attacks from billionaire businessman Donald Trump.

Trump, who leads most GOP polls, has castigated Bush as “low energy” and part of the Republican old guard.

An average of several national polls indicates Bush has only 4% support among likely Republican primary voters.

On the Democratic side, the analysis from NBC News and SMG Delta found that Hillary Clinton’s campaign has spent $14.4 million on advertising, while a super PAC supporting her has doled out $199,000.

Her chief rival for the Democratic nomination, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, has assailed outside money in politics and does not have a super PAC. His campaign has spent $10.3 million.

Four weeks ago, just about every Republican in the race was attacking Donald Trump. Today, just about every Republican is attacking me … that suggests maybe something has changed in the race.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz speaking to reporters in New Hampshire on Tuesday. Questions surrounding Cruz's citizenship have been raised on numerous occasions in recent weeks as he has surged to the front of the crowded GOP presidential field in Iowa.

Rand Paul plans to bypass 'happy hour' debate, will make pitch directly to voters

 (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Rand Paul will not be on the main debate stage Thursday night in South Carolina and, for now at least, he’s sticking with his refusal to partake in the undercard debate.

The Kentucky senator’s displeasure with Fox Business Network, whose criteria left him on the outside looking in, has been clear in the onslaught of email blasts to supporters and social media posts from his campaign over the last 24 hours.

And instead of participating in the so-called “happy hour” debate alongside former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Carly Fiorina and former Sen. Rick Santorum, he’ll be out on the campaign trail.

“He won't participate,” said Sergio Gor, Paul’s spokesman, in an email, noting the candidate is scheduled to campaign in Iowa and New Hampshire.

For Paul, the son of libertarian icon and former Rep. Ron Paul, his absence from the debate signifies a slow, consistent  decline.

When he announced his candidacy last spring, Paul labeled himself a “different kind of Republican” and sought to make inroads with voters who do not tend to traditionally vote for the party.

He traveled to inner cities, visiting leaders of black communities, and talked about issues such as reducing penalties for drug use as he courted young and minority voters.

In an interview with The Times over the summer, he said his message of party outreach to minorities has resonated.

“I’m a believer that for the Republican Party to grow, we need to be a broader, more diverse party,” he said.

But if Paul, best known for his libertarian leanings, believes his message is working, he is clearly struggling with the  majority-white GOP primary electorate in the early-nominating states of Iowa and New Hampshire.

He’s consistently polled toward the bottom of the field. An average of state polls in Iowa currently has him hovering around 3%, and in New Hampshire he’s at about 4%.

While he plans to pass on an opportunity to debate his challengers Thursday on television, he hopes, perhaps, his message will resonate directly with voters three weeks before the first ballots are cast in the 2016 election.


Bernie Sanders takes lead in new Iowa poll

 (David McNew / Getty Images)

(David McNew / Getty Images)

A new poll has Bernie Sanders leading in Iowa, threatening Hillary Clinton’s chances of winning the country’s first presidential nominating contest Feb. 1.

The poll, released by Quinnipiac University on Tuesday, showed Sanders with 49% support among likely Democratic caucus participants. Clinton had 44% support.

The margin of error is plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.

The results represent a significant swing from one month ago, when the same poll had Clinton leading, 51% to 40%.

More Iowa voters are also saying they’ve made up their minds on whom they’ll support in the caucuses. Just 20% said they could change their allegiance, down from 33% last month.

Joe Biden lauds Bernie Sanders' campaign

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is doing a “heck of a job” campaigning, Vice President Joe Biden said in an interview, stirring up what has already become a tighter Democratic presidential race in recent days. 

Sanders' ability to create excitement among voters is not surprising, Biden said, lauding what he called Sanders' honest voice on issues such as income inequality.

Though Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton presents “thoughtful” ways of tackling inequality, her approach doesn't run as “deep and real” as Sanders’, Biden told CNN on Monday, citing Sanders' longstanding focus on the issue.

"Hillary's focus has been other things up to now,” he said. “That's been Bernie's -- no one questions Bernie's authenticity on those issues.”

The vice president acknowledged that his party has two strong candidates in the race, but he didn’t endorse either Clinton or Sanders.

Biden, who for months considered joining the race himself, said he never considered Clinton the only plausible candidate for the Democratic nomination.

"I don't think she ever thought she was a prohibitive favorite,” he said of Clinton’s chances against Sanders. “So I think it's, you know, everything's sort of coming down to earth."

Polls show a tightening race between Sanders and Clinton heading into the nominating contests that start with the Feb. 1 Iowa caucuses. In recent days, Clinton's campaign has increased the intensity of its attacks on Sanders over his record of pro-gun-industry votes in Congress while representing a constituency with a history of personal gun ownership. 

Somewhat undermining Clinton's attacks, Biden said that Sanders has the right idea about respecting the 2nd Amendment, but needs to explain to voters that he doesn’t support access to guns for criminals or the mentally ill.

During the interview, Biden also said he waited too long before finally announcing in October that he wouldn't run for the White House. He said he had wanted to spend more time with his family as they grieved for his son, Beau, who died of brain cancer in May.

He expressed some longing to remain a part of politics at the highest level, but he did not go back on his decision.

Obama on Trump: 'Talk to me if he wins'

President Obama doesn’t want to talk about Republican Donald Trump’s campaign — at least not yet. Obama told NBC on the eve of his final State of the Union address Tuesday that candidates like Trump recognize fear in the American people right now and use it to spark debate. 

Obama wouldn’t speak directly to the businessman’s platforms, though. 

"Talk to me if he wins," he said.

Instead, the president said he hopes the message voters receive from candidates is one of hope, an idea he once campaigned on.

"I'm pretty confident that the overwhelming majority of Americans are looking for the kind of politics that does feed our hopes and not our fears,” Obama told “Today” host Matt Lauer in the White House. “That does work together and doesn’t try to divide us; that isn’t looking for simplistic solutions and scapegoating.”

Citing the harsh divide between the Republican and Democratic parties, Lauer asked if the president blamed himself for the increasingly partisan environment. Obama said he has regrets, but that this is not the first time the U.S. had been divided.

“Sometimes we look at the past through rose-colored glasses; it’s been pretty divided in the past,” Obama responded. “But there’s no doubt that politics in Washington are so much more divided than the American people are.”

Biden talks Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton

 (Saul Loeb/AP)

(Saul Loeb/AP)

Bernie is speaking to a yearning that is deep and real. And he has credibility on it. 

Vice President Joe Biden in an interview on CNN in which he talked about Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders' populist message about income inequality. Biden also talked about Hillary Clinton, the frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination.

By the numbers

All things Clinton | All things Trump

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

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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