* Jonathan Cohn has a balanced and useful assessment of the real meaning of the new Obamacare mandate delay for those with cancelled policies. Conclusion:

This singular change probably won’t cause serious, irreparable harm, any more than any of the previous ones did. The number of people whose behavior changes is likely to be small and the new system is more resilient than most people realize. But even minor changes can become major if there are enough of them. 

The question also remains whether Dems will see a need to demand further delays. I’m skeptical they will, but it probably will depend on how well the law works over time.

* Meanwhile, one of Obamacare’s leading champions sounds a warning about the mandate news:

“I think by itself this is a not a huge problem.  This group should be relatively small,” Jonathan Gruber, an MIT economist who helped craft Obamacare, told TPM. “But I think that the administration has to hold the line here. More widespread cracks in the mandate could start to cause enormous problems for insurers.”

One imagines the administration agrees, but it’s good to have someone like Gruber laying down a marker.

* Even as the hand-wringing continues, enrollment continues to mount: Obama announced today that over 500,000 had enrolled in December, bringing the total to over 1 million.

* Some real talk from Sarah Kliff, who explains why it is going to be very hard to gauge whether the overall number of insured has gone up or down by next year, thanks to Obamacare.  Republicans are already salivating at the possibility that the net number will go down.

* Another key moment from today’s presser: Obama gave the strongest signal yet that he will embrace real reform of NSA bulk surveillance. I find it hard to imagine any other outcome, since he himself has set the recalibration of the balance between security and liberty as an important goal, and it will weigh on his legacy. Of course, the details will matter.

* Still another key moment from the presser: Obama says Republicans would be “crazy” to provoke another debt ceiling hostage crisis.

Come on, folks. Judging by today’s line of questioning — will the president “negotiate” with Republicans over the debt ceiling? — this apparently needs to be restated. Agreeing to avert economic disaster by enabling Congress to pay bills already incurred does not constitute a concession on the part of Republicans. They don’t get any reward for joining Dems in doing this.

* Steve Benen is right about this: The D.C. media/political establishment has long shown far too little skepticism towards Paul Ryan, and we’re seeing this all over again with his newfound role as an alleged warrior against poverty.

* Oy. Ryan Cooper flags a particularly unsightly example of a pundit pronouncing populism to be bad politics, and offers a friendly reminder of what the polls actually tell us:

American support raising the minimum wage 76-22. They support increasing taxes on the rich 60-37. The banking industry’s favorability ratings sit at -28. Cutting Social Security is tremendously unpopular.

Yes, and people like infrastructure spending to create jobs, too!

* Takedown of the day: Michael Hiltzik catches more news orgs credulously relying on more selective transcript leaks from Darrell Issa that supposedly reveal more Obamacare shortcomings. Hey, how about, you know, learning from this?

* Whoa, Utah!!!

* Consider throwing some holiday-time support to two excellent bloggers: Digby, and Ed Kilgore. Click on the links to donate. Their work deserves our support.

* And join me in wishing the best of luck to Jonathan Bernstein, who is taking his blogging over to Bloomberg View at the start of the new year. His final WaPo post is here.

A deep thanks to Bernstein for all his terrific work on this blog, and more generally for his tireless efforts to bring history, knowledge, perspective, and sanity to our unhinged political discourse — which, fortunately, will continue over at his new digs. We’ll be reading!