Donald Trump and Ted Cruz at the last debate. They may not be as nice to each other tonight in the sixth GOP debate on Fox Business. (AP Photo/John Locher)


GOP elites – from the RNC meeting in Charleston to the congressional retreat in Baltimore to Capitol Hill cocktail parties – increasingly argue among themselves about whether Donald Trump or Ted Cruz would be more problematic for the party in a general election.

With the two outsider candidates leading in the polls, they no longer dismiss the probability that either could be their standard bearer this fall. But the overwhelming majority of establishment figures still do not think that either the billionaire businessman or the Texas senator can defeat Hillary Clinton in the fall. What most worry about is losing the Senate or even the House in a 1964-like debacle.

This is the “in” parlor game of the moment:

One school of thought goes that Trump could more easily expand the electorate and bring over disaffected Democrats. This side sees The Donald as a dealmaker who could move toward the middle after securing the nomination and Cruz as an inflexible ideologue.

The other maintains that Cruz is a skilled politician who can credibly run against Washington but will play ball with the party leaders because he wants to win. This side thinks that Trump has made far more incendiary comments about women and minorities – particularly Latinos – which would lead to record Democratic turnout.

Consider three data points:

Pollster Dave Sackett of the Tarrance Group presented an internal poll that he conducted for the National Republican Congressional Committee to GOP leaders earlier this month. Asked by Speaker Paul Ryan who would be worst for their candidates, Sackett picked Cruz, according to Politico’s Jake Sherman and John Bresnahan. They note that NRCC Chairman Greg Walden, though, has publicly expressed concern Trump could damage the party’s electoral prospects.

National Review executive editor Rich Lowry said that he senses the GOP establishment mood on Trump “moving from fear/loathing to resignation/rationalization.” Lowry tweeted yesterday that many he talks with think Trump could slam Hillary Clinton more effectively than Cruz.

Some establishment-type donors, however, are throwing their lot with Cruz, partly because they fear Trump. The New York Times’ Jonathan Martin staked out a Cruz fundraiser at the New Orleans home of Bush loyalist Mary Matalin earlier this week. Among those in attendance was S. Scott Sewell, an oil executive who served in George Bush’s administration and twice chaired Mitt Romney’s Louisiana campaigns. “If Cruz makes it, which is very doable, every one of the establishment crowd who is now eviscerating him will line up, salute smartly and get on board,” Matalin, who is officially neutral, told the Times. The Cruz campaign has actively sought to reassure this crowd, making the case that he can motivate conservatives who have stayed home in recent elections.

— First in the 202: Pro-Chris Christie super PAC launching powerful ad in New Hampshire: The New Jersey governor brings crowds to tears during his town halls in the Granite State when he talks about his experience on Sept. 11, 2001, particularly those scary hours when he did not know if his wife Mary Pat had died. It is a several minute riff in person, but America Leads has condensed it well into just 60 seconds. Using footage recorded at an event in New Hampshire, this is the group’s 12th ad. It will go into the rotation as part of their $6.9 million investment in the first primary state, where Christie has staked his hopes.


Bernie Sanders in Iowa (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

— Here’s why the Clintons have started throwing the kitchen sink: Hillary leads Bernie Sanders by just two points in a Des Moines Register/Bloomberg poll out this morning, down seven points from last month. Clinton has the support of 42 percent of likely caucus-goers, compared with Sanders’s 40 percent. Clinton had 48 percent in the previous poll. The gap hasn’t closed because Sanders’s support has spiked – he’s up one point from the last poll – but because Clinton’s support has decreased. The number of undecided voters has increased from 8 to 14 percent.

— Hillary’s intensifying attacks on Bernie helped him raise $1.4 million over a one-day stretch from 47,000 contributors, the campaign told Karen Tumulty. The campaigns spent yesterday trading barbs over Sanders’ support for a single-payer system. Clinton says Bernie hasn’t shown how he’ll pay for it and that it will empower Republican governors. Last night on MSNBC, the Vermont senator ripped into those “who want to demagogue the issue.”

