The Latest: Cruz challenge Trump to debate ‘mano a mano’


DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Here are the latest developments from the 2016 race for president, one week out from the Iowa caucuses. All times local.

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7:50 p.m.

Sen. Ted Cruz is challenging Donald Trump to a one-on-one debate, saying he and the billionaire can go at it “mano a mano” if they can’t agree on a moderator.

Trump’s campaign announced Tuesday that he’s skipping the last scheduled debate with leading Republican candidates before the Iowa caucuses. Trump has criticized host Fox News and scheduled moderate Megyn Kelly in particular for what he calls “playing games.”

At a campaign stop Tuesday in Fairfield, Iowa, Cruz accused Trump of being afraid of mean questions from Kelly and said skipping the debate was tantamount to refusing to be interviewed for a job.

Riffing off Trump’s famous rejoinder from “The Apprentice,” Cruz said that if someone didn’t show up for an interview Trump would say, “You’re fired.”

Cruz and Trump are running a tight race heading into Monday’s Iowa’s caucuses. Cruz says Trump owes it to Iowa voters to debate.

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7:20 p.m.

Marco Rubio says it will be hard for candidates who have made Iowa or New Hampshire their top priority to stay in the race if they fail to meet expectations when those states vote.

In an interview with The Associated Press, the senator from Florida focused specifically on those who “go around saying you’ve got the strongest grass roots operations” in Iowa. While he didn’t point to any of his rivals by name, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz has been touting his organizational prowess in Iowa.

Rubio’s campaign has tried to pre-emptively diffuse suggestions his campaign is doomed if he doesn’t win Iowa or New Hampshire by saying he’s running a national campaign that’s not dependent on a particular result in the first two states.

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6:55 p.m.

Donald Trump may be boycotting the last Republican debate before next week’s Iowa caucuses, but Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul is set to return to the main stage.

Paul qualified for the first five prime-time debates, but was bumped from the sixth earlier this month.

Fox News announced Paul will be back in the lineup Thursday, with Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Ohio Gov. John Kasich.

Front-running Trump was set to be the eighth main-stage participant before his campaign said he would not take part over a dispute with Fox News.

Candidates were required to be among the top-ranked in an average of recent polls to qualify for the main lineup.

The network also says it’s inviting former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore back to the undercard debate, his first since the first GOP debate in August. Others who qualified for the early debate are former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and former Sen. Rick Santorum.

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6:45 p.m.

President Barack Obama and Bernie Sanders are slated to have their first extended meeting since the Vermont senator’s presidential bid upended the Democratic race to replace Obama.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest says the two will meet Wednesday in the Oval Office. Earnest says the meeting will be informal, with no set agenda.

Sanders has met with Obama at the White House on several occasions over the years, but the men aren’t close. Sanders’ main rival, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, has dropped by the White House for meetings with the president several times since leaving the administration.

Earnest says the men first discussed the meeting at a holiday reception at the White House in late December.

Sanders’ visit comes as Obama has opened up about his thoughts on the race. In an interview with Politico published Monday, Obama showered praised on Clinton but was less effusive in discussing Sanders. He suggested the Vermont senator was a one-issue candidate and dismissed any comparisons to his own campaign against Clinton eight years ago.

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6:30 p.m.

The head of the Democratic National Committee says the party has “no plans” to sanction additional debates before the Feb. 9 New Hampshire primary.

That’s despite an announcement from the state’s largest newspaper and MSNBC that they’ll team up to host a debate next week.

Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz issued a statement Tuesday after the Union Leader newspaper and television network announced plans for a Feb. 4 debate in response to “overwhelming” calls from New Hampshire residents.

So far only candidate Martin O’Malley has committed to participating. Hillary Clinton’s campaign says she’d participate if the other candidates agree, which it said would allow the party to sanction the debate.

But Bernie Sanders’ campaign called for working with the party after the New Hampshire primary to schedule more debates.

The party has so far sanctioned six primary debates and previously threatened to punish any candidates for participating in non-sanctioned debates.

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6:20 p.m.

Donald Trump’s campaign manager says Trump is skipping the next Republican debate.

The Republican candidates are set to square off in the Fox News debate Thursday night, their last debate before Monday’s Iowa caucuses.

Trump previously had said he may not show up. But campaign manager Corey Lewandowski said during a Tuesday evening news conference in Marshalltown, Iowa, that the GOP front-runner “will not be participating in the Fox News debate Thursday.”

Trump has criticized Fox News for “playing games” and for including anchor Megyn Kelly as a debate moderator. He says Kelly is a third-rate reporter who is bad at her job and shouldn’t be allowed to participate.

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5:40 p.m.

Donald Trump says he probably will not participate in the next Republican presidential debate.

The Republican candidates are set to square off in the Fox News debate Thursday night, their last debate before Monday’s Iowa caucuses.

But Trump told a Tuesday news conference he most likely won’t show up.

Trump is criticizing Fox News for “playing games” and for including anchor Megyn Kelly as a debate moderator. He says Kelly is a third-rate reporter who is bad at her job and shouldn’t be allowed to participate.

Trump says Fox will make a fortune off the debate and that he asked the network to donate to wounded veterans groups.

Instead of the debate, Trump says he will probably hold his own event in Iowa for wounded veterans.

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5:35 p.m.

New Hampshire’s largest newspaper is teaming up with MSNBC to host a final Democratic debate in the state before the Feb. 9 primary. But the two major candidates — Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton — have yet to say whether they’ll participate.

The Democratic National Committee has not commented on the proposed debate, to be held in New Hampshire on Feb. 4. The party sanctioned six primary debates and previously threatened to punish any candidates for participating in non-sanctioned debates.

So far only Martin O’Malley says he’ll participate.

Union Leader Editor Trent Spiner says the debate comes in response to “overwhelming” calls from New Hampshire residents for another opportunity to evaluate the candidates side by side.

More than 100 prominent New Hampshire Democrats formed a group last year to push for more debates in the state. The only New Hampshire debate was held before Christmas.

Spiner says MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow and Chuck Todd will moderate the debate alongside a local reporter.

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5:05 p.m.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz says he won’t attack Republican rival Donald Trump. But Cruz’s surrogates aren’t making the same pledge.

Christian conservative activist Bob Vander Plaats exchanged a series of testy messages with Trump over Twitter on Tuesday. And at a Cruz rally in Ottumwa, Iowa, Vander Plaats bashed Trump for describing his supporters as so loyal that he could “shoot somebody” and not lose support, and for saying in a previous interview that he had never sought forgiveness from God.

Cruz backer and Iowa congressman Steve King is meanwhile telling voters that the race in his state has come down to either Cruz or Trump.

King told voters gathered at a historic church in Bloomfield, Iowa, that they don’t know what Trump’s “core beliefs are” and they “don’t know what he’ll do tomorrow.”

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4:20 p.m.

An Arizona sheriff known far beyond his home state for his efforts to crack down on illegal immigration has joined Donald Trump on the campaign trail in Iowa.

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio appeared with the Republican candidate at a Tuesday rally as Trump’s campaign touted the sheriff’s support.

Trump’s immigration policy proposals include building a wall across the entirety of the U.S.-Mexico border and deporting everyone who lives in the U.S. illegally.

Arpaio has joined legal efforts to fight President Barack Obama’s plan to spare millions of people from deportation, though the U.S. Supreme court last week refused to hear his appeal of a lower court ruling that said the sheriff has no legal basis to challenge the program.

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3:25 p.m.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio says the 2016 election is “not just about beating up on other Republicans,” but ultimately about bringing the party together.

Rubio is honing a largely positive closing message with Iowa Republican caucus voters during a robust day of campaigning six days before the leadoff 2016 contest.

He says he understands and shares their frustration, but insists “being angry is not a plan.”

The reference is a veiled shot at billionaire Donald Trump, though his indirect critique of fellow U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas is sharper, and goes to the heart of Rubio’s call for a stronger military.

Without naming him, Rubio notes fellow senators who voted only for budget bills that cut military spending.

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2:45 p.m.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders says the prospect of former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg considering an independent presidential campaign “speaks volumes about the state of American politics” and notes that if a race included Bloomberg, Republican Donald Trump and himself, “two of the three candidates would be multi-billionaires.”

Sanders said in an interview with The Associated Press Tuesday that the notion that he must win Iowa’s caucuses against Democratic rival Hillary Clinton is “mythology” and appeared to lower expectations about the race.

He dismissed the notion that President Barack Obama might be tipping the scales in favor of Clinton, saying the president was “very generous to me.” He says both Obama and Vice President Joe Biden are trying to be “objective and letting the people decide.”

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2:15 p.m.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz continues to resist launching personal attacks against Republican rival Donald Trump, even after the billionaire called Cruz a liar.

Cruz, who is Trump’s leading rival in next week’s Iowa caucuses, and was asked during a Tuesday appearance in Albia, Iowa, about another senator’s criticism of Trump’s personal life. But he did not engage, saying that he’ll focus instead on his differences with the GOP front-runner on policies and their record.

When asked in what state Cruz thinks he can beat Trump, Cruz said he’s running a national campaign and no state is a must win.

Cruz will finish visiting all 99 of Iowa’s counties Monday, the day of the caucuses. He says more than 1,500 precinct captains and 12,000 volunteers statewide are a “grass roots army” that will lead him to victory.

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11:25 a.m.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is meeting with a steel workers local union in Des Moines, making the case for expanding Social Security benefits and fighting trade deals he says would hurt workers.

The Democratic presidential candidate says he believes he has “an excellent chance to win” next week’s Iowa caucuses “if we have a large voter turnout.”

Sanders addressed a few hundred members of United Steelworkers Local 310L on Tuesday. The national union has not yet endorsed a presidential candidate. It had offered encouragement to Vice President Joe Biden when Biden considered and ultimately passed on a 2016 campaign.

