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Ted Cruz uses cartoon depicting daughters as fundraising tool

Welcome to Trail Guide, your host through the wilds of the 2016 presidential campaign. It's Wednesday, Dec. 23, and here's what we're talking about:

  • Ben Carson, having slipped badly in polls, is now talking about a staff shake-up
  • Hillary Clinton, who will welcome  a second grandchild next summer, encountered some pushback as her campaign sought to liken her to "your abuela"
  • Ted Cruz uses Washington Post cartoon as fundraising tool
  • From Washington to the campaign trail and back, how many votes have senators missed?
  • Fox Business announces the criteria  for its Jan. 14 debate, presaging a smaller field
  • Bernie Sanders criticized the Federal Reserve in an opinion piece, joining Rand Paul , but for opposite reasons

Carson, sinking in polls, plans staff shake-up

 (Rich Hein / Associated Press)

(Rich Hein / Associated Press)

Ben Carson has plans for a staff shake-up -- soon.

The retired neurosurgeon, who for a time this fall appeared to be a viable candidate for the GOP presidential nomination, is preparing to reorganize his campaign amid tumbling poll numbers and underwhelming debate performances.

"Everything. Everything is on the table," Carson said of the potential changes in interviews with the Associated Press and the Washington Post on Wednesday. "Every single thing is on the table. I'm looking carefully."

Carson, whose campaign has raised large sums but spent money almost as quickly as it has come in, told the Post he wanted "to see more efficiency in terms of the way money is utilized.”

A request for comment from Barry Bennett, Carson's current campaign manager, was not immediately returned.

With the Iowa caucuses just a little more than five weeks away, a staff shake-up could be too late for a struggling campaign to gain traction.

In recent weeks, Carson's campaign has been hit with questions about his biography and his comments about Muslims and Syrian refugees. He has often blamed the media for, in his view, not accurately reporting his statements.

His debate performances, in which he has sometimes struggled to show a basic understanding of foreign and domestic issues, have not helped.

While on the trail in early primary states, Carson speaks at length about his Christian faith, which has given him support of some evangelical Christian voters, particularly in Iowa. Yet that support has declined, with Texas Sen. Ted Cruz picking up many former Carson supporters, polls indicate.

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FOR THE RECORD
Dec. 23, 2:40 p.m.: A headline on an earlier version of this post said Bernie Sanders plans a staff shake-up. It is Ben Carson who is considering staff changes.
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I’m looking at every aspect of the campaign right now. Everything is on the table, every job is on the table. And we’re going to analyze it very carefully.
Ben Carson in an interview with the Washington Post in which he said major staff shakeups are likely to occur soon within his campaign. He's seen a decline in his poll numbers in recent weeks.

Ted Cruz uses Washington Post cartoon as fundraising tool

A cartoon that depicted Ted Cruz’s daughters as a pair of trained monkeys has become a potential fundraising bonanza juggernaut of sorts for the Texas senator as he seeks the Republican presidential nomination.

The Washington Post pulled the cartoon from its website Tuesday, with the paper’s editorial page editor, Fred Hiatt, noting that it’s “generally been the policy of the editorial section to leave children” of presidential candidates out of cartoons. On Twitter, Cruz immediately assailed the cartoon as tasteless.

Cruz’s daughters, ages 5 and 7, were featured recently in an online ad by the campaign that featured political Christmas tales, such as “Rudolph the Underemployed Reindeer” and “How Obamacare Stole Christmas.”

The cartoonist, Ann Telnaes, originally justified including Cruz’s daughters in her cartoon because the GOP candidate was using them as “political props,” she wrote.

In response, Cruz has to implored supporters to donate to his campaign.

“This shows you EXACTLY how desperate the liberal media is to attack and destroy me (and my family) by any means necessary,” he said in a fundraising email to supporters.

He added, “My daughters are NOT FAIR GAME!”

In recent weeks, Cruz has shot toward the top of the crowded GOP presidential field.

Recent polls from Iowa, which will kick off voting in the 2016 campaign on Feb.1, show him leading businessman Donald Trump by about 4 percentage points based on an average of surveys from the state.

From Washington to the campaign trail and back, how many votes have senators missed?

 (J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press)

(J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press)

As they shuttle between early primary states and their paid jobs representing constituents in Washington, the senators vying for the White House are missing a lot of votes and committee hearings.

Based on an analysis by C-SPAN, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio has missed the most time from his day job.

Rubio made 219 of 339 recorded Senate roll call votes in 2015, or 64%. The Florida senator trailed two rivals for the Republican nomination: Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who made 76% of the roll call votes, and Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, who was present for 94%. All three are seeking the GOP presidential nomination.

Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, a long shot in his quest for the Democratic nomination, was present for 311 roll call votes, or 91%.

On the trail, Rubio has faced intense criticism from some rivals for his absences from Washington. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, a constituent of Rubio’s, has said Rubio should better represent Floridians and not miss votes to campaign. Donald Trump, the billionaire businessman and front-runner for the GOP nomination, has said Rubio has the “worst voting record in the United States Senate.”

Rubio has defended his voting record, saying in October that he didn’t like missing votes, but that “I'm not there because I'm fighting for the future of America” – a line that was ridiculed by some of his opponents.

When it comes to speaking on the Senate floor, Rubio didn’t fare much better, based on the C-SPAN analysis of video images.

Of the 156 days the Senate was in session in 2015, Rubio spoke eight times, about 5% of the total days. That trailed Paul’s 13 times (8% of total days), Cruz’s 19 times (12% of total days) and Sanders’ 37 times (23% of total days).

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Trump's campaign is less chaotic and more calculated than it looks

 (Scott Olson / Getty Images)

(Scott Olson / Getty Images)

Louise Sunshine, a former New York lobbyist and real estate executive, has known Donald Trump for more than 40 years. She shared a small office with Trump just as his career as a developer began to take off. She helped him cajole politicians for tax breaks on his first buildings.

Knowing how Trump operates, Sunshine was surprised to hear his rival Jeb Bush brand him last week as a “chaos candidate.” Trump, she said, “is the least chaotic person I know.”

“The least,” she added to underline the point. “And the most determined person I know.”

Trump’s raw, in-your-face style of politics can come off as random ranting. Over the weekend, he called Hillary Clinton a liar and Bush a loser. “Dumb as a rock!” he wrote of the former Florida governor on Twitter.

But if Trump sows chaos, it is tightly controlled chaos. The bluster and put-downs, by some measures, are part of a meticulously calculated strategy by a surprisingly disciplined front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination. Trump is the rare first-time candidate whose mastery of basic political skills is arguably unmatched by most, if not all, of his rivals in a crowded Republican field.

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Sanders says Wall Street 'hijacked' the Fed

Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks during a campaign stop at a senior center in Manchester, N.H., on Oct. 30.  (Jim Cole / Associated Press)

Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks during a campaign stop at a senior center in Manchester, N.H., on Oct. 30. (Jim Cole / Associated Press)

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders on Wednesday launched an attack against the Federal Reserve in an opinion article for the New York Times.

The Democratic presidential candidate called for reform of the central bank, saying its practice of bailing out major financial institutions could cost Americans an obscene amount of money in a future financial crisis. He also said Wall Street controls the Fed.

“An institution that was created to serve all Americans has been hijacked by the very bankers it regulates,” Sanders wrote. “The sad reality is that the Federal Reserve doesn’t regulate Wall Street; Wall Street regulates the Fed,” Sanders wrote. “It’s time to make banking work for the productive economy and for all Americans, not just a handful of wealthy speculators.”

The senator used the Fed’s recent small hike of a key interest rate — the first in nearly a decade — as an example of the economic system being rigged against ordinary Americans. The increase will hurt small-business owners who need bank loans to hire workers and will slow job growth and small employers' ability to pay higher wages, he said.

Sanders proposed a rule under which the Fed would not raise interest rates until the national unemployment rate is less than 4%. He called the threat of runaway inflation a “phantom.”

In criticizing the Fed, Sanders joins a number of Republican candidates, including Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Ted Cruz of Texas, who have also called for greater political control of the central bank.

But though Sanders criticized the Fed for raising interest rates, the Republicans have denounced the central bank for keeping them too low. They claim that the Fed’s policy of low interest rates has “debased” the dollar, hurt seniors who rely on income from savings, and that it will spark inflation. Some of them have proposed rules that would push interest rates higher earlier.

The Fed’s defenders say that the conflicting volleys from left and right show why the central bank should continue to be shielded from interference by members of Congress. Over the long run, the economy works best when the Fed can keep it growing steadily, but not overheating, Federal Reserve board members say.

#NotMyAbuela bashes Clinton's attempt to reach Latino voters

Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton wants Latino voters to identify with her maternal side, but an effort to exude grandmotherly love has run into some opposition on social media.

On Tuesday, Clinton’s campaign released "7 things Hillary Clinton has in common with your abuela ," the Spanish word for grandmother. Critics responded on Twitter with the hashtag #NotMyAbuela.

The abuela message came as the Clinton campaign battled GOP opponent Donald Trump over his use of the word "schlonged," derived from a Yiddish word for penis, to describe Clinton’s 2008 loss to Barack Obama. Clinton’s campaign tried to leverage the candidate’s background as a mother and grandmother, particularly in light of the announcement that her daughter, Chelsea, is pregnant again, to draw empathy from Latino voters, a group that Trump is quite unpopular with.

"She isn’t afraid to talk about the importance of el respeto [respect] (especially when it comes to women)," her campaign website said in its list of seven points. "She reads to you before bedtime."

"She had one word for Donald Trump … Basta! Enough!"

Not everyone was convinced.

Tweeters represented both random troll accounts and Latina and black women who said they felt insulted by Clinton’s seemingly phony attempt to connect. Some accused the candidate of "hispandering" — pandering to Hispanics, or Latinos, in a distasteful manner.

The fracas shows how efforts to interact on a personal level with all groups can be complex in a political race. Reaching a cultural niche different from a candidate’s own can be risky.

Stay up to date on the 2016 money trail

For three decades, federal laws restrained how much money rich people could pour into presidential campaigns. No more.

Because of a series of court decisions, the limits have in effect disappeared, and this election is the first to see the full effect.

Wealthy individuals — many of whom are executives in the financial services, energy, technology and entertainment industries — have given millions to the super PACs supporting candidates.

So far the names of 86 donors of $500,000 or more have been revealed in campaign disclosure forms. Here’s a look at who they are.

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Smaller group of candidates will be on stage in next GOP debate

 (Scott Olson / Getty Images)

(Scott Olson / Getty Images)

The next Republican presidential debate seems likely to feature six or seven candidates, rather than the nine who crowded onto last week's stage.

Fox Business Network, which is hosting the Jan. 14 debate in South Carolina, announced on Tuesday the criteria it will use for picking who gets invited.

To be on the main stage, a candidate will have to place among the top six in national polls or the top five in polls of either New Hampshire or Iowa, the states that hold the first two contests of the nominating season.

The Times' David Lauter has more.

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