— You didn’t win the Powerball jackpot: At least three people will share the record $1.5-billion Powerball jackpot, with winning tickets sold in California, Tennessee and Florida. The winning numbers are 8-27-34-4-19 and the Powerball number is 10.  (William Dauber and Justin Wm. Moyer)

Donald Trump at the Pensacola Bay Center last night (Photos by Charles Ommanney/The Washington Post)

— The acoustics were TERRIBLE at Trump’s rally in Pensacola, Fla., last night, and thousands of attendees struggled to hear his 70-minute speech. “Whoever the hell brought this mic system — don’t pay the son of a bitch that put it in, I’ll tell ya,” the Republican frontrunner snapped at one point. “No, this mic is terrible! Stupid mic keeps popping! Do you hear that, George? Don’t pay em! Don’t pay em! You know, I believe in paying, but when somebody does a bad job — like this stupid mic — you shouldn’t pay the bastard. Terrible. … So, we’re not going to pay. I guarantee, I’m not paying for this mic. Every two minutes, I hear, like: ‘Boom, boom.’” (Jenna Johnson)

— Trump hit back at Nikki Haley’s State of the Union response. “She’s right, I am angry,” he said on CNN. “I’m angry and a lot of other people are angry, too, at how incompetently our country is being run.  I am extremely angry and upset about it. I think it’s ridiculous.”

The shadow of Air Force One, with President Obama aboard, over a snow covered field as it approaches Offutt Air Force Base in Bellevue, Neb., yesterday. The president is on his post-State of the Union roadshow. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

— Obama, in Omaha, reiterated the key theme from his State of the Union: “When you talk about looking meaner, talking tougher or carpet bombing, that’s just hot air,” he said at Baxter Arena. “It’s bluster. It’s not serious. There’s another word for it that starts with ‘B.’” He paused as laughter broke out. “It’s baloney.”

The president also recalled how he won one electoral vote from Nebraska in 2008. “Then four years later I got whooped all across this state,” he joked. “It was not pretty, but I love Nebraska anyway!” (Steven Mufson and Juliet Eilperin)

Tom Donohue, president and chief executive officer of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)

— First look – U.S. Chamber of Commerce promises to push back on anti-business populism in the presidential race. With Trumpism on the rise, and leeriness in the Republican base on big business and free trade, the business lobby sees it as increasingly imperative to respond. CEO Tom Donohue will deliver his annual “State of American Business” address at the group’s headquarters at 9:30 a.m.

  • “While we will not be participating in the presidential race, we will weigh in on presidential policy proposals,” Donahue will say, according to excerpts shared with the 202. “If candidates choose to beat up on business, they’re going to hear from us. … This is a challenging and uncertain time for America. We must reject the notion that government has all the answers or that we can isolate ourselves from people, trade, ideas, capital, and responsibilities across the globe.” The group will pledge to play an active role in key congressional races.
  • “When you add it all up, the state of American business in 2016 is filled with uncertainty, risks, and challenges,” he plans to say. “Our businesses and job creators are facing extraordinary political and geopolitical uncertainty … economic weakness at home and especially abroad … and massive new regulatory burdens pouring out of Washington.”

— Hillary Clinton is going up in the early states with a commercial that presents her as “tough,” “strong” and not a quitter. “She stood up to China … went toe to toe with Russia … the drug and insurance companies spent millions against her, but Hillary didn’t quit,” a male narrator says. “She’s got what it takes to do the toughest job in the world.” Watch:


  1. The TV ratings for the State of the Union address were the lowest of Obama’s presidency, with just 31.3 million viewers tuning in. (Politico)
  2. The U.S. will admit a larger number of refu­gees to allow in more people fleeing violence in Central America, but Secretary of State John F. Kerry didn’t specify how many. (Carol Morello)
  3. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee moved forward with a plan to cut workplace rights for top civil servants. (Joe Davidson)
  4. The Supreme Court justices expressed concern that Congress overstepped its constitutional authority when it passed a law nearly guaranteeing a legal victory for Americans suing Iran for damages related to Iranian-backed terror attacks. (Robert Barnes)
  5. In Indonesia, four attackers and three others were killed after militants set off explosions inside a Jakarta Starbucks. There are reports of separate explosions nearby. No group has yet claimed responsibility. (AP)
  6. In Turkey, at least five were killed and 39 injured when Kurdish rebels blew up a car at a police station and then attacked it with guns and rocket launchers. (AP)
  7. A Houston man accused of being an ISIS sympathizer and wanting to blow up two malls in the city pleaded not guilty. He’ll be held without bond. (Houston Chronicle)
  8. Russia will ship more arms to Afghan soldiers to help them fight the Taliban. (Michael Birnbaum)
  9. South Korean President Park Geun-hye urged China to ensure North Korea feels “pain” over its recent nuclear test. (Anna Fifield)
  10. There are fewer than 100 prisoners at Guantanamo Bay for the first time since 2002. (Missy Ryan and Adam Goldman)
  11. The FDA took 17 months to tell physicians and the public about infection dangers from certain scopes used in gastrointestinal procedures in Washington state hospitals. (Wall Street Journal)
  12. The FAA does not know how many U.S. pilots are actually capable of taking the controls if their electronic systems go dark, according to an inspector general report. “Pilots are so used to using automation technology in the cockpit that experts are worried that some of them lack the skills to manually fly planes,” Ashley Halsey III explains.
  13. The Dow fell 364 points and the S&P 500 dropped 2.5 percent on investor fears that plunging oil prices will lead to a deflationary spiral. (Jonnelle Marte)
  14. Al Jazeera America is shutting down less than three years after launching. (Paul Farhi)
  15. Chicago dropped its objections to releasing a 2013 video of a white police officer fatally shooting a black teenager suspected of stealing a car. The video could come out as soon as today. (Brady Dennis)
  16. A 12-year-old girl was fatally shot in Pennsylvania by a constable who arrived to evict her family from their apartment. (Lindsay Bever)
  17. The father of a 6-year-old boy killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School gets death threats from those who say the massacre was a hoax. (Susan Svrluga)
  18. The widow of a man killed in the San Bernardino shooting filed a $58 million wrongful death suit in county court. (Brady Dennis)
  19. A New York woman is accused of taking two South Korean children into her home and using them as slave labor for the last six years. (Peter Holley)


  1. The League of Conservation Voters, in its first independent expenditure of the cycle, will launch a digital ad campaign praising Hillary for her “leadership on climate change” and attacking Trump for being a denier. (Watch here.)
  2. The Nation endorses Sanders with a lengthy editorial.
  3. Martin O’Malley will today propose “a 21st century bill of rights for American workers to build on President Obama’s legacy.” It enumerates 11 proposals for progressive reform. (Read the two-page plan.)
  4. Paul Ryan, who hates tardiness, has warned members that a “15-minute vote” will only last 15 minutes during his speakership, instead of the typical 30. To show he’s serious, he shut off voting on an Iran sanctions bill yesterday before more than 130 legislators came to the floor. There will be a do-over the week of Jan. 25. (The Hill)
  5. Mitch McConnell described Obama as “a very smart guy” but “a little preachy” during an interview with Yahoo News. “We never actually had the bourbon summit,” he said.
  6. Mike Huckabee became the latest Republican to express concern over Cruz’s eligibility to be president. (David Weigel)
  7. Ben Carson hired a former investigator for the House Benghazi committee, Sara Barrineau, as an adviser. (The Hill)
  8. Trump will sit down with Pat Robertson and give a speech to students at Regent University on Feb. 24. (Christian Broadcasting Network)
  9. Phil Robertson of “Duck Dynasty” endorsed Ted Cruz. (Katie Zezima)

(Ted Cruz video announcing the endorsement.)


Marco Rubio during a campaign rally at the Water Dog Grill in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, yesterday. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

A RUBIO PILE ON, from the right and the establishment:

George F. Will challenges Rubio’s conservative bona fides and rips into the senator’s “record of bad judgment” in a column today. “His misjudgments involve, in ascending order of importance, the Senate immigration bill of 2013, sugar, Libya and S . 590. Together these reveal a recurring penchant for ill-considered undertakings. … Rubio’s retreat, under withering political heat, from the immigration bill was undignified but not reprehensible. … His sugar addiction is reprehensible but not startling … Rubio’s misjudgment regarding Libya indicates a susceptibility to slapdash foreign policies. … His support of S.  590, the Campus Accountability and Safety Act, indicates a susceptibility to trendy temptations, carelessness regarding evidence and indifference to constitutional values.”

The senator’s rivals for the GOP nomination are trying to define him as too soft, too weak and too unreliable. “Christie depicts Rubio as a truant schoolboy. Bush’s top ally portrays him as a weather vane. Cruz and his supporters characterize him as a nervous sellout who bowed to Democratic demands for ‘amnesty,” Sean Sullivan and Robert Costa report. “Tonight’s Fox Business News debate will put the new dynamic on display before a national audience.”

Jeb even took a little dig at how short Rubio is during an appearance on “Morning Joe.” Bush is 6’3” to Rubio’s 5’10”, but he seems even shorter when you’re standing next to him. Rubio has also been widely mocked for wearing expensive boots at a recent event. “Jeb, do you own any platform boots that make you taller?” co-host Joe Scarborough asked during the interview. “I got my cowboy boots on, big Joe,” Bush replied. “Do they make you three inches taller or are they just normal cowboy boots?” Scarborough followed up. “I don’t have a height issue,” Bush added.

Paul Ryan (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

–“How Paul Ryan is quietly shaping the presidential race,” by Mike DeBonis: “‘The kind of role I envision … is to help push ideas and policies, and help make us a party of ideas and make the campaign about a better way forward instead of personalities,’ Ryan said in a recent interview. The 2012 vice presidential nominee is now vowing to turn the House into a election-year think tank, telling reporters this week’s [GOP congressional] retreat would be ‘the beginnings of the conversation of assembling an agenda to take to the country.'”

— More Obamacare problems —  “Critics say ACA ‘risk’ strategies are having reverse Robin Hood effect,” by Amy Goldstein: “In early summer, a small, nonprofit HMO in Birmingham, Ala., got a surprise from the federal government: a bill for $1.7 million. The charge … stemmed from an obscure part of the Affordable Care Act designed to support health plans with lots of sick, expensive customers by giving them money from plans with healthier customers …  Yet the way the Obama administration has carried out this strategy shows another unexpected consequence of the 2010 health-care law. The administration defends its approach, but critics say the ‘risk adjustment’ program is having a reverse Robin Hood effect — taking money from some plans that are small, innovative or fast-growing, while handing windfalls to some of the industry’s most entrenched players.”

John Kerry signs a bobblehead figurine of himself as he meets with a group of refugees at a resettlement center in Silver Spring yesterday. (Reuters/Yuri Gripas)

— Intense diplomacy between Secretary of State Kerry and his Iranian counterpart to secure sailors’ release,” by Karen DeYoung: “Intense U.S.-Iranian diplomacy led to the release early Wednesday of 10 American sailors captured by Iran after they strayed into its territorial waters … ‘We can all imagine how a similar situation might have played out three or four years ago,’ … Kerry said. He thanked Iranian authorities for their ‘cooperation and quick response,’ and said the sailors were treated well in the relatively short time they were held … The peaceful solution to the potential crisis took much of the steam out of critics who had charged just a day earlier that administration foreign policy weakness was responsible for what was seen as Iranian aggression.” Kerry exchanged at least five telephone calls Tuesday with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif.

The U.S. Consulate in Benghazi in flames on September 11, 2012 (Reuters/Esam Al-Fetori/Files)

MORE ON BENGHAZI – Context on the alleged “stand-down” order in the new movie: The most controversial element in “13 Hours,” the $50 million blockbuster which hits theaters Friday, is the claim by CIA contractors they received a stand-down order slowing them from responding to the U.S. diplomatic compound. Some of the pre-release coverage, especially on the right, implies this supposed order came from Washington, but the contractors’ complaint – in the book that the movie is based on – never referred to anybody outside the CIA annex in Libya. The contractors were mad at the CIA officials at the annex, who they say would not let them leave to “rescue” the diplomats. While they waited in the car to go, the CIA chief was on his cellphone trying to rally the local Libyan militia hired to protect the compound — he kept telling the contractors to wait. They have never claimed knowledge of a “wait” order from beyond Benghazi.

When they finally got the go-ahead, after 15 to 20 minutes, they drove to a road approaching the compound and walked to it. On arrival, they found the attackers had gone and the place was smoldering. They got to the safe room in the villa, which was filled with smoke, and recovered the body of State Department communications specialist Sean Smith, but couldn’t find Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens. Worried that a new attack would start, they returned to the CIA annex. There they repelled an initial feint from the militants and stood guard all night, along with a group of fellow contractors who had flown in from Tripoli. Just before dawn, militants launched mortar attacks that killed two of them.

Here’s the bottom line: Congressional investigations have concluded that no senior administration or military official issued a “stand down” order that prevented a feasible rescue attempt. To the extent the contractors believe they were delayed in what might have been a successful attempt to save Stevens and Smith, they blame their CIA supervisors on the ground in Benghazi. In substantive terms, the movie does not say anything about Hillary Clinton or her actions regarding the actual attacks.

— Two anti-Clinton groups, Future45 and America Rising PAC, will screen “13 Hours” Friday afternoon in Georgetown. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) will speak at a reception afterward.


— ZIGNAL VISUAL: Trump dominates social media conversation in South Carolina among 2016 candidates. While many observers is looking to a re-imagined race after a Cruz or Trump Iowa victory, and the potential for an establishment alternative to emerge in New Hampshire, South Carolina could be pivotal. There is a shortage of recent public polling from the state, but Zignal Labs finds some clues.

The Palmetto State has roughly 5 million  people — about 1.6 percent of the U.S. population. But it has accounted for just 1.1 percent of all Twitter traffic about the White House contest. Here, as elsewhere, Trump is by far the most frequently mentioned candidate on social media. He is followed by Cruz and then Rubio, with Bush and Carson rounding out the Top 5.

Meanwhile, a non-candidate is dominating the political discussion in the state, as this word cloud illustrates:


— In tonight’s debate, the candidates better make their points quickly. The GOP firm Targeted Victory looks at how viewership declines in each 15-minute interval. “For likely GOP primary voters, viewership drops off considerably after the 10:00 hour, ESPECIALLY in the Granite State. In New Hampshire, viewership dropped over 35% by the time closing arguments were being made,” the company says in a blog post. Fewer than 1 percent of the total audience for the last debate was likely GOP voters in the first four states to vote.

–Pictures of the day:

The Sanders campaign released this signed 1993 photo from Clinton. “To Bernie Sanders with thanks for your commitment to real health care access for all Americans,” she wrote:

Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) met King Abdullah of Jordan:

Amal Clooney and colleagues visited with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) about human rights in the Maldives:

Take a peek inside Sarah Palin’s 8,000 square-foot Arizona home, which she’s selling for $2.5 million:

The house has seven bathrooms:

Washingtonian said this is the oldest known photo of the White House from 170 years ago:

–Tweets of the day:

C-SPAN’s Craig Caplan spotted Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) bringing a guitar to the GOP retreat today in Baltimore:

Former Obama adviser Dan Pfeiffer blasted pundits who “freaked out” about Tuesday’s hostage situation in Iran:

McCain was in that group, blasting the administration for its response:

Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) celebrated Big Block of Cheese day, which commemorates an open White House held by President Andrew Jackson:

In a Q&A, Obama political director David Simas named his favorite paintings in the White House:

The British Parliament is set to debate a pressing matter:

–Instagrams of the day:

Four lawmakers all born on Jan. 10 celebrated their birthdays:

These House members celebrated Founders Day for Delta Sigma Theta:

Ivanka Trump supervised ongoing progress at her dad’s makeover of D.C.’s Old Post Office Building:


Ted Cruz during a campaign stop last night in Dorchester, S.C. (AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt)

— New York Times, “Ted Cruz didn’t disclose loan from Goldman Sachs for his first Senate campaign,” by Mike McIntire: “The couple’s decision to pump more than $1 million into Mr. Cruz’s successful Tea Party-darling Senate bid in Texas was made easier by a large loan from Goldman Sachs, where Mrs. Cruz works. That loan was not disclosed in campaign finance reports. Those reports show that in the critical weeks before the May 2012 Republican primary, Mr. Cruz put ‘personal funds’ totaling $960,000 into his Senate campaign. Two months later, shortly before a scheduled runoff election, he added more, bringing the total to $1.2 million — ‘which is all we had saved,’ as Mr. Cruz described it in an interview with The New York Times several years ago. A review of personal financial disclosures that Mr. Cruz filed later with the Senate does not find a liquidation of assets … What it does show, however, is that in the first half of 2012, Ted and Heidi Cruz obtained the low-interest loan from Goldman Sachs, as well as another one from Citibank. The loans totaled as much as $750,000 and eventually increased to a maximum of $1 million before being paid down later that year.”

— The campaign’s response: Cruz spokeswoman Catherine Frazier told reporters with the Texas senator in South Carolina that the campaign realizes “we should’ve disclosed” the loan. “We’re asking the FEC what needs to be done to update it, if anything,” she said. (Katie Zezima and Patrick Svitek, Texas Tribune)

Trump poses with a supporter in Newton, Iowa (Reuters/Scott Morgan

— New York Times, “Donald Trump’s Iowa ground game seems to be missing a coach,” by Trip Gabriel: “Trump may well win the caucuses. But if he does, it will probably be in spite of his organizing team, which after months of scattershot efforts led by a paid staff of more than a dozen people, still seems amateurish and halting, committing basic organizing errors. Some volunteers in charge of turning out supporters to caucus on Feb. 1 are given lists of all registered Republicans in their precincts to contact, ignoring the large number of independents and Democrats who appear to be leaning toward Mr. Trump. Moreover, the volunteers urge people to caucus regardless of whom they support, which risks turning out voters for Mr. Trump’s rivals. … Compared with the well-oiled machines of other leading candidates in both parties, particularly that of the Cruz campaign, the Trump ground game in Iowa seems partly an afterthought.”

Elizabeth Warren before the State of the Union (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

— Boston Globe, Hillary is aggressively “Courting the coveted Warren nod,” by Annie Linskey: “Elizabeth Warren thanked Clinton for writing an op-ed arguing that Democrats needed to fight off Republican efforts to water down regulations on the financial services industry, Clinton recalled. And Clinton wished Warren a Happy 2016 — a subtle reminder that it’s an election year, and Warren’s endorsement would be a boon to her 2016 presidential candidacy. The two have a ‘very good relationship,’ Clinton said this week. But as she slips in polls in Iowa and New Hampshire to Sanders, the political world is asking: Is there enough of a bond for Warren to join every other female Senate Democrat in endorsing Clinton? … Warren is one of the few national figures who carry real sway with Democratic base voters. … She’s repeatedly said that she will endorse somebody in the Democratic primary. If indeed she does plan to give her nod to Clinton, the politically safer moment would be if or when Sanders is no longer a viable candidate.”

— Associated Press, “Republican Party begins preparing for contested convention,” by Steve Peoples and Bill Barrow: “The Republican National Committee has started preparing for a contested national convention, which would follow the primary season should no GOP candidate for president win enough delegates to secure the party’s nomination. While calling the need for such plans ultimately unlikely, several GOP leaders at the party’s winter meeting in South Carolina said that such preliminary planning is nonetheless actively underway. … The RNC will hold a briefing outlining possible scenarios with party officials and the presidential campaigns on Thursday, said Steve Duprey, a Republican national committeeman from New Hampshire … ‘I never thought we’d deal with this,’ Duprey said.'”


NARAL Pro-Choice America criticized Nancy Pelosi for saying she does not believe in “abortion on demand.” From Roll Call: “At a time when our rights are under daily attack in the halls of Congress, on the campaign trail, in statehouses and in the courts, now more than ever, we need our champions to speak with a clear and strong voice in support of our legal right to abortion,’’ NARAL senior vice president Sasha Bruce said. “Unfortunately, Leader Pelosi’s recent comments fall well short of this standard.”


The U.S. spent at least $54 million on projects in Afghanistan that didn’t work out. From the Washington Examiner: “The Pentagon has spent $488 million since 2009 to help Afghans take advantage of the wealth of natural resources in their country that could generate revenue for the government. But the efforts have showed limited progress overall … The report found that more than 10 percent of the overall investment was spent on projects that achieved ‘few – if any – project objectives.’”


–What’s happening today on the campaign trail:

  • The Republicans all travel to South Carolina for tonight’s debates. The undercard is at 6 p.m. Eastern and the main event is at 9 p.m. on the Fox Business Network.
  • Hillary Clinton has a fundraiser in New York City and then appears on NBC’s “Tonight Show” with Jimmy Fallon.
  • Bernie Sanders holds a town hall in Hanover, N.H. at 7 p.m.
  • Martin O’Malley speaks at a leadership forum in Des Moines at 6:45 p.m. Central.

–On the Hill: House and Senate Republicans are having their retreat in Baltimore on the Waterfront.

–At the White House: 

  • Obama is in Baton Rouge, and will hold a town hall at 10:05 a.m. Eastern and a Twitter Q&A at 11:30 a.m. At noon the president returns to Washington and will be back at the White House by 5 p.m.
  • Joe Biden is in Guatemala, and will have lunch with leaders from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. Afterwards, he attends the inauguration of new Guatemalan President Miguel Angel Asturias. Biden flies back to Washington at the end of the day.


Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) said Nikki Haley did not sound like a principled conservative during her GOP SOTU response. “They are looking for someone who fits the profile that they want to be the face of the Republican Party and that’s the rationale,” the prominent Cruz supporter told the AP, speaking of party leaders. Asked if he would want Haley as the face of the party, King said laughingly: “I think she’s beautiful so I’d be happy if she’s the face of the party.”


Expect seasonable sunshine today, but we could get snow on Sunday. “Clear skies allow great views of the bright winter constellations and temperatures for evening viewing will actually not be bad (upper 30s to lower 40s),” the Capital Weather Gang forecasts. “Winds are mainly calm and lows bottom out in the upper 20s suburbs to mid-30s downtown.”

The Wizards beat the Milwaukee Bucks 106-101. (Jorge Castillo)

In his State of the State address, Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) painted an upbeat picture while also making a last-ditch effort to save his Supreme Court pick and threatening to use his veto pen. In a nearly hour-long speech, “he zigged and zagged between the two seemingly incongruent roles he has alternately played since assuming his first elective office two years ago: bipartisan fence-mender and Democratic stalwart.” (Laura Vozzella and Jenna Portnoy)

— For all the talk about building a new Redskins stadium at RFK, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) has never met team owner Daniel Snyder. “City officials said he hasn’t even returned their telephone calls,” Jonathan O’Connell reports. “She won’t say the club’s name because she considers it offensive to Native Americans.”

People bought 50,528 homes in DC in 2015, the most in any year since the 2006 peak of the housing boom. (Kathy Orton)

Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker will be Martin O’Malley’s spin-room representative at Sunday’s debate in South Carolina. (Arelis R. Hernandez)

The Maryland General Assembly’s 90-day session began. (Ovetta Wiggins and Josh Hicks)

DC’s infrastructure received a C-minus grade from the American Society of Civil Engineers. (Luz Lazo)

A piece of a rocket-propelled grenade was found in the backyard of a home in northwest D.C., causing several nearby homes to be evacuated for two hours. (Peter Hermann)

43 percent of DC’s homeless youth are LGBTQ, according to a census for the city. (Tara Bahrampour)


Rand Paul and Trevor Noah drank Kentucky bourbon together on “The Daily Show.” The host questioned Paul in his own personalized debate since the senator won’t be on the stage tonight in South Carolina. (Watch the clip, via Mediate.)

Jimmy Fallon named the pros and cons of Obama’s final SOTU:

Historians discover the site of the Salem witch hangings:

A lion cub and a tiger cub are being raised together at a wildlife park in New Jersey: