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Welcome to Trail Guide, your host through the wilds of the 2016 presidential campaign. It's Wednesday, Jan. 20, and here's what we're talking about:
- Sarah Palin links son's domestic violence arrest to a lack of leadership from President Obama
- Donald Trump says he'd welcome Palin as part of his White House, a day after she endorsed him
- Bill Clinton makes a case for Hillary: realism
- Chris Christie has a confession to make to Iowa voters. Many confessions, in fact
- Bernie Sanders campaigns in Iowa fresh off a solid debate performance and amid strong poll numbers
- Ben Carson temporarily suspends his campaign after a volunteer dies in a car accident
- Gov. Terry Branstad says that Iowans voting for Ted Cruz would be making a mistake
Sarah Palin links son's domestic violence arrest to a lack of leadership from Obama
A day after her endorsement of Donald Trump, Sarah Palin hit the campaign trail with the billionaire businessman, and she sought to tie President Obama's treatment of veterans to the recent arrest of her son on a domestic violence charge.
Palin's son, Track, 26, was arrested this week in a domestic violence case in which his girlfriend said he had an AR-15 assault rifle and that she was afraid he would shoot himself with it. Track Palin, a veteran of the U.S. Army, served in Iraq.
"Going through what we’re going through today with my son, a combat vet ... like so many others, they come back a bit different, they come back hardened," his mother said Wednesday at a rally alongside Trump in Tulsa, Okla. "They come back wondering if there is that respect for what their fellow soldiers and airmen and every other member of the military so sacrificially have given to the country."
Palin, the 2008 vice-presidential pick of Republican nominee John McCain, accused Obama of failing to provide veterans with adequate care.
"They have to question if they're respected anymore. It starts from the top," she said. "The question, though, that comes from our own president, where they have to look at him and wonder, 'Do you know what we go through? Do you know what we're trying to do to secure America?'"
Trump has made care for those who have served a central talking point to his campaign, particularly in the wake of the 2014 Veterans Affairs scandal, which centered on allegations that veterans had died waiting for healthcare amid system backups in appointments.
The endorsement from Palin is a boost to Trump, who is in a tight race with Texas Sen. Ted Cruz to win Iowa. Palin, a former Alaska governor, has a strong following among evangelical voters, a key voting bloc in the Feb. 1 Iowa caucuses.
As Donald Trump continues to lead Republican presidential polls, some of his backers have forecast that he could draw a significant share of Democratic votes in a general election.
On the other side, some Democrats have predicted that unhappiness with Trump might drive substantial numbers of Republicans to cross party lines if he were the nominee.
Don't count on either of those happening.
A new poll by the non-partisan Pew Research Center underscores the powerful antipathy partisans feel toward the other side.
Trump's proposed ban on Muslims helps sink refugee bill
Donald Trump's proposal to ban Muslim refugees was too much for Senate Republicans.
Senators on Wednesday were unwilling to entertain a Democratic effort to force a vote on Trump's proposal, which was being suggested as an amendment to another bill that would block refugees from Syria and Iraq from entering the U.S.
Many Republicans, including fellow presidential candidates Sen. Ted Cruz and Sen. Marco Rubio, oppose Trump's approach, preferring to stay away from a religious test on refugees.
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) wanted to give them a chance to prove it, saying Republicans should be prepared to vote on "Donald Trump's vision for America."
But Senate Republicans didn't take the bait, refusing to allow amendments to the refugee bill. With no chance to add the Trump proposal, Democrats filibustered the broader bill.
President Obama had indicated he would veto the bill. But on a vote of 55-43, it did not reach the 60-vote threshold needed to advance over the Democratic filibuster.
Cruz, Rubio and fellow presidential hopeful Sen. Rand Paul all returned to Washington to support the measure, which would effectively bar Iraqi and Syrian refugees from entry. Democratic candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders did not vote.
The bill easily passed the House with bipartisan support in November in the aftermath of the Paris terror attacks, and two Democrats joined Republicans in trying to advance it in the Senate on Wednesday.
This has been a hard one for me. It really has been. My father’s campaign was all about character and integrity, and I know that a lot of the beliefs that my father has espoused [aren't] popular anymore. I understand that. I understand that anti-establishment candidates are taking over.
Consider it a warm-up act one year early.
Twelve months to the day that the next president will deliver an inaugural address from the steps of the U.S. Capitol, three Republican hopefuls were addressing lawmakers at the New Hampshire State House in Concord on Wednesday.
The exercise brought some presidential gravitas to candidates who’ve otherwise been focused on traditional retail stops in the Granite State, as they spoke from the rostrum of historic Representatives Hall to an audience of nearly 400 members of the state’s unusually large legislature.
Running for president? Money can't buy you love
Spending on advertisements by Republican presidential hopefuls does not correlate to support -- at least not at the moment.
With less than two weeks until voting begins in the 2016 election, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida have spent a combined $91 million on advertising this cycle, according to an analysis by NBC News and the media firm SMG Delta. The spending includes both cash from their campaign war chests and super PACs supporting their candidacies.
By contrast, businessman Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who are leading the crowded GOP field, have spent a combined $8 million on advertising.
"I've spent to this point almost nothing and I'm in first place by a lot," said Trump at a rally on Tuesday in Ames, Iowa.
He noted that Bush has spent a "fortune" attacking him, but has seen little success in the polls. Indeed, an average of national surveys shows Trump at 34%, Cruz at 18% and Rubio and Bush at 11% and 4% respectively.
