The Hill's 12:30 Report

The Hill's 12:30 Report

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The Hill's 12:30 Report: Seven-day sprint to Iowa | Perry endorses Cruz | Tina Fey is back on SNL playing Palin | CNN Dem town hall at 9 p.m. tonight

SEVEN-DAY SPRINT TO IOWA: Just seven days away from the Iowa caucuses, here's a look at where each candidate stands and what they're trying to accomplish. 

Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpIG investigating Comey memos over classified information: report Overnight Defense: Congress poised for busy week on nominations, defense bill | Trump to deliver Naval Academy commencement speech | Trump administration appeals decision to block suspected combatant's transfer Top Pruitt aid requested backdate to resignation letter: report MORE is the definitive favorite for the Republican nomination, even though victory is by no means guaranteed for him in Iowa. Now he needs to avoid any last-minute erosion. His goal: Do not let Cruz take his momentum in Iowa.

Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzCruz's Dem challenger slams Time piece praising Trump Race for Republican Speaker rare chance to unify party for election 32 male senators back Senate women's calls to change harassment rules MORE has a very real shot at winning Iowa -- and is Trump's toughest competitor. He is expected to pound home his anti-establishment conservative message in the next week. His goal: Beat Trump.

Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioStudents gather outside White House after walkout to protest gun violence Overnight Energy: Senate confirms Bridenstine as NASA chief | Watchdog probes Pruitt’s use of security detail | Emails shine light on EPA science policy changes Senate confirms Trump’s pick to lead NASA MORE is solidly in a distant third place behind Trump and Cruz. But Iowa isn't "Rubio territory," so his real battle: not to compete with the candidates in front of him but with those immediately behind.

Ben Carson would need to pull a major upset to have a shot.  This is unlikely at this point.

Jeb Bush, Chris Christie and John Kasich are putting their eggs in the N.H. basket, so in Iowa they just need a strong showing to set them up for the primary in N.H. Their goals: Finish ahead of each other.

Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulOvernight Defense: Congress poised for busy week on nominations, defense bill | Trump to deliver Naval Academy commencement speech | Trump administration appeals decision to block suspected combatant's transfer Democrats mull audacious play to block Pompeo Overnight Defense: Trump steps up fight with California over guard deployment | Heitkamp is first Dem to back Pompeo for State | Dems question legality of Syria strikes MORE, Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum would need a serious momentum shift to have a strong showing in Iowa. Paul is the best performing of this quartet, with 3.4 percent support. The end seems near for each of these candidates.

Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonPaltry wage gains, rising deficits two key tax reform concerns Trump pressed Sessions to fire FBI agents who sent anti-Trump texts: report DNC sues Russia, Trump campaign and WikiLeaks over alleged election interference MORE and her allies have been attacking Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersHannity snaps back at 'Crybaby' Todd: 'Only conservatives have to disclose relationships?' Chuck Todd lashes out at Fox, defends wife in radio interview Trump pressed Sessions to fire FBI agents who sent anti-Trump texts: report MORE with vigor in recent days -- a shift that underlines how serious a threat she faces from him. Her goal: Do. Not. Repeat. 2008 (when she came in third in Iowa, the beginning of the end for her campaign).

Bernie Sanders needs an influx of new caucusgoers and a big turnout from liberal Democrats. Going though his team's mind: An Iowa victory would be transformative for the Sanders campaign in a way that victory in New Hampshire would not (N.H. has always been a better bet for him, with his home state Vermont next door).

Martin O'Malley would need to dramatically outperform expectations to have any shot. His real power is if he tells his supporters (5 percent) who their second choice should be in the Clinton-Sanders race. 

More detailed expectations from The Hill's Niall Stanagehttp://bit.ly/1PxdXvw

Welcome back from the snow-filled weekend. The snow totals in the district were over 20 inches. I'm Cate Martel with a quick recap of what you missed this morning -- and what's on tap for the rest of the day. Send tips, comments, story ideas and happy thoughts to cmartel@thehill.com and follow me on Facebook. 

NEW THIS A.M. -- PERRY'S NEXT CHOICE: Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who ended his own Republican presidential campaign in September, is endorsing Ted Cruz's presidential bid. Watch: http://bit.ly/1PfNlDv 

BET OBAMA'S HAPPY NOT TO HAVE TO RUN A CAMPAIGN: Politico's Glenn Thrush spoke with President Obama about the 2016 election. When asked if Clinton is facing "unfair scrutiny," Obama said,  "yes" -- and he even admitted a tinge of regret that his own campaign had been so hard on her eight years ago. But when asked if Bernie Sanders reminded Obama of himself in 2008, he quickly shot back: "I don't think that's true." http://politi.co/1K6D7VD

