In his address to the nation last night, President Obama vowed that will overcome terrorism by being “strong and smart, resilient and relentless, while also counseling against “abandoning our values or giving in to fear.”

One immediate test of that latter challenge is whether Congress will go through with the threat of imposing new GOP-sponsored vetting restrictions on the Syrian refugees that the Obama administration says would render the program unworkable. Indeed, Senator Ted Cruz immediately responded to Obama’s speech by reiterating his opposition to the U.S. accepting refugees from countries “with a significant Al Qaeda or ISIS presence, such as Syria.”

But here’s a reason for some optimism: At least 26 of the 47 House Democrats who voted for the restrictions on the refugees the first time around have now signed on to a letter that suggests they may oppose the restrictions the next time they come up for a vote. If that holds, it would mean that the House would have no chance of overriding an Obama veto of the measure.

Also notable are which Dems signed this letter. One of them is Dem Rep. Brad Ashford of Nebraska, who is particularly significant because he co-sponsored the original House GOP bill, which would have required leading Obama administration officials to certify that each refugee is not a threat. Another is Dem Rep. Steve Israel, who is significant because he is former DCCC chair and because he was a prominent opponent of the nuclear deal with Iran.

These signers were confirmed to me by officials at the Friends Committee on National Legislation, a Quaker group, and MoveOn, both of whom are lobbying Democrats to hold firm in the battle over refugees. As I reported last week, MoveOn is circulating polling among Democrats that is designed to illustrate that they can win the argument over the refugees, if they engage it forcefully.

The letter signed by Democrats, which was first reported by Politico, makes the case against defunding the refugee resettlement program, which some Republicans are pushing for. House Republicans are currently talking about inserting such a measure into the big spending bill as a policy “rider,” but the letter signed by Democrats also opposes the use of a rider as an inappropriate way for settling the issue.

It is still unclear how this will play out. Republicans appear to be sticking by their demand that some kind of action to restrict the refugees be included in the spending bill, which will be negotiated throughout this week. It seems plausible that Cruz and Donald Trump, who has also demagogued relentlessly on the refugees, will pressure GOP leaders to hold firm to that position. As I have noted, it’s very possible Republicans and Democrats will agree to some kind of compromise package that includes reforms to the Visa Waiver Program and some kind of watered down restrictions on the refugees that allow Republicans to claim they forced Democrats to “get tough” on them — restrictions that Dems end up swallowing because they decide they have no choice.

The politics of this are still tough for Dems. A new CNN poll finds that 61 percent of Americans oppose allowing in the refugees, 43 percent strongly. The CNN poll shows that Dems are in a bit of a jam here: a sizable majority of Democrats, 60 percent, wants to allow in the refugees, suggesting they may have a problem with their base if they cave. Will they? Stay tuned.


* POLL: AMERICANS WANT WAR, WAR, WAR!  The new CNN poll finds that for the first time, a majority of Americans (53 percent) favor the U.S. sending in ground troops against ISIS, and 68 percent say the U.S. military response has not been aggressive enough.

Also: 81 percent say there are terrorists associated with ISIS who are currently here and have the resources to launch a major terrorist attack, and 61 percent think it is likely that there will be acts of terrorism over the next several weeks. This poll was taken before it was confirmed that the San Bernadino shootings are being investigated as an act of terror, so one imagines all this will only get worse now.

* AMERICANS SPLIT ON BLAME FOR ISIS: Another interesting nugget from the new CNN poll:

Whose policies do you blame for the problems that the U.S. is currently facing in Iraq — the policies of George W. Bush or the policies of Barack Obama?
Bush: 42
Obama: 39

Republicans blame Obama’s policies by 73-10, and Dems blame Bush’s policies by 71-16. Independents tilt slightly towards blaming Bush, by 42-36.

 * HILLARY CRUSHING REPUBLICANS AMONG LATINOS: A new NBC/Telemundo/Marist poll finds that Hillary Clinton is leading all the GOP rivals in general election matchups. Notably, she holds huge leads among Latinos, beating Donald Trump among them by 69-27; Ted Cruz by 61-34; Jeb Bush by 61-35; and Marco Rubio by 57-38.

Cruz, Bush, and Rubio actually do better than Mitt Romney, who got 27 percent of Latinos in 2012. But those margins are still daunting for Republicans (though, in fairness, general election polling this far out means little).

* MARCO RUBIO CALLS FOR STEPPED-UP SURVEILLANCE: On CNN’s State of the Union yesterday, Marco Rubio talked about the San Bernadino shootings and criticized recent surveillance reforms that have taken bulk telephone metadata out of the hands of the government, seeming to come out for government collection of that metadata.

Rubio has criticized Ted Cruz for voting for the U.S.A. Freedom Act, which reformed metadata collection. Now that the California shooting is being investigated as terror, look for Rubio to keep calling for expanded surveillance as a point of contrast with Cruz. How will the Texas Senator respond?

* THE RUBIO-CRUZ BRAWL IS ON! The New York Times takes a dive into the developing brawl between Rubio and Cruz, with the former attacking the latter as soft on national security, while the latter hits the former as soft on amnesty. Here’s what’s at stake for Rubio:

Polls show that Mr. Cruz is consolidating support among conservatives in Iowa…A victory here could allow him to gather strength quickly on the right, gain speed in South Carolina on Feb. 20 and potentially become a steamroller by the Super Tuesday voting in many Southern states…And with…Republicans like Chris Christie, Jeb Bush and John R. Kasich effectively making a last stand in New Hampshire, the Republican establishment could be delayed in coalescing around a Rubio candidacy — making stopping Mr. Cruz, or at least slowing him, all the more urgent.

One question is how a battle over Rubio’s calls for more surveillance will play among these conservative voters.

* AND TED CRUZ ATTACKS OBAMA’S TERROR SPEECH: The Texas Senator offers his wisdom:

Mr. Obama had not even begun speaking when one Republican candidate, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, issued a statement calling on the president to use the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism.”… Mr. Cruz pressed Mr. Obama to lay out “a plan for decisive action for victory over evil.”…Mr. Cruz said as president he would “direct the Department of Defense to destroy ISIS.”

Taking “decisive action over evil” and “directing DOD to destroy ISIS” are great ideas. Why didn’t anyone else think of this?