Republican debate wrapped, a good night for governors


Welcome to Trail Guide, your host through the wilds of the 2016 presidential campaign. It’s Saturday, Feb. 6, and here’s what we’re talking about:

Live from New York, it’s Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders made his highly anticipated appearance on “Saturday Night Live.” He joined doppelganger Larry David in a skit on a sinking ship, in which David demanded he be saved before the women and children because he’s rich. Sanders steps in to complain about the “1%" getting preferential treatment. Then he explains democratic socialism.

The skit may not go down as one of SNL’s most memorable.

The Sanders-focused bit that came just before, though, got much bigger laughs. Sanders did not act in it, but he was the starring character. Larry David played Sanders in an alternate universe, where the candidate has all the neuroses of David himself, as featured on “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” “She’s the one who is being rude by offering a germ infested hand,” David said of a voter whose hand he refused to shake. “I am running for president. I do not shake disgusting hands.”


Takeaways from the debate

From less talk about God to fights over waterboarding, here are some takeaways from the feisty Republican debate.

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Tonight’s attacks, in a handy flow chart


Watch Trump answer LAT’s waterboarding question

From the Spin Room.


Candidates battle over who is the most opposed to abortion

The GOP candidates clashed on who was the most opposed to abortion.

Chris Christie and Jeb Bush drew contrasts with Marco Rubio, who has called for outlawing the procedure in all cases except when a mother’s life is endangered.

Like Rubio, Christie and Bush describe themselves as “pro-life,” but both said exceptions were also appropriate in cases of rape and incest.

“This is a woman being violated,” Christie said about rape.

Rubio did not explain his support for including rape and incest cases in a federal abortion ban.

He instead called Democrats extremists on the issue, and said he couldn’t wait to expose them in the general election.

“Why doesn’t the media ask Hillary Clinton why she believes that all abortions should be legal, even on the due date of the unborn child?” he asked.

“Why don’t they ask Hillary Clinton why she believes that partial-birth abortion, which is a gruesome procedure that’s been outlawed in this country – she thinks that’s a fundamental right?”


Cheers from Kasich’s camp

We needed a good night. And we had a good night. ...  We’ll see what happens Tuesday. But there were a few cheers in our green room for the first time in a while.

Tom Rath, a leader of Gov. John Kasich’s campaign in New Hampshire


Carson explains his missed entrance

Ben Carson details why he had that awkward moment as the debate began.

And when you watch the full video from offstage, it’s pretty obvious that several candidates can’t hear their names being called.

And the moderators had their backs to the stage, so they couldn’t tell when candidates had not walked to their lecterns.

Worth noting that ABC is the network that started the Democratic debate without waiting for Hillary Clinton to return to her spot following a break.


Who talked the most?


Candidates give their Super Bowl predictions

Noting the teams playing in Super Bowl 50 tomorrow — the Carolina Panthers and the Denver Broncos — are from battleground states in a general election, moderators asked the candidates who will win.

John Kasich: Carolina

Jeb Bush noted that Broncos Quarterback Peyton Manning supports him, so “I’m for Denver.”

Marco Rubio replied, “Now I’m rooting for Carolina.”

Ted Cruz chose Carolina, saying it was with the date Feb. 20 on his mind. (That’s when Republicans hold a primary in South Carolina. The Panthers, for the record, play in Charlotte, N.C. That state votes March 15. Their practice facility is in South Carolina.)

Donald Trump: Carolina

Ben Carson demurred, saying he could predict with 100% certainty: “It will be either Denver or Carolina.”

Chris Christie: Denver


A smaller military? Not the right metric, experts say

Marco Rubio, the U.S. senator from Florida, has accused President Obama of allowing the country’s military power to wither. In particular, he says the Air Force is smaller than ever.

It’s a similar line of attack to one Mitt Romney used when running against Obama in 2012. PolitiFact evaluated the issue, and called it an example of using “more or less accurate statistics to make a meaningless claim.”


A personal story from Cruz on drugs

Discussions about drug addiction have been pervasive during the campaign in New Hampshire, which is an epicenter of the country’s heroin epidemic.

Asked about the issue during the debate, Ted Cruz shared a personal story that he’s been talking about recently on the campaign trail. His half sister, Miriam, was addicted to drugs and went to jail before ending up living in what Cruz described as a crackhouse.

The Texas senator recalled going to the house with his father in hopes of helping Miriam.

“She wasn’t going to listen,” Cruz said. “She wasn’t going to change the path she was on.”

He said Miriam died of an overdose, and he called for local programs to help people struggling with addiction. But Cruz also tied the issue to border security.

“You’ve got Mexican cartels who are smuggling vast amounts of heroin into this country,” he said. “We know how to secure the borders. What’s missing is the political will to do it.”


Ted Cruz, Donald Trump differ on waterboarding

Ted Cruz probably would not bring back the infamous tactic known as waterboarding if elected president, but Donald Trump would -- and then some.

“I would bring back waterboarding,” Trump declared. “And I’ll bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding.”

Cruz simply said he “would not bring it back in any sort of widespread use.”

But, he added, “you can rest assured that as commander in chief, I would use whatever enhanced interrogation methods we could to keep this country safe.”

After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, CIA interrogators used waterboarding, which simulates drowning, to try to extract information from several Al Qaeda suspects in custody.

The waterboarding and other harsh techniques -- which critics condemned as torture -- failed to produce useful intelligence about planned attacks and led to false confessions, according to the executive summary of a Senate intelligence committee report released in 2014.

President Obama formally ended the CIA’s use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” when he took office in 2009.


Christie-Rubio clash drawing lots of interest


Trump and Bush spar over property rights

Donald Trump and Jeb Bush got into a nasty spat over a topic that doesn’t normally come up in presidential campaigns: seizure of private property under eminent domain.

The former Florida governor accused the New York developer of getting state officials to condemn an elderly woman’s home in Atlantic City so he could build a parking lot for limousines near his casinos.

“That is downright wrong,” Bush said, arguing that eminent domain should be used only for public purposes, such as building schools, hospitals and roads.

Trump mocked Bush for trying to be “a tough guy.”

“I didn’t take the property,” he insisted.

“You tried,” Bush retorted. “How tough is it to take property from an elderly woman?”

“Let me talk – quiet,” Trump told Bush, putting a finger to his lips. The audience groaned.

“That’s all of his donors and special interests,” Trump said.

That triggered more groans, and what sounded like boos, that grew louder as Trump told the TV audience that the Republican Party had salted the crowd with campaign contributors.

“Excuse me, the reason they’re not loving me is I don’t want their money,” Trump said.


Cruz defends plan to ‘carpet bomb’ Islamic State

Ted Cruz, the U.S. senator from Texas, repeated his call for using overwhelming air power to target Islamic State terrorists.

Pressed on whether he was risking civilian casualties, Cruz said he would loosen the rules of engagement for American forces.

“We are sending them into battle with their arms tied around their back,” he said. “We should use overwhelming force. Kill the enemy. And then get the heck out.”

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Fact check on campaign fundraising


Chris Christie rattles Marco Rubio with tough attack

(David Goldman / Associated Press)

Marco Rubio came under withering attack from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in Saturday’s Republican presidential debate after he listed his accomplishments as a U.S. senator from Florida.

“You weren’t even there to vote for it,” Christie snapped after Rubio listed a piece of anti-terrorism legislation. “That’s not leadership. That’s truancy.”

Rubio assailed Christie for New Jersey’s nine credit downgrades on his watch, then started repeating his standard criticisms of President Obama.

“That’s what Washington, D.C., does,” Christie said. “The drive-by shot at the beginning, with incorrect and incomplete information, and then the memorized 25-second speech that is exactly what his advisors gave him.”

“Chris, your state got hit by a massive snowstorm two weeks ago,” Rubio responded. “You didn’t even want to go back. They had to shame you into going back. And then you stayed there for 36 hours, and then he left and came back to campaign.”

After jeers from the audience faded, Rubio pivoted back to the topic of Obama, and Christie interrupted, raising his voice. “There it is, the memorized 25-second speech,” he said.

Someone made a supercut of the moment, showing Rubio repeating himself.

Rubio, in turn, cranked up the volume as the two rivals spoke over one another on split screen.

“You know what the shame is, Marco? The shame is that you would actually criticize somebody for showing up to work, plowing the street, getting the trains run back on time, when you’ve never been responsible for that your entire life,” Christie said

“Chris didn’t want to go back,” said Rubio, sweat beginning to glisten on his face.

“Oh, so wait a second, is that one of the skills you get as a United States senator -- you get ESP also?” Christie said. “He gets very unruly when he gets off his talking point.”


Who is ready to bomb North Korea?

The GOP candidates tend to talk very tough on national security. So the moderators presented them with a real-life national security crisis taking place in the present. They were asked if if they were in the Oval Office right now, how they would deal with the news that North Korea is testing a long-range missile system that could ultimately be capable of reaching the Unites States with a nuclear warhead.

Would they launch a preemptive strike?

Ted Cruz, one of the biggest hawks in the race, demurred. He said he could not make such a call without first seeing the security briefings.

