— The Republican nominating contest has entered a new, more desperate phase. The four GOP candidates vying to occupy the so-called establishment lane all turned on one other yesterday. Attacks that circulated for months on background flared up in the open.

“It’s now down to the last five weeks here,” Chris Christie told reporters in Iowa. “We need to make distinctions…”

The New Jersey governor then ripped into Marco Rubio for missing more votes than any other senator. “Dude, show up to work,” he said in Muscatine. “Just show up to work and vote no. And if you don’t want to, then quit.”

Rubio, also campaigning in Iowa, fired back: “You know, Chris has been missing in New Jersey for half the time.”

— That was one of the more memorable moments in a day that started as a Rubio pile-on but became a free-for-all. Jeb Bush’s super PAC, Right to Rise, launched a $1.4 million ad buy in Iowa to highlight Rubio’s absenteeism. The goal is to stop another Floridian from getting momentum in the caucuses that he could carry into the New Hampshire primary a week later. “Politics first, that’s the Rubio way,” the narrator says.

— Right to Rise also unveiled a commercial contrasting Bush with the two other governors in the establishment lane, Christie and Ohio’s John Kasich.

— The super PAC supporting Kasich, New Day in America, responded that, “The country doesn’t have an appetite for another Bush … As for Governor Christie, his mishandling of his state budget and the ‘Bridgegate’ scandal have earned him a 60 percent unfavorable rating from those who know him best — the people of New Jersey.”

— Then Mike Murphy, the strategist behind the Bush super PAC, began tweeting out pictures of embarrassing documents that his opposition researchers had collected from an archive of Kasich’s congressional papers. Among them: a 1980 thank you note from Phil Crane, the Illinois congressman whom Kasich backed over Ronald Reagan in the primaries, and a personalized letter of gratitude from Bill Clinton after Kasich supported the 1994 ban on assault weapons:

— More of the back-and-forth is captured in the story leading our newspaper this morning. GOP political consultant Alex Castellanos is quoted saying that the crossfire is beginning to look like “a ‘Fistful of Dollars’ gunfight,” referring to the 1964 western starring Clint Eastwood. (Watch the scene Alex is referring to hereread Karen Tumulty, Ed O’Keefe and Philip Rucker’s story here.)

— Rubio has begun trying to position himself as the most conservative of the four establishment figures.

The campaign is pushing around a column in National Review by Jim Geraghty that ticks off his right-wing bona fides: “This is a man who has a lifetime ACU rating of 98 out of 100. A man who has a perfect rating from the NRA in the U.S. Senate. A man who earned scores of 100 in 2014, 100 in 2013, 71 in 2012, and 100 in 2011 from the Family Research Council. … Rubio’s the guy who earned a 100 from National Right to Life in two straight cycles, and a zero rating from NARAL. He supports an abortion ban after 20 weeks, opposes exceptions for rape and incest (although he’s voted for legislation that includes those exceptions), and opposes embryonic stem-cell research. … Rubio opposes gay marriage. … He opposes raising the minimum wage … He contends the legislative efforts to fight climate change are economically self-destructive and expresses skepticism that human behavior is driving climate change.”

Ironically, the above could also be read as a list of reasons that Rubio would have a lot of trouble winning in a general election…

— Rubio is trying, to the extent possible, to stay above the fray: On the stump yesterday, he tried to brush aside attacks on his record as “par for the course,” as his campaign released a barrage of surrogate statements decrying the attacks on his abysmal attendance record. His super PAC released a video highlighting nice comments that Jeb has made about Rubio in the past.

Today, Rubio’s campaign will go on the air with an ad that presents the first-term senator as knowledgeable about and tough on foreign policy.  “Today, we face ever growing threats: radical Islamic terror, a lunatic in North Korea, a gangster in Moscow, and a president more respectful to the Ayatollah of Iran than the Prime Minister of Israel,” he says. “Our allies don’t trust us. Our enemies don’t fear us. And the world doesn’t know where America stands. On day one of my presidency that will change.”

— New Hampshire’s primary may not have the winnowing effect that each campaign expects. David Weigel: “The four … are each counting on one or more of their compadres to fail. Until that happens, none of them are getting through the door. … New Hampshire sends only 12 delegates to the Republican National Convention. The history of people merely performing well there, then staying in the race until it’s clarified, is as rich as the history of the state producing a nominee. … At some point, if Bush clearly has the money to last into March (as he says) and if Rubio is clearly in a stronger position to compete after New Hampshire, the ‘nightmare’ might be unavoidable. There are simply too many candidates waiting for dominoes to fall — and too many who can write off Trump votes as flukes.” Dave calls this the Three Stooges Syndrome.


— Donald Trump says, beginning next Monday, he will spend at least $2 million per week on television ads in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. The AP reports the first two spots will be about immigration and national security. “If somebody attacks me, I will attack them very much and very hard in terms of ads,” the billionaire told journalists aboard his private jet last night. The buys have not been placed yet, though, and Trump has not always followed through on these kinds of pronouncements. He bragged last night on Twitter about how little he’s had to spend for paid media:

— George Pataki dropped out of the race for the Republican presidential nomination. David A. Fahrenthold and David Weigel note the former New York governor’s campaign was doomed to fail from the start, that his liberal stances on abortion, guns and unions are very much at odds with a party that continues moving to the right: “Pataki announced the suspension of his campaign in a two-minute message that aired on NBC affiliates in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. He secured the free air time through an ‘equal time’ request made after Trump hosted ‘Saturday Night Live.'” Pataki, who has not held office since 2006, had flirted with a presidential run in 2000, 2008 and 2012. When he announced in May, he declared: “My life has prepared me for this moment.” He was wrong. When “Jeopardy” contestants were shown his picture a few months ago, none could name him.

The Wall Street Journal reports that NSA surveillance of Benjamin Netanyahu and top Israeli leaders picked up their strategy conversations with members of Congress about how to torpedo the Iran nuclear deal. “That raised fears—an ‘Oh-s— moment,’ one senior U.S. official said—that the executive branch would be accused of spying on Congress,” Adam Entous and Danny Yadron report. “Stepped-up NSA eavesdropping revealed to the White House how Mr. Netanyahu and his advisers had leaked details of the U.S.-Iran negotiations—learned through Israeli spying operations—to undermine the talks; coordinated talking points with Jewish-American groups against the deal; and asked undecided lawmakers what it would take to win their votes.” Five nuggets from the piece:

  • Obama ordered the NSA to stop spying on the presidents of France and Germany, but not Turkey.
  • Obama was convinced for a time that Netanyahu would attack Iran without giving the U.S. a heads up, which prompted the order to step up surveillance.
  • “Wary of a paper trail stemming from a request, the White House let the NSA decide what to share and what to withhold … ‘We didn’t say, ‘Do it,’’ a senior U.S. official said. ‘We didn’t say, ‘Don’t do it.’”- The NSA would also remove the names of lawmakers from intelligence reports.
  • Analysts would pass details of intercepted communications to the top within six hours.
  • Netanyahu was focused on building opposition to the Iran deal among Democratic lawmakers and confident he could win enough votes to stop the deal.

— Three Clemson football players were suspended after failing drug tests, taking them out of tomorrow’s Orange Bowl against Oklahoma. “Deon Cain, Ammon Lakip and Jay McCullough have been sent home from the site of the College Football Playoff semifinal,” USA Today reports. “Cain is a freshman wide receiver who is tied for third on the team in receptions. Lakip, a senior kicker, had a three-game suspension earlier this season after a spring arrest for cocaine possession and DUI. McCullough, a junior tight end, has no receptions this season for the undefeated and top-ranked Tigers.”

Four on-duty Secret Service agents were involved in a head-on car collision that killed one-person in Wakefield, N.H., the Associated Press reports. “Police said the agents were passengers in a Ford Taurus heading south on Route 16. A northbound Mercury Sable with three people crossed over the center line and collided head-on into the Taurus.” Hillary was campaigning in nearby Berlin.


  1. Eighteen people have now died as the result of massive flooding in Missouri and Illinois. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
  2. The North Korean official in charge of relations with South Korea died in a car accident, hampering the chances of improving relations between the two countries. (USA Today)
  3. A U.S.-led airstrike killed a high-level ISIS leader in Syria with direct ties to the Paris attackers and who was actively planning more attacks against the West, the Pentagon announced. (Dan Lamothe)
  4. A close call in the Strait of HormuzIran conducted a live-fire exercise near the USS Harry Truman as the aircraft carrier passed through international waters. The Revolutionary Guard announced a warning over maritime radio and then fired several unguided rockets from about 1,500 yards off the carrier’s starboard side. (NBC News)
  5. Twitter has revised its rules of conduct to emphasize that it prohibits violent threats and abusive behavior by users. The question now is whether they will enforce it. (ABC)
  6. The owners of a Portland bakery who refused on religious grounds to bake a wedding cake for a lesbian couple paid $144,000 in damages, though they continue to appeal a court ruling. (The Oregonian)
  7. An unidentified man was caught on surveillance footage wrapping strips of raw bacon around the handle of a Las Vegas mosque’s doors. Police are investigating as a hate crime. (KSNV)
  8. China and Taiwan began operating the first telephone hotline between the two nations, designed to reduce tensions. (Reuters)
  9. Eight Chinese men were rescued after being trapped for five days in a mine collapse. (AP)
  10. A voter file with information about 191 million Americans was left exposed on the Internet, raising questions about the security chops of political campaigns that increasingly hold large caches of data. “The leak appeared to be the result of a technical error that allowed the information to be publicly accessed online, not a hack,” Andrea Peterson reports.
  11. Country music singer Craig Strickland is missing after going on a hunting trip in Oklahoma. The body of the friend he went out with was recovered after police found their capsized boat. (Niraj Chokshi)
  12. A husband and wife in England who wanted to help ISIS were convicted of planning a terrorist attack in London to mark the 10th anniversary of the 2005 train bombings. (AP)
  13. Ethan Couch, the “affluenza” teenager from Texas who killed four people while driving drunk, apparently planned his disappearance after being caught drinking on video. Authorities said he even had something akin to “a goodbye party” before fleeing to Mexico! But the harshest punishment he’ll likely face is four months in jail because he’s a juvenile. Couch and his mom were caught when they used their phones to order pizza — they are expected to be extradited today. (Dallas Morning News; The Post; Fort Worth Star-Telegram)


  1. African American protesters gathered outside Rahm Emanuel’s home and called for him to resign as mayor. (Chicago Tribune)
  2. The Philadelphia Eagles fired head coach Chip Kelly with one game remaining in his third season. They missed the playoffs for the second straight year after losing to the Redskins. (Mark Maske)
  3. Hillary Clinton began running a radio ad on predominantly African American stations in South Carolina that describes raising family incomes “is the defining economic challenge of our time.” (Listen)
  4. John Kasich said the people protesting a grand jury’s decision to not charge the police officers involved in the Tamir Rice shooting “need to be heard.” (Ed O’Keefe)
  5. Ron Burkle, a billionaire California investor with a history of donating to Democrats, endorsed and will raise money for Kasich. (Politico)
  6. The vice chair of the GOP in Miami-Dade County endorsed Cruz over favorite sons Rubio and Bush, the Tampa Bay Times reportsE.W. Jackson, the gaffe-prone and bombastic GOP nominee for Virginia lieutenant governor in 2013, also endorsed Cruz.
  7. Trump’s campaign signed an agreement give it access to the RNC voter file. (Politico)
  8. Just one voter showed up to Martin O’Malley’s event in Tama, Iowa, during a snowstorm Monday night. After an extended sitdown with the candidate, he left uncommitted. (Sarah Beckman’s Tumblr)


NASTY RHETORIC HAS NASTY CONSEQUENCES. A few hours after Trump called for temporarily stopping Muslims from entering the U.S., someone in North Dakota drove by a Muslim-owned restaurant and tossed a 40-ounce Bud Light container filled with gasoline inside.

That incident is the lead anecdote in this piece –> Trump’s effect on Muslim migrant debate reverberates in heartland,” by Robert Samuels in Grand Forks: “Residents, descended mostly from Norwegian Lutherans, were accustomed to coexisting with the Muslim refugees who have settled in town over the past decade. But a confection of events far beyond the city limits … has made both sides increasingly fearful of their neighbors. After fleeing a decade-long war and remaking their lives in a peaceful, quiet community, Somalis feel they are being looked at with unfair suspicion. Many locals, meanwhile, have questioned whether the government is spending too much money on a group they think shows little interest in assimilation. And they find themselves wondering whether the people wearing unusual garb and speaking a foreign language will produce a jihadist killer.”

WINNING THE RELIGIOUS RIGHT –> “Ted Cruz huddles with faith leaders at ranch of super PAC donor,” by Katie Zezima and Tom Hamburger: “Sen. Ted Cruz huddled with conservative faith leaders in Texas Monday and Tuesday as he coalesces the support of evangelical leaders behind his presidential bid. Cruz met with about 300 prominent faith leaders gathered at the sprawling ranch of Farris Wilks, who, along with his brother Dan, donated $15 million to a super PAC supporting Cruz. The event, sponsored by the PAC, was designed to introduce visitors to the faith story of the Cruz family. No cameras or recording devices were allowed at the remote ranch, where visitors enter through a massive stone archway with black gates, to protect the privacy of attendees and their conversation. … Those in attendance at the Monday sessions included prominent televangelists, such as John Hagee, pastor of the Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, and James Dobson, founder of the Focus on the Family organization. Richard Land, president of the Southern Evangelical Seminary and a longtime leader of the Southern Baptist Convention, was there, according to interviews with attendees.”

A NEAR TOTAL LACK OF ACCOUNTABILITY –> “Spy agencies resist push for expanded scrutiny of top employees,” by Greg Miller: “U.S. intelligence agencies recently fought off a move by Congress to require the CIA and other spy services to disclose more details about high-ranking employees who have been promoted or fired … The disputed measure was designed to increase scrutiny of cases­ in which senior officers ascend to high-level positions despite problems ranging from abusive treatment of subordinates to involvement in botched operations overseas. The CIA in particular has come under sharp criticism in recent years for promoting operatives who faced investigations by the agency’s internal watchdog or the Justice Department for their roles in the brutal interrogations of prisoners…Under a provision drafted by the Senate Intelligence Committee this year, intelligence agencies would have been required to regularly provide names of those being promoted to top positions and disclose any ‘significant and credible information to suggest that the individual is unfit or unqualified.'”

“But that language faced intense opposition from Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. As a result, the wording was watered down by (congressional Republicans) this month and now requires Clapper only to furnish ‘information the Director determines appropriate.’ … Sen. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), the top Democrat on the Senate [Intelligence] committee, had inserted the initial provision in the intelligence authorization bill that was passed by the panel earlier this year.”


— Pictures of the day:

Gina Rodriguez, aka “Jane the Virgin,” shared some snaps of her trip to the White House during the holidays:

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) appeared with one of his newest supporters, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), at a town hall in Clinton, Iowa:

Bernie Sanders showed off some love from his rally in Las Vegas:

Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas) surveys the damage in Rowlett from the Texas tornadoes over the weekend:

–Tweets of the day:

Trump continued bashing those who have backed other horses in the race for president:

He also went after New Hampshire Union Leader Publisher Joseph W. McQuaid, who has been mocking him in front page op-eds:

— Instagrams of the day:

Rep. Joe Kennedy (D-Mass.) showed off his newborn baby, Eleanor (Ellie):

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, aka the “Clean Cooking Congresswoman,” said she had her first-ever “homemade sushi night.” Her daughter and her best friend’s daughter helped out:

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) said his staff organized the preparation of over 1,000 Christmas care packages for members of the military from his state:

And for all you cat people out there, here is Florida Rep. Lois Frankel (D):


— New York Times, “Top Bernie Sanders aide rankles those in and out of campaign,” by Maggie Haberman: “When Senator Bernie Sanders’s campaign team was about to address a throng of media about a breach in which his data director and at least two other staff members accessed Clinton’s proprietary voter data, reporters and political watchers braced for some sort of apology. Instead, the campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, stood before the cameras and portrayed his campaign as victims of a voracious Democratic National Committee. He threatened to sue the party to restore access to its own voter file data. … The aggressive maneuver struck many political observers as daring. It caught Mrs. Clinton’s campaign by surprise … But the person delivering the message, Mr. Weaver, is a long-trusted adviser to Mr. Sanders, who has developed a reputation inside and outside his campaign as a hard-charging operative often willing to go further than the candidate himself.”

  • “Mr. Weaver, who worked for Mr. Sanders in Congress for years and has the candidate’s trust, took a break from a store in Virginia, Victory Comics, to return to the candidate’s fold (his cell phone voicemail still identifies him as with the comic-book store.)”
  • In October, Weaver rankled many inside the campaign when he said that HRC “would make a great vice president.” Maggie reports that Sanders and others saw it as condescending: “The campaign’s New Hampshire state director, Julia Barnes, asked Mr. Weaver to apologize for the comments, and voiced her displeasure to him in clear terms. He never did, telling unhappy staffers on a conference call after the report aired that their team needed to be mindful that the Clinton campaign was about to unleash attacks on Mr. Sanders.”

— BuzzFeed, “Trump defended Clinton during Lewinsky scandal against ‘moralist” hypocrites In Congress,” by Andrew Kaczynski and Megan Apper: “Donald Trump revived Bill Clinton’s past marital indiscretions this week, attacking Hillary on Twitter and on TV for playing the ‘women’s card’ and saying her husband’s past affairs would be fair game. Trump took a different tact in the late ’90s, when the scandal was at its peak, defending then-President Bill Clinton against the ‘moralists’ and hypocrites in Congress and arguing that the scandal wouldn’t have been that bad if only Clinton had chosen to carry on an affair with a supermodel instead. ‘I got a chuckle out of all the moralists in Congress and in the media who expressed public outrage at the president’s immoral behavior,’ wrote Trump in The America We Deserve. ‘I happen to know that one U.S. senator leading the pack of attackers spent more than a few nights with his twenty-something girlfriend at a hotel I own. There’s also a conservative columnist, married, who was particularly rough on Clinton in this regard. He also brought his girlfriend to my resorts for the weekend. Their hypocrisy is amazing.’ Trump also wrote that Clinton should have refused to talk about his personal life … Trump at one point compared himself directly to Bill Clinton, telling CNBC in 1998, ‘Can you imagine how controversial I’d be? You think about him with the women. How about me with the women? Can you imagine?'”

Trump defended his past comments last night, saying he was just trying to ingratiate himself with the powerful. “As a world-class businessman, you have to get along with everybody,” he said. “I was able to get along with Clinton, I was able to get along with virtually every politician you can imagine.” (Abby Phillip’s story)

— The Atlantic, “The Iowa caucus gets an upgrade,” by Russel Berman: “Caucus Night 2012 was not exactly a banner evening for the Republican Party of Iowa. Reporting problems plagued the vote-counting during the crucial first-in-the-nation presidential contest. … Needless to say, the Iowa GOP would like to have a smoother—and more accurate—election on February 1 … The parties are pinning their hopes on new technology, betting that a custom-designed mobile platform can modernize a quirky voting method and ensure the public knows which candidates won Iowa long before voters head to the polls in New Hampshire. The idea is to meld ‘a brand-new technology and a 100-year-old process,’ said Stan Freck, senior director for campaigns and elections at Microsoft, which partnered with the parties on the project. … The key features of the app designed by Microsoft and its partner, Interknowlogy, are backstops for clumsy-fingered or tech-challenged precinct captains. ‘It’s a simple, big-button kind of interface, not a lot of crazy stuff on the screen,’ Freck said. A demo confirmed his description; a precinct captain only has to go through a couple of screens after logging in, and the whole process should take no more than a few minutes.”

The five House members who made the most floor speeches in 2015, via C-SPAN:

  1. Rep. Glenn “G.T.” Thompson (R-PA):  110 days
  2. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX):  87 days
  3. Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-CA): 72 days
  4. Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX):  70 days
  5. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR): 69 days


A Virginia GOP state lawmaker will try to remove Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s (D) security detail. Republicans are up in arms, literally, over a decision by state Attorney General Mark Herring that Virginia will no longer recognize concealed handgun carry permits from residents of 25 states. Per the Bristol Herald Courier: State Rep. Bill Carrico (R) plans to retaliate, saying of the governor: “I have a budget amendment that I’m looking at to take away his executive protection unit. If he’s so afraid of guns, then I’m not going to surround him with armed state policemen.”


“We Lost Too Many Conservative Luminaries in 2015 — R.I.P.,” by Tevi Troy in National Review: “The conservative movement was built by intellectuals … Reflection on 2015 makes clear that we lost some titans, including Martin Anderson, Walter Berns, Harry Jaffa, Ben Wattenberg, Robert Conquest, Amy Kass, and Peter Schramm. They have left in the conservative movement a hole that will be difficult to fill.” Berns and Jaffa both studied under Leo Strauss, famously feuded, and, à la Jefferson and Adams, died on the same day. “Jaffa was the intellectual godfather of West Coast Straussianism, best embodied by the Claremont Institute.” He’s also best known for writing Barry Goldwater’s 1964 pronouncement that, “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice [and] … moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.”


— What’s happening today on the campaign trail: Trump is in Hilton Head, S.C., where he will host an event at 11 a.m. Eastern. Bush is also in South Carolina, and he will appear at a barbecue dinner in Lexington at 6:30 p.m. Cruz is in Texas to visit the tornado-ravaged town of Rowlett. He will meet with Rockwell County Mayor Todd Gottel. Rubio has town halls in Pella, Newton and Boone, Iowa. Christie, also in Iowa, is hosting meet and greets in Waterloo and Marshalltown, followed by a town hall in Waukee. Sanders has three towns halls in Iowa, with his day concluding in Ottumwa at 7 p.m. Central. O’Malley will attend leadership forums in Humbolt and Clarion. Rick Santorum will speak at a house parties (for the second straight day) in Holstein and Sioux City.

— On the Hill: Recess

— At the White House: President Obama continues his vacation in Hawaii. He went snorkeling yesterday.


Chelsea Clinton vs. Ivanka Trump in 2032? Donald’s daughter was asked whether she’ll ever run for office. “It’s not something I’ve ever been inclined to do, but I’m 34, so who knows? At this point I would never even contemplate it, but that doesn’t mean that when I’m 50 I won’t have a change of heart,” she told Town & Country in an extended interview.


— “We could see a few glimmers of sun here and there, once the early fog lifts, but for the most part it’s another mostly cloudy day as highs head for the mid-50s,” the Capital Weather Gang forecasts. “Might see some spots of drizzle through the morning, with scattered light showers possible starting around or after 3 p.m. About a 50-60% chance of getting wet at any given location. Winds are light from the southeast.”

This month is officially the warmest December ever recorded in D.C., with the average daily temperature at 51.2 degrees, almost five-and-a-half degrees warmer than any other December since 1871. (Martin Weil)

— There’s an epidemic of hooligans on dirt bikes and motorcycles causing mayhem, and the police are offering weak excuses for not enforcing the law. They surround cars and circle pedestrians. They drive the wrong way on the highway, terrifying those in their path. A swarm on the Beltway this Sunday was caught on video. I recently saw a similar incident on H St., NE. “Authorities across the region have concluded that pursuing riders on illegal dirt bikes and similar off-road vehicles is dangerous because law enforcement cannot respond quickly enough or safely chase and corral operators who can outmaneuver police cars and escape on stairs and sidewalks and through narrow alleys,” Peter Hermann and Dana Hedgpeth report. Residents are stepping up pressure on the cops to crack down.


See drones get too close to Obama’s motorcade:

And watch yet more hoverboard accidents, including Mike Tyson wiping out: