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Chris Christie heads back to New Jersey as blizzard approaches

Meet the Ted Cruz volunteers who put their lives on hold to bunk in a dorm and knock on doors in the bitter Iowa cold

 (John Minchillo / Associated Press)
(John Minchillo / Associated Press)

Dozens of Ted Cruz supporters gathered in a stairwell of a drab dormitory on a recent subfreezing morning, ready for their marching orders.

“What is our purpose today?” bellowed Cruz campaign staffer Ken Brolin, 64.

“Find undecided voters!” the volunteers replied in unison, before bundling up in scarves, snow boots and mittens, and marching out into the early morning light, ready to knock on hundreds of Iowans’ doors.

Welcome to Camp Cruz, the temporary home for an army of volunteers from around the country who have traveled to this snowbound state at their own expense. Their mission: to do all they can to push the first-term Republican senator over the finish line when Iowa holds the first presidential nominating contest in the nation on Feb. 1.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich on the trail in New Hampshire on Friday talking about drug use. The use of heroin in New Hampshire is on the rise. Read this report from Seema Mehta about what presidential candidates are saying about the epidemic. 

Donald Trump's retweet of 'WhiteGenocideTM' latest in barrage of questionable tweets

When it comes to social media, Donald Trump has been nearly synonymous with controversy. 

And on Friday he was at it again, quoting an account with the handle @WhiteGenocideTM, whose name was listed as "Donald Trumpovitz" and location as "JewAmerica." Trump's retweet drew strong backlash on Twitter as well as from rival presidential campaigns. 

The original tweet from Trump mocked former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, whom Trump frequently derides in stump speeches and during debates.

Hundreds on Twitter slammed Trump in response, including Tim Miller, a spokesman for Bush:

Others called Trump a racist who supports anti-Semitism.

A request for comment from Trump's campaign was not immediately returned. 

It's not the first time Trump has been attacked for a tweet widely viewed as bigoted. 

In July, his account tweeted an image that featured Nazi soldiers, which was quickly deleted, and in November he retweeted an image from a follower that included a swastika, which was also deleted. Moreover, in November he tweeted statistics about crime rates among African Americans that were debunked by the FBI. 

Since he launched his campaign in June, Trump has been the persistent front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination. As he has made disparaging remarks about Mexicans and Muslims, among others, his backing has only grown, with analysts saying he is tapping into the support of less-educated white men who in part blame illegal immigration for decreased opportunities or economic woes.

The only time the campaign has offered any explanation for a questionable tweet came in regard to Iowans. Trump's account retweeted a post alluding to caucusgoers, who begin the nominating process Feb. 1, as mentally ill.

Who did Trump blame? An intern.

When push comes to shove, people are going to realize Jeb has real solutions, rather than talking about how popular they are, how great they are.

Former first lady Barbara Bush, talking about her son Jeb in a new television ad for his campaign. The comment appears to be a dig at front-runner Donald Trump, who has castigated Jeb Bush relentlessly on the campaign trail.

With blizzard approaching, Chris Christie heads home

As a massive snowstorm barrels down on the East Coast this weekend, New Jersey Gov Chris Christie announced on Friday he'll halt his campaign events and return home. 

For several weeks, Christie, who is vying for the Republican presidential nomination, has spent much of his time on the campaign trail -- mostly in New Hampshire which will hold a Feb. 9 primary. While Christie heads home, his wife, Mary Pat, will remain in New Hampshire through the weekend. 

The snowstorm is forecast to dump two or more feet of snow on Washington and Baltimore, with wind gusts reaching 50 mph. New York, Philadelphia and other major cities in the region could get a foot or more and similar winds.

While Christie competes for the nomination his standing with voters at home is not that good. A Rutgers/Eagleton poll in December gave him a 33% approval rating among constituents. 

On Friday, the New York Times published a story that noted last year Christie spent 191 days outside New Jersey. 

Times staff writer Noah Bierman contributed to this report.

Donald Trump and Ted Cruz target each other in TV ads

 (Scott Olson / Getty Images)
(Scott Olson / Getty Images)

The battle between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz escalated Thursday as the top contenders for the Republican presidential nomination each released brutal television ads targeting one another.

In Trump’s first attack ad of the campaign, the New York billionaire calls Cruz “pro-immigration.” The spot shows Cruz saying, “I want immigration reform to pass … and that allows those who are here illegally to come out of the shadows.”

It cuts to Trump saying, “We don’t have a country right now. We have people pouring in ... and they’re doing tremendous damage if you look at the crime, if you look at the economy. We want to have borders. … We don’t have borders right now.”

