Don Gonyea

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It is hard to overstate the importance of New Hampshire for the presidential hopes of Jeb Bush.

He entered the year as the clear frontrunner. Now, after months of unfocused answers in interviews, unimpressive performances in the three GOP debates, and a general lack of enthusiasm on the campaign trail, he's in the middle of the pack in polls and stunned to be looking up at the likes of Donald Trump and Ben Carson.

Ben Carson and Donald Trump have very different personalities — one is as low-key as the other is over-the-top bombastic. They currently lead the rest of the field in the GOP presidential race and, unlike many political newcomers, each is building an organized ground game in Iowa to make sure his supporters actually turn out for the Feb. 1 caucuses.

At a recent Trump rally at a Sioux City high school, loudspeakers blasted an unofficial head-banging campaign anthem by Twisted Sister, to pump up the crowd for the candidate who wouldn't speak for another hour.

One candidate came out of Wednesday night's Republican presidential debate with a lot of questions to answer — Jeb Bush.

Supporters were disappointed by his performance and inability to stand out at a critical time for his campaign. As Bush struggles, his chances may come down to the early primary state of New Hampshire.

Bush had a big moment preplanned in that Colorado debate. It was aimed at Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., for missing so many votes in the Senate while campaigning.

There's nothing new about a big Donald Trump rally in Iowa. But what was different Tuesday was that it was Trump's first Iowa event in more than three months when he wasn't sitting atop the polls in the state.

All of the surveys of Iowa voters in the past week have put Dr. Ben Carson in the top spot. And Trump seemed perplexed by the turn of events — and let his audience know it.

"I love New Hampshire," Trump told the Sioux City, Iowa, crowd. "We've got great numbers, 38 to 12."

As Democrats gain from the nation's growing diversity — attracting solid majorities among Hispanic and African American voters — Republicans are gaining among white, working-class voters, a group that was once a Democratic stronghold.

Nowhere is this clearer than in West Virginia, where the president touched down this week to talk about drug addiction.

Updated at 3:55 pm ET.

The nation's largest public-employee union is backing Hillary Clinton for president. The board of the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees voted to endorse the former senator and secretary of State on Friday.

"AFSCME members want a candidate who is committed to fixing our out-of-balance economy and raising incomes for hardworking people, who are still struggling to make ends meet," said AFSCME president Lee Saunders in a statement.

These are critical days for the presidential campaign of Jeb Bush.

The former Florida governor has been traversing Iowa this week, in effect reintroducing himself to voters, with the first-in-the-nation caucuses in that state now less than four months away.

This is not where Bush and his advisers expected to be when he got into the race early this year. Back then he was quickly labeled the front-runner — the man to beat.

No one calls Bush that anymore, with the topsy-turvy, crowded GOP field and its outsiders named Trump, Carson and Fiorina sitting atop the polls.

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So a little history. And for events of today, we have Don Gonyea here live in the studio now. Good morning.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: Good morning.

The meeting between Pope Francis and President Obama at the White House continues a tradition going back nearly a century between U.S. presidents and the head of the Roman Catholic Church.

The talks are private, often personal and, always, they take place against the backdrop of the politics of the time. That was the case at the very first such meeting, at the Vatican, as Europe was recovering from World War I.

Woodrow Wilson, the growing Catholic Democrats in the U.S. and the first awkward moment between a president and pope

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For months, one name at a time, the Republican presidential field grew.

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Now it's shrinking. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker was at one time considered a leading contender. Yesterday, he officially called it quits.

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The still-huge GOP presidential field just got a little smaller. One of the candidates considered early on to be a top-tier contender is out - Wisconsin governor Scott Walker.

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Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, whose battles with labor unions in his own state made him a hero to Republicans, is now proposing huge restrictions on unions nationally as he seeks to revitalize his presidential campaign.

On Monday, Walker released an eight-page plan to take on unions, titled "My Plan to Give Power to the People, Not the Union Bosses."

He's vowing to:

  • Eliminate the National Labor Relations Board, or NLRB.

Jeb Bush likes to tell audiences that he's his own man. It's a way to put distance between himself and the two members of the Bush family who've already won the White House.

Evangelical voters are courted every presidential election by Republicans, especially in Iowa. But this year, they could have an even larger impact.

That's because a slew of Southern states are holding primaries on the same day in March of next year, just a month after Iowa votes. And one candidate is making a bold early effort to win them over — Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.

No Republican presidential hopeful this year has more riding on Iowa than Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

After leading in polls in Iowa most of the year, Walker is suddenly slumping. And he might have Donald Trump to blame.

It's not necessarily that the support Walker had earlier in the summer, when he was the clear front-runner in Iowa polls, has gone to the real estate mogul. Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina and Ted Cruz have seen something of a surge since the first presidential debate.

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Democratic presidential candidates played to a full house in Clear Lake, Iowa, on Friday night — in the same ballroom where in 1959 Buddy Holly played his last-ever show. At the historic Surf Ballroom, with a vintage mirror ball dangling from the ceiling, candidates offered up a version of their own greatest hits.

In her speech, Hillary Clinton took a new approach, going after those who have been attacking her over her email accounts and over her actions during the 2012 terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

You might have heard of the famous butter cow — a life-sized cow made of butter that headlines every Iowa State Fair. But perhaps you didn't know that in 1952, the fair also featured butter sculptures of that year's presidential candidates Dwight D. Eisenhower and Adlai Stevenson.

It's just another example of the symbiotic relationship between politicians and the fair — and it's only gotten deeper over the decades.

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