Donald Trump backs out of his Israel trip

Welcome to Trail Guide, your host through the wilds of the 2016 presidential campaign. It's Thursday, Dec. 10, and here's what we're talking about:

  • Donald Trump says he'll visit Israel after "I become president"
  • When rivals challenge Trump's rhetoric, his tribe of supporters only becomes more animated 
  • Bruce Goacher is a repo man from Iowa who supports Trump -- no matter what 
  • A new Harvard Institute for Politics poll of millennials offers bad news for the GOP
  • A pair of  recent polls  offer good news to Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Trump 
  • Hillary Clinton is in Iowa for townhall events in Urbandale and Waterloo

Petition calls on PGA to move event from Donald Trump-owned golf course

 (Paul Vernon / AP)

(Paul Vernon / AP)

An online petition calling for the PGA Tour not to hold the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship at the Trump National Doral Golf Course in Miami next March has garnered more than 25,600 signatures.

Course owner Donald Trump, the leading candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, angered many people earlier this week by calling for a “total and complete” ban of Muslims entering the U.S.

"Trump's outrageous, dangerous statements seem to be fueling his political popularity -- let's see if we can hit him where he feels it -- In his bank account," the Care2 petition reads.

The billionaire businessman owns golf courses all over the world, many of which host events for the PGA and LPGA tours, the U.S. Golf Assn. and the PGA of America.

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Why Democratic candidates are embracing the issue of guns

 (Charlie Neibergall / AP)

(Charlie Neibergall / AP)

After shying away from the gun issue for the better part of two decades, Democratic presidential candidates now can’t say enough about the need for tougher laws, vying to see who among them can be the harshest critic of the National Rifle Assn.

It’s not that public opinion has dramatically shifted. The gun issue is the classic case in which a highly engaged minority — gun owners and their potent lobby — manage to trump the sentiments of a far-less-motivated majority. That explains why legislation requiring universal background checks for gun buyers — a proposal supported by roughly 90% of Americans — has long stalled in Congress.

Part of the shift among Democrats may be visceral, a response to the string of mass shootings that have turned place names like Sandy Hook, Aurora and now San Bernardino into grim shorthand for horrific violence.

“It’s driven by conviction,” said Paul Begala, a veteran Democratic strategist who notes that, caricatures aside, politicians are humans who bleed and cry like everyone else.

But there is also a certain political calculation.

Democrats are no longer relying on rural voters in states like Tennessee or West Virginia to win the White House. The strategy that has emerged under President Obama relies instead on a coalition of minority voters, urban dwellers and single women — groups that look far more favorably on gun controls — in battlegrounds such as Virginia, Colorado and Nevada.

It’s not that Democrats have grown any more ardent in their support of tougher gun laws, it’s that “Democrats are freer now to talk about gun control because they feel it’s not going to cost them votes on election day,” said Adam Winkler, a UCLA law professor and author of “Gun Fight: The Battle Over the Right to Bear Arms in America.”

That said, Winkler suggested that regardless of how strongly a Democratic president supports gun control, no new restrictions are likely to pass into federal law so long as control of Congress and the executive branch remain divided between the parties.

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Ted Cruz nets key endorsement from evangelical leader in Iowa

 (Jim Cole / Associated Press)

(Jim Cole / Associated Press)

Ted Cruz picked up a key endorsement Thursday from an influential Iowa conservative and religious leader, boosting the Texas Republican senator’s presidential bid among evangelical and social issues voters who are boosting his campaign.

Cruz said the endorsement from Bob Vander Plaats, the president and CEO of Family Leader, “sends a signal” that will motivate voters in the state’s early caucus. Cruz led rival Republican Donald Trump in Iowa in one recent poll, the only candidate to do so.

Vander Plaats’ organization, affiliated with the Colorado-based Focus on the Family, opposes gay marriage and abortion and says its mission is “inspiring Christ-like leadership in the home, the church, and the government.”

“I am confident that Ted Cruz is the right man for the job, and look forward to working with Iowans in every corner of the state to help him win the Iowa Caucus on February 1st,” Vander Plaats said.

The more Trump is bashed, the more his tribe backs him

 (Cliff Owen / AP)

(Cliff Owen / AP)

The more rivals and pundits criticize Donald Trump’s candidacy, the more his supporters dig in and side with his assessments of the country.

That was a key takeaway when 29 self-described Trump supporters huddled in Alexandria, Va., on Wednesday night to field an array of questions about Trump, the billionaire businessman turned Republican presidential front-runner.