Donald Trump said he would pressure the Chinese to solve the problem. “They have total, absolute control, practically, of North Korea,” he said. “I would get on [the phone] with China, let China solve that problem.”

It was Jeb Bush who took the most aggressive position. “If a preemptive strike is necessary to keep us safe, then we should do it,” he said.


Audience boos Trump -- so he goes after them

Donald Trump took on the audience tonight, criticizing them as special interests, showing once again that he’s willing to defy almost every convention of politics.

It started when he put his finger to his mouth and told former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush to “quiet” so he could continue speaking as the two men skirmished over eminent domain.

The audience booed.

“That’s all of his donors and special interests,” Trump shot back, staring them down.

They booed again and Trump, once again, said the same thing, that the only people who could get tickets were party donors.

It’s not the first time Trump has taken on an audience. “How stupid are the people of Iowa?” he said during a November appearance in the state.


When nontraditional media sponsor a debate

The quirky Independent Journal Review (the brains behind the Lindsey Graham cellphone video and Marco Rubio throwing a football) is a co-host of the debate with ABC, and the broadcast has featured a few fun videos so far.

This one features the candidates talking about their pre-debate rituals.

And the Independent Journal Review’s website is running a live feedback tool during the debate.


An electromagnetic what?

Ted Cruz was asked how he would stop North Korea from obtaining a long-range nuclear weapon capable of reaching the U.S. He responded with a short lesson about the possibility of North Korea using such a bomb to create an electromagnetic pulse that would wipe out the power grid in North America. What was he talking about? Find out everything you need to know about electromagnetic pulses and the power grid in this story.


Chris Christie, Marco Rubio throw jabs early in debate

Sen. Marco Rubio and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie assailed each other’s records early on during Saturday night’s debate in New Hampshire, setting in motion a heated back and forth.

“Under Chris Christie’s governorship of New Jersey, they’ve been downgraded nine times in their credit rating,” said Rubio. “This country already has a debt problem. We don’t need to add to it by electing someone who has experience at running up and destroying the credit rating of his state.”

Christie, whose state has faced downgrades, quickly shot back at the first-term Florida senator for his lack of executive experience.

“That’s what Washington, D.C., does -- the drive-by shot at the beginning with incorrect and incomplete information.”

Rubio, who came in third in Iowa’s caucuses, is looking for a strong showing in Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary. Christie, who did not invest in Iowa, has banked on winning New Hampshire to propel his campaign as the race moves along.

The exchange between the two lasted several minutes with Rubio assailing Christie for leaving the campaign trail at the last minute to return to New Jersey as a massive snowstorm approached earlier last month.

“They had to shame you into going back,” Rubio said.


Cruz backs down from confrontation with Trump over ‘temperament’


Well, that was awkward...


Trump’s temperament


Ben Carson stuck in the hallway

Awkward start. As the moderators invited each candidate to take their lectern, Ben Carson appeared to get lost in the hallway. Or didn’t hear his name called. He stood awkwardly waiting as Donald Trump’s name was announced. Trump tried to prod Carson to take the stage, but he wouldn’t budge. So then Marco Rubio’s name was called, and the Florida senator just strode past Trump and Carson, who stayed in the hallway until they were called to come out again. Trump, actually, had to have his name called a third time.


Debating in front of voters

David Muir tells viewers that the debate audience is made up of 1,000 New Hampshire voters.

Martha Raddatz noted the cheers are loud in the debate hall.


As GOP candidates prepare to debate, Bill Clinton rallies wife’s supporters in Nevada

(John Locher / Associated Press)

Former President Clinton rallied his wife’s supporters at a union hall in Las Vegas on Saturday, reflecting the campaign’s emphasis on Nevada as a firewall to contain Sen. Bernie Sanders’ insurgent campaign.

Clinton avoided mentioning Sanders’ name in his remarks to the roughly 100 campaign organizers gathered at the offices of the UA Local 525 Plumbers, Pipefitters and Service Technicians, referring only to “her opponent.”

“The reason you should be for her is not because she has different goals than her opponent, but because she makes more change in a way that improves people’s lives,” he said, repeating a now-familiar description of his wife as a “change-maker.”

“This is not complicated,” Clinton said in his 25-minute remarks. “Are we going to go together into the future or not? That’s what this whole election is about. And who’s got the best ideas to take us there and who is the best leader to take us there?”

To date, Sanders has received most of his support from white, liberal voters. The Clinton campaign, in hopes of offsetting an expected loss to Sanders in Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary, is counting on support from minority voters in the next two states to vote -- Latinos in Nevada and African Americans in South Carolina.

