Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton participate in New Hampshire town hall

Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders attend New Hampshire town hall

Hillary Clinton hesitates to answer whether women should register for military draft

Hillary Clinton said she wasn't ready to answer a question about whether women should be required to register for a military draft as their roles continue to expand in the armed services.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley said this week that women should register for the draft. Young men in the U.S. must currently register, even though there is no draft.

"I have to think about whether it's necessary to go as far as our military officers are recommending," said Clinton at Wednesday's Democratic town hall in Derry, N.H.

Clinton said the all-volunteer military was working.

Moreover, she said she had a "hard time" seeing any kind of national emergency in which a draft would be necessary. 

"I have to be better informed about why they're making this recommendation," she concluded.  

Clinton talks about big-money speeches

Hillary Clinton faces pointed questions in Democratic town hall

Beyond the tit-for-tat with Bernie Sanders over ideology, the CNN town hall reflected again the extent to which Democratic and independent voters still have their doubts about Hillary Clinton, despite – or perhaps because of – her decades in the public eye.

The questions to her from New Hampshire voters were more pointed than those Sanders faced, including whether she would rule out future military interventions abroad – she would not - and how she could withstand the attacks to come from Republicans.

Clinton said she has learned to take criticism from Republicans “seriously but not personally,” and would continue to work to maintain voters’ trust.

“I know that I have to really demonstrate as clearly as I can who I am, what I stand for, what I’ve always done,” she said. “I’ve always been guided by the same values, I’ve always listened to people, and I’ve always worked as hard as I could to produce results for people.”

Clinton describes 'litmus tests' for Supreme Court choices

"I do have a litmus test" for Supreme Court appointments, Hillary Clinton said during a town hall in New Hampshire, setting out several.

The current conservative majority on the court has "given way too much power to corporations," she said, denouncing the Citizens United decision that has led to unrestricted donations by corporations and wealthy individuals to candidates.

Clinton also rejected a recent high court decision that essentially ended a significant part of the Voting Rights Act.

"We have to preserve marriage equality," Clinton said. And, she added, the court needs to protect the Roe v. Wade decision, which legalized abortion, and "not let it be nibbled away or repealed."

"I'm looking for people who are rooted in the real world, who know that part of the genius of our system" is to keep any part of society, such as business, from having too much power.

Trump, watching Democratic town hall, responds to Sanders

Bernie Sanders: 'Thank God I'm in good health'

He has a clean bill of health, but Bernie Sanders' age came up early in Wednesday's New Hampshire town hall. 

The question came from an audience member: If elected, would Sanders, 74, run again in 2020? 

"Thank God I'm in good health," the senator from Vermont replied. "If I am fortunate enough to win the general election and we do well, yes, I would like to run for reelection." 

Last month, as questions surfaced about his age, Sanders released some of his medical records, which showed he was in overall good health.

Sanders gets rare question on faith

Speaking in a televised town hall in New Hampshire, Sen. Bernie Sanders got a question on a subject he doesn't often talk about publicly -- religious faith.

Sanders is Jewish, but has said he has little involvement with organized religion. Asked by CNN anchor Anderson Cooper, the moderator of the town hall, whether faith plays a major role in his life, Sanders said it did.

Faith "is a guiding principle in my life," he said. "I would not be here tonight" running for president "if I did not have very strong religious and spiritual feelings."

Continuing to describe his faith, Sanders steered clear of traditional theological issues and focused, instead, on social justice.

"My spirituality is that we are all in this together. When children are hungry, when veterans sleep out in the street, it affects me," he said.

In Arkansas, Trump assails Cruz's Iowa win as "fraud"

 (John Taggart / European Pressphoto Agency)
(John Taggart / European Pressphoto Agency)

As his rivals for the Republican presidential nomination traversed New Hampshire on Wednesday, Donald Trump headed South and accused Ted Cruz, who won the Iowa caucus, of voter fraud.

"You know voter fraud, these politicians are brutal. They are brutal. They are brutal. They are a bunch of dishonest cookies I tell you," Trump said to supporters packed into an arena in Little Rock, Ark. 

