Ted Cruz in Des Moines (Reuters/Mark Kauzlarich)

THE BIG IDEA:

 Every Republican who has won the Iowa caucuses since 1980 has strongly backed ethanol. Bob Dole was known in 1988 and 1996 as “Senator Ethanol.” Citing his opposition to ethanol, John McCain basically bypassed the Hawkeye State in 2000 and 2008. George W. Bush followed through on his promise to “strongly support” the corn-for-energy industry, creating the Renewable Fuel Standard, which still requires refiners to mix a certain amount of ethanol into gasoline. Some credit Rick Santorum’s narrow Iowa victory in 2012 to his vocal support for biofuels, a flip-flop from his time in the Senate.

Enter Ted Cruz. Insiders agree the Texas senator is the current frontrunner going into the Feb. 1 caucuses. He’s been unabashedly critical of federal support for ethanol, including the RFS, which he sees as market-distorting corporate welfare.

Recognizing he poses an existential threat to the special benefits it receives from the government, the corn lobby is going all in to stop Cruz in Iowa.

Eric Branstad, the son of the popular Republican governor, is leading an industry-funded initiative called America’s Renewable Future. The group says it has hired 17 field staffers—more than some of the presidential campaigns have themselves—and already collected pledges from more than 50,000 people to make the issue a priority when they caucus. There are also radio ads, direct mail and robocalls.

GOP operative Nick Ryan is working for both the Branstad group and is currently on TV with a separate $200,000 advertising campaign, from the so-called “Iowa Progress Project,” which attacks Cruz on the same issue. The commercial, running in the Sioux City market, slams Steve King, one of the most conservative members in the House, for endorsing Cruz. King, who represents an agriculture-heavy district, has supported the RFS.

“Cruz is the most anti-ethanol, anti-renewable fuel, of all the candidates,” the governor, Terry Branstad, told Bloomberg earlier this month. “They’ve got a whole army of people that are working on this … If they are able to stop the Cruz momentum, that will show the real clout of the renewables.”

But what if they aren’t able to stop him?

Terry Branstad, with his granddaughter and wife, celebrates becoming the longest-serving governor in American history on Dec. 14. (Rachel Mummey/The Des Moines Register via AP)

Here’s the bottom line: If Cruz wins Iowa, it could become untenable for a Republican to embrace the RFS in 2020 and win over fiscal conservatives. Outside groups – and major donors – will be able to cite Cruz’s victory and refuse to be as forgiving as they have historically of a politician breaking with free-market orthodoxy in the name of political exigency.

“The ethanol mandate represents the kind of Washington insider politics that taxpayers hate,” Club for Growth President David McIntosh told the 202. “The fact that Sen. Cruz is leading in Iowa and has been clear in his opposition to the mandate should put all of the subsidy-hunting lobbyists on notice that their days are numbered.”

A spokeswoman for America’s Renewable Future, Majda Sarki, said there’s still more than a month to defeat Cruz. But she both warned and acknowledged that, if he wins, “It would kill investment in second generation biofuels” by creating “uncertainty” about future levels of government support.

Supporters greet Donald Trump in Des Moines. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

The other Republican aspirants continue to kiss King Corn’s ring, to varying degrees. 

Donald Trump, who has seen Cruz overtake him in the state, has unabashedly embraced ethanol. At a Des Moines rally two weeks ago, he surrounded himself on stage with ethanol proponents, all wearing green shirts. The billionaire businessman then accused the Texan of opposing ethanol because he’s in the pocket of big oil companies. “I say to myself: If Ted Cruz is against ethanol, how does he win in Iowa?” Trump said. “Because that’s very anti-Iowa.”

“Republicans cannot attack Obama for punishing farmers, and then …. hurt corn-growers,” Mike Huckabee, the 2008 caucus winner, wrote in a Des Moines Register op-ed. “Ethanol employs more than 70,000 Iowans and provides $5 billion in wages to workers across the state. Ethanol strengthens small towns, communities and economies across America.” (The operative making the pro-ethanol ads for the industry is also running Huckabee’s Super PAC.)