Bill Clinton made a point of noting his wife’s past work on behalf of Latinos, reminding the crowd that as far back as 1972, during the George McGovern presidential campaign, she was working to register Latino voters in south Texas.


A high-stakes showdown

Ready for the final Republican debate before Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary? Get caught up on what’s at stake for the seven candidates on stage with our preview story.

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On the ground at the GOP debate


How to watch tonight’s GOP presidential debate

Debate coverage is scheduled to begin at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT and will be televised on ABC News. Anchor David Muir and reporter Martha Raddatz will moderate the debate.

Be sure to follow along here on Trail Guide

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Madeleine Albright gets tough on Bernie Sanders, warns of hellfire for women who don’t back Hillary Clinton

Former Secretary of State Madeline Albright threw a sharp critique at Bernie Sanders on Saturday, and an even sharper dart at women who oppose Hillary Clinton.

“I’ve been very concerned about his lack of knowledge. And interestingly enough, one of my students just tweeted and said if he were in my class, I would tell him to rewrite the paper,” Albright told NBC News, referring to the Vermont senator.

She called Sanders’ statement during Thursday’s debate, ranking North Korea as a more concerning strategic threat than Russia and Iran, “simple.”

“Most people know how many dictators North Korea has,” Albright said, referring to Sanders’ remark in the debate that North Korea was an “isolated country run by a handful of dictators, or maybe just one.”

Clinton, by contrast, “not only talked about what was going on in each of those countries, but also the other concerns about it and the relationship to each other and what the United States had to look out for,” Albright said.

That came the same day she introduced Clinton at a rally in Concord, N.H., with the warning that there is a “special place in hell for women who don’t help each other.”


Rising Democratic star Cory Booker test drives a keynote speech

Hillary Clinton has been joined by a number of surrogates on the trail in New Hampshire this week — Gabby Giffords and Mark Kelly to discuss gun violence and female senators to discuss equal pay.

On Saturday, rising Democratic star Cory Booker was with her in Concord, sounding as if he were trying out a keynote speech he might deliver at the Democratic convention this summer.

In a 10-minute introduction that brought a crowd of more than 1,000 to its feet, the New Jersey senator made a passionate case for Clinton’s record, from her days working with the Children’s Defense Fund to her travels on the country’s behalf as secretary of State.

“At a point in American history where we have not seen a person as qualified as her for the White House since George Washington, let me tell you something: It is not surprising that a whole bunch of people – not just other folks out there in the Democratic primary, but a whole bunch of people – are trying to attack her, sling mud at her, sling hate at her,” he said.

He invoked Maya Angelou – who spoke at Bill Clinton’s first inauguration – and her poem “Still I Rise,” adapting it to the Democratic hopeful.

“I stand here today all the way from New Jersey to support Hillary Rodham Clinton because she now has the message for America. And her message is very simple: She says to the people who are struggling with student debt, ‘Elect me president because, America, we will rise.’

“She says to those people struggling with inadequate Social Security and too high prescription drugs, ‘Join me, America, because we will rise.’

“She says to those people in a broken criminal justice system that grinds up the mentally ill and the addicted, ‘We’re going to fix this, America. Join with me; we will rise.’

“When I look in this woman’s eyes, from the hills of California to Washington, D.C., with the Washington monument up in the sky, we in America, together with Hillary Clinton, we will rise.”

One top Clinton backer in New Hampshire said later: That sounded like a convention speech.


For Hillary Clinton, New Hampshire offers a chance to refine her message

If the polls are even close to accurate in New Hampshire, Hillary Clinton will almost certainly lose the nation’s first primary. Clinton’s team has acknowledged as much.

But it seems her campaigning this week still has real value for the former secretary of State, as she hones the message she hopes will take her on to win the nomination and ultimately the White House.

On Saturday, Clinton began her day with two rituals of the New Hampshire campaign, mingling with diners in Manchester and then going door to door, canvassing for votes.

Later in Concord, after a fiery introduction from both New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Clinton delivered one of her sharpest stump speeches of the week, moving off some of the tit-for-tat with Bernie Sanders to a more direct case for her candidacy on the merits.

“I have no doubt in my mind that I have the best experience and the best ideas to take on the abuses of the financial sector and stand up to Wall Street — why would they be running $6 million of ads against me right now if they didn’t know the same thing?” she said. “But that’s not enough. We have other work to do.”

Where Sanders delivers almost the identical speech at rally after rally, each day, you can hear Clinton refining her message, perhaps test-driving different points for the weeks and months ahead.

Clinton said she wants to be president to “not only take on the big issues that get the big rousing ovations,” but to “take on the issues that are really tugging at people’s lives, that are making it so difficult for so many to get on with their lives.”