Trump came in second in Iowa. He castigated Texas Sen. Cruz over a controversial campaign mailer sent out in the days ahead of the caucuses. 

The campaign literature had the label "Voter Violation" in bold red letters, with the words "official public record" across the top and urged caucus-goers to turn out. Iowa election officials had called the mailer misleading.

"That's like a fraud," Trump said.

Trump sent out a barrage of tweets Wednesday attacking Cruz. Based on an average of several polls, the billionaire developer is leading by double-digits in New Hampshire,  where voters will cast ballots Feb. 9.

Cruz dismissed Trump as having nothing more than a so-called "Trumpertanrum," and said he's focused on building on his momentum and winning New Hampshire. 

Trump's decision to not campaign in New Hampshire on Wednesday raised eyebrows among some political analysts, who see his lead in the state possibly slipping.

For Trump, southern state's like Arkansas, are key to his strategy for winning the nomination as voters there will cast ballots in the March 1 SEC primary and he sounded optimistic on Wednesday. 

 "My focus is on New Hampshire, we're doing great up there," he said. " The people in New Hampshire are great, the people in Arkansas are great."

Jeb Bush to Marco Rubio: Got a problem with negative ads? Get over it!

 (Pete Marovich / Getty Images)
(Pete Marovich / Getty Images)

Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio used to be close, both personally and politically. As Florida governor, Bush mentored Rubio as he climbed the political rungs from local office to the statehouse to the United States Senate.

But their relationship has disintegrated in the heat of the 2016 campaign, a victim of their colliding ambitions.

Now Bush routinely assails Rubio, and a political action committee -- independent but working on Bush's behalf -- has spent millions of dollars on advertisements blistering the freshman Florida lawmaker over issues such as his immigration stance and his personal finances.

The onslaught has upset and angered many Republicans who fear the damage it could do to the candidate emerging as the favorite of the embattled GOP establishment.

A woman attending a Bush town hall meeting Wednesday night in Laconia didn't put it quite that way. She just said she was sick of being inundated with attack mailers.

She called Bush a gentleman and asked if he would care to denounce the negativity?

No, he replied, he would not.

"Guess what? This is not bean bag," Bush said. "It's a contact sport.

"If you think it's ugly right now, which ... I think it's pretty tame compared to the previous elections, wait 'til you get to the general election," he said. "Wait 'til Hillary Clinton gets up to bat. That's the hit machine you should be focused on."

Bush suggested anyone put off by the negativity should just filter it out. (It hasn't been all one way, Bush said. Rubio's political action committee has been attacking him.) His advice to Rubio was more succinct and faintly condescending. "Get over it, man. This is politics."

Marco Rubio sees Obama's mosque visit as 'pitting people against each other'

On his first visit to a mosque as president on Wednesday, President Obama declared that no matter what race, creed or religion, "We're one American family."

"At a time when others are trying to divide us along lines of religion or sect, we have to reaffirm that most fundamental of truths: We are all God's children. We’re all born equal, with inherent dignity," Obama said at the Islamic Society of Baltimore.

On the campaign trail in New Hampshire, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio instead heard something he said Obama has done all too often, "pitting people against each other."

"Look at today. He gave a speech at a mosque, basically implying that America is discriminating against Muslims," Rubio said to a capacity crowd at an Irish pub in Dover. "Of course there’s discrimination in America, of every kind. But the bigger issue is radical Islam."

"This constant pitting people against each other, I can’t stand that," he continued. "It's hurting our country badly."

Rubio said he would govern as a conservative but would always look for ways to seek bipartisan agreement. And he offered an example from his Senate service.

"I passed a law two years ago that gave the [Veterans Affairs] secretary the power to fire the senior executives at the VA that were not doing a good job," he said. "You know who worked with me to pass that? Bernie Sanders."

"Now we don't agree on virtually anything else, but at least we agreed that if you’re not doing a good job, they should be able to fire."