OH. COME. ON. -- MATCH-FIXING ACCUSATIONS SUNDAY: Betting was suspended on a tennis match at the Australian Open Sunday when red flags were raised over suspected match-fixing on a doubles performance. Now for the "OH COME ON" moment: Right as the Australian Open started, BuzzFeed and BBC published a year-long investigation accusing players of throwing matches to help some Russian and Sicilian gamblers make a killing. Who would throw a match when the issue is on the front pages?! http://wapo.st/1PeSDiQ

KASICH'S HAIL MARY IN N.H. COULD BE AN EFFECTIVE STRATEGY: Via Yours Truly and Jesse Byrnes, the real race in the New Hampshire primary doesn't even involve Donald Trump. Instead, emerging as the establishment favorite is much more critical. Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) couldn't have picked a better time to rise in the polls over Jeb Bush, N.J. Gov. Chris Christie (R) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R). 

-- But here's what to watch on primary day: "The separation between [Kasich] and other [establishment candidates] is more important than the separation than between [Kasich] and Trump," said Dean Spiliotes of Southern New Hampshire University. http://bit.ly/1PfGhHh

'UNCLE MIKE' IS TESTING THE 2016 WATERS: Via The New York Times's Alex Burns and Maggie Haberman, billionaire Michael Bloomberg is revisiting a potential White House run. Why now: Advisers say Bloomberg is galled by Donald Trump's dominance and troubled by Hillary Clinton's stumbles and the rise of Bernie Sanders. What's next for Bloomberg: He has instructed advisers to draw up plans for a potential independent campaign. http://nyti.ms/1KzCU8n

OVER THE WEEEKEND: Vernon Alston, a U.S. Capitol Police Officer died shoveling snow at his home during the blizzard. http://bit.ly/1Pxs0kP

WHAT EVERYONE'S BEEN SHARING ON SOCIAL MEDIA THIS WEEKEND: The National Zoo tweeted a short video of panda Tian Tian frolicking in several feet of fresh snow. And to be clear, using the word "frolicking" is no exaggeration. ;) http://bit.ly/1nIG5pu

'GIVE ME ATTENTION,' SAYS ISIS...BASICALLY: ISIS released a montage of the attacks in Paris with final messages from the attackers. It's sickening. http://cnn.it/1PwsZSl



The Washington Post's Philip Rucker (The photo is telling)
No, folks, ain't a pic of a Sanders or Trump rally. Verrrrry long line in the West Des Moines cold to see Hillary. http://bit.ly/1TjEJxm

RealClearPolitics's Rebecca Berg
John Kasich walks into a town hall without his now-signature teal-ish down jacket. He says his wife told him to buy a black one. http://bit.ly/1PwrPWQ

Wendy's  (Aren't we splitting hairs at this point...?)
The 4 for $4 Meal: a trayful of mouth-filling glory. http://bit.ly/1ZYOZQQ

Burger King tweeted back: 5 for $4, because 5 is better than 4. http://bit.ly/1SHcysZ

Twitter user Brittany Guernsey tweeted at Wendy's: what are you firing back?

Wendy's responded: edible food



Congress is having a snow day; The Supreme Court made it in however!" Here are some of their rulings:

Supreme Court upholds electricity demand rule http://bit.ly/1ZZ29gZ

SCOTUS won't let N. Dakota enforce 'fetal heartbeat' abortion law http://bit.ly/1UmoVIM

Justices decline death penalty case http://bit.ly/1Tk3mKD

High court rules juveniles sentenced to life can seek parole http://bit.ly/1PxAEQs

6 p.m. EST: Politico event with former National Security Adviser Tom Donilon and former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates about his new book, "A Passion for Leadership." Live stream: http://politi.co/1QnSpEU 

7 p.m. EST: Performance and rally in Des Moines, Iowa, with Mike Huckabee and Josh Turner.



9 p.m. EST: The Democratic presidential hopefuls participate in a CNN town hall in Des Moines, Iowa -- one week until the caucuses!



Today is National Irish Coffee Day!

WE PRETTY MUCH ALL KNEW THIS WAS COMING, BUT: Tina Fey returned to Saturday Night Live in honor of Sarah Palin's endorsement of Donald Trump. It's glorious. Plz watch. http://wapo.st/1PueqF7

LET IT GO, D.C. POLICE. LET IT GO!: A D.C. police cruiser blasts the soundtrack from "Frozen" during the blizzard. Watch: http://on.fb.me/1WIEqwb 

IF YOU'RE FEELING THE BERN, COOL DOWN WITH THIS: Sorry, everyone -- the pun was necessary. Ben and Jerry's has created a special flavor of ice cream for Bernie Sanders's presidential campaign. It's mint ice cream with chocolate. http://bit.ly/1Pg2Jjv

And with that, send me photos of the snow totals in your area!


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