She talked about some of the voters she met just hours earlier in Manchester, including one who was caring for his spouse suffering with Alzheimer’s.

“This is the kind of thing that a president should also be worried about,” she said.

Saturday’s crowd was also one of the best for Clinton in days. She spoke to more than 1,100 at a middle school gymnasium and addressed an overflow crowd of the same size elsewhere, the campaign said.

Clinton has two more rallies Saturday before she leaves the state for a day to travel to Flint, Mich. She returns Monday with a full day of events before voters head to the polls.

“These last days here in the first-in-the-nation primary are always, to me, the real soul of American democracy,” she said. “I am grateful for those of you who are already supporting me. And I hope to be able to persuade others as well. Because we have to win in November.”


I spy ...


That’s one way to court female voters

There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other.

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, before introducing Hillary Clinton at a rally in Concord, N.H.

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3 things to know about the New Hampshire primary, from the world’s leading expert

Bill Gardner, New Hampshire’s long-serving secretary of state, is a Granite State legend, one of the most important men in presidential politics (though most have never heard of him) and a bottomless well of knowledge about the state’s history.

Interviewed in his office in New Hampshire’s gold-domed Capitol, built in 1819, he offered these three things everyone should know about Tuesday’s first-in-the-nation primary.

1. New Hampshire voters are discerning, which makes them late-deciders.

“People take it very seriously, and they want to do the right thing. That’s why most of them wait until the end to make up their minds.”

2. It’s an inclusive process that encourages high turnout and candidate participation.

“We had over a half a million people that voted in 2008" — the last time both parties had a competitive primary — “over half the voting age population of the state. ... It’s an open process. That’s why we have 58 candidates on the ballot. We don’t exclude anyone.”

3. New Hampshire voters have a strong track record picking presidents.

“If you go back to when the presidential candidates were individually listed in a column, that began in 1952 ... there have been 16 presidential primaries. Thirteen of the 16, the winner of the primary became president. The other three, the runner-up became president.”


Clinton campaign shifting efforts to Nevada, South Carolina

(Matt Rourke / Associated Press)

Hillary Clinton is way behind in New Hampshire, and she is running like a candidate prepared to cede the first-in-the-nation primary.

As polls show Sen. Bernie Sanders continuing to hold a sizable lead, Clinton strategists are positioning their campaign to weather a loss here, shifting their focus to holding Latino voters in Nevada, which votes Feb. 20, and then winning in South Carolina, with its large black population, the following week.

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Bush faces fateful choice: Fight or flight?

Jeb Bush is introduced at a campaign event by his mother, former First Lady Barbara Bush.
(Jacquelyn Martin / Associated Press)

When Jeb Bush entered the presidential race, he had a vision of a transformative candidacy that would remake the Republican Party, attracting young people and minorities — especially Latinos — with a vibrant new image based on solid conservative principles.

Now it has come to this: A dismal finish in the Iowa caucuses, a slog through New Hampshire and a growing wish in the party that Bush would step aside or, at least, tone down his campaign so that he doesn’t hurt someone more likely to win — such as Marco Rubio, who reflects much of what Bush hoped to accomplish when he ran.

It is, he tells audiences, an exciting and joyful experience.

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Rubio likely to be in spotlight as GOP candidates debate tonight

Republican presidential candidates are girding for a high-stakes debate on Saturday night, their final face-off before a New Hampshire primary that could dramatically reshape the battle for their party’s nomination.

Three candidates -- Jeb Bush, Chris Christie and John Kasich, all of them current or former governors -- are counting on strong performances that will breathe life into their lagging campaigns. For them, the debate is an opportunity to explain why their experience should matter in an election year when voters seem resolutely uninterested in politicians’ resumes.

Donald Trump is trying to regain momentum for his celebrity-driven candidacy after finishing second in the Iowa caucuses, a blow to the New York businessman who has consistently touted his first-place ranking in polls.

The candidate most likely to be under the spotlight will be Marco Rubio, the senator from Florida.

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The New Hampshire primary is Tuesday: Who is in, who is out?

Several candidates have ended their presidential campaigns since Monday’s Iowa caucuses. So who remains? Read about the 2016 presidential field ahead of Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary

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Which Marco Rubio will show up tonight: Gloomy or optimistic?

Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), in West Des Moines, Iowa
(Patrick Semansky / Associated Press)

Marco Rubio launched his presidential bid last year with an air of upbeat optimism, but he has shifted recently to a gloomier view of the country’s future.

It didn’t seem to be working with voters, but then the Florida senator surged into a strong third-place finish in the Iowa caucuses, only a point behind Donald Trump.

Here’s a look at how his campaign message has shifted with the times.