Indeed, the majority of Iowans disagree with Cruz on this issue. The latest Des Moines Register/Bloomberg poll found that 61 percent of likely Republican caucus-goers support the RFS. Thirty-four percent oppose it. The numbers are even higher on the Democratic side, but the candidates all support the RFS, so the issue is moot.

So why is Cruz still leading? Presidential elections are increasingly nationalized and turn less on parochial issues. Fox News producers and national talk radio hosts, not the Farm Bureau, set the agenda now. The Republican Party has become more conservative. In this climate, with terrorism on the front burner, ethanol is less salient than it might have been. Finally, voters are looking to back someone who is principled and they’re tired of career politicians.

Cruz does not need a majority to win the caucuses. Four years ago, Ron Paul ran strong in rural counties despite vocally opposing federal support for ethanol. Rand Paul, likewise, opposes the RFS, but he’s basically a nonfactor this year. Cruz has poached many of Ron’s old supporters.

“Though RFS may be important to caucus-goers, it certainly isn’t the only issue,” Michael Needham, executive director of Heritage Action, emailed the 202. “And when Americans look at the challenges we face as a nation, it is reasonable for them to look at a politician who panders on ethanol and suspect that individual will not make the best commander-in-chief.”

Ted Cruz campaigns in Oklahoma City. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)

WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:

— Belgian authorities arrested two people suspected of planning a terrorist attack in Brussels on New Years’ Eve. Details are still coming in, but authorities say these suspects are not linked to the Paris attacks. “The likely target of the attacks, according to a person briefed on the investigation, were the police and military personnel patrolling downtown Brussels,” the Wall Street Journal reports. “Prosecutors said police detained six people in a series of police raids Sunday and Monday in Brussels, Liege and the Flanders region of Belgium. Of the six, two people were held on terrorism charges. No guns or explosives were found in the raids, but prosecutors said that they seized computer hardware, military-style clothing and Islamic State propaganda.”

The U.S. Marshals Service provides this photo of Ethan Couch. A Texas district attorney’s office said overnight that Mexican authorities have detained Couch, who disappeared with his mother after video surfaced online showing he may have violated his probation. (U.S. Marshals Service via AP, File)

— Ethan Couch, the missing Texas teenager who avoided jail time after killing four people in a drunk-driving accident by arguing the “affluenza” defense, was captured in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Couch, whose attorneys said his wealthy parents didn’t teach him that reckless actions had consequences, was missing for a couple weeks after a video surfaced of him playing beer pong – a violation of his parole. (Sarah Kaplan)

President Obama talks with his daughter Malia on Sunday. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

— Barack and Michelle Obama enjoyed another four-hour dinner in Hawaii with friends. The first couple dined at Alan Wong’s in Honolulu, which is known for regional cuisine and has been a POTUS favorite on previous trips. (See the appetizers and the entrees on the menu.) Earlier in the day, the president spent five-and-a-half hours golfing at Mid-Pacific Country Club and worked out at the gym.

A man outside a campaign rally with Donald Trump in Nashua, New Hampshire, last night. (Reuters/Brian Snyder)

Using words such as “lowlife,” “useless” and “sleaze bag,” Donald Trump lashed out at the publisher of New Hampshire’s largest newspaper for comparing him to Biff Tannen from the “Back to the Future” movies. “The attack came the same day that the New Hampshire Union Leader published a front-page editorial that compared Trump to Biff … and described him as ‘a crude blowhard with no clear political philosophy,'” Ed O’Keefe reports from Nashua. “Publisher Joseph W. McQuaid wrote that polling and punditry predicting Trump will win the Republican presidential nomination are ‘an insult to the intelligence of Republican voters. Beginning right here in New Hampshire on Feb. 9, a great majority of them will disabuse him of that notion.'” Trump also went after Chris Christie, who the paper has endorsed.

