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7 days to the Feb. 1 Iowa Caucuses, 288 days to Election Day
Welcome to the Campaigner’s first weekly election briefing as the 2016 presidential election finally kicks into high gear. With just one week left until the Iowa caucuses, candidates are scrambling to shore up support. In the Hawkeye State, one thing is clear: it’s a Trump-Cruz and Clinton-Sanders contest now. — By Gabriel Angelini, Andrew Peng and Sydney Thai
CLOSING ARGUMENTS — The three remaining Democratic candidates take questions at tonight’s CNN Democratic Presidential Town Hall in Drake University’s Sheslow Auditorium in Des Moines, Iowa.
- Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vermont) will appear first, followed by former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley and then former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The town hall airs from 9 through 11 p.m. EST. For live coverage, follow us on Twitter.
SCOTUS DECISIONS — The highest court in the land issued several key rulings this morning that could have an impact on moving legislation in the GOP-controlled Congress and state legislatures across the nation.
- Energy: In a 6–2 ruling, the Supreme Court justices reversed a May 2014 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to strike down a 2011 Federal Energy Regulatory Commission regulationaimed at encouraging efficiency in the market by mandating that electric utilities pay customers to reduce consumption at peak times. Energy companies had challenged the FERC rule, saying the commission had overstepped its authority under the Federal Power Act. Who won: The Obama administration, environmentalists
- Abortion: The court rejected North Dakota’s bid to revive a controversial GOP-backed “fetal heartbeat” law that would ban most abortions as early as six weeks after conception.The 2013 law, one of the strictest in the country, was challenged by the state’s sole abortion clinic and was later struck down in July 2015 by the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Who won: Pro-abortion activists
- Criminal Justice: In a 6–3 decision, the justices extended a 2012 rulingthat struck down automatic life terms with no chance of parole for teenage killers. According to the AP, the court ruled that “people seeking life terms for murders they committed as teenagers must have a chance to seek their freedom.” The court also rejected an appeal from Pennsylvania death row inmate Shonda Walter to consider banning the death penalty nationwide.
OBAMA ON 2016 — In a 40-minute interview with Politico’s Off Messagepodcast, President Obama praised Clinton and agreed that the former Secretary of State was facing unfair scrutiny. He also offered “more tempered praise to the surging Sanders,” but said Sanders did not remind him of himself in 2008, writes Politico’s Glenn Thrush. Listen to the full podcast here.
- Blunt assessment: President Obama said the “wicked smart” Clinton was better in small groups than big ones and agreed that her first campaign appearances showed her to be “rusty.”
- Two minds: President Obama is “intensely interested in ensuring a Democrat wins, and is keeping close tabs on the race…But like many liberals his age, he’s averting eyes from a Donald Trump free-for-all he finds depressing and distracting.”
LESSER OF TWO EVILS — While the GOP establishment has not been fond of billionaire businessman Donald Trump, his continual lead in national polls has caused several donors and strategists to accept the prospect of his winning the nomination over Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas). The two candidates — neck and neck in Iowa — have unleashed attack ads against each other in recent days.
- Trump in Las Vegas: “I think they’re warming up. I want to be honest, I have received so many phone calls from people that you would call establishment, from people — generally speaking … conservatives, Republicans — that want to come onto our team.”
- GOP fundraiser Fred Malek: “We’d better stop hoping for something else and accept the possibility that he’s our nominee and be prepared to rally around him if that’s the case.”
- Former NY Mayor Rudy Guiliani: “If it came down to Trump or Cruz, there is no question I’d vote for Trump. As a party, we’d have a better chance of winning with him, and I think a lot of Republicans look at it that way.”
- Rep. Peter King (R-New York): “Between Trump and Cruz, it’s not even close. Cruz isn’t a good guy, and he’d be impossible as president. People don’t trust him. And regardless of what your concern is with Trump, he’s pragmatic enough to get something done. I also don’t see malice in Trump like I see with Cruz.”
- Former Senate majority leader Robert Dole: “[Trump] probably work with Congress, because he’s, you know, he’s got the right personality and he’s kind of a deal-maker.”
- Note: Trump has not been formally endorsed by any congressional lawmakers or governors, according to FiveThirtyEight.
BLOOMBERG TRIAL BALLOON — Billionaire and former mayor of New York City Michael Bloomberg has instructed advisers to draw up plans for a potential independent campaign and is reportedly willing to spend at least $1 billion of his fortune, the New York Times reports. Bloomberg has also set a deadline for making a final decision in early March,according to ABC News.
- Why now? Bloomberg has considered running as an independent before, but he has previously concluded the odds were stacked too high against an independent candidate. However, a general election pitting Trump or Cruz against Sanders could present a breakout opportunity for him.
- Making moves: Bloomberg “has retained a consultant to help him run on the independent ballot in state primaries” and “has commissioned polls to test his path to victory.”
- Hurdles: His outspokenness on gun control, along with the launch of Everytown for Gun Safety, has made him a strong target for the National Rifle Association and pro-gun groups, which could cause Republican voters to dismiss him. His record as mayor of New York City could prevent him from gaining Democratic support. Bloomberg also lags in name recognition, but that would likely change quickly in the case of a run.
O’MALLEY ON CLINTON’S CLIMATE CHANGE PLAN — “I don’t believe that her plan is very serious. I believe that it’s an incrementalist approach. And an incrementalist approach is not going to get us to where we need to go, nor is it going to claim this tremendous business opportunity for the United States.” (From E&E News)
CARSON’S PLAN FOR NEW CYBERSECURITY AGENCY — “The [National Cyber Security Administration] will drive American leadership and innovation like never before, making us the most secure and most advanced country on the net.” (From the Hill)
SANDERS ON GENERAL ELECTION — “There is nothing more in this world that I would like to take on more than Donald Trump. We would beat him, and we would beat him badly.”(From Meet the Press)
BUSH PRAISES MICHIGAN GOVERNOR — “I admire Rick Snyder for stepping up right now. He’s going to the challenge, and he’s fired people and accepted responsibility to fix this.” (From the Hill)
SEN. BOOKER (D-New Jersey) CAMPAIGNS FOR CLINTON — “This is the land where my grandmother was born and raised — Des Moines, Iowa. My grandmother from Iowa, she is dancing in heaven at the prospect that the next president of the United States is going to be Hillary Rodham Clinton.” (From the Washington Post)
PAUL ON POLLING — “Are we really basing all of our news coverage on something — we show Trump from morning till evening, and he’s getting 25 times more than all of the other candidates combined, all based on polling, but it’s a self-reinforcing phenomenon. And really, I think we’ve dumbed down the debate as a consequence, where we’re really not talking about substantial issues.” (From Politico)
THREE NEWSPAPERS BACK CLINTON — The Boston Globe, the Concord Monitor, and the Des Moines Register have thrown their support behind former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
- Boston Globe editorial board on Clinton: “She is more seasoned, more grounded, and more forward-looking than in 2008, and has added four years as secretary of state to her already formidable resume. Democrats in the Granite State should not hesitate to choose her.”
- Des Moines Register editorial board on Clinton: “Clinton has demonstrated that she is a thoughtful, hardworking public servant who has earned the respect of leaders at home and abroad. She stands ready to take on the most demanding job in the world.”
- Note: The Des Moines Register also endorsed Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida) in the race for the Republican nomination.
PERRY, GLENN BECK BACK CRUZ — Former Texas Governor Rick Perry and conservative political commentator Glenn Beck have endorsed Senator Ted Cruz.
- Perry on Cruz: “He knows he’s going to surround himself with people who do have that experience, and I’m very satisfied that on Day 1, he will be ready to be commander-in-chief. Partly because of the time he’s going to spend in learning what he doesn’t know, but he’s also surrounding himself with people who are extraordinarily capable and wise.”
State of the Race
IOWA — Based off of Real Clear Politics’ polling average and FiveThirtyEight’s primary election forecasts.
- Democratic race: RCP’s average from January 13–21 shows Clinton leading 49% to Sanders’ 41.8%. O’Malley is last at 5.8%.
- FiveThirtyEight’s Polls Only Forecast: Clinton has a 66% chance of winning the Iowa caucuses; Sanders has a 34% chance of winning, while O’Malley has a <1% chance.
- FiveThirtyEight’s Polls-Plus Forecast: Clinton’s chances of winning the Iowa caucuses increases to 78% while Sanders chances decrease to 22%; O’Malley remains at <1%.
- GOP race: RCP’s average from January 13–21 shows Trump leading with 32.2%, followed by Cruz with 27%, Rubio with 12.2%, Carson with 7.4% and Bush with 4.2%. Paul, Christie, Huckabee, Kasich, Fiorina and Santorum have less than 4%.
- FiveThirtyEight’s Polls Only Forecast: Trump has a 57% chance of winning the Iowa caucuses; Cruz has a 36% chance of winning, while Rubio has a 5% chance and Carson has a 1% chance.
- FiveThirtyEight’s Polls-Plus Forecast: Trump’s chances of winning the Iowa caucuses decrease to 44% while Cruz’s chances rise to 47%; Rubio’s chances increase to 8% and Carson remains at 1%.
NEW HAMPSHIRE — Based off of Real Clear Politics’ polling average and FiveThirtyEight’s primary election forecasts.
- Democratic race: RCP’s average from January 13–21 shows Sanders leading 52.4% to Clinton’s 29.6%. O’Malley is last at 2.6%.
- FiveThirtyEight’s Polls Only Forecast: Sanders has a 85% chance of winning the New Hampshire primary; Clinton has a 15% chance of winning, while O’Malley has a <1% chance.
- FiveThirtyEight’s Polls-Plus Forecast: Sanders’ chances of winning the New Hampshire primary decreases to 64% while Clinton’s chances increase to 36%; O’Malley remains at <1%.
- GOP race: RCP’s average from January 13–21 shows Trump leading with 32.2%, followed by Cruz with 12.6%, Kasich with 12%, Rubio with 11.2%, Bush with 7.8%, Christie with 7.4% and Paul with 4.4%. Fiorina, Carson, Huckabee and Santorum have less than 4%.
- FiveThirtyEight’s Polls Only Forecast: Trump has a 63% chance of winning the New Hampshire primary; Cruz has a 10% chance of winning, while Rubio has a 9% chance, Kasich has an 8% chance, Bush and Christie have a 4% chance, and Paul has a 1% chance.
- FiveThirtyEight’s Polls-Plus Forecast:Trump’s chances of winning the New Hampshire primary decreases to 49% while Cruz’s chances rise to 16%; Rubio’s chances increase to 14%, Kasich’s chances increase to 9%, Bush’s chances increase to 6%, Christie remains at 4% and Paul remains at 1%.
NATIONAL — Based off of Real Clear Politics’ polling average.
- Democratic race: RCP’s average from January 4–18 shows Clinton leading 51.2% to Sanders’ 38%. O’Malley is last at 2.2%.
GOP race: RCP’s average from January 4–21 shows Trump leading with 34.6%, followed by Cruz with 18.8%, Rubio with 11.2%, Carson with 8.4% and Bush with 4.8%. Christie, Kasich, Paul, Huckabee, Fiorina and Santorum have less than 4%.