Rick Santorum exits presidential race, endorses Marco Rubio

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who won Iowa’s 2012 caucuses, ended his presidential campaign on Wednesday and endorsed Marco Rubio for president.

“It is time to coalesce around the strongest candidate who will stand up for conservative values, be a statesman on the world stage, and has the ability to win a general election,” said Santorum in a statement.

Santorum, whose campaign failed to gain traction and court powerful donors, was a favorite of evangelicals four years ago, but garnered only 1% of the vote on Monday night in Iowa and has long lagged in the polls in other states.

Monday’s results have winnowed the GOP presidential field. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, another previous Iowa winner, withdrew Monday night. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky withdrew earlier Wednesday.

On the Democratic side, former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley dropped out Monday night.

5:02 p.m. This post was updated with Santorum's endorsement of Marco Rubio

Kasich sees the glass as half full on American problems

 (Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)
(Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)

Republican presidential candidates sometimes appear to be competing to paint the most dire picture of American security, portraying a world where Islamic terrorists are on the march as the Obama administration lets the military wither.

John Kasich, the Ohio governor who is hoping a strong showing in next week's New Hampshire primary gives his White House bid a much-needed boost, had a different view on Wednesday.

"I don't believe the country's sitting on the edge of a cliff. I think things are pretty good in America," Kasich said during a business forum in a Manchester, N.H., office building.

"We have problems. But they're all solvable," he added.

The governor made the comments in response to an audience member who questioned whether more defense spending was necessary in light of the country's deficit and its already unmatched military strength.

Kasich has pledged to carefully scrutinize Pentagon spending even as he's proposed a $100-billion increase in the defense budget.

"We always have to have a qualitative advantage," he said. "We're the leader of the world."

Another GOP senator goes for Rubio

If or when — the candidates can't agree

Political speeches can seem fresh for only so long. After a while, the mind turns to the candidates' quirks.

Here in New Hampshire, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio are engaged in a fierce fight to become the chief opponent to businessman Donald Trump — or, if Trump's campaign further falters, to take over the number one slot.

Their appeals are quite similar. Cruz, a college debater, tends to tick off the things he would do in order of their placement in the U.S. Constitution. (First, religious freedom, then guns, and so on.)

Rubio speaks conversationally, if with far more vehemence and aggressiveness than a typical conversation would entail.

They both vow to repeal President Obama's healthcare plan immediately, build a wall along the Mexican border and save the next generation of children from becoming the first generation of children not to be better off than their parents.

(That last one is a revered political line, which Bill Clinton employed in every speech he made during his successful run in 1992. And he may well have swiped it from someone else.)

But there is one distinct difference between the two senators: the word employed at the beginning of the sentences in which they make their promises.

"If I am elected president, every criminal illegal alien will be deported," Cruz thundered Wednesday during an appearance in Henniker.

No ifs for Rubio.

"When I'm president, we're banning 'Marco Polo,'" he said Tuesday night in Exeter, laughing at the torment the childhood game caused him.

More seriously, "When I am president, we are not hiring 20,000 new IRS agents; we'll hire 20,000 new border agents instead."

For Rubio, who looks younger than his 44 years, the usage may serve as a way to cast his success as inevitable in the minds of any skeptical voters. He does argue insistently that he would be the candidate best equipped to defeat the Democratic nominee.

But it can also come off as a bit presumptuous. Cruz's language — if — conjures the air of possibility, if only voters will see the light. Which is, of course, what every candidate hopes.

Ben Carson suggests Ted Cruz is a hypocrite, but won't quite say it

Ben Carson summoned reporters to a news conference Wednesday afternoon with an announcement citing Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and the admonition to judge others “by their fruit, not just the words they say.”

The rare biblical reference in his news release seemed aimed at Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, whose supporters spread a rumor during Monday night’s Iowa caucuses that Carson had dropped out. Cruz has been trying to win over evangelical voters, many of whom support Carson, a retired neurosurgeon.

But when asked directly if he was referring to Cruz, or calling him a hypocrite, Carson backed off.

“I didn’t say a word about Ted Cruz,” he told reporters after his opening remarks that repeated the biblical verse.

Wasn’t that the point of the news conference?

“It’s clear that there were people who tried to take advantage of a situation,” Carson said. “Sen. Cruz told me that he was not aware of that when I talked with him…We’ll wait and see what he does to demonstrate that.”

It was all very cryptic, another sign of Carson’s unorthodox campaign. The comments that sparked the rumor Monday were nearly as odd. Carson’s campaign staff had informed the press that he was returning home to Florida to get a fresh set of clothes, rather than moving onto New Hampshire for the next electoral contest.

“Is it OK after being on the road for almost three weeks to go home and get a fresh change of clothes?” Carson said Wednesday, by way of explanation.

“Does that make somebody into a evil, horrible person?”

Carson said he believed the rumor cost him support. He finished with 9% of the vote. Cruz has apologized, both privately to Carson and in public.

“He said, obviously, he didn’t know that people were doing this sort of thing in his organization and he didn’t agree with it,” Carson said.

Carson wanted more, suggesting — without quite saying it — that Cruz should fire staff members, pointing out that he parted ways with people in his own operation after financial questions arose about his campaign.

“I made changes and I think that’s what a good leader does,” Carson said. “If he agrees with it, he doesn’t need to make changes.”

The imbroglio has widened beyond Carson.

In a string of tweets Wednesday, Donald Trump, who was disappointed with his second-place finish, accused Cruz of "fraud" and called for a new vote in Iowa.

Cruz fired back by coining a new word: "Trumpertantrum."

Cruz-Trump fight heats up again

Democrats sanction additional debates that will span into May

 (Timothy A. Clary / AFP-Getty Images)
(Timothy A. Clary / AFP-Getty Images)

Negotiations over adding new debates to the Democratic primary calendar, including one possibly in California, were completed on Wednesday as the party prepares for a nominating contest that could span well into the spring.

In a statement, DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz said three additional debates will be sanctioned by the party.

“The first of these new debates is confirmed to take place in Flint, Mich., on March 6, with the remaining two taking place in April and May, with times and locations to be determined,” Schultz said. 

The DNC also sanctioned a debate Thursday in New Hampshire, which will be hosted by MSNBC.

Talks between Bernie Sanders' campaign and Hillary Clinton's side have been focused on adding four debates to the schedule. Sanders agreed several days ago to a plan to sanction the New Hampshire debate if Clinton would agree to add three more later in the campaign season.

In an interview with CNN on Wednesday, Sanders said the two sides have agreed on locations for two of the three proposed debates — California and Michigan. But, Sanders said, the Clinton campaign has resisted holding an event in New York, the state she once represented in the U.S. Senate.

Sanders and Clinton are both scheduled to appear at a town hall Wednesday that will be hosted by CNN.


1:38 p.m.: This article was updated with a statement from the Democratic National Committee.

This article was originally published at 11:36 a.m.

Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders set to attend New Hampshire town hall

 (John Locher / Associated Press)
(John Locher / Associated Press)

Hillary Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders will meet in New Hampshire on Wednesday night for a Democratic town hall, two days after a razor-sharp finish in Iowa. 

The town hall, hosted by CNN and set to air at 6 p.m. Pacific Time, will allow Granite State voters the opportunity to question each candidate ahead of the state's first-in-the-nation primary on Tuesday. 

Clinton and Sanders are the final remaining candidates on the Democratic side. Former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley exited the race on Monday after a lackluster performance in the Iowa caucuses. 

Following Clinton's narrow victory in Iowa over Sanders, she enters New Hampshire down by double digits to the Vermont senator, based on an average of several polls. 

What: Democratic town hall

Where: New Hampshire

When: 6 p.m. Pacific Time on CNN; follow along here on Trail Guide for updates. 

It's (still) the economy, stupid

Immigration has generated some of the biggest fireworks. What does the media love to cover? Fireworks. This is about economic issues and terrorism.

David Winston, a Republican pollster, noting that entrance-poll interviews with GOP caucus-goers in Iowa ranked concerns about immigration behind those other issues.