— The Denver Broncos clinched a playoff shot by beating the Cincinnati Bengals 20-17 on “Monday Night Football.” (ESPN)

GET SMART FAST:

  1. TSA can now require passengers to go through a body scanner even if they request a pat-down search instead. (Los Angeles Times)
  2. TSA is also increasing random security checks of airport employees who have the ability to forego security checkpoints. (CBS News)
  3. Whole Foods agreed to pay $500,000 for overcharging New York customers for produce and pre-packaged fresh products as part of a settlement with the city’s Department of Consumer Affairs. (Justin Wm. Moyer)
  4. Iran shipped thousands of pounds of uranium to Russia, fulfilling one of the requirements of this summer’s nuclear deal. (Carol Morello)
  5. Boko Haram militants used rockets and suicide bombers to kill at least 80 people in Nigeria. (AP)
  6. A dozen people were killed in an explosion outside a Pakistani government building in Mardan. (AP)
  7. There has been a spike in hate crimes against Sikhs since the San Bernardino shooting. This weekend, two 20-something white men brutally attacked a 68-year-old Sikh man in Fresno. During the assault, police said, one of the suspects yelled: “Why are you here?” (Peter Holley)
  8. In a grim reminder that violence never takes a holiday, 27 Americans were shot and killed and another 63 were injured by guns this Christmas. That doesn’t include suicides. (Christopher Ingraham)
  9. Puerto Rican police officer shot and killed three fellow officers after taking them hostage at a police station in Ponce. (Wesley Lowery)
  10. Guinea is Ebola-free for the first time since March 2014. (New York Times)
  11. Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who was convicted of bribery, had his prison sentence shortened from six years to 18 months by the country’s Supreme Court. (Jerusalem Post)
  12. Hawaiians will now be able to use DNA to prove they are natives in order to qualify for the $1-a-year land leases offered by the state government. (BuzzFeed)
  13. Sixty-nine journalists, including 13 in Syria, were killed in 2015. Twenty-eight of them were killed by Islamic extremists. (AP)

POWER PLAYERS IN THE NEWS:

  1. An embattled Rahm Emanuel is cutting short his family vacation to Cuba so he can return to Chicago to deal with his police department fatally shooting a community activist. One of his deputy chiefs of staff was attacked Sunday evening while attending a vigil for the victims. (Chicago Sun-Times)
  2. Gallup says Hillary Clinton is the most admired woman in America for the 14th year in a row, her 20th time to get that honor. She was named by 13 percent of Americans in the firm’s end-of-year survey. Malala was second, with 5 percent. Oprah and Michelle Obama tied for third, with 4 percent. President Obama is the most admired man in America for the 8th year in a row, named by 17 percent of those polled.
  3. Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol told ABC that he was “semi-serious” when he said he might support the formation of a third party if Republicans nominate Trump. (Philip Bump)
  4. John McAfee, the eccentric who founded the computer virus protection program named after him, is seeking the Libertarian Party’s presidential nomination. (Reason)
  5. Bill Clinton will headline rallies for his wife in Exeter and Nashua, New Hampshire, on Jan. 4. (Abby Phillip)
  6. Trump continued attacking the Clintons, tweeting that Bill has a history of “abuse” towards women. (Jenna Johnson)
  7. Trump will address the New Hampshire state House, at the invitation of the Republican Speaker, on Jan. 7. (CNN)
  8. Jeb Bush said he’d like to debate Trump one-on-one. (New York Times)
  9. Chris ChristieBernie Sanders and Marco Rubio canceled campaign stops in Iowa because of a snowstorm. Martin O’Malley went ahead. (Des Moines Register)
  10. Justin Trudeau will travel to Washington on March 10 for the first state visit by a Canadian Prime Minister since 1997. (Juliet Eilperin)
  11. Rick Perry doled out tens of thousands of dollars in bonuses for top aides in his last weeks in office, including $137,205 on a single day the month before leaving – more than he gave in the previous four years combined, and more than almost any other outgoing American governor gave in 2014,” the Houston Chronicle reports. “The aides all left with Perry, and soon after, one joined a political group promoting his 2016 bid.”

WAPO HIGHLIGHTS:

Tamir Rice, 12 (AP Photo/Courtesy Richardson; Kucharski Co., L.P.A.)