Among the participants, support for Trump grew over the hour and a half they answered questions about Trump's temperament and insults he’s lobbed at rivals and the media, mirroring the pattern of deepening support for him over the life of his candidacy. Amid uproars over his inflammatory rhetoric -- calling Mexicans “rapists,” implying a Fox News reporter was menstruating when she asked tough questions and calling this week for a “total and complete” ban of Muslims entering the country -- his standing in the polls strengthened.

Each of the participants in Wednesday’s focus group were asked to gauge the likelihood that they’d support Trump on a scale of one to 10. At the start of the night, 10 people said they were at nine or 10, noted David Merritt, managing director of Luntz Global, a political firm led by longtime Republican strategist Frank Luntz, who conducted the focus group. By the end of the night, 16 said that they were that likely to back him.

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Ben Carson calls Laquan McDonald police shooting 'despicable,' but does not call for Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to resign

 (Jose M. Osorio / Chicago Tribune)

(Jose M. Osorio / Chicago Tribune)

I felt it was an abominable act. I think we have a very inappropriate action by a police officer, and it's despicable and it disturbs me that it was hidden for such a long period of time.
Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson on the death of Chicago teen Laquan McDonald. Carson did not call for Mayor Rahm Emanuel to resign.

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Muhammad Ali speaks out amid uproar over Donald Trump's Muslim proposal

We as Muslims have to stand up to those who use Islam to advance their own personal agenda.
Muhammad Ali, in a statement seen as an implicit rebuke of Donald Trump

Christie plans to court billionaire L.A. fundraisers

Republican presidential candidate New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie addresses the Sunshine Summit in Orlando, Fla. (John Raoux / AP)

Republican presidential candidate New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie addresses the Sunshine Summit in Orlando, Fla. (John Raoux / AP)

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is heading to California the day after Tuesday's GOP debate to raise money at the Los Angeles home of billionaire hedge-fund manager Steve Cohen. Among the hosts of the Wednesday cocktail party are Hewlett-Packard chief and unsuccessful 2010 GOP gubernatorial nominee Meg Whitman and NBC Universal vice chair Ron Meyer, according to an invitation obtained by The Times.

The fundraiser comes at a crucial time for Christie – he is securing key endorsements in early voting states such as New Hampshire but still languishes in polling and fundraising compared to his GOP rivals.

Cohen, a longtime Christie supporter who is the founder of SAC Capital Advisers, is worth about $11 billion. He was implicated in an insider trading scandal but was never criminally charged. His company pleaded guilty to related fraud and paid $1.2 billion in the ensuing agreement. He has previously hosted fundraisers for Christie, as has Whitman, who hosted an event for Christie at her Atherton, Calif., home earlier this year. Christie backed Whitman with memorable public support and fundraising in California during her 2010 run.

Among those spreading word about the event is businessman Nick Loeb, the nephew of billionaire Edgar Bronfman Sr. and the former fiancé of "Modern Family" star Sofia Vergara.

Christie is not alone in using his trip to Tuesday’s Las Vegas debate to slip in time with California’s deep-pocketed donors the following day. On Wednesday, Jeb Bush will visit Brentwood and Pasadena. Among the top names hosting Bush events are former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan, former Rep. David Dreier, and former U.S. Ambassadors Bob Tuttle, Frank Baxter, Susan McCaw and Ron Spogli.

Brad Freeman, a top California-based George W. Bush fundraiser, is hosting a $2,700-per-guest luncheon at his Brentwood home. The dinner -- also $2,700 per guest -- is at the Pasadena home of Jeanine and John Cushman, a commercial real estate mogul.

GOP chance with youngest voters slipping away

Earlier this year, Republicans seemed to have potential opening with members of the large millennial generation, who played a key role in Barack Obama's two victories.

That chance appears to be slipping away, according to the latest Harvard Institute of Politics poll of 18- to 29-year-olds.

Asked which party they would like to see win the next presidential election, millennials favored the Democrats by 20 points, 56%-36%, the survey found. That Democratic advantage is up from a 15-point edge in the spring, noted the poll's director, John Della Volpe.

Compared with the spring poll, Democrats gained ground most notably among the youngest members of the generation, aged 18-24, Della Volpe said.

In 2008, when Obama was first elected, young people were "true outliers," Della Volpe said, giving extremely heavy support to Obama. Since then, young voters have become more polarized between the two parties, much like the rest of the electorate, but the shift toward the Democrats signals a problem for the GOP, he said.

Until this survey, the youngest millennials appeared more open to Republicans than older members of the generation. That gap appears to have disappeared, he said.

The poll, taken before the recent terrorist attacks in San Bernardino, showed majority support for sending U.S. troops to fight on the ground against the Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria.

But only about 1 in 8 millennials said they would definitely or strongly consider enlisting in the military. About 6 in 10 said they would not.