Sanders notes his support for expanding Social Security benefits as a key difference with rival Hillary Clinton. The self-described democratic socialist also is discussing his longtime opposition to trade deals that he says would lead to a “race to the bottom” for U.S. workers.

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11:10 a.m.

A week after heaping praise on Donald Trump before a speech at Liberty University, the school’s president Jerry Falwell Jr. is officially throwing his support behind the Republican presidential candidate.

The backing comes just days before the lead-off caucuses in Iowa. Trump’s top challenger there is Ted Cruz, the son of an evangelical pastor.

Cruz launched his campaign at Liberty and is banking on support from Christian conservatives to push him toward the nomination.

Falwell Jr. praised Trump in an introduction at the school last week, comparing Trump to his late father.

The campaign already had been using Falwell’s remarks in a radio ad.

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11 a.m.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz says with just six days until the Iowa caucuses, it’s time for voters to decide who they trust.

And without naming names, Cruz said Tuesday that shouldn’t be Donald Trump.

Though he didn’t say Trump’s name during a stop in Osceola, Iowa, Cruz highlighted his Republican rival’s past support for the federal government stimulus package and bank bailout.

Cruz is campaigning with former Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Iowa congressman Steve King.

Perry calls his fellow Texan a great listener who will defend the Constitution.

Perry says he didn’t get to know Cruz until after Cruz called him after Perry dropped his own presidential bid in September. He says they spent a day talking at Perry’s home. Perry says Cruz will listen to voters as well.

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10:35 a.m.

John Kasich has New Hampshire to himself Tuesday, as many of his rivals are campaigning in Iowa with less than a week to go until the caucuses.

He’s kicking off a day in the first primary state at a town hall in a cozy tavern in New Boston. Speaking to a relatively small crowd, Kasich is pitching himself as a different kind of Republican who is willing to tackle problems such as climate change and race relations in America.

Kasich says his experience as a governor and legislator give him a unique perspective on the value of working across the aisle to get things done.

Kasich is banking his presidential hopes on New Hampshire, all but ignoring Iowa as he seeks to become the establishment alternative to Trump in New Hampshire’s Feb. 9 primary. He’s excitedly touting recent endorsements by the Boston Globe and Concord Monitor at his events.

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9:15 a.m.

Former New York Gov. George Pataki says he is endorsing Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s bid for the White House.

Speaking to FOX News Tuesday, Pataki said Rubio is the one candidate in either party with the ability to bring the American people together.

“Hillary Clinton is always dividing us for her benefit. Donald Trump is dividing us so he gets the benefit,” he said. “Marco Rubio is going to bring us together, and make us understand we are all Americans with a common future.”

The freshman senator from Florida is trailing in Iowa preference polls behind GOP rivals Ted Cruz and Donald Trump, but he has received more support than either candidate from members of the House and Senate.

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8:30 a.m.

Hillary Clinton is using a new television ad in Iowa to portray her commitment to families as longstanding and consistent.

The new ad from Clinton’s campaign uses archival footage of Clinton to paint a chronological picture of her experience advocating for children and families. She ends the ad by saying she’s spent her life fighting and she’s not stopping now. In a twist on the required tagline, she says, “I’m Hillary Clinton and I’ve always approved this message.”

The ad comes as Clinton works to portray opponent Bernie Sanders as less experienced and less ready to handle the job of being president. Clinton is also working to push back at suggestions she’s new to the economic issues driving Sanders’ campaign.

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6:40 a.m.

Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry is joining fellow Texan Sen. Ted Cruz’s campaign in Iowa.

Perry is scheduled to make seven stops with Cruz in central Iowa on Tuesday, along with Iowa congressman Steve King and Bob Vander Plaats, head of the social conservative advocacy group The Family Leader.

Perry is the longest-serving governor in Texas history and twice ran unsuccessfully for president. He announced his endorsement of Cruz on Monday.

Perry’s once-promising 2012 presidential run collapsed after a series of gaffes, and he was the first GOP presidential hopeful to drop out this cycle amid sluggish fundraising.

Cruz is one of the favorites in Monday’s caucuses, with polls showing him near the top of the field along with billionaire Donald Trump.

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6:10 a.m.

Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump says his biggest rival, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, is “nervous” with less than a week to go before Iowa’s lead-off caucuses.

Speaking to MSNBC and FOX News early Tuesday, Trump lashed out at his opponent, calling him “a big mess” and claiming “people have realized he probably can’t even run for president.”

The two Republicans are locked in a tight race in first-to-vote Iowa, but Trump is the national front-runner.

Trump also said the recent endorsement he received from conservative firebrand Sarah Palin “threw an ax into the machinery for Cruz because, man, he expected that endorsement 100 percent.”

Cruz has said that he will continue to be a big fan of Palin’s, regardless who she backs in the campaign. On MSNBC, Trump touted another big endorsement expected later Tuesday.

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