The Note: Bernie Sanders In Striking Distance

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NOTABLES

--SANDERS SAYS HE'S DEMOCRATS' MOST ELECTABLE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders said polls show he’s Democrats’ most electable 2016 candidate and that he’s “gaining steam” ahead of the fast-approaching Iowa caucuses, ABC’s JOHN KRUZEL notes. “If people are concerned about electability -- and Democrats should be very concerned because we certainly don’t want to see some right-wing extremist in the White House -- Bernie Sanders is the candidate,” Sanders told ABC’s GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS on “This Week” Sunday. Sanders cited a Quinnipiac Poll released last month showing he fares better than his main Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton against Republican front-runner Donald Trump. The poll shows Sanders beating Trump by 13 points, compared to Clinton’s smaller margin of 7 points. http://abcn.ws/1SHGm7M

--CLINTON, SANDERS NECK-AND-NECK IN NEW HAMPSHIRE AND IOWA: Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are in a statistical tie in both Iowa and New Hampshire, according to the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist College poll. The polls showed that Clinton had 48 percent among likely Iowa caucus-goers, compared to Sanders’ 45 percent and former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley's 5 percent, ABC’s CHRISTOPHER DONATO reports. In New Hampshire, however, the poll found Sanders had 50 percent among likely primary voters, compared to Clinton's 46 percent and O’Malley's 1 percent. http://abcn.ws/1SHFCzN

--GABBY GIFFORDS BACKS CLINTON AMID GUN DEBATE: As the top two Democratic candidates feud over their position on guns, Gabby Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly announced Sunday that they are endorsing Clinton for president, ABC’s LIZ KREUTZ notes. “Only one candidate for president has the determination and toughness to stand up to the corporate gun lobby – and the record to prove it. That candidate is Hillary Clinton,” Giffords and Kelly said in a statement. In response, Clinton said: “As an admirer of their courage in the face of incredible odds, their service to the country that they love, and their commitment to ending the epidemic of gun violence, I am humbled to receive the endorsement of these American heroes.” 

--ANALYSIS -- ABC’s RICK KLEIN: They’re the numbers Bernie Sanders has been waiting for – but might they have come two weeks or so too early? New polling showing Sanders in striking distance in Iowa, and slightly ahead in New Hampshire, reveals why Hillary Clinton is on the attack – suddenly even doing phone interviews if it means a chance to take on Sanders on guns. In a new ad and a sharpened stump, Clinton is also falling back on the e-word – electability – in making her case to wavering (or at least uninspired) Democrats. The attack may slightly miss the mark, given the fact that national and state-level polling suggest that a less-defined Sanders is a stronger matchup against Donald Trump than is Clinton. But those numbers could turn around fast if scrutiny falls on Sanders. His supporters may be fired up and ready to go a bit harder and faster given the Clinton attacks. Clinton, though, still has ample time to ramp up her machine, which also may work better fueled by some fear. If Sanders stays in the mix in the early states and beyond, he won’t have the element of surprise on his side.

 

TODAY ON THE TRAIL with ABC’s SHUSHANNAH WALSHE: Tonight in Des Moines, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Martin O'Malley will all appear at the Black and Brown forum, hosted by Fusion. On the other side of the aisle and in the other critical state, Donald Trump holds a morning rally in Windham, NH. Marco Rubio is in Sarasota, Florida for an economic policy town hall. Ted Cruz is in Baton Rouge, Louisiana for a rally. Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee, and Rick Santorum all have busy days today in Iowa. Carson holds four town halls and Fiorina holds a town hall and meet and greet before holding a tele town hall with Nevada voters this evening. Huckabee also holds four events while Santorum tries to cover more of the state with a town hall, a stop by a local business, and a house party. 

 

THIS WEEKEND ON THE TRAIL

CLINTON SAYS TRUMP'S ATTACKS AGAINST BILL CLINTON'S PAST 'WON’T WORK'. Hillary Clinton warned Sunday that Donald Trump's latest attacks about the controversies of her husband's past are a "dead end" that "won’t work,” according to ABC’s LIZ KREUTZ. "They can say whatever they want, more power to them. I think it's a dead end, blind ally for them, but let 'em go," the Democratic presidential candidate said during an interview on CBS News' "Face the Nation," when asked whether it is fair game for candidates to go after Bill Clinton's infidelities. "It's been fair game going back to the Republicans for some years," Clinton said. "They can do it again if they want to. That can be their choice as to how to run in this campaign. Didn't work before. It won't work again," she added. "I'm going to talk about the differences between us because I think that's what Americans care about." http://abcn.ws/1TNLQwi

NOTED:  CLINTON MAKES HER CASE TO NEW HAMPSHIRE WOMEN. Amid pink shirts, loud cheers and heavy security,  Clinton accepted the endorsement of Planned Parenthood’s political arm yesterday. The event at Southern New Hampshire University marked the first time the Planned Parenthood Action Fund has backed a presidential candidate in a primary, according to president Cecile Richards, who traveled across New Hampshire to rally volunteers afterwards, ABC’s BRAD MIELKE notes. "We don't need just a friend, a solid vote, a supporting statement," said Richards, pitching Clinton as the candidate best qualified to defend the group in Washington. "We need a fighter." The fight for New Hampshire has become a particularly nerve-wracking one for the Clinton campaign, as conflicting polls this weekend showed her either neck-and-neck with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders or trailing him by as many as 13 points in the state. http://abcn.ws/1JEa8Ze

HOW CHRIS CHRISTIE THINKS HE CAN WIN: BE THE LAST GOVERNOR STANDING. In a Republican primary where governors have, by and large, been passed over for anti-establishment alternatives, New Jersey Gov. Christie has a straightforward goal: be the last governor standing. Because, when it comes down to picking the nominee, Christie believes the Republican Party ultimately needs to choose a governor, ABC’s JORDYN PHELPS notes. “Only governors know how to run government,” Christie told reporters in New Hampshire last week. “We’ve watched for the last seven years a first-term United States Senator; and I don’t care whether your name is Barack Obama, Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio, you’ve never won a thing of consequence in your life.” By Christie’s calculation, he needs to be the governor who comes out on top in New Hampshire, which he hopes will winnow the field from 12 candidates to four serious candidates. “I really think that this is going to wind up coming down to Donald Trump and Ted Cruz and me and Marco Rubio,” Christie said in an interview with conservative radio host Laura Ingraham last week. http://abcn.ws/1OKmj70

RUBIO SAYS CRUZ’S IMMIGRATION RECORD LACKS 'CONSISTENCY'. Sen. Marco Rubio knocked Republican presidential rival Sen. Ted Cruz's immigration record on ABC's "This Week" yesterday, saying the Texas senator has shifted positions based on political "calculation" as the election nears. The two -- who are second and third in several national polls ahead of the Iowa caucuses -- have spent more than a month criticizing each other on several issues, including immigration and national security, ABC’s INES DELACUETARA notes. Rubio said his primary opponent hasn't shown consistency with his record on immigration. "When it comes to Ted, he has changed his positions on immigration all over the place," he said. "He used to be for birthright citizenship, now he says he’s against it. He used to be for legalizing people that were here illegally, now he says he’s against it.” http://abcn.ws/1OVKMIA

IOWA VOTERS DISMISS TRUMP'S QUESTIONS ON CRUZ CITIZENSHIP. Donald Trump's questions about Ted Cruz's citizenship may not be helping him in Iowa. In fact, they may be boosting his rival according to one group of Hawkeye State voters, ABC’s NICKI ROSSOLL notes. In his latest focus group, pollster Frank Luntz asked if the fact that Cruz was born in Canada, to an American mother, raised legitimate concerns about his eligibility for president, as Trump has suggested. Only six of 27 participants raised their hands, even though seven identified Trump as their first-choice candidate. One participant said the issue exposes Trump as "unserious,” while another called it a “joke.” "Just a few months ago, he said his strongest lawyers said it's a settled issue and Cruz is eligible," one participant said. "Now three months later, when Cruz overtakes him in the polls, he says the exact opposite... It's not a serious issue at all." http://abcn.ws/1kY68aa

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

FIVE TAKEAWAYS FROM TED CRUZ'S IOWA BUS TOUR. Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz wrapped a marathon 28-stop, six-day bus tour through Iowa this weekend. During the course of Cruz's trip through the caucus state, GOP rivals like Donald Trump lobbed attacks on Cruz's citizenship and stance on biofuels like ethanol. Cruz revealed his discipline as candidate, sticking to engaging in retail politics and looking Iowans in the eye, all while doing his best to not to engage with "The Donald." Here are five takeaways from the "Cruzin' to Caucus" bus tour, courtesy of ABC’s JESSICA HOPPER: http://abcn.ws/1OcJwgP

 

WHO’S TWEETING?

@jdistaso: #NHPrimarySource Update: Conservative @judicialnetwork ad calls @GovChristie ‘bad on judges’ #fitn #nhpolitics #WMUR http://www.wmur.com/politics/new-hampshire-primary-source-trump-loving-the-establishment-split/37302140 …

@edatpost: Nice @juliehdavis dispatch on @FLOTUS and her discreet @soulcycle habits: http://nyti.ms/1REubYD 

@jonathanweisman: For GOP, scary: “Republican Party has never done anything for the working man like me” @jmartnyt @patrickhealynyt http://nyti.ms/1RfeyID 

@JenniferJJacobs: Rubio, who wants to overtake Cruz and Trump, will dominate Iowa televisions during sprint to caucus day. http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/elections/presidential/caucus/2016/01/10/rubio-dominate-iowa-televisions-during-sprint-caucus-day/78508576/ …

@SenScottBrown: Loved @DavidBowieReal and all of his music. Have almost all of his songs. Sad day with the loss of a legend.