The early morning sun rises behind the US Capitol Building in Washington, DC.
Mark Wilson—Getty Images
By Zeke J Miller
January 26, 2016

Democrats faced off for the final time before the Iowa caucuses Monday night in a town hall hosted by CNN. The format featured each candidate facing questions separately for more than 30 minutes, but nevertheless provided ample contrast for voters. Bernie Sanders was first up, continuing his assault on Hillary Clinton‘s ties to Wall Street, while defending his own socialism. Martin O’Malley made his now-routine pitch for a new generation of leadership. And Clinton argued her pragmatic streak makes her best equipped to be president. With just days until the caucuses, the Democratic contest remains neck-and-neck in Iowa, with Sanders and Clinton swapping the lead in recent polling. But the outcome will depend both on turnout—can Sanders expand the electorate?—and on the distribution of their support around the state.

Ted Cruz is doubling down on the “New York values” critique of Trump in a new ad airing in Iowa, as he seeks to preserve his lead in a state where he allowed expectations to rise too high. With Donald Trump rebounding amid simultaneous attacks from his right and left flanks, Cruz is looking for a clear-cut victory in order to begin the process of narrowing the GOP field. Trump, meanwhile, is threatening to sit out Thursday’s GOP debate over Fox News moderator Megyn Kelly’s participation. Trump went on an extended personal tirade against the anchor after the August debate, believing her questions were unfair.

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan worries about the tone and tenor of the GOP primary sinking the party going into the fall, but there is little he and other Republican leaders can do, other than to call for candidates to drop out. But most candidates still see a narrow path to the nomination and will be hard-pressed to get out while they still see a chance, potentially keeping the party establishment from rallying around a non-Trump or Cruz candidate.

John Kasich warns of Trump witch-hunts. Hillary Clinton wants to talk about love and kindness. And Sanders fights off flip-flopping charges.

Here are your must-reads:

Must Reads

Why John Kasich Warns of Donald Trump-Led Witch Hunts
In an interview with TIME, a happy warrior shares a grim warning

Bernie Sanders Becomes Object of Republican Fascination in Iowa
TIME’s Sam Frizell on the latest GOP foil

Hillary Clinton Wants To Talk To You About Love And Kindness
Clinton tries to restart a national conversation about basic human decency [BuzzFeed]

Sanders Fights Off Flip-Flop Charges
Over the course of his long career, the Vermont senator has rarely had his ideological purity questioned [Politico]

Clinton Finds the Passion in Pragmatism as Iowa Caucuses Near
A confident Clinton makes her case, TIME’s Sam Frizell reports

Ted Cruz, Under Siege in Iowa, Tries to Play ‘Underdog’
With millions in negative ads targeting him, Cruz is on the defensive [Washington Post]

Sound Off

“I do worry about a conservative circular firing squad. All that does is play into the hands of the left, and give them the election victory by default that they’re looking for.” — Speaker of the House Paul Ryan in an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt Monday

“You know look, I’ve been around a long time. People have thrown all kinds of things at me. And you know I can’t keep up with it. I just keep going forward.” — Hillary Clinton on her resilience at a CNN town hall in Iowa Monday

Bits and Bites

As Donald Trump and Ted Cruz Soar, G.O.P. Leaders’ Exasperation Grows [New York Times]

Trump: Establishment Is ‘Against Me’ [CNN]

How David Petraeus Avoided Felony Charges and Possible Prison Time [Washington Post]

Clinton Explains How Christianity Has Guided Her Politics [TIME]

Barack Obama: Why We Must Rethink Solitary Confinement [Washington Post]

Upset Over Megyn Kelly, Donald Trump Says He May Skip Debate [New York Times]


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