This combination image shows, from left, Republican governors John Kasich, Chris Christie and Jeb Bush at the Republican presidential debate on Jan. 14, 2016 in North Charleston, S.C.
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By Zeke J Miller
January 19, 2016

Two weeks out from Iowa, the three Republican governors competing for the mainstream of the GOP are locked in a bitter fight to survive in Iowa and to excel in New Hampshire. In separate interviews with TIME over the last several days, the hopefuls—Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, and John Kasich—revealed their strikingly-similar strategies and theories of the case for their campaigns. All are depending on voters to grow more serious and shift their support away from Donald Trump. All are betting on loosely assembled networks of potential supporters to carry them past the two early states. All are confident their moment to shine is just around the corner. But all three are on a collision course in New Hampshire, where just one—or none of them—will break through.

Donald Trump is engaging in his most strenuous day of campaigning in Iowa with three events, including one with at least one “special guest,” after making a pitch to evangelical voters at Liberty University. Jeb Bush will address the Council on Foreign Relations on his plan to take on ISIS.

Republican operatives are cheering the rise of Bernie Sanders, declaring him the winner of Sunday night’s debate and defending his record from attacks from Hillary Clinton. The effort stems from their belief that he will be a far easier opponent than Clinton in November. Karl Rove’s American Crossroads is up with an ad in Iowa criticizing Clinton’s ties to Wall Street as it seeks to boost Sanders.

An insider explains why the GOP contest may drag on for a while. A behind the scenes look at Bridgegate. Marco Rubio has a powerful exchange with an atheist. But he ducks a question on the Michigan water crisis.

Here are your must-reads:

Must Reads

John Kasich Says He Is Ready For Voters To Get Serious
The Ohio Governor has dialed back his attacks on Donald Trump, TIME’s Philip Elliott reports

Chris Christie Says Marco Rubio Can’t Handle Hillary Clinton
Christie talks tough in interview with TIME

History Shows It’s Still Too Early for Polls to Matter
TIME’s Tessa Berenson brings the historical context

At Liberty University, Donald Trump Again Stumbles When Discussing Religion
Awkward phrasing provides metaphor for campaign [Yahoo News]

A Youth Movement, Led by a Crusty 73-Year-Old
All of Bernie’s youngsters [Boston Globe]

Cruz: Trump Was ‘Nowhere to be Found’ During Immigration Fight
Draws most explicit contrast with Trump in full view of voters [Washington Post]

Sound Off

“That’s not an issue that right now we’ve been focused on and for me to give you a deeply detailed answer on what the right approach should be on it.” — Marco Rubio, asked about the water crisis in Flint, Michigan

“Two Corinthians, 3:17, that’s the whole ballgame” — Donald Trump speaking at Liberty University, drawing laughter for referring to the New Testament book better known as Second Corinthians

Bits and Bites

Follow Clinton and Sanders Supporters as They Knock on Doors in New Hampshire [TIME]

Marco Rubio Not ‘Fully Briefed Or Apprised’ Of Flint Water Crisis [TIME]

Clinton, Sanders Court Black Voters in South Carolina [Wall Street Journal]

Boots? Marco Rubio Wants to Talk Guns and Football [New York Times]

On Coldest Night of 2016, Birmingham’s Homeless Warming Station Used for Sanders Rally [AL.com]

It May Be Time to Resolve the Meaning of ‘Natural Born’ [New York Times]

Rubio Promises to ‘Keep Talking About God’ in Iowa [Tampa Bay Times]

Clinton, Sanders Split Over ‘Normalizing’ Relations with Iran [Politico]

NBC Replaced by CNN for GOP’s Super Tuesday Debate [CNN]

She Plays Hillary Clinton as Bernie Sanders Prepares to Debate [New York Times]

Why So Many Evangelicals Have Faith in Donald Trump [Washington Post]

Inside Bridgegate [New Jersey Monthly]

Special Delivery: A Video Message from Fans of Jeb Bush [Washington Post]

Why the GOP Primary Could Be Even Crazier Than You Think [Politico]

 

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