On the Democratic side, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has surpassed front-runner Hillary Clinton on advertising spending.
Sanders, who is leading Clinton in New Hampshire, which will hold the first primary of 2016 on Feb. 9, has spent $12.8 million on advertising, compared to Clinton's $11.6 million.
The money doled out by Sanders has come solely from his campaign (he has eschewed support from a super PAC), while Clinton's spending also includes cash from Priorities USA, a super PAC backing her White House bid.
Bill Clinton makes a case for Hillary: realism
Among the great difficulties Hillary Clinton's campaign has faced is how to counter Sen. Bernie Sanders' appeal to the idealism of liberal voters, particularly young people.
Clinton's allies have made efforts to frighten voters about Sanders, to warn that he could sink the Democratic ticket if he were the nominee, even, briefly, to raise doubts about his health. None of that has worked.
Wednesday, the campaign's No. 1 surrogate, Bill Clinton, made a more straightforward argument: realism.
Speaking to campaign volunteers and staff in Salem, N.H., the former president conceded that his wife trails Sanders in the state, which holds its first-in-the-nation primary Feb. 9.
“We’re fighting it out in Iowa. We’ve got a little lead that I think is solidifying and maybe growing a little bit," he said. "We’re on a home field disadvantage here. But the real issue is, who can win the election, who’s prepared the do the job, who can make real change?”
Voters need to think about “the practical reality” of making change, he said. Sanders, for example, has proposed a single-payer healthcare system, which would replace President Obama's signature health law.
Diving back into the healthcare debate while Republicans control Congress would be “a recipe for gridlock, and we can’t afford it,” Clinton said.
By contrast, Hillary Clinton, "every day she thinks, what can I do to make it better? Some people think it’s incremental. I think it’s realistic,” he said.
“Lyndon Johnson said you can talk about miles when you speak, but sometimes you’re making progress in inches," he added. Former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo "said we campaign in poetry but we govern in prose. We can’t wait. We’ve got to get this show on the road."
If 'smoked' in the primary, John Kasich promises he'll drop out
John Kasich considers himself the “prince of light and hope” in a Republican field filled with darkness.
Kasich insisted that he's confident in his ability to compete in the GOP race, but if his rivals “smoke” him in the February primary in New Hampshire, the Ohio governor said, he plans to end his run.
"If I get smoked here, I'm not gonna carry on a fairy tale," Kasich said in an interview with CNN released Wednesday.
Voters are hungry for a candidate who can shake up the government and solve problems, Kasich told radio show host Hugh Hewitt in a separate interview Tuesday. But, he said, that doesn’t mean they want someone who uses depressing words to describe the state of the country.
“I don’t spend all my time getting people riled up about how bad everything is," he said.
Kasich told CNN that he doesn’t believe that talking more about God and pandering to evangelical or right-leaning religious groups will win him a vote.
"I was doing a radio interview and the commentator said, 'Why don't you talk about God more? You could get more votes,' " he said. "It doesn't work that way."
Kasich doesn’t know what will happen at the primary, but he said he will remain “happy” as he has for his entire run since he joined the race in July.
In a dive bar on the western edge of the state, with scores of people huddled around him on a freezing night, the New Jersey governor best known for his tough-guy persona shared one of his most vulnerable moments.
Chris Christie talked about fearing for his wife's life after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, when she was working near the World Trade Center and he couldn't reach her on the phone for hours.
"What am I going to do without my best friend?" he recalled wondering. "What kind of single dad am I going to be?"
It was just the first of the night's confessions from the Republican presidential candidate. He admitted to having a bit of a crush on singer Adele. He joked about his weight. He talked about saying goodbye to his mother as she lay dying of lung cancer.
Each story, some of which have become staples of his campaign events, is another attempt to burrow into the hearts of Iowa voters just two weeks before the caucuses.
Trump: Sarah Palin could play a role in my White House
Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin could play a role in a potential Donald Trump administration, the businessman told NBC on Wednesday, a day after Palin announced her endorsement of the Republican front-runner in Iowa.
Neither discussed the possibility of her running as a vice presidential candidate, but Trump said he’s not sure she would even want to take on that responsibility again.
“I haven’t discussed anything with her,” Trump said on NBC’s “Today” show. “She could play a position if she wanted to.”
In fact, Trump said, he hasn't thought about a running mate -- he wants to win the GOP nomination first.
As Republican rivals including Texas Sen. Ted Cruz attack Trump as a panderer to the base who was long a liberal Democrat, Palin’s endorsement comes as a boost to real estate tycoon's conservative credentials.
“So many people are so disappointed that she didn’t support them,” Trump told Fox News, referring to his rivals for the nomination.
“When she came to see me and talked to me, I could see she really liked what we were doing,” he added.
At a campaign event at Iowa State University on Tuesday, Palin praised Trump, saying he would “bust up that establishment” if elected.
"He's going rogue left and right, man," Palin said. "That's why he's doing so well."
Fresh off a strong debate performance and buoyed by rising poll numbers, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders returned to Iowa with an air of vindication.
"We began this campaign some nine months ago. The media was saying, 'Bernie Sanders, he's an interesting guy, he has interesting ideas … but he's a fringe candidate. … We already have the anointed candidate, the inevitable candidate,'" Sanders told hundreds of supporters gathered Tuesday afternoon at a winery here.
"Well, a lot has happened in the last nine months," he said, "and the inevitable candidate is not quite so inevitable."