One Short Week ‘Til the Iowa Caucuses

Happy Monday! When we tuned into our editorial meeting on Friday, Declan was wearing a Chicago Bears jersey to, in his words, “troll Steve” ahead of the team’s big game against the Green Bay Packers this weekend. We wonder if Steve will return the favor later this morning.

Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories

  • A Russian missile strike on Pokrovsk, a town in eastern Ukraine, killed 11 people including five children on Saturday, according to Ukrainian officials. “The blow of the Russians was simply on ordinary residential buildings, on private houses,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky claimed. The Ukrainian Air Force said it had struck a Russian airbase in western Crimea in a drone attack overnight and early on Saturday, while the Russian Defense Ministry said air defenses intercepted Ukrainian drones and missiles overnight on Saturday.
  • Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia’ al-Sudani’s office said Friday that the country plans to begin the removal process for the U.S.-led military coalition in Iraq deployed to fight ISIS. “Government is setting the date for the start of the bilateral committee to put arrangements to end the presence of the international coalition forces in Iraq permanently,” Al-Sudani’s office said in a statement. The push to remove the troops comes after a U.S. drone strike in Baghdad last week that killed Moshtaq Talib Al-Saadi, a commander in an Iran-backed Iraqi militia group that had taken credit for multiple attacks on American forces in the region. 
  • Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on Thursday outlined his vision for the next phase of the war in Gaza. What Gallant calls Phase III of the war would involve scaled-down operations in northern Gaza and continued fighting in the south until Hamas’ military and governing capabilities are destroyed. The plans also outlined a direction for a post-war Gaza that would involve Israel maintaining security control but Palestinians governing the enclave—notably absent was any mention of the Palestinian Authority. Gallant’s office emphasized that the plans don’t represent official policy, as the country’s war and security cabinets set policy (though Gallant is a member of both). Israel has yet to significantly scale down its operations, but Gallant’s office said today the next, lower-intensity phase of the war will start “soon.” Secretary of State Antony Blinken has been meeting with leadership throughout the region over the last several days—including Qatar, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt—in another whirlwind diplomatic tour aimed at keeping the conflict from spreading further. Blinken will travel to Israel this week. 
  • The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday that U.S. employers added 216,000 jobs in December—up from 173,000 in November and exceeding economists’ expectations. The unemployment rate held steady at 3.7 percent, and the labor force participation rate eased slightly from 62.8 percent in November to 62.5 percent last month. Average hourly earnings—a measure the Federal Reserve is watching closely in its fight against inflation—rose 0.4 percent month-over-month in December, and 4.1 percent year-over-year. Those figures were 0.4 and 4.0 percent in November, respectively. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen heralded the jobs and wage numbers, saying in an interview on Friday, “What we’re seeing now I think we can describe as a soft landing, and my hope is that it will continue.”
  • House Speaker Mike Johnson and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced an agreement on a $1.59 trillion topline spending number for fiscal year 2024, including $886.3 billion in defense spending and $704 billion in nondefense spending. The agreement also appeared to include the $69 billion side deal for additional nondefense spending negotiated between President Joe Biden and former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy last spring that would bring the total spending to $1.66 trillion—something the hardline House Freedom Caucus labeled “a total failure” last night. Lawmakers still have to pass all 12 spending bills now that a topline number has been reached, and the government is set to shut down partially on January 19 and fully on February 2 without approval of the appropriations bills or another continuing resolution. 
  • The U.S. Supreme Court agreed on Friday to review the Colorado Supreme Court’s ruling barring former President Donald Trump from the state’s primary ballot for allegedly violating the insurrection clause of the 14th Amendment. Oral arguments in the case are set for February 8. Massachusetts became the latest state to challenge Trump’s eligibility for the ballot, as a group of voters organized by Free Speech For People—an advocacy organization backing challenges in several states—filed an objection with the Massachusetts Secretary of State’s office. 
  • The Federal Aviation Administration ordered the temporary grounding of 171 Boeing 737 MAX 9 aircraft after a piece of fuselage ripped off an Alaskan Airlines jet en route to Ontario, California, from Portland, Oregon. The incident occurred approximately 10 to 15 minutes into the flight when the aircraft was flying at 16,000 feet and left a gaping hole in the side of the plane, resulting in a rapid decompression of the cabin and forcing the pilots to execute an emergency landing. No passengers were seated in the row where the blowout happened, and no one on board sustained serious injuries.
  • The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Friday approved a plan from Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration to import certain prescription drugs from Canada. The approval is just one of several steps required before the state could actually begin importing pharmaceuticals—additional steps include the FDA approving a specific list of drugs to be imported as well as the state’s plan to verify drugs’ authenticity and safety. Florida’s plan could also face legal challenges from pharmaceutical companies and the Canadian government. “Canada has made it impossible for this policy to be implemented,” said former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, who currently serves on the boards of Pfizer and Illumina. “No wholesaler in their legitimate supply chain can ship to the U.S., and the FDA policy won’t allow drugs to be imported that are outside the legitimate supply chain.”
  • Saturday marked the third anniversary of the January 6 Capitol attack, and federal authorities are still making arrests and charging individuals for their roles in the assault. Attorney General Merrick Garland said Friday that the Justice Department has so far charged more than 1,250 people in connection with the riot, convicting more than 890. The Federal Bureau of Investigation arrested three fugitives on Saturday who were on the run from law enforcement and accused of participating in the attack. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Friday that people who entered the Capitol on January 6 can be found guilty of “disorderly or disruptive conduct” even if they didn’t engage in violence or vandalism. Judge Karen Henderson argued in her opinion that, “in determining whether an act is disorderly, the act cannot be divorced from the circumstances in which it takes place.” 
  • President Biden delivered his first campaign speech of 2024 on Friday, debuting what will most likely be the major themes of his reelection pitch. Biden painted the choice between himself and Trump in stark terms. “Democracy is on the ballot,” he said in remarks delivered at Montgomery County Community College, near Valley Forge. “Your freedom is on the ballot.” The president invoked the memory of George Washington and his troops at Valley Forge as a contrast to Trump. “Their mission, George Washington declared, was nothing less than a sacred cause,” he said. “Today, we’re here to answer the most important of questions. Is democracy still America’s sacred cause?” Trump responded to the speech at a political rally in Sioux City, Iowa, on Friday by saying Biden was engaging in “pathetic fearmongering” and ignoring issues that matter to voters.

Heaven, Iowa

Former President Donald Trump arrives for a rally at Clinton Middle School on January 6, 2024 in Clinton, Iowa. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Former President Donald Trump arrives for a rally at Clinton Middle School on January 6, 2024 in Clinton, Iowa. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Dispatch readers in Iowa will be happy to know that we here at TMD know the difference between University of Iowa basketball star Caitlin Clark and CNN anchor Kaitlan Collins—and we can only hope this morning’s newsletter won’t need to be corrected by any readers in New Hampshire.

GOP candidates are squabbling in the Hawkeye State, but one week out from the January 15 Iowa Republican Caucuses, former President Donald Trump looks poised to storm his way to victory. The former president is currently polling at 51 percent in the RealClearPolitics Iowa average, ahead of his nearest competitor by more than 30 points. But the lingering sense of inevitability hasn’t stopped Trump’s main challengers—including former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis—from finally pulling out all the stops and escalating their attacks on the frontrunner. With just days to go before voting in the GOP primary officially begins, is their willingness to take on Trump too little, too late?

Trump has held firm to a sizable polling lead in Iowa since the 2024 race began, hovering around the high-40s to low-50s since the spring—despite spending much less time in the state than his opponents. He has, and will continue to be, much more present in Iowa ahead of the caucuses, however, and his surrogates in the state have included MAGA stars like South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, and actress Roseanne Barr.

This content is available exclusively to Dispatch members
Try a membership for full access to every newsletter and all of The Dispatch. Support quality, fact-based journalism.
Already a paid member? Sign In
Comments (474)
Join The Dispatch to participate in the comments.
Load More