Cruz, a Texas senator, has struggled for months to explain his support for an amendment to a Senate bill that would have provided a path to citizenship for many immigrants in the country illegally. He says he never supported amnesty, contrary to his rivals’ accusations.

Cruz’s ad calls Trump a “fat-cat developer” who colluded with Atlantic City insiders “to bulldoze the home of an elderly widow” by condemning her property for a limousine parking lot at one of his casinos.

The ad shows the widow saying, “He doesn’t have no heart, that man.”

Both ads seek to undercut key strengths of the candidate’s opponent. Cruz’s hard line on immigration is a key asset in his quest to build support among the party’s most conservative voters; it’s also Trump’s signature issue.

For his part, Trump has portrayed himself as a people’s advocate who is paying for his own campaign and thus immune from the sordid political deal-making that favors insiders over the public -- just the kind that, by Cruz’s telling, underpins Trump’s sprawling business empire.

Democrats and Republicans live in different universes when it comes to top concerns

Americans are split sharply this election year over what the government's top priorities should be, with Democrats most likely to say better schools, while Republicans give top rank to combating terrorism.

On some issues, large majorities on both sides agree, according to a new poll. Both Democrats and Republicans list improving the economy as among their top priorities.

And Democrats do list fighting terrorism as a top priority, although not as overwhelmingly as Republicans do.

But the priority list -- part of a survey by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center -- is most notable for the partisan divergences.

Influential conservative magazine devotes issue to attacking Trump

With the prospect increasingly real that Donald Trump actually could win the Republican presidential nomination, GOP leaders have split sharply.

Some prominent Republicans have said they would support Trump. Former Sen. Bob Dole and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani in recent days have both said they would back Trump over his current chief rival, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas.

But many of the party's intellectual leaders, whose top priority is developing a conservative ideology that voters will accept, regard Trump with horror.

Friday, the National Review, which has long been the most influential ideological journal on the right, devoted its weekly issue to attacking the New York billionaire, publishing a series of essays by leading conservative thinkers criticizing him.

The essays denounced Trump as a phony conservative, a believer in big government and a danger to the country.

"Trump is no conservative—he’s simply playing one in the primaries. Call it unreality TV," wrote Mona Charen, a frequent National Review contributor.

"Trumpism [is] a two-bit Caesarism of a kind that American conservatives have always disdained," William Kristol, the editor of the Weekly Standard, declared in his essay.

For his part, Trump went on a tweet storm Thursday night denouncing the magazine.

Carly Fiorina accused of ambushing preschoolers to join her anti-abortion rally

Parents of children on a field trip in Des Moines accused Carly Fiorina of having “ambushed” and incorporated their preschoolers into her pro-life rally at a local botanical garden by seating them below a banner of an unborn fetus. a report said.

The former Hewlett-Packard executive, who's far behind the pack in the Republican presidential race, led 15 children to her stage Wednesday without the parents’ permission, The Guardian reported. 

“Taking them into a pro-life/abortion discussion [was] very poor taste and judgment,” one parent, Chris Beck, told the newspaper. “I would not want my 4-year-old going to that forum – he can’t fully comprehend that stuff.”

Most parents didn’t find out about the encounter until afterward, when their child care provider told them. It's no clear why the caretakers allowed the children to go with Fiorina or be photographed with the anti-abortion poster.

A spokeswoman for the Fiorina campaign told the Guardian simply that they appreciated that the children came to participate.

"She’d run into the kids in the Botanical Gardens and watched the koi with them for a while,” Sarah Isgur Flores, a spokeswoman for Fiorina, said in a statement. “I guess the kids must have thought she was pretty neat because then their teachers and parents and the kids all followed Carly into the event complete with Carly stickers."

How a small Iowa city adapted to a wave of immigrants

 (Mark Z. Barabak / Los Angeles Times)
(Mark Z. Barabak / Los Angeles Times)

For the longest time, life was comfortably familiar in this amiable farm community. Then, about 20 years ago, a flood of immigrants came to work in the town’s big meat-packing plant.

The change was unsettling.

At the Tremont Grille, with the presidential caucuses just days away, regulars talked about crime, declining home values and the costs of caring for those who can’t, or won’t, speak English.

The nine men seated around their usual corner table — older, white, conservative — perfectly reflect the Republican Party base, save for the lone Democrat. So their concerns were no surprise; nothing this election has animated the GOP’s core supporters like immigration.

But nobody wants to wall off Mexico, or round people up, as Donald Trump and others in the Republican field suggest.

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