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Vladimir Putin calls Donald Trump 'colorful and talented'

Welcome to Trail Guide, your host through the wilds of the 2016 presidential campaign. It's Thursday, Dec. 17, and here's what we're talking about:

James Dobson endorsement gives Ted Cruz another evangelical boost

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz announced Thursday that another prominent evangelical, author and radio host James Dobson, has endorsed his presidential campaign in the Republican primary.

“Ted Cruz’s record on religious liberty, life, and marriage is second to none in this Republican field,” Dobson said in a news release issued by the Cruz campaign. “I have met with the senator on multiple occasions: He is brilliant, articulate, and informed.

“Shirley and I have been praying for a leader such as this,” he added, referring to his wife.

Cruz, who is edging closer in national polls to front-runner Donald Trump, has overtaken Trump in Iowa polls, in large part by consolidating support from social conservatives who dominate the Republican caucuses there. His broader strategy depends on uniting evangelical conservatives with fiscal-minded tea party conservatives and his party’s libertarian faction.

Dobson, the founder of Focus on the Family, has long been a foe of gay marriage and proponent of traditional gender roles for men and women in families.

Cruz, embarking on cross-country tour, continues assault of Rubio over immigration

In his ongoing effort to create distance between their rival candidacies, Sen. Ted Cruz again attacked Sen. Marco Rubio on Thursday over his past support of an immigration proposal that would have granted a path to citizenship for those in the country illegally.

Speaking to reporters here on the lush, sprawling lawn of a palm-tree-dotted golf club, Cruz noted that Rubio, after largely avoiding the topic of immigration in debates, finally had to confront the issue this week at the Republican presidential candidates’ final gathering of the year.

“For the first time in five debates, Sen. Rubio publicly admitted he supports amnesty,” Cruz said, noting Rubio’s concession that he supports allowing some immigrants to apply for work permits and then, after 10 years, allowing them to apply for citizenship.

“He still supports amnesty and citizenship to this day,” said Cruz, who opposed a 2013 bill calling for a comprehensive overhaul of the immigration system. Rubio was one of eight senators who helped craft the proposal before backing away from it once it became clear the bill would not be approved.

Surveys of Republican primary voters have shown they strongly oppose granting citizenship to those in the country illegally.

Cruz’s visit here was the first stop on a six-day cross-country tour that also takes him through several Southern states set to hold March 1 contests. Cruz, who has strong evangelical support in the early-nominating states of Iowa and South Carolina, hopes that translates into votes as the GOP primary heads into the South, including Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee, which have large swaths of Christian conservatives.

McManus: Ted Cruz's slippery sales pitch for a tax overhaul

 (Robyn Beck / AFP/Getty Images)

(Robyn Beck / AFP/Getty Images)

It's looking more and more as if Sen. Ted Cruz, the firebrand conservative from Texas, will be Donald Trump's main rival for the Republican presidential nomination. So it's worth digging a little more deeply into Cruz's views to see what kind of conservative he is.

Let's begin with the proposal Cruz calls the cornerstone of his economic policies: his tax plan.

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Tom Brady comes sort of close to endorsing Donald Trump

 (Bob Levey / Getty Images)

(Bob Levey / Getty Images)

Tom Brady and Donald Trump are good friends. Neither of them have been secretive about that.

But does the most popular guy in New England (Brady) support the ever-divisive candidate for the Republican nomination (Trump) in his quest to become president in 2016?

The New England Patriots quarterback was asked that question Tuesday during a radio interview. His answer was somewhat evasive, but interesting.

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Even Vladimir Putin has an opinion on Donald Trump

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Russian President Vladimir Putin complimented Donald Trump during his end-of-year news conference but also cautioned that "it's not our affair to determine his worthiness. That's up to the United States voters."

Trump doesn't care about a Bush endorsement

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and Jeb Bush during the first Republican presidential debate in Cleveland. (Andrew Harnik / Associated Press)

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and Jeb Bush during the first Republican presidential debate in Cleveland. (Andrew Harnik / Associated Press)

Jeb Bush is fed up with Donald Trump. The two GOP presidential candidates took swings at each other during Tuesday’s fifth Republican debate in Las Vegas, and top Bush aides have since weighed the risk of breaking from the candidates' pledge to support any GOP nominee.

The Washington Post reported that Bush aides started weighing the possibility to push Bush’s momentum against Trump coming out of the debate.

And Trump — not surprisingly — doesn’t care.

“I think tonight was a good example of why [Trump] may not be the proper guy to be commander in chief,” Bush said in a post-debate interview with CNN. “Sometimes you have to take a stand.”

Bush has called Trump “unhinged” and his policy proposals “not serious." He continued his attack on the businessman Tuesday, but Trump isn’t worried.

“I really don’t want Jeb’s endorsement, because he is a low-energy person and he does not represent strength, power and stamina, which are qualities our country desperately needs,” Trump said in a statement to the Post.

If Trump were to win the nomination, not supporting him would cause division in the power leaders of the Republican Party. The Bush family includes two generations of presidents and a former governor of Florida — Jeb. But splitting loyalties in a chaotic presidential race could prove to be more damaging to the party’s reputation.

Did Trump call for Republican unity on 'Kimmel'?

Before the Republican front-runner for president took the stage on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” Wednesday night, the host was pulling no punches, characterizing billionaire Donald Trump as a bully and saying that at one point he had to decide “whether to buy the United States or just become our president.”

After playing a clip of Tuesday’s Republican debate, in which Trump hounded Jeb Bush, Kimmel added, “And then he took his lunch money and pulled his underwear up to his neck.”

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Why corn is no longer king of the campaign trail in Iowa

 (Robyn Beck / AFP/Getty Images)

(Robyn Beck / AFP/Getty Images)

The fortunes of the wonder fuel that promised to help clean the environment, secure America and save small family farms have steadily dwindled as environmentalists, food advocates and auto enthusiasts sour on its promise. Now that fuel, corn-based ethanol, finds itself threatened with a defection that was once unthinkable: Iowa voters.

The electorate in the early-voting state often defined by its vast expanses of corn has long demanded that candidates pledge allegiance to government production mandates for millions of gallons of ethanol, the homegrown product. But as the 2016 White House hopefuls traverse the state, they are seeing that Iowans have grown strikingly ambivalent.

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