The survey of 2,011 Americans aged 18-29 was conducted Oct. 30-Nov. 9. It has a margin of error of +/- 2.8 percentage points.

RNC urges Trump to honor GOP pledge

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, speaking at a rally at the Yorktown in South Carolina on Monday, defended his proposal to ban Muslims from entering the country. (Mic Smith / AP)

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, speaking at a rally at the Yorktown in South Carolina on Monday, defended his proposal to ban Muslims from entering the country. (Mic Smith / Associated Press)

Controversial statements about Muslims and a constant barrage of public attacks on President Obama and GOP candidates hasn’t slowed Republican Donald Trump’s rise to the top of the GOP’s 2016 presidential bid list. And the Republican National Committee made a plea Wednesday urging Trump to not back out of his September pledge to back whoever wins the party's nomination for president.

Trump indicated Tuesday on Twitter and Wednesday on CNN that he may consider an independent run again. He had agreed to sign the GOP pledge if the party treated him fairly.

“If they don’t treat me with a certain amount of decorum and respect, if they don’t treat me as the front-runner, by far as the front-runner, if the playing field is not level, then certainly all options are open,” he said in a interview with CNN.

“Mr. Trump is a successful businessman who understands that in order to defeat Hillary Clinton, we must unify as a party around the Republican nominee,” RNC spokeswoman Allison Moore said in a statement sent to Politico. “That’s why all of the candidates signed the pledge, because everyone knows that a third-party bid would instantly hand Hillary Clinton the keys to the White House.”

But many party members and candidates denounced Trump's proposal to ban Muslims from entering the United States. RNC Chairman Reince Priebus, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul D. Ryan joined the group condemning that proposal.

Republican rival Jeb Bush responded to Trump’s tweet and said an independent run would split the support for any Republican candidate. The division would all but solidify a win for Democratic front-runner Clinton.

Rivals take a risk by swinging at Trump and threatening the GOP’s chances of winning the White House. But the businessman’s unfavorable statements put the party in a difficult spot.

“The party is now caught in this orbit, and there is — I don’t see how they slingshot their way out of it,” said Michael Steele, former RNC chairman.

Jeb taps Bush family network for campaign help

Republican presidential hopeful and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush visited the Iowa State Fair on Friday. (Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)

Republican presidential hopeful and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush at the Iowa State Fair. (Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)

In his continued struggle to gain support for his 2016 presidential bid, Republican Jeb Bush is calling on the family network of aides for help. Bush plans to use email lists of his father George H. W. Bush’s and his brother George W. Bush’s former aides and administrators to campaign on the ground and through their own networks.

In an interview with Politico, George H.W. Bush’s former deputy chief of staff David Bates said he plans to travel to New Hampshire in February and reach out to voters.

“He’s got bunch of supporters around the country who will do whatever they can to help his effort,” Bates said.

Efforts across the country are expected to launch by February, the Bush campaign told Politico.

Bush said Wednesday in Manchester, N.H., that his personality is introverted — he likes to reach the people on an equal plane, not as a celebrity-like figure, an implicit criticism of GOP front-runner Donald Trump.

“I really don’t believe in celebrity-dom. I find it superficial. ... I’d rather be with people who have done things," he said.

Another supporter of Bush, former Vice President Dick Cheney’s personal aide Brian McCormack, also told Politico that the Bush network alumni feel deeply connected to the family due to bonds formed after the Sept. 11 attacks during George W. Bush's presidency. McCormack plans to campaign for Jeb Bush in South Carolina and New Hampshire.

“We worked for him on the day America was attacked, and I think it was tough for a lot of people,” McCormack said of George W. Bush.

Trump cancels Israel trip

Donald Trump has scrubbed his much-ballyhooed trip to Israel, he announced Thursday.

Trump's visit had become a political problem for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu since the New York billionaire's statement calling for a ban on most Muslims entering the U.S. Jewish groups across the political spectrum had criticized Trump's idea, likening it to efforts by earlier generations of politicians to ban Jews.

Netanyahu had issued a brief statement earlier this week rejecting Trump's idea of banning Muslim entry to the U.S. The prime minister has a strained political relationship with Israel's large Arab Muslim population.

The cancellation was the second foreign visit Trump called off this week. Earlier, he announced he would not be visiting Jordan, a country whose population is overwhelmingly Muslim.

Donald Trump supporter on his rhetoric: 'I agree 100%'

 (Michael Finnegan / Los Angeles Times)

(Michael Finnegan / Los Angeles Times)

He says let’s not bring nobody here until we get to the bottom of it. I agree 100%.
Bruce Goacher, 56, a repo man from Davenport, Iowa, on Trump's proposal to ban Muslims from entering the United States.

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