The Note: Trump, Ted and The Ticking Clock to Iowa


--DEBATE PREP: Trump also pushed back against Fox News' Megyn Kelly, saying he was still "making a decision" on whether to attend this Thursday's presidential debate. "I don't think she's professional at all. She's very biased against me," Trump said.

--CRUZ ACCUSES TRUMP OF ‘INSULTING ME EVERY DAY’: Meanwhile, Cruz isn’t backing down from his fight against Trump, joking about what he called the real estate mogul's daily routine of insulting him. "Donald has changed how he has approached me in that he is now insulting me every day," Cruz told reporters ahead of a campaign stop in Manchester, Iowa. "He can do that. But that is his prerogative. I do not intend to respond in kind.” Later in Independence, Iowa, Cruz joked, "Mr. Trump, has had a lot to say about me lately. Each morning is interesting. I learn a lot about myself from Donald every day." Cruz, though, says policy differences are fair game. ABC’s JESSICA HOPPER has more.

--ANALYSIS -- ABC’s RICK KLEIN: Republicans are coming around to the idea of Donald Trump as their nominee, with two-thirds of voters saying they think that will happen, and a similar portion saying they’ll accept him in that role, according to the new ABC News/Washington Post poll. But while Ted Cruz warns that an Iowa win for Trump could make Trump “unstoppable,” other sentiments still point to a longer fight ahead. That could make Marco Rubio’s voting results the ones to watch in the coming contests. He’s third in the new poll, behind Trump and Cruz. But asked for their second choice, respondents made Rubio No. 1 – the selection of 23 percent of GOP voters. That’s up 9 points since last month, despite an onslaught that’s made him the target of basically all of his rivals. Trump has consolidated his lead and shows strengthened support, across demographics and issue areas. All of his rivals are craving a one-on-one opportunity against Trump, whose conservative credentials are only now being aggressively questioned on the airwaves. Such a matchup may be most favorable to Rubio, who has stayed in the mix without a breakout moment that would take him from top prospect to all-star.

WHAT WE’RE WATCHING -- ‘HOW TO GET REVENGE WITH A FOOTBALL BY MARCO RUBIO.’ The latest video from the Independent Journal Review features Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio looking for a touchdown. After a clip of the Florida senator hitting a kid in the face with a football went viral last year, Rubio (and the kid) take a shot at redemption – and completed the pass. Rubio then takes out his frustration by throwing spirals at reporters and fellow politicians. WATCH:

BY THE NUMBERS -- REPUBLICANS CALL TRUMP THE LIKELY WINNER. Donald Trump holds his lead for the GOP nomination and has soared in expectations: 64 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents now expect him to be the party’s nominee, up sharply in the last two months, according to ABC’s GARY LANGER. Expectations that Trump will win the nomination have jumped by 25 percentage points since November among Republican-leaning voters in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll. Two-thirds also say they’d accept him as their party’s nominee. And he’s seen by 56 percent as their most electable nominee in the general election this fall. Trump has 37 percent support nationally among Republicans who are registered to vote, unchanged from last month (with no bounce from his endorsement by Sarah Palin). Ted Cruz has advanced by a slight 6 points from last month, and 15 points from October, to a clear, if somewhat distant, second place, with 21 percent.

--BEST OF THE REST: Marco Rubio’s in the third slot, 11 percent, with all others in the single digits in this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates. Rubio appears to have a stand-in shot – he does well as a second choice, selected by 23 percent now vs. 14 percent last month. Ben Carson, for his part, has continued to crater, showing the sometime changeability of voter preferences: he’s gone from 22 percent two months ago to 7 percent now, almost precisely swapping places with Cruz. There’s essentially no change among lower-tier candidates – 5 percent for Jeb Bush, 4 percent for Chris Christie, 3 percent for Carly Fiorina, 2 percent apiece for John Kasich and Mike Huckabee, 1 percent for Rand Paul and less than that for Rick Santorum.

ABOUT LAST NIGHT -- DEMOCRATS WOO IOWA'S REMAINING UNDECIDED. Exactly one week before the Iowa caucuses, all three Democratic presidential candidates participated in forum hosted in the state by CNN. They mostly faced questions from 'leaning' or undecided voters, and both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders had to respond to each others' ads. Clinton said after the sweeping montage of Sanders' fans, "You campaign in poetry, you govern in prose." Here are five moments that mattered, courtesy of ABC’s JOSH HASKELL, LIZ KREUTZ and MARYALICE PARKS:

TODAY ON THE TRAIL with ABC’s SHUSHANNAH WALSHE: Today Donald Trump is in Iowa where he holds a rally in Marshalltown and another in Iowa City. Both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are in Iowa today. Clinton has three "get out the caucus" events starting in Decorah this afternoon followed by two tonight in Cedar Falls and Marshalltown. Sanders also has three events today starting this morning in Des Moines where he will meet with United Steelworkers. He then heads out of Iowa to Minnesota, a Super Tuesday state for an afternoon and evening rallies in Duluth and St. Paul. Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Cary Fiorina, Mike Huckabee, and Rick Santorum are all in Iowa. Cruz has a whopping seven events today trying  to hit all 99 counties. Ben Carson holds just one event tonight in Des Moines. Fiorina has four events starting this morning with a coffee in Colfax and ending with a town hall tonight in Keoku. Santorum is trying to pull off the impossible with six events across the state today beginning this morning at 8:30AM in Williamsburg and ending tonight at 8:30pm with a house party in Monroe.  Huckabee has four events starting this morning by addressing the Faith Baptist Bible College in Ankeny.  Jeb Bush is in Nevada, stopping tonight for a rally in Elko. It might be far from Iowa, but it's a Silver State campaign staple.  John Kasich is in New Hampshire holding three town halls today in New Boston, Rindge, and Amherst.


TRUMP CALLS HEROIN ADDICTION ‘A VERY TOUGH THING.’ Donald Trump alternated between empathy and hardline tactics Monday night as he described his plan to deal with New Hampshire’s growing heroin problem. Speaking to a capacity crowd of 1,000 at Farmington High School, Trump said his signature proposal, to build a wall across the country’s border with Mexico, would stem the flow of illicit drugs into the state. “The question I get just about number one when I come up to New Hampshire: the drugs that are pouring in,” Trump said. “They’re coming across the Southern border and we are going to stop it.” But the normally bombastic Trump showed his empathetic side as he stressed treatment and prevention, ABC’s BRAD MIELKE notes. “We are gonna try and help the young people, and the old people, and the middle age people, and everybody that got addicted,” he said to the capacity crowd.

THE REPUBLICANS: 5 THINGS TO WATCH FOR IN GOP’S BATTLE FOR THE HAWKEYE STATE. The Iowa caucuses are exactly one week away, marking the first electoral test for the three Democrats and dozen Republican candidates vying to become their party’s nominees. The top Democratic contenders -- Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders -- have been busy laying out their strategies to win the nominating contest. On the Republican side, for some candidates, it’s do-or-die. For others, slow and steady wins the race. ABC’s RYAN STRUYK, PAOLA CHAVEZ and VERONICA STRACQUALURSI have more on the five things to look for in the Republican race.

THE DEMOCRATS: HOW CLINTON AND SANDERS ARE PLANNING TO WIN IOWA. As Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders crisscross Iowa in the final stretch before the caucuses, their campaigns are doing everything they can to ensure come Monday, Feb. 1 voters will be standing in their candidates’ corner. Whether it’s speaking to hundreds - or thousands - of supporters at campaign events, phone banking 12 hours a day, or door knocking in negative temperatures, it’s crunch time in this very tight race, ABC’s JOSH HASKELL and LIZ KREUTZ report.

‘WANT ME TO GO DOWN THERE WITH A MOP?’ CHRIS CHRISTIE SAYS ABOUT NJ FLOODING CLEANUP. Chris Christie took exception to a student who asked the New Jersey governor -- who is campaigning for president -- why he wasn't back in the state helping clean up from flooding associated with the weekend's historic winter storm, ABC’s JORDYN PHELPS reports. "Do you want me to go down there with a mop?" Christie asked in Hooksett, NH, after being questioned by the student, who has friends in New Jersey. Severe flooding devastated sections of the Jersey Shore with Cape May experiencing a record storm surge of more than 9 feet. “It's already done. It’s already done,” Christie said of the cleanup process.

JOHN KASICH TO SKIP IOWA ON CAUCUS DAY TO FOCUS ON NEW HAMPSHIRE. When presidential candidates gather in Iowa next week to eagerly await the results of the state's caucuses -- the first nominating contest in the race for the White House -- one contender on the Republican side will be missing: John Kasich, ABC’s BEN GITTLESON reports. The Ohio governor will spend Monday, the day of the Iowa caucuses, over 1,000 miles away in New Hampshire. Instead of last-minute campaigning in Des Moines or Cedar Rapids, Iowa, he plans to hold a town hall in Loudon, New Hampshire, just outside the capital of the state on which he has pinned his entire campaign. In lieu of physically meeting voters in Iowa early this week, as many of his opponents have been doing, Kasich held his fourth tele-town hall for Iowans on Monday evening, telling them he wished he had been able to come in person.

NOTED: KASICH ADMITS HE DOESN’T ‘APPROVE’ HIS CAMPAIGN ADS. Over the weekend, Kasich's presidential campaign released a new web ad called “Sinking Jeb." The ad portrays the former Florida governor as a floundering candidate grasping at straws. “What happened to Jeb?” a voice asks in the ad. “He had the name, the money, the support…and yet a lukewarm message, weak debates and sagging polls.” It ends with the Ohio governor declaring, “I’m John Kasich, and I approved this message.” But did he? ABC’s BRAD MIELKE and BEN GITTLESON have more:

BERNIE SANDERS' ONE ANSWER ON HOW HE WOULD GET ANYTHING DONE. In its editorial endorsing Hillary Clinton, the Des Moines Register zeroed in on one key aspect of Bernie Sanders’ campaign. “Sanders admits that virtually all of his plans for reform have no chance of being approved by a Congress that bears any resemblance to the current crop of federal lawmakers,” the opinion piece reads. “This is why, he says, voters can’t simply elect him president, but must instead spark a ‘political revolution.’” At almost every one of his town halls around the country, someone in the audience asks the Vermont senator how will he get it all done? Many of them bring up the big ambitions that President Obama had when he ran. ABC’s MARYALICE PARKS has more.


HOW ONE LITTLE GIRL IS RAISING HER VOICE IN A BIG WAY FOR CHRIS CHRISTIE. One of Chris Christie’s biggest supporters is also among his smallest. Sienna Szarek, 7, standing 3-foot-8, is one of the loudest -- and most recognizable -- voices besides Christie himself at the Republican presidential candidate’s New Hampshire campaign events. ABC’s JORDYN PHELPS reports at the beginning of nearly every town hall meeting in the Granite State, Sienna takes the microphone ahead of the New Jersey governor to perform the National Anthem with so much passion that the audience even loves it when she goes off key.


@JesseFFerguson: BREAKING: New Documentary Style Ad Features Hillary Clinton’s Lifelong Record Fighting for Children and Families - 

@TheBrodyFile: .@TheBrodyFile exclusive @tedcruz video coming soon: "I'm a Christian first,I'm an American second." #cbnnews

@katiezez: Fact checking Ted Cruz’s claim that sexual assaults rate ‘went up significantly’ after Australian gun control laws - …

@woodhouseb: Obama Insiders Say Clinton, Not Sanders, Is His Natural Heir  via @bpolitics

@tackettdc: Iowa (IA) Poll - January 26, 2016 - Trump, Cruz Go Down To The Wire @QuinnipiacPoll …

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