— “No charges for Cleveland police officers in shooting death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice,” by Teddy Cahill, Wes Lowery and Niraj Choksi: “A local grand jury declined Monday to bring criminal charges against a rookie Cleveland police officer who in November 2014 shot and killed a 12-year-old boy who was playing with a toy gun, closing a year-long investigation into one of several police shootings that sparked nationwide protests. In announcing the decision, Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty said that newly enhanced surveillance video made it ‘undisputably clear’ that the boy, Tamir Rice, was reaching into his waistband for the toy — which was ‘indistinguishable’ from a real gun — just before Officer Timothy Loehmann opened fire. The case highlights the extraordinary hurdles to pursuing criminal charges when police kill someone, even when the victim is a child. Before the shooting, Tamir can be seen on the surveillance tape playing with snowballs and pointing his gun at imaginary villains. Then Loehmann and his partner drive up. Because the gun appeared to be real, McGinty said, they were reasonably afraid for their lives — and legally justified in responding with deadly force.”

Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Republican presidential candidate, said in a statement: “Tamir Rice’s death was a heartbreaking tragedy and I understand how this decision will leave many people asking themselves if justice was served. We all lose, however, if we give in to anger and frustration and let it divide us.”

— Google is tracking students as it sells more products to schools, privacy advocates warn,” by Andrea Peterson: “More than half of K-12 laptops or tablets purchased by U.S. schools in the third quarter were Chromebooks, cheap laptops that run Google software. Beyond its famed Web search, the company freely offers word processing and other software to schools. In total, Google programs are used by more than 50 million students and teachers around the world, the company says. But Google is also tracking what those students are doing on its services and using some of that information to sell targeted ads, according to a complaint filed with federal officials by a leading privacy advocacy group. And because of the arrangement between Google and many public schools, parents often can’t keep the company from collecting their children’s data, privacy experts say. ‘In some of the schools we’ve talked to parents about, there’s literally no ability to say, ‘no,’’ said Nate Cardozo, a staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Google, whose parent company is called Alphabet, pushed back against the criticism, saying its education apps comply with the law. But it acknowledged it collects data about some student activities to improve its products.”

A 1951 A-bomb test (Courtesy of National Nuclear Security Administration/Nevada Field Office)

— “Declassified: How the Pentagon planned to nuke the Soviet Union and China during the Cold War,” by Thomas Gibbons-Neff: “In the event of a nuclear war, the Pentagon in 1956 penned a report that listed 1,200 cities and 1,100 airfields spread across eastern Europe, the Soviet Union and China that were prioritized for various levels of destruction, should the unthinkable happen. The goals were twofold: deny the former Communist Bloc’s ability to field an effective air force and then destroy its ability to wage a protracted war. The details of the Pentagon’s plans were recently revealed in the 800-page Strategic Air Command Atomic Weapons Requirements Study for 1959, ‘the most comprehensive and detailed list of nuclear targets and target systems that has ever been declassified,’ according to The National Security Archive, an organization run by George Washington University that published it last week. The document, written before the age of Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles, or ICBMs, outlines a main effort to initially destroy the Soviet Union’s ability to field their bomber fleet against NATO countries and U.S. interests in Europe.”

Men fish in Dong Da Lake this fall under pillars for a half-finished urban railway. The Chinese-built project is running three years behind schedule and 57 percent over budget .(Photo by Quinn Ryan Mattingly for The Washington Post)

— “China’s assertiveness pushes Vietnam toward an old foe, the United States,” by Simon Denyer: “To win friends and open new markets for Chinese companies, Beijing is offering its Asian neighbors tens of billions of dollars in loans and investment. But in Vietnam, the effort is falling flat. China’s aggressive assertion of its maritime territorial claims has alienated many here, and President Xi Jinping’s grand vision of a new Silk Road with China at its center is greeted with scorn and suspicion rather than excitement. The relationship has turned so bad that Vietnam’s Communist Party is tilting more and more toward an old enemy, the United States. And when Xi paid a state visit to Vietnam last month, you could almost feel the chill. … China wants to help its fellow Asian countries build the infrastructure their economies desperately need, under the banner of re-creating ancient Silk Road trade routes and partly channeled through a new Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. Vietnam needs the money but fears a hidden agenda.”

