The Debate Underlying the Democratic Debate

Mark Wilson—Getty Images The early morning sun rises behind the US Capitol Building in Washington, DC.

Morning Must Reads: January 18

The Iowa Caucuses are two weeks from tonight.

Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Martin OMalley faced off in their fourth debate Sunday night amid a tightening race and the emergence of more areas of disagreement between the candidates. For Clinton, the debate presented an opportunity to counteract Sanders’ momentum in the early states, while the Vermont Senator was looking to broaden his appeal in the party. Clinton hugged President Obama on the economy and foreign policy to defend herself from Sanders attacks, and sought to highlight the impracticality of Sanders’ plans, especially his new health care proposal, in an attempt to raise doubts about Sanders’ ability to win a general election. Sanders repeatedly trumpeted his electability—reciting his poll numbers in a style reminiscent of Donald Trump—a reflection of the fact that his greatest vulnerability is the sense that he cannot win in November. The division between the seasoned and pragmatic candidate and the one offering moonshot ideas put the real Democratic race in perspective. O’Malley, who polls in the low single-digits, inserted himself smartly into the debate, but did little to alter the trajectory of his candidacy.

Chris Christie joins the chorus of Republicans unloading on Ted Cruz for attacking Trump over his “New York values,” telling TIME the Texas lawmaker is just another typical politician and calling on him to return the millions he’s raised in New York if he has such a problem with the city. He also called voting for Cruz or Marco Rubio, the two first-term senators in the race, “the definition of insanity” after Obama’s election. Cruz, meanwhile, is taking a risk by campaigning in New Hampshire just two weeks before the must-win Iowa caucuses, as he hopes to expand his path to the nomination. And Jeb Bush is doing it his way, campaigning in New Hampshire as the Trump alternative as he hopes to resurrect his struggling effort.

Republican presidential candidates criticized Obama for agreeing to swap prisoners held by the U.S. in exchange for the release of Americans held in Iran, as the White House hailed the agreement as a victory for diplomacy.

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder defends his handling of Flint water crisis. Rubio is fact-checked on a Reagan claim. And Bernie Sanders tells TIME he has never worn a tuxedo.

Here are your must-reads:

Must Reads

Sanders Open to Raising Middle-Class Taxes for Healthcare
A reversal from last year, TIME’s Sam Frizell reports

Exclusive: Chris Christie Calls Ted Cruz ‘Asinine’ For New York Values Smear
He also calls Cruz a ‘Washington insider’ [TIME]

Here’s the Philosophical Fight Underlying the Democratic Debate
TIME’s Jay Newton-Small on the debate

Jeb Bush Finds His Groove in Donald Trump’s Shadow
The joyful grinder now talks of giving himself therapy, TIME’s Philip Elliott writes

Republicans Criticize Deal to Free Iranian Prisoners
Some argue it creates “incentive” to take Americans prisoner [TIME]

Ted Cruz Tempts Fate With New Focus on New Hampshire
TIME’s Philip Elliott on Cruz’s bid to expand his map

What You Missed While Not Watching the Fourth Democratic Debate
TIME’s Michael Scherer breaks it down

Sound Off

“The first difference is I don’t take money from big banks. I don’t get personal speaking fees from Goldman Sachs.” — Bernie Sanders on how he and Hillary Clinton differ

“I personally believe that President Obama’s work to push through the Dodd-Frank bill and then to sign it was one of the most important regulatory schemes we’ve had since the 1930s. I’m going to defend Dodd-Frank and I’m going to defend President Obama for taking on Wall Street, taking on the financial industry and getting results.” — Clinton hugging Obama to defend herself from criticism from Sanders

Bits and Bites

Sanders Backs Ending Gun Manufacturer Immunity [TIME]

Michigan Governor Defends Handling of Flint Water Crisis [TIME]

Hillary Clinton Hits Bernie Sanders Hard on Guns [TIME]

Bernie Sanders Says He Has Never Worn a Tuxedo [TIME]

Here’s Why People in Panda Suits Are Following Chris Christie Around [TIME]

Watch President Obama Answer What Kind of Pants He Thinks Dogs Should Wear [TIME]

Christie Says Voting for Rubio or Cruz Is ‘The Definition of Insanity’ [TIME]

Rubio Wrongly Credits Reagan for 1981 Release of Hostages From Iran [Politifact]

Heidi Nelson Cruz: A Political Spouse Making Sacrifices and Courting Donors [New York Times]

Why Do So Many Republicans Dislike Jeb Bush? [Washington Post]

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