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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Martin O’Malley will have their last televised opportunity this evening to pitch their vision of a post-Obama America to Iowans. At a “town hall” hosted by CNN at Drake University in Des Moines, the candidates will appear on stage, one at a time, to answer questions ranging from inequality to electability. The event is particularly crucial to Sanders (I-VT), who is trying to maintain his campaign’s momentum as the primary season officially begins.

For her part, Clinton will continue to present herself as President Barack Obama’s successor, with her stances on gun control and healthcare, as well as many other issues where her views mirror his. Despite a recent surge of support for Sanders in Iowa and New Hampshire, Clinton still maintains a sizable lead in national polls.

Clinton has styled herself as a mainstream Democrat who, with her decades of experience, knows what needs to be done and what is possible. Sanders has positioned himself as a political outsider and social justice crusader who believes that nothing will change without a radical break from the “establishment.” His calls for a political revolution are not empty rallying cries.

To her credit, Clinton has taken on many of the causes important to liberals. But in her traditional approach, the Clinton campaign has focused on a decades-old measure of support, the political endorsement — and she has received hundreds of them. In fact, she may have more endorsements for her candidacy than all the Republican nominees combined. She also depends on super PACs for funding, as do almost all Republican candidates.

Sanders, on the other hand, has run an unorthodox campaign that has relied on small cash donations and endorsements from people other than politicians. He received not only the endorsement of Killer Mike, a member of rap duo Run the Jewels and a politically active gangster rapper, but those of Dr. Cornel West and Glenn Greenwald, two personalities unequivocal in their criticism of the American political system and whose causes are much more popular among younger, more liberal voters.

These differences have translated into heated exchanges between the two sides. Last week Sanders accused Planned Parenthood, a non-profit organization frequently targeted by Republicans for providing abortions in addition to health services, and the Human Rights Campaign, an LGBT civil rights advocacy group, of being “part of the establishment” after the groups endorsed Clinton. Former President Bill Clinton responded by saying, “Hillary Clinton does not consider Planned Parenthood a member of the establishment.” More than anything, Sanders most likely felt betrayed by the two organizations given he was a champion of abortions and gay marriage long before most politicians had the courage to do so.

Tonight the pressure is on again for Sanders to articulate his positions and policies clearly and attract an even wider coalition of Democrats to his camp. Clinton only needs to provide a solid performance, since she has a better chance of winning in Iowa, stopping Sanders at just the second primary in South Carolina, and proceeding to her place as the Democrats’ inevitable candidate. But as we are learning in this election cycle, nothing is guaranteed.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany was forced to defend President Donald Trump's recent attacks on MSNBC host Joe Scarborough on Tuesday, an unenviable task she nevertheless intentionally signed up for. She desperately tried to divert the attention back to Scarborough — without engaging in the president's conspiracy theorizing — but offered no credible defense of the president's conduct.

Trump has been spreading the debunked theory that Scarborough killed a staffer in 2001 while he was in Congress, even though it was determined she died of natural causes. The staffer's widower wrote a released a letter on Tuesday pleading with Twitter to take down the president's offensive tweets promoting the thoery. He said he was "angry," "frustrated," and "grieved" by the president's promotion of the harmful allegations. Trump is perverting his late wife's memory, he said, and he fears her niece and nephews will encounter these attacks.When asked about the letter, McEnany said she wasn't sure if the president had seen it. But she said their "hearts" are with the woman's family "at this time." It was a deeply ironic comment because the only particularly traumatizing thing about "this time" for the family is the president's attacks, which come nearly two decades after the woman's death.

McEnany refused to offer any explanation of Trump's comments and instead redirected reporters to a clip of Scarborough on Don Imus's radio show in 2003. In that show, Imus made a tasteless joke obliquely referring to the death, and Scarborough laughed at it briefly.

"Why is the president making these unfounded allegations?" asked ABC News' Jonathan Karl. "I mean, this is pretty nuts, isn't it? The president is accusing someone of possible murder. The family is pleading with the president to please stop unfounded conspiracy theories. Why is he doing it?""The president said this morning, this is not an original Trump thought. And it is not," she said, bringing up the Imus clip. But she made no mention of why the president is bringing up the issue 17 years later and with a much larger platform.

When pressed further on the president's conduct, she again diverted blame to Scarborough, saying his morning show unfairly criticizes the president. But again, she offered no substantive defense of Trump.

After McEnany had moved on, PBS reporter Yamiche Alcindor brought it up again: "Why won't the president give this widower peace and stop tweeting about the conspiracy theory involving his wife?"

McEnany said she had already answered the question, which she hadn't, and said the onus is on Scarborough to explain the Imus clip."The widower is talking specifically about the president!" Alcindor shot back. But McEnany called on Chanel Rion, with the aggressively pro-Trump outlet OAN, who changed the subject to conspiracy theories about the origins of the Russia investigation.

"Are you not going to answer that?" Alcindor called out, still trying to get a substantive response to her question, but Rion spoke over her.

At the end of the briefing, another reporter asked whether Trump was looking for any actual law enforcement steps be taken in response to his conspiracy theory. But McEnany had nothing to add, and simply told people to listen to the Imus clip again. As she hurried out of the briefing room, a reporter asked if Trump would stop promoting the theory — but she left without answering.

Watch the exchange about Klausutis, which begins at 48:45.