THE BIG IDEA:
HOLLIS, N.H.—Jeb Bush has embraced with gusto his role as the anti-Trump. The once-presumed Republican frontrunner, now often an afterthought, has more aggressively gone after The Donald in New Hampshire than any other candidate. Running on television here is a minute-long ad in which Bush explains that Trump is “a jerk” because he mocks people with disabilities.
His stump speech is basically a rebuttal of Trumpism. He opened his 21st visit to the Granite State by decrying “grandiose talk” and then trying to channel some of what Trump has tapped into. Speaking about his two terms as governor of Florida, he declared: “I disrupted the order … It was a story of disruption.” Boasting about battling the teacher’s union, he said, “Talk about political incorrectness!”
Wading into process, Bush makes the case to voters that Trump would never win a general election because he has alienated more than half the electorate, including women, Hispanics and ex-POWs. “If I’m the anti-Trump, I love that role,” he said, “because that’s who I am.”
This assertiveness has won over some. When Lindsey Graham endorsed Bush last Friday, the South Carolina senator cited his willingness to challenge Trump’s proposal to temporarily halt all Muslim immigration.
But Trump overshadows Bush everywhere he goes, making it significantly harder to convey the affirmative case for why people should support him. Even when his name was not mentioned, six of the 16 questions Bush fielded during a town hall in this suburb of Nashua over the long weekend boiled down to some variation of: What about Trump?
A psychologist from Pennsylvania told Bush that Trump is a narcissist and a sociopath. “Doctor, thank you for the prescription,” Bush replied. “I appreciate it.”
Someone else said the party is running out of time to stop Trump. Bush replied that he never expected him to be the frontrunner. “No, I’m not that smart,” he said. “I’m not a masochist. It doesn’t give me great joy” to go after him.
It happened again the next day in Hampstead, when a young boy asked: “Why would you want to be the president of a nation that would consider voting for Trump?” Bush replied, “I don’t think Trump’s a reflection of the American people.” That’s when a dude in a Trump T-shirt began heckling him, according to the Union Leader. The man wanted to know why Bush had said he would not target the families of terrorists. “No president would allow for the killing of innocents as a designed strategy of the United States, my friend,” Bush shot back. “I don’t care what Donald Trump says.”
One interesting dynamic I picked up on while interviewing voters who lean toward Bush is that they like him and loathe Trump. They think Bush would be a good president but sound willing to defect to someone else if they think that rival could stop the billionaire. That creates a danger that, assuming Bush finishes poorly in the Iowa caucuses on Feb. 1, some of his supporters in New Hampshire might get behind another candidate in the establishment lane who is perceived to have momentum going into the Feb. 9 primary. (Marco Rubio or Chris Christie would appear to be the most likely beneficiaries of such a shift.)
Trump’s attacks worked. He mostly ignores Bush now, but his attacks from the summer took a tangible toll on Jeb’s image. He had a negative favorability rating in the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll. Telephoned afterward, a striking number of respondents parroted the Trump lines of attack. Janet DeHart of Emlenton, Pa., said she loves both George Bushes. But this year, she won’t support Jeb. “I just feel sometimes that I have more zip at 81 than he does,” DeHart told The Post’s Ed O’Keefe. “What did Donald say? He’s ‘low-energy.’ It’s exactly right. It looks like he needs someone to walk up from behind him and give him a little nudge.”
In fact, Jeb is not low energy on the stump. He has always been strong at one-on-one interactions and has improved significantly in the town hall format, but he remains poor at debates and giving sound bites. In a nationalized race, those weaknesses matter most. So the false narrative has stuck.
One problem for Jeb in the current climate is that he does not project the certitude of his rivals. Asked in Hollis, for example, if he would have swapped five Taliban prisoners in exchange for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, Bush firmly answered “no.” Then he paused. “I don’t know,” he said, turning the answer into a maybe. He explained that he does not have all the facts. “You’ve got to be careful about what you say,” he said. “But based on what I know, no.” After the Paris attacks, the Bush campaign argued that his standing would improve because voters would suddenly be looking for someone thoughtful about foreign policy. The activist base, though, is in no mood for this kind of seriousness. They don’t want questions to be answered with a “maybe.”
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
— In New Hampshire last night, Ted Cruz attacked Trump’s anti-immigration rhetoric as phony and poll-driven. “When that fight was being fought, Donald was nowhere to be found. … If you didn’t stand up and fight amnesty, when the stakes were live or die, I would suggest as voters you have reason to doubt the credibility of the promises of a political candidate who discovers the issue after he announces for president,” the Texas senator said in Whitefield. Cruz said Trump had supported eminent domain, a big issue in the North Country, and TARP — adding Trump would not actually pull out of the Iran deal. Cruz rattled off a list of Democrats to whom he said Trump donated money, including Rahm Emanuel, Andrew Cuomo and Anthony Weiner. (Katie Zezima)
- Trump said in an interview last night he would be “much stronger in protecting the evangelicals” than Cruz. “Ronald Reagan, he didn’t read the Bible every day, seven days a week. But, he was a great president. And he was a great president for Christianity,” The Donald told the Christian Broadcasting Network’s David Brody. “And frankly, I would say that I would be a far better leader.”
- Chris Christie, meanwhile, called Cruz a hypocrite for criticizing “New York values” while raising money there. “Those people have great values, I’m sure, when they are writing him seven- and eight-figure checks,” the New Jersey governor told Time Magazine. “If he really has a problem with New York values, then he should return that money.”
- Rand Paul created a web site (Audit The Ted) to criticize Cruz for skipping a vote on his bill to audit the Federal Reserve and released a video attacking him for taking money from Wall Street, including the loan from Goldman. The Kentucky senator has struggled in part because Cruz poached many of his dad’s 2012 supporters. (David Weigel notes that attacks on Wall Street are resonating in both parties.)
- One of the Cruz super PACs purchased an additional $2.5 million of TV time in Iowa and South Carolina. “When I tell you I’m going to do something, I’m going to exactly what I said I’d do,” Cruz tells supporters. (Watch here.)
- “For the good of the Republican Party, both Trump and Cruz must lose,” Michael Gerson declares in his column today. Gerson, who worked with Cruz on the 2000 George W. Bush campaign, writes that “he is actually more of a demagogue than an ideologue”: “For Republicans, the only good outcome of Trump vs. Cruz is for both to lose. The future of the party as the carrier of a humane, inclusive conservatism now depends on some viable choice beyond them.”
— Bernie Sanders drew 7,000 to an evening rally in Birmingham. Trying to make inroads with African Americans in Alabama, a key state in Hillary’s March 1st Southern firewall, he pledged to carry on MLK Jr.’s “radical and bold vision for America.” “The fight for economic justice is exactly what this campaign is about,” Sanders said. “It is absolutely imperative that we see his life not as a museum piece … to be kept on a shelf.” Sanders pointed to his presence at King’s 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington.He toured a Baptist church where King preached that was bombed and visited the Civil Rights Institute. (John Wagner)
- “For the first time, having Sanders as their standard-bearer is no longer outside the realm of possibility for Democratic elders,” Karen Tumulty reports. “I’m concerned that candidates in purple states would really face some problems with Senator Sanders at the top of the ticket,” Delaware Gov. Jack Markell said in an interview. “There has been a lot of energy in the Warren-Sanders-de Blasio wing of the party. I think that is unfortunate, both in terms of substance and in terms of politics. . . . We’ve got to have a message that’s compelling not only to Democrats but also to independents and even a few Republicans.”
- The Sanders campaign spent yesterday pushing back on Hillary’s attack he’s been disloyal to Obama and sought a primary challenger to Obama in 2011. “He has been very, very supportive of President Obama and campaigned for [him] twice,” said Sanders strategist Tad Devine. “It’s part of a series of attacks that they’re making that don’t have a lot of credibility.” (Jose DelReal)
— The Human Rights Campaign board of directors voted to endorse Clinton. She will accept the endorsement this Sunday at an event in Des Moines with HRC President Chad Griffin.
— The Taliban claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing that killed 11 and wounded 21 at a police checkpoint in Peshawar, Pakistan. (AP)
— The world’s oldest man, who was 112 and lived in Japan, passed away. “Yasutaro Koide had said his secret to a long life was not to smoke, drink or overdo it,” the AP reports. He was two months shy of his 113th birthday.
GET SMART FAST:
- The Pentagon released new details about how two U.S. ships wound up in Iranian territorial waters: The sailors were detained off Farsi Island, home to a closely guarded Iranian military base. The only equipment apparently taken from the boats was two digital SIM cards in satellite phones. No shots were exchanged. An investigation continues as to why the ships veered off course. (Dan Lamothe)
- The Senate is likely to reject a measure to bar Syrian and Iraqi refugees from entering the U.S. The vote is expected tomorrow and the House has passed the measure. (Karoun Demirjian)
- Around 19,000 civilians were killed in Iraq between January 2014 and October 2015, according to a new U.N. report. (Erin Cunnignham)
- A surprising 10.2 million people watched Sunday’s Democratic debate on NBC. Another 1.2 million watched online. It’s still fewer than the 15.2 million who watched the first Democratic debate in October. (Politico)
- The RNC officially ditched NBC as its sponsor for the Feb. 25 debate in Houston. CNN will host instead. The debate, originally scheduled for the next day, will still be broadcast on NBC-owned Telemundo. (Breitbart)
- Scholastic is pulling a book about George Washington from the shelves because the cover depicts slave characters who are smiling and appear to be happy. (Yanan Wang)
- Elon Musk’s SpaceX successfully launched but it didn’t land properly on a floating platform in the Pacific Ocean because one of its legs didn’t lock in place. (Christian Davenport)
- The University of Cincinnati will pay $4.85 million to the family of a black man who was fatally shot by a white campus police officer during a routine traffic stop. The officer is awaiting trial on murder charges. (Kimberly Kindy)
- Protesters chained their cars together on the San Francisco Bay Bridge and called for the resignation of Oakland’s mayor and San Francisco’s police chief for what they call a racist legal system. (ABC7)
- As the IRS begins accepting tax returns today, employees are trying to crack down on criminals who use stolen data. (Jonnelle Marte)
- China’s economy grew by 6.9 percent in 2015, its slowest pace in 25 years. (Wall Street Journal)
- French President Francois Hollande declared an economic emergency and announced a $2.2 billion stimulus plan. (AP)
POWER PLAYERS IN THE NEWS:
- No one spoke in Trump’s defense during three hours of debate in the British Parliament about barring him from the country (The Donald can still go to the U.K.). (Griff Witte in London)
- The Pentagon might retroactively demote Gen. David Petraeus for giving classified documents to his mistress-biographer (Daily Beast)
- Right to Rise, Jeb’s super PAC, has delivered video players preloaded with a 15-minute documentary about Bush to people in New Hampshire and Iowa. Defending the expenditure, a person familiar with the group’s plans said each players costs “far less than a good bottle of Scotch.” (Ed O’Keefe)
- Ivanka Trump touts her dad in a radio ad running in Iowa and New Hampshire. The spot aims to soften his image with women. (Listen here.)
- Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Gov. Matt Bevin (R-Ky.) will travel to New Hampshire this weekend to speak at a state GOP cattle call. 2020? 2024? (Union Leader)
- “American Pie” singer Don McLean was arrested in Maine on domestic violence charges. (AP)
- Spike Lee and Jada Pinkett Smith are boycotting the Oscars to protest the dearth of African American nominees. (Emily Yahr)
- The Dalai Lama is traveling to the U.S. today for a medical checkup. (AP)
— “Freed Americans reunited with their families,” by Andrew Roth and William Branigin from Landstuhl, Germany: “Jason Rezaian, the Washington Post reporter who was freed Saturday after almost 18 months of incarceration in an Iranian prison, met with Post editors Monday for the first time since his release and said he was ‘feeling good’ physically as he recovers in a U.S. military hospital here. … ‘I want people to know that physically I’m feeling good,’ said Rezaian, 39.
“On Monday, Rezaian described months of extraordinarily limited human interaction and said that at one point he spent 49 days in solitary confinement. Later, he was put in a 15-by-20-foot room with three cots and no mattresses. For exercise, he said, he would walk for up to five hours every day around an 8-by-8-foot concrete courtyard. … For most of his time in prison, Rezaian said, he was being held by Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard Corps, a military force aligned with hard-liners in the government that answers to Iran’s supreme leader and acts independently of the presidency.”
— “Trump’s bad bet: How too much debt drove his biggest casino aground,” by Robert O’Harrow Jr.: “The bad bet on the Taj Mahal continues to haunt Trump … Much has been written about this period of Trump’s career. But much has been forgotten over the past quarter- century — or overlooked in this lightning-fast election cycle. The Washington Post reviewed hundreds of pages of legal, regulatory and financial records relating to the Taj Mahal. The Post found that Trump’s statements during the campaign about his companies’ bankruptcies play down his personal role in the downfall of the Taj. Trump took extreme risks in a shaky economy, leveraged the Taj deal with high-cost debt, and ignored warnings that Atlantic City would not be able to attract enough gamblers to pay the bills, documents and interviews show. … Trump said his work on the Taj Mahal was ultimately successful and earned him a lot of money. He said the bankruptcy was the result of external forces beyond his control, specifically an extremely bad economy in 1990. He said he had ‘the prerogative’ to change his mind about using junk bonds in the financing. ‘This was not personal. This was a corporate deal,’ he said. ‘If you write this one, I’m suing you.'”
— “Why so many evangelicals have faith in Donald Trump,” by Jenna Johnson and Sarah Pulliam Bailey in Lynchburg, Va.: “Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. stood before more than 10,000 of his students and some visitors Monday morning and laid out the case for why conservative evangelicals like them should support a presidential candidate like Trump — the cursing, self-promoting, thrice-married billionaire who bungles Bible references. It’s not that Trump is the most religious or pious of the candidates, Falwell said, although he described Trump as a ‘servant leader’ who ‘lives a life of helping others, as Jesus taught.’ It’s that Trump is a savvy businessman who ‘speaks the truth publicly, even if it is uncomfortable for people to hear’ …
“Some high-level evangelical leaders are baffled at why their colleagues and followers would embrace Trump. They are concerned by Trump’s personal history, inflammatory comments about minorities, and unwillingness to seek forgiveness or admit fault. … ‘The late Dr. Jerry Falwell Sr. would be rolling over in his grave if he knew the son who bore his name had endorsed the most immoral and ungodly man to ever run for President of the United States,’ said John Stemberger, president of Florida Family Action.”
The leader of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, the policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, slammed Trump:
Trump shared a photo of the crowd at Liberty University (attendance was mandatory for students):
A SOBERING REALITY CHECK –> “The ugly truth: Defeating the Islamic State will take decades,” by David Ignatius at Central Command headquarters in Tampa: “There’s a scary disconnect between the somber warnings you hear privately from military leaders about the war against the Islamic State and the glib debating points coming from Republican and Democratic politicians. … The generals and admirals, who have been at war for 15 years, know that success can’t be bought cheaply. Defeating this enemy will require a much larger and longer commitment by the United States than any leading politician seems willing to acknowledge.
— “A moose-hunter and his hovercraft tell the Supreme Court Alaska is different,” by Robert Barnes: “John Sturgeon’s path to the Supreme Court began in a broken-down hovercraft on a gravel shoal in middle-of-nowhere Alaska. … Sturgeon became the target of three officers of the National Park Service. Hunting wasn’t the problem — the hovercraft was. Even though Sturgeon had used his 10-foot rubber boat for years in the Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve, the officers pulled out the rulebook and said noisy hovercraft were banned in all national parks, even in Alaska. … His pique led to a lawsuit, and the lawsuit led to a surprising grant from the Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court’s interest led to an outpouring of support that has startled the businessman and moose hunter. … The distinctly underwhelming question — were federal officials legally justified in enforcing the hovercraft ban in the Alaskan preserve? — was deemed by the federal government’s lawyers to be ‘not in itself one of surpassing significance.’ All agree that the answer lies in a statute that applies exclusively to the 49th state.”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
— ZIGNAL VISUAL: Sanders continues to attract more attention than his Democratic rivals on Twitter, but Clinton is still the queen of the small screen. The day after their debate, Sanders was the talk of social media, as this chart from our analytics partners at Zignal Labs shows:
Now, look at how broadcast television covered the day:
Clinton’s Monday word cloud reflects her retooled campaign message, embracing the record of President Obama (and a certain other former president…):
–Pictures of the day:
Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.) met Amir Hekmati, a former U.S. Marine whose release from Iran he agitated for:
Kildee also posted this message from Hekmati, on his request:
Hillary Clinton staffers are counting down the days until the Iowa caucuses:
Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) posted this shot from his weekend. “Aloha for now, Hawaii,” he wrote:
–Tweets of the day:
Trump received plenty of criticism in the Twittersphere for citing “2 Corinthians” instead of “Second Corinthians” in his Liberty speech:
Trump also became the butt of jokes like this one:
On top of messing up his Corinthians citation, Trump also swore, which isn’t allowed at Liberty. Here’s how students reacted online:
Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) was among the many lawmakers who celebrated MLK Day:
Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) posted this funny snap about politics today:
–Instagrams of the day:
Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) shared this portrait of Martin Luther King, Jr. from his home:
John Kasich took in a quiet moment on his campaign bus as it toured New Hampshire:
Ben Carson rode in the MLK Day parade in Myrtle Beach, S.C.:
Sanders dislikes DNC Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who many on the left believe worked behind the scenes to tip the scales in Hillary’s direction. The frosty relationship was on display during this backstage handshake at Sunday’s debate:
GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:
— New York Times, “Boots? Marco Rubio wants to talk guns and football,” by Jeremy W. Peters and Michael Barbaro: “Mr. Rubio is radiating machismo on the campaign trail lately, lending locker-room locutions to his pronouncements denigrating President Obama’s military strategy (‘This is not a real war on terror. This is a joke’), or sizing up adversaries like Vladimir V. Putin (‘He smells weakness’), or his dream choices for cabinet posts (top-flight talent from the New England Patriots). In fairness, Mr. Rubio’s conspicuously manly talk comes as rivals have tried to infantilize or even feminize him — none more than Chris Christie, who speculated recently that Mr. Rubio would get creamed by Hillary Clinton in a general election: ‘She’ll pat him on the head and then cut his heart out.’… And then there was the hyperventilation online over Mr. Rubio’s sleek new boots — a $135, high-heeled, black leather pair of Florsheims given to him by his wife for Christmas. … The macho-ization of Mr. Rubio seems aimed not just at blunting the emasculating broadsides from his Republican rivals … It projects a tough-mindedness designed to answer a nagging question among the party’s voters: Can a baby-faced first-term senator handle the challenges of the presidency in an usually gritty political moment? The answer from the heat-packing, waterboarding, football-tossing Florida senator? Yes, he can.”
— USA Today, “Clinton media campaign follows BuzzFeed model,” by Heidi M. Przybyla: “The Democratic front-runner has a staff of dozens producing original content — including bylined news stories and professional video — all managed by an audience development team, a model similar to digital news pioneers BuzzFeed or Vox. A blog, called the ‘Feed,’ anchored by five full-time writers, pumps out articles, interactive trivia quizzes, GIFs of Clinton’s late-night-show appearances … ‘They seem to be trying to mimic a publisher,’ said Michael Wertheim … a former strategy director at Upworthy. President Obama’s team was the undisputed powerhouse of the 2008 and 2012 cycles. Now his digital mastermind, Teddy Goff, is helming Clinton’s efforts, but, Goff says, succeeding in 2016 is far more challenging. In past campaigns, ‘we felt that we could pretty much reach the people we need to reach by running a really good Twitter and Facebook account,’ he said.”
HOT ON THE LEFT
Trump laughs when a man says a barking dog sounds like Hillary. From CNN: “What was that — was that a dog?” Trump asked as a dog barked during a New Hampshire rally. Someone in the audience shot back. “Hillary!” “Uh oh,” Trump said, then laughed and repeated, “It’s Hillary!” (See the Vine.)
HOT ON THE RIGHT
Did Hillary hint at a secret Obama administration breakthrough with Silicon Valley? From the Wall Street Journal: “The candidates were asked about the role of technology companies in Silicon Valley and elsewhere in helping to stop groups like the Islamic State terror network from recruiting new militants and communicating with one another. … Andrea Mitchell pressed Mrs. Clinton on this Silicon Valley meeting. ‘Secretary Clinton, you said that the leaders from the intelligence community went to Silicon Valley. They were flatly turned down,’ Ms. Mitchell said. … To which Mrs. Clinton responded carefully: ‘That is not what I’ve heard. Let me leave it at that.'”
— What’s happening today on the campaign trail:
- Sanders is in Iowa, speaking in Fort Dodge, Carroll, Underwood and Sioux City.
- Clinton raises money in California and North Carolina.
- Trump, Fiorina, Santorum and Huckabee will speak at the 10th annual Renewable Fuels Summit in Altoona, Iowa, this afternoon.
- Trump also holds a “special announcement” rally in Winterset at 10:30 a.m. Central, followed by another “major announcement” in Ames at 5 p.m.
- Day three of Cruz’s New Hampshire bus tour takes him to North Conway, Freedom (!), Sanbornville, Center Barnstead and Rochester. He goes to Scott Brown’s barn for a barbecue event in Rye at 6:30.
- Kasich speaks in Henniker, Concord, Contoocook and Keene, N.H.
- Fiorina also goes to Fort Dodge and Avoca.
- Santorum visits Jefferson, Spirit Lake and Sibley.
— Country star Josh Turner will perform at a Huckabee rally in Des Moines next Monday.
— At the White House:
- President Obama meets with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in the morning and then they lunch together in the Cabinet Room. It is Turnbull’s first visit to Washington as prime minister. They’ll discuss the TPP. Later, Obama sits with John Kerry in the Oval Office.
- Vice President Biden is at Davos. He’s hosting a roundtable on “the cancer moonshot” and then attending the Crystal Awards.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
“Hello South Carolina,” Hillary said in Columbia. “And how wonderful it is to be here together without the Confederate Flag overhead? That flag always belonged in a museum, not in a state house!”
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
— “A very cold start this morning with single digits in the outer suburbs to teens in the city along with wind chills making it feel like the single digits or just below zero when you’re getting out there for the morning commute,” the Capital Weather Gang forecasts. “Like yesterday, plenty of sunshine is anticipated, but temperatures only manage to reach the middle to upper 20s to near 30 by the afternoon. And those winds don’t die down. Look for 10-20 mph winds from the northwest with higher gusts at times through the day.”
— Schools in Virginia’s Fauquier, Prince William and Loudoun counties are opening two hours late today because of the cold. (Ann E. Marimow)
— For planning purposes: There’s now a 70 percent chance that at least one inch of snow falls in DC this weekend, a 40 percent chance that four inches could come down and a 20 percent chance that eight inches could accumulate. (Wes Junker)
— The Portland Trail Blazers blew out the Wizards 108-98. (Jorge Castillo)
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Rapper Killer Mike explained how he became a Bernie Sanders supporter (“smoking a joint and reading his tweets”):
John Kasich played peek-a-boo with a youngster on the campaign trail:
Marco Rubio called his faith the greatest influence on his life (take that, Trump):
Sean Penn said he regrets his interview with El Chapo:
Finally, watch this viral clip of two gorillas brawling at a Nebraska zoo: