1. In CNN, Tom LoBianco writes about Trump’s event that will benefit veterans.
Wednesday morning, Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski predicted on "Good Morning America" that "the American people will tune in" for Trump's alternative event "because they want to support that."
But the leader of one veterans group says he doesn't want any donations from Trump's fundraiser.
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America founder Paul Rieckhoff tweeted Wednesday that he would decline any contributions that came from the event.
"If offered, @IAVA will decline donations from Trump's event. We need strong policies from candidates, not to be used for political stunts," he said.
2. In Bloomberg, Madeline McMahon explains why Carson considers a top-three finish in next week’s Iowa caucuses a success.
Carson suggested he would reassess his campaign if he falls out of the top three in Iowa, as polls in New Hampshire, another early-voting state, also show him trailing.
"I obviously would like to finish in the top three," Carson said said at a Bloomberg Politics breakfast in Des Moines, Iowa. "There’s always a path, but you know, you always have to look at the trends, you have to look at what is happening, what are people saying."
Candidates from both parties are crisscrossing Iowa, an agricultural state of about 3 million people in the U.S. heartland that will hold the first votes of the 2016 election. The Feb. 1 balloting is expected to winnow the Republican field, especially candidates who’ve targeted -- as Carson has -- the religious conservative voters who make up much of the party’s base here.
3. In Des Moines Register, Linh Ta reports that Sanders has criticized Clinton anew during a rally in Mason City.
At the Music Man Square, Sanders fired against Clinton, saying that her campaign is "in trouble" as his poll numbers rise before the Iowa caucus Monday. The latest Des Moines Register/Bloomberg Politics Iowa Poll shows Clinton and Sanders virtually tied, with Clinton slightly leading. A recent Quinnipiac poll shows Sanders 4 points ahead.
“Needless to say, our opponents are not all that enthusiastic about that reality,” Sanders said, about potentially winning the Iowa caucus. “One of the things they say, 'Bernie Sanders, nice guy, interesting ideas, but he just could not win a general election.'”
He then cited polls from Iowa and New Hampshire that shows him ahead of Clinton in a battle against Donald Trump, saying he would be electable in a general election despite criticisms.
4. In The Boston Globe, Annie Linskey writes about Sanders idealism and his skills as political tactician.
Sanders may be decrying politics as usual, but he’s also picked up tricks of the trade during his 25 years in Washington. (That’s two years longer than Clinton.) The white-haired 74-year-old comes across more like a philosophy professor than a modern politician. But the last nine months have shown he has the chops to take on the Democrats’ star player, analysts say.
“Bernie Sanders’ political skills were deeply underrated in the beginning of this process,” said Tad Devine, his longtime campaign adviser. “I think people thought of him as somebody who didn’t have the skills to deliver a message on a big stage. ... I think people are just now catching up to the fact that he’s very good at this.”
That includes the Clinton campaign, which has always said the race in early primary states would be close, but didn’t finger Sanders as the likely stalking horse.
5. In Politico, Katie Glueck reports that Cruz will donate $1.5 million to veterans group if Trump debates.
A cluster of super PACs backing Ted Cruz pledged on Wednesday to donate $1.5 million to veterans groups if Donald Trump agrees to a one-on-one debate with Cruz.
“In response to Senator Ted Cruz’s challenge of a one-on-one debate, the principal donors of the Keep the Promise I and II super PACs are offering presidential candidate Donald Trump a truly fantastic deal, pledging to donate $1.5 million to charities committed to helping veterans if Mr. Trump agrees to debate Senator Cruz in Iowa,” reads a release from Keep the Promise, the group of super PACs backing the Texan. “This money is in addition to the millions of proceeds available to the veterans as a share of the revenues that this debate could secure from a host network.”
Trump will not participate in Fox News’s Thursday night debate, instead hosting an event at Drake University that his campaign says will benefit veterans.
6. In The New York Times, Alan Rappeport writes about Carson’s presidential campaign in Iowa.
For Mr. Carson, the retired neurosurgeon seeking the Republican nomination, it is a daily struggle to stay upbeat and remain true to himself.
“It is much better to do what’s right and lose an election than to do what’s politically expedient and lose your soul,” Mr. Carson said with a sense of resignation during a Tuesday night event that mixed a campaign pitch with a Christian prayer service.
Focusing his efforts on Iowa before Monday’s caucuses, Mr. Carson has been homing in on the evangelical Christians and social conservatives who propelled Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum to caucus victories in the state in the two previous presidential election cycles. Like many flagging candidates, Mr. Carson has started to discredit the polls as flawed surveys that fail to capture the excitement he sees on the campaign trail. Talk of a “surprise” has picked up considerably.
7. In The Associated Press, Julie Pace explains why Trump will grab more attention as GOP rivals debate.
Given Trump's unpredictable nature, some campaigns were preparing for the possibility he could reverse course and take the stage in Des Moines after all. Still, Trump moved forward with plans to host a rally just a few miles away that his campaign said would raise money for wounded warriors.
With Fox carrying the debate, other cable channels were likely to show Trump's event, stealing away at least some viewers who would have otherwise watched the contest.
"I think it's typical Trump," said Don Kass, chairman of Iowa's Plymouth County GOP. "He's betting on him making a bigger splash."
While earlier debates have been instrumental in the rise and fall of several GOP candidates, they have had minimal apparent impact on Trump's standing. He's preferred to make his case to potential voters in national television interviews and on Twitter, and has often faded into the background in the debates
8. In Bloomberg, Mark Niquette reports that Sanders is eyeing the notoriously fickle college-age demographic in the Hawkeye State.
With polls showing Sanders locked in a tight race with Hillary Clinton, the Vermont senator expects he'll win the first-in-the-nation caucuses on Monday if there's a high turnout. If not, "we're going to be struggling,'' he said after a campaign stop Tuesday in Des Moines.
That's why Sanders's campaign has focused so intently on mobilizing students and other young people who overwhelmingly support him in polls over Clinton, the former secretary of state and Democratic front-runner. The Sanders campaign is even arranging to drive students to their home precincts, where their backing of Sanders can be more valuable than at their campuses.
"The youth vote is critical,'' said Tad Devine, a senior advisor for Sanders, the Vermont senator. "Without overwhelming support and strong turnout from young voters, we really don’t have a clear path to victory.''
9. In CNN, Tom LoBianco reports that Sanders believes generally in God, but not necessarily organized religion.
The man who has the potential to become the nation's first Jewish president has generally shied away from talk of his upbringing and his faith, but in an interview with The Washington Post published Wednesday, Sanders said he was not "actively involved with organized religion."
"I think everyone believes in God in their own ways," he told Post. "To me, it means that all of us are connected, all of life is connected, and that we are all tied together."
Sanders has often limited talk of his upbringing to a single line in his stump speech about his father emigrating from Poland and raising his family in a rent-controlled apartment in Brooklyn.
10. In Reuters, Michelle Conlin writes about Jeb Bush’s presidential campaign.
In the world of Jeb Bush, the campaign for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination has at times been a whirl of private planes and high-end affairs, according to the federal filings of Bush’s campaign and his Super PAC, Right to Rise, which can raise unlimited funds for Bush as long as it does not coordinate directly with him.
It is not unusual for U.S. presidential candidates to fly private or even sometimes stay in luxury hotels. But some disgruntled donors say they are unhappy with Bush's large outlays, which also include big spending on staff and tens of millions of dollars in ad buys.
Eleven of 16 major donors contacted by Reuters questioned whether it was money well spent, especially given how the one-time frontrunner has stumbled badly in the polls and is now facing questions about whether he should withdraw from the race.