Morning Must Reads: January 12
President Obama will address Congress and the nation Tuesday night for his final State of the Union Address as he hopes to reassure a fearful nation and begin to cement his legacy with just over one year until he leaves office. Struggling to break through amid a turbulent presidential primary season, Obama is looking to rebut the doom and gloom on the campaign trail. The president will seek to allay concerns about terrorism after the attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, defending his administration’s strategy for taking on ISIS. He will also take a victory lap on the strengthening economy and trumpet an administration of social change, including the Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage.
Vice President Joe Biden praised Bernie Sanders and implicitly criticized Hillary Clinton for the former’s longtime focus on income inequality and the former Secretary of State’s new focus on the subject for her presidential campaign. The remarks are Biden’s most political since he decided last year not to mount another campaign for the White House—a decision he says he regrets but believes was correct. Biden’s comments echo the thoughts of many in liberal Democratic circles who question Clinton’s authenticity on the subject after her close ties to Wall Street for decades.
Right to Rise, the super PAC supporting Jeb Bush, is attacking Marco Rubio for opposing and then supporting “amnesty,” the catch-all phrase used by critics of comprehensive immigration reform. The spot, which highlights Rubio’s shifting positions on the issue is notable for Bush’s consistent support of immigration reform efforts—part of the reason why he has struggled to engage conservative Republicans. Rubio, meanwhile, caved to persistent attacks about his attendance record in Congress, skipping a planned fundraiser in Florida to attend a classified briefing on North Korea Monday night after news outlets reported on the scheduling conflict. But the truancy attack isn’t about missed votes or briefings, those behind it tell TIME, saying it’s about casting Rubio as ambitious and inexperienced—and Rubio’s last-minute change of plans may only give them more fodder in the long term.
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and former HP CEO Carly Fiorina have been cut from the main stage at Thursday’s Fox Business News debate after failing to place in the top six candidates nationally or the top five in either Iowa or New Hampshire. The news is a blow to both candidacies, coming just weeks before the Iowa caucuses it’s unlikely they’ll recover. Paul announced late Monday that he is boycotting the 6 p.m. undercard debate so that he can maintain the perception that he’s a top-tier candidate, despite his lackluster support. Fox News, which will host the final debate before Iowa later this month, has yet to announce its criteria.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is embarking on a southern swing this week in hopes of shoring up his path out of Iowa. Chris Christie faces scrutiny of his shifting positions on guns and abortion. Hillary Clinton criticizes Obama over Central American deportations. Sanders continues to struggle to defend a gun vote. Trump’s job interview. Obama’s offer to Biden. And Iowa’s governor takes a shot at Cruz.
Here are your must-reads:
Marco Rubio Cancels Fundraiser to Blunt No-Show Attacks
It’s not about votes, it’s about ambition [TIME]
Obama Seeks to Define Legacy in Final State of the Union
TIME’s Jay Newton-Small previews the president’s final State of the Union address
Balancing Terror and Reality in State of the Union Address
Obama will have to reassure a fearful nation without dismissing its concerns [New York Times]
Carly Fiorina and Rand Paul Cut From Main Republican Debate
Failed to meet required polling threshold [TIME]
Rand Paul to Fox Business: I’m Skipping Your Debate
After being cut to undercard debate [CNN]
Chris Christie’s Shifting Positions Become Fodder for his Republican Opponents
On guns and Planned Parenthood, Christie fights back attacks [Boston Globe]
For All Their Political Differences, Biden and Ryan Share Striking Similarities
Three and a half years after facing off on the debate stage, they’ll appear together again [Washington Post]
Clinton Joins Democratic Rivals in Stepping Up Pressure on Obama to End Emmigration Raids
Another key break with the White House [Washington Post]
“Well but it’s relatively new for Hillary to talk about that. Hillary’s focus has been other things up to now and that’s been Bernie’s no one questions Bernie’s authenticity on those issues.” — Vice President Joe Biden on Hillary Clinton and economic inequality in an interview with CNN
“Bills are complicated” —Bernie Sanders after saying he didn’t make a mistake when he voted to give gun manufacturers of immunity of civil suits
Bits and Bites
You want to give to Ted Cruz’s super PAC? First figure out which one [Washington Post]
Hillary Clinton downplays husband’s infidelity [Boston Globe]
Chris Christie Makes Steady Rightward Shift on Gun [New York Times]
Lessons, and Parallels, in Jeb Bush’s Failed Run for Governor [New York Times]
Top staffer leaves Rand Paul’s campaign [Politico]
Iowa Gov. Branstad: Cruz birth issue is ‘fair game’ [Des Moines Register]