Obama toasts Chinese President Xi Jinping during a State Dinner at the White House on Sept. 25. (EPA/Ron Sachs/Pool)

— “China’s Xi tells grumbling party cadres: ‘Don’t talk back,’” by Simon Denyer: “Chinese President Xi Jinping has carried out the most far-reaching anti-corruption campaign in Communist Party history — at the same time as the harshest crackdown on free speech in decades. Now he is tightening the screws further, outlawing internal dissent within the party through new disciplinary rules that have led to an academic, a newspaper editor and a senior police officer getting fired for ‘improper discussion’ of government policy. The purge is an attempt to silence rising dissent within the party, experts say, and is a reflection of Xi’s obsession with control, as well as the dramatic centralization of power he has engineered in the past two years. To his supporters, it is another attempt to restore discipline and ideological purity to a party riddled with corruption and cynicism. To his critics, the move carries disturbing echoes of the dark days of Mao Zedong. Xi, they say, has surrounded himself with sycophants who can only deliver good news.”

SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:

–Pictures of the day:

White House Photographer Pete Souza teases his best photos of the year on Instagram:

“Saturn’s moon Dione shows off beautiful wispy terrain alongside of Saturn’s elegant rings in this image from the Cassini mission,” NASA writes.

Some places got snow, such as Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah:

And New Mexico Sen. Martin Heinrich (D) hit this burger place before going sledding with sons Micah and Carter:

–Tweets of the day:

Democratic lawmakers sounded off on the decision by an Ohio grand jury not to indict two police officers in the killing of 12-year-old Tamir Rice.

Meanwhile, the Capitol Weather Gang tweeted some photos illustrating the effects of this unseasonably warm winter. In this one, they noted that a “freak storm in North Atlantic may push temps 70 degrees above normal at North Pole”:

And closer to home, they said “the trees and bees are confused” in Washington, D.C.:

— Instagrams of the day:

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) snapped this photo “wishing American WWII Veteran, Bill Kehoe, a happy 104th birthday!”

Michelle Obama turned over the reins of her Instagram feed to chief White House florist Hedieh Ghaffarian, who showed off some of her holiday displays:

Cindy McCain shared this message for mothers, saying “I love this!:”

GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:

Forty percent of Americans think the terrorists are winning, according to a CNN/ORC poll. Just 18 percent said that the U.S. and its allies have the upper hand.

  • 59 percent of Democrats express unease with the case prosecuted by the Obama White House. 79 percent of independents and 86 percent of Republicans also say they are dissatisfied with how it has fared.
  • A majority of Republicans, 55 percent, say they think the terrorists are winning, while most Democrats, 52 percent, feel neither side has an edge.”
  • Three-quarters of those polled said they are not satisfied with how the war on terror is proceeding.
Bernie Sanders kisses his wife, Jane, in North Las Vegas. (Reuters/David Becker)

— New York Times, “Jane Sanders knows politics, and how to soften husband’s image,” by Jason Horowitz: “Ms. Sanders may, with the exception of Bill Clinton, be the most politically active and experienced spouse in the 2016 presidential election. When her husband was first elected to Congress in 1990, Ms. Sanders attended orientation not as a spouse, but as a chief of staff who vetted potential aides for congressional experience and ideological fervor. She went on to be a press attaché who smoothed things over with reporters irritated by her prickly husband and who, according to other members of Congress, kept the professorial Mr. Sanders down to earth. As a media consultant she worked on his re-election ads, and as a political fellow traveler she participated in the formation of the House’s progressive caucus. … But more than being another legislative aide or campaign strategist, Ms. Sanders is unique on her husband’s team for her ability to soften his political persona as a grumpy scold. During a recent rough patch of the campaign, as her husband’s standing in the polls stalled behind Hillary Clinton, Ms. Sanders offered a tour of the couple’s home and all the places where he acted something like a normal American dad.”

Jerry Brown (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

— New York Times, “The California ranch that takes Jerry Brown off the grid,” by Adam Nagourney: “This is Rancho Venada, and for all its isolation and ostensible inhospitality, it is the place that this state’s governor, Jerry Brown, is gravitating to as he approaches the end of his 50-year career in politics. These 2,514 wind-swept acres have been owned by the Brown family for almost 150 years, since the governor’s great-grandfather August Schuckman, a German immigrant, traveled to central California on a wagon train. For the past year, Mr. Brown, 77, and his wife, Anne Gust Brown, have adopted this land as something of a mission. They sleep in the tiny cabin many weekends, rebuilding barns piled with garbage and pockmarked with bullet holes, organizing family reunions and laying plans to create a library here documenting the history of the ranch and this politically storied family. They may even live here after his term ends in 2019. …Mr. Brown’s interest in the property grew deep enough that he asked a state official — one of his appointees — to research the mining and oil drilling history of the land, The Associated Press reported last month, prompting accusations of impropriety. The official who conducted the review has since resigned, although he said the decision was not related to the governor’s request, and another state employee filed a whistle-blower’s complaint for being ordered to do the work.”

— Wall Street Journal, “U.S. election debate complicates passage of Pacific Trade Pact,” by William Mauldin: “An international trade agreement embraced by President Barack Obama and the Republican-controlled Congress is drawing fire from many presidential candidates, illustrating the populist shift of both parties in the age of Trump. Contenders ranging from Hillary Clinton to Ted Cruz have spoken out against the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership the administration is hoping Congress will pass next year, even though both previously supported Mr. Obama’s trade policy—and could well embrace the Pacific deal in the future. On the Democratic side, Mrs. Clinton moved to criticize the trade deal before its text was released in November, a move that solidified her support from labor groups and deflected attention from her two rivals, Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley, both foes of the Pacific deal. Unions wield financial and logistical might in election years and opposed both the TPP and its forerunner, the 1994 North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement, or Nafta. Supporting the TPP has become much trickier for Republicans since Mr. Trump, the billionaire developer and GOP front-runner, called the deal ‘horrible’ and said he would also ‘break’ Nafta while pushing to impose big tariffs on vehicles made in Mexico.”

— Los Angeles Times, “San Bernardino shooter Tashfeen Malik said she was pregnant when she sought U.S. green card,” by Brian Bennett: “Tashfeen Malik apparently claimed she was pregnant when she was interviewed by a visa officer after she had applied for permanent U.S. residence in the fall of 2014. A note scrawled in red ink on a page in Malik’s application reads: ‘applicant is pregnant due on 05-21-15,’ a congressional official who has reviewed her immigration record said Monday. Malik and her Chicago-born husband, Syed Rizwan Farook, were killed in a shootout with police on Dec. 2 after a shooting rampage in San Bernardino that killed 14 people.  It appears that Malik, who was born in Pakistan, became pregnant shortly after she arrived in the U.S. on July 27, 2014, on a K-1 fiancee visa. The couple had previously married in Saudi Arabia, and then obtained a marriage license from Riverside County on Aug. 16, 2014. Malik signed the six-page I-485 application for permanent residence on Sept. 20, 2014. She submitted her application with family photos showing her and Farook together, and a financial statement from Farook that listed his income as a San Bernardino County environmental health specialist at about $48,000 per year.”

— Politico, “Why Tennessee will matter in 2016,” by Katie Glueck: “Tennessee has 58 delegates up for grabs on March 1, a day when much of the South will vote in the so-called SEC primary. That’s the third-biggest slate of delegates available that day, following Texas and Georgia; but it’s more delegates than are available in any of the first four states. And Tennessee has an added advantage over its Southern neighbors: its media markets. An ad buy in Knoxville, in the eastern part of the state, can also hit corners of Virginia, North Carolina and Kentucky. Getting television coverage in Chattanooga, in the southeastern corner, plays in Georgia and Alabama, while a Memphis presence also gives a candidate audiences in Arkansas, Mississippi and Missouri. These Tennessee cities are smaller than, say, Atlanta —and in the cases of Knoxville and Memphis, smaller than a number of other midsize Southern cities — generally meaning that it costs less to buy a spot, and with the bleed-over into other states, it’s more cost-effective.”

— Boston Globe, “Most who OD on opioids are able to get new prescriptions,” by Felice J. Freyer: “More than 90 percent of people who survived a prescription opioid overdose were able to obtain another prescription for the very drugs that nearly killed them, according to a Boston Medical Center study of chronic pain treatment published Monday. Amid nationwide alarm over soaring overdose deaths, the study in the Annals of Internal Medicine is believed to be the first to ask: What happens to those who survive? The answer, in the view of lead author Marc R. Larochelle, is stunning. ‘Ninety-one percent got another prescription for an opioid,’ said Larochelle, an internal medicine physician. ‘It wasn’t because they went down the street and found a new doctor. Seventy percent got it from the doctor who had prescribed before the overdose.’ Larochelle speculated that the doctors writing those prescriptions didn’t know about the overdose. The findings suggest major gaps in communication, education, and oversight that persist despite widening concern about the overuse of opioid painkillers, specialists said.”

HOT ON THE LEFT

The National Catholic Reporter named two plaintiffs involved in the Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage ruling as its “persons of the year.” From the Huffington Post: “Greg Bourke and Michael DeLeon are emblematic of this major challenge facing the church today, because they force us to ask not how will we live out a hypothetical situation, but how will we live with Greg and Michael. They give flesh to an abstraction,’ the National Catholic Reporter wrote in an editorial Monday. ‘The answers the church is giving now are con­fused, uneven and often cruel,’ it added. ‘Greg and Michael — and countless gay, lesbian and transgender Catholics — deserve better.'”

HOT ON THE RIGHT

Trump’s former Georgia state director will launch an anti-Clinton super PAC called “Will Not Bend.” From the Washington Examiner: “The PAC aims to reverse the same culture of political correctness that Trump frequently decries in his stump speeches.”

DAYBOOK:

— What’s happening today on the campaign trail: Hillary Clinton returns from her Christmas break to host town halls in Portsmouth and Berlin, New Hampshire. Marco Rubio also returns from a few days off to hold town halls in Clinton, Waterloo, and Sioux City, Iowa. Donald Trump is holding a rally in Iowa in Council Bluffs at 6:30 p.m. Central. Ted Cruz huddles with evangelical leaders in Texas. Chris Christie will host meet and greets in Muscatine and Iowa City, followed by a town hall in Cedar Rapids. Bernie Sanders will make multiple stops in Iowa, holding a town halls in Muscatine and Davenport. Martin O’Malley attends two leadership forums — one in Jefferson followed by one Fort Dodge. Rick Santorum will speak at a private house party in Waukee. John Kasich will be in Nashua and Keene, New Hampshire to host town halls.

— On the Hill: Recess

— At the White House: President Obama is in Hawaii for his annual end-of-year vacation.

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

“I don’t think there’s too many Bernie Sanders people here.” — Donald Trump, surveying the crowd at his rally in New Hampshire last night and mocking Sanders for saying that he wants to court his voters

NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:

“Cloudy with periods of rain and some fog thanks to enhanced humidity levels,” the Capital Weather Gang forecasts. “Temperatures shift warmer, but there is some model debate on how quickly they do that. We should get into the upper 50s to low 60s by afternoon, but if the warm-up occurs at a faster rate, some middle 60s are possible by mid to late afternoon. Winds at 5 to 10 mph shift from east to west through the day. Precipitation totals of a quarter to a half inch could accumulate.”

— The Capitals shut out the Buffalo Sabres 2-0 for their eighth straight win. (Isabelle Khurshudyan)

— The Los Angeles Clippers routed the Wizards 108-91 to snap Washington’s four-game winning streak. (Jorge Castillo)

Indya Davis, 17, killed her ex-boyfriend before killing herself, police said.

— A 17-year-old girl who attended Osbourn Park High School in Manassas stabbed her ex-boyfriend to death in the back of a locked van in a Woodbridge park before taking her own life, police said yesterday, bringing some closure to an October incident that scared residents of Prince William County. The girl’s mother said her daughter was distraught because the boy, also 17, told her that he was seeing another girl. (Justin Jouvenal)

VIDEOS OF THE DAY:

Bernie Sanders released four new ads yesterday — one of which slams income inequality:

Jeb Bush offered advice on how to take a selfie, which he says is “now the 11th amendment to